River Assessment Field Team (RAFT)


A lot remains unknown about the water quality in our local streams, since our agency partners are limited in the number of sites they can sample. We can help!

Get involved with the science of waters! Help us track and improve water quality!


The RAFT Program

The River Assessment Field Teams (RAFTs) are individuals, family members, or small groups of friends, colleagues or neighbors that are willing to donate time to help strategically assess local water quality. Data collected through this program will:

  • Help provide a more complete picture of our water quality by teasing out pollution hot spots and measuring trends over time
  • Help our Alliance direct educational and cost-share resources to areas with bad water quality
  • Help agencies like the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and county health departments fill in knowledge gaps and address concerns

RAFT volunteers will be provided sampling equipment, instructional training, assistance with data reporting, and even a few volunteer appreciation benefits!

Citizen science is a powerful tool to understand environmental conditions and help make positive change!


Want to become a RAFT Volunteer?

RAFT Volunteers are citizen scientists trained to conduct water quality sampling following a particular protocol. With some time and dedication, anyone 18 years of age and older with moderate physical fitness can become a RAFT volunteer. Before becoming a RAFT volunteer, it is required that you complete the online RAFT training program. This will provide an important foundation for understanding what’s involved in water sampling as well as the science behind the various measurements you will take in the field. Because the RAFT program is designed to meet more rigorous sampling standards than other volunteer programs (such as Hoosier Riverwatch), the training requires a notable amount of time to complete, 5-6 hrs. RAFT training is set up in ten short (20-30 min) modules and each module has a short quiz at the end. Quizzes are designed to help reinforce important elements from the module that will help you collect reliable samples in the field during a RAFT event. If you are already a certified Hoosier Riverwatch volunteer, RAFT training will be very intuitive for you (but is still required).

We anticipate the online training modules to be available sometime in Decemember 2020. If you would like to become a RAFT volunteer please email raft@thewhiteriveralliance.org and a White River Alliance staff member will contact you with more information about the program. A small number of volunteers are already sampling this summer in order to work out any kinks in the program and establish baseline data for the sites. We look forward to hosting RAFT sampling events on Sundays beginning this fall!


Sampling Event Schedule & Training

RAFT sampling events will occur at least once a month on a Sunday from roughly 12:30-4:00. Each event will target one of three areas along the White River or its tributaries in Marion or Hamilton Counties. The southern RAFT sampling area includes Decatur, Perry, Wayne and Center Townships of Marion County, the central area includes Washington and Pike Townships of Marion County and Clay and Delaware Townships of Hamilton County, and the northern area includes Noblesville and White River Townships of Hamilton County. You do not need to participate every month – you can choose the event(s) that is most convenient to you. You will need to sign-up in advance for each month’s event since a maximum of five (5) teams with three-four (3-4) people can participate in each event. You will either pick a team or be assigned to a team when we convene at the kick-off location for each month’s event. You will start at a common location and return your samples to that same common location at the end of the event. Since RAFT events requires meeting in a group and working on small teams, we will be carefully considering and planning around COVID-19 circumstances.

RAFT training will remain available online year-round. Successful completion of all ten RAFT training modules is required prior to participating in a RAFT sampling event. You do not need to complete all ten modules of the training in the same session. You can save your quizzes as you go, and then return at another time to complete the remaining modules. You will, however, need to complete all ten modules within 30 days or start over. This ensures that you are current on RAFT sampling protocols, which may evolve over time.

Thank you for making time to learn about water quality sampling and helping us gather important data!


FAQs

What kind of training or knowledge do I need to participate?

Before becoming a RAFT volunteer, it is required that you go through the Hoosier Riverwatch training. This will provide you the basic understanding of water quality and habitat evaluation techniques necessary to participate in the RAFT program. There are special RAFT/Hoosier Riverwatch Trainings offered periodically. Email raft@thewhiteriveralliance.org for information on upcoming trainings.

What kind of equipment do I need?

White River Alliance will provide all equipment at the beginning of each sampling event. Just come to the event dressed for field work!

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothing that you are ok to get wet and/or dirty. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are highly recommended. If you have your own waders or tall waterproof boots, please bring those with you. Waders will be provided to volunteers so bring a pair of socks.

What is the time commitment?

The sampling event will last approximately 3.5 hours, not including your travel time to get the kick-off location.

What are the physical requirements of participating?

All volunteers need to be able to walk on sloped and uneven ground to reach sampling locations. There are a variety of roles on each sampling team that can accommodate varying physical levels, there is the data recorder that can stay on the stream banks and then samplers that will need to wade into the water.

Can I bring my child with me?

All volunteers need to be 18 years old and must sign and submit a waiver to White River Alliance at the beginning of each sampling event. In some cases, teenage volunteers accompanied by their legal guardian may be pre-approved by White River Alliance staff to participate. The RAFT program is designed to meet a level of scientific rigor not appropriate for young children.

If I want to volunteer with a friend or spouse, can we stay together on the same team for the day?

Yes, you may request team members at the beginning of each sampling event as teams are being formed at the kick-off location. When registering for an event please let White River Alliance know who you would like on your team.

Do I need to sign a waiver?

Yes, all volunteers must sign and submit a waiver to White River Alliance at the beginning of each sampling event.

How do I know if our RAFT sampling has a measurable difference?

Alliance staff will be putting your data into the State’s Hoosier Riverwatch volunteer sampling program database. Your data will be checked for quality assurance and quality control and used to provide supplementary information for use in planning and prioritization of the State’s water assessment program and and other programs. You will be able to see the water quality results of your sampling in the Hoosier Riverwatch database as well as at our annual recap and celebration events.

What will neighbors or city/town officials think when they see RAFT volunteers in the streams?

Local municipalities are aware of this program and neighbors adjacent to the sampling sites have been informed of the effort. The RAFT program is a great opportunity to engage neighbors that live along the streams in water quality awareness and protection.

Are RAFT events rain or shine?

Yes, it is very important to collect water quality data during all weather conditions to get a complete picture of the water quality.  There are different sampling protocols for wet weather and high flow events that will keep all volunteers safe (but maybe not dry).

Are there any program 'perks' or benefits to me?

Beyond helping strategically assess local water quality and enjoying the outdoors, volunteers will be eligible for rewards based on the number of monthly sampling events you participate in. Rewards may include neat gear and/or gifts cards to local business.