Adopt a stream site on Pawleys Island

Adopt-a-Stream Volunteer Monitoring

Welcome to the South Carolina Adopt-a-Stream (SC AAS)  Program at the North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserve. We support volunteers who work to build awareness of the health of our estuaries and tidal waterways and ecosystems. This program provides the opportunity for those interested in the protection and improved management of tidal waterways to be directly involved in their monitoring and data reporting.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Clemson’s Center for Watershed Excellence co-lead the SC AAS program with the help of partners across the state. The North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserve is a hub, providing training and equipment to local volunteer monitors of tidal salt waters.

Where We Monitor

Volunteers can identify sites that they would like to monitor, or can work with the Reserve team to select a site. Creeks and channels with an average salinity greater than 0.5 ppt are considered tidal saltwater.  (If you are not sure, we can help to check.) Monitoring sites should have easy access to carry equipment, and with a stable, clear location to set things down such as bottles and supplies. Docks or piers provide the best access; you should not walk through the marsh or wade into creeks to access the site. Stormwater ponds and drainage ditches are not monitored through this program. View a map of AAS sites across the state.

When We Monitor

Volunteers complete a basic habitat assessment and record physical and chemical water conditions at their site once a month. Volunteers determine the best day and time to fit their schedule, but are asked to repeat sampling on the same day and time every month to the extent possible. For our tidal systems, this means sampling will occur over varying stages of tide, so it is important to select a location that does not go dry at low tide.

Join the AAS Volunteer Monitor Team

We have a hybrid approach to volunteer training, using online videos to present background information, followed by field instruction sessions to cover sampling protocols. Those interested in becoming a volunteer should start by watching the videos below and answering a few questions. Field training sessions will then be scheduled as needed. Field training can be scheduled on week days or weekends. Participants must pass a written exam with a score of >80%.

Introduction to the Reserve and the S.C. Adopt -a-Stream Program

  • The North Inlet-Winayh Bay Reserve is one of 30 National Estuarine Research Reserves.
  • Regular monitoring of tidal creeks throughout the watershed provides valuable baseline data.
Time to complete: about 8 minutes

Watersheds and the Salt Marsh Habitat

  • Learning objective 1
  • Learning objective 2
  • Learning objective 3

Activity: Using the Watershed Atlas

This activity can be completed using the online form, or the form can be downloaded as a pdf.

Habitat Assessment

  • Learning objective 1
  • Learning objective 2
  • Learning objective 3

Physical and Chemical Monitoring

Dissolved Oxygen

  • The amount of dissolved oxygen in water can be affected by water temperature, salinity, turbulence, and biological activity.
  •  Dissolved oxygen (DO) is measured by titration using the LaMotte test kit.
Time to complete: about 10 minutes


  • Tidal saltwater sites must have a salinity >/= 0.5.
  • Salinity measurements can be affected by tide and fresh water runoff.
  • Salinity is measured using a refractometer.
Time to complete: about 4 minutes


  • Transparency is a measure of the penetration of light into water.
  • Transparency is affected by color and suspended materials.
  • Transparency affects plant and algae growth and dissolved oxygen.
Time to complete: about 8 minutes

Using the AAS Database

  • Learning objective 1
  • Learning objective 2
  • Learning objective 3

Volunteer Orientation

This video covers basic safety considerations when volunteering at the Reserve.

This training is required for all education and community science volunteers. It will take about 3 minutes to complete.