Programs, Events, & Volunteers

A group of volunteers and children
Photo: MD DNR

SAV Community Survey at Mallows Bay

three kayaks floating in the water with five people removing small samples of aquatic vegetation from Mallow Bay
Enthusiastic volunteers convene in their kayaks to gather data on the submerged aquatic vegetation amidst the freshwater marsh plants of Mallows Bay. Photo: Anthony Burrows/Maryland DNR

Underwater grasses, also known as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), are vital for maintaining a healthy aquatic environment. They offer food and shelter for wildlife, boost oxygen levels in the water, absorb excess nutrients, trap sediment, and mitigate erosion.

Join us for a special one-day event where volunteers will conduct a survey of SAV at Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary to gain insights into the overall ecosystem's health! The event will be facilitated by Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers, a program that empowers volunteer scientists to learn about SAV and contribute valuable data to bay scientists and managers.

Volunteers will receive training in the morning to identify and count SAV. After enjoying a provided lunch, volunteers will venture into the sanctuary on tandem kayaks to collect data on the growth and abundance of different types of aquatic vegetation. No prior scientific experience is necessary, but prior kayaking experience is beneficial. Tandem kayaks and personal flotation devices (PFDs) will be provided. Registration is required, ages 14 and older. All minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Event Date and Time: Saturday, July 13, 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Rain Date and Time: Saturday, July 20, 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Location: Mallows Bay Park (1440 Wilson Landing Rd, Nanjemoy, MD 20662)


Registration is limited to the first 15 sign-ups. Additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list and notified if a spot becomes available.

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  • 9:30 a.m.- Participants arrive and check in
  • 10:00 a.m - Training with Chesapeake Bay SAV Watcher's Brooke Landry
  • 11:00 a.m - Provided lunch
  • 12:00 p.m - Kayaking debrief and paddle into Mallows Bay
  • 1:30 - 2:00 p.m. - Participant check in
  • 3:30 p.m. - Wrap up
Things to Bring:
  • Wear proper footwear. No flip-flops. Old gym shoes, sandals with a strap, and water shoes work great.
  • Change of clothes
  • Sunscreen and hat
  • Reusable water bottle (no single-use plastic bottles or glass containers)
  • Snacks and drinking water (no glass bottles)
  • Dry bag or waterproof container (if you bring a phone or a non-waterproof camera, you need a way to protect it)
Contact for questions or concerns.

Become a Citizen Scientist!

a volunteer holding a water ph test kit
Photo: Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Come join the Potomac Riverkeeper to achieve the goal of a swimmable Potomac River. Although swimming in the river is currently prohibited, all users who come in contact with the water should be aware of bacterial levels and the potential for health concerns. The Potomac Riverkeeper is part of an international network of scientists and volunteers who sample and report the status through Swim Guide.

A new partnership between the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Potomac Riverkeeper Network will develop a citizen science monitoring program at Mallows Bay focused on bacteria levels. This work will add to the body of weather and water data already available on the Mallows Bay water quality buoy that supports science and education as well as recreational and commercial uses. Potomac Riverkeeper will process the water quality samples aboard their floating laboratory Sea Dog. The monitoring results will be posted to Swim Guide and will help fill gaps in Potomac Riverkeeper's existing network along the river and contribute to a larger data set for more than 7000 beaches and waterways.

COVID-19 Update: Due to precautions associated with COVID-19, Potomac Riverkeeper is not able to host in-person training sessions for new volunteers. However, they are working to develop an online training module. In the interim, they will be asking their network of trained volunteers to conduct sampling at Mallows Bay this season with the hopes of adding new volunteers later in the year. Please continue to check this page for updates.

Be a Volunteer

the view of a sunrise from a kayak
Photo: Stephen Badger/MD DNR

All national marine sanctuaries rely on the energy and passion of volunteers. There are so many ways to be involved. Please consider adding your name to those who make it happen at Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary by contacting Sammy Orlando, Chesapeake Bay Regional Coordinator, at

Force Blue

Force Blue is a volunteer organization that unites two worlds by helping veterans and helping the environment. A team from Force Blue volunteered to conduct an initial survey of the subaquatic vegetation in Mallows Bay – Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. The data that they collected provides much needed information on the various species and the health of the sanctuary.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Logo

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation enhances national marine sanctuaries in their goal to protect essential U.S. marine areas and to ensure a healthy ocean.