Another year brings another chance for area residents to Catch the King.
The King Tide that is.
The brainchild of former Virginian-Pilot environmental reporter Dave Mayfield, Catch the King is a chance for area residents to get involved in the mapping and measuring of tides in Hampton Roads – specifically tides that are impacted by the gravity of the moon.
This year, Oct. 27 is the day the King Tide will be caught.
Last year some 510 volunteers used a smartphone app to plot tides from Pungo in the south up to Gloucester in the north.
“We were very pleased with the turnout,” said Mayfield, who added that the volunteers were able to gather some 53,000 data-points that Dr. Derek Loftis at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science was able to use for a model of tidal flooding being built there.
Mayfield said he hopes Catch the King will improve our understanding of the tides and that the data gathered will help inform decision-makers and lead them to making good decisions.
“The biggest thing that we learned was that there is a tremendous amount of pent-up interest in getting out there and participating,” he said. “We were surprised that many people were willing to give up a couple of hours on their Sunday morning.”
This year WHRO, a local PBS station that is owned by a 19-member consortium of school systems in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore, is offering $500 stipends to as many as 50 high school classes who choose to take part in Catch the King.
The King Tide project will be used as a year-long initiative that will help the schools align with new Performance Based Learning standards being pushed by the state through the Virginia Standards of Learning, said Brian Callahan, chief education officer at WHRO.
“Response has been substantial, even with limited promotions,” Callahan said. “To-date we have nearly 50 classes registered to participate from Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, York, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake, and we expect even more to register in the coming weeks.”
He said if the average class size is 25 students, that means at least 1,000 to 1,250 students will be participating this year.
Students will also perform quarterly measurements using the “Trouble Spots” feature in the free Sea Level Rise app; perform a presentation on a related topic; and sign pledges to do their part to create a community that is resilient to the effects of flooding.
Mayfield said he’s excited about the student involvement, since it will give them a chance to learn about the impact of tidal flooding and provide the opportunity for hands-on learning.
Anyone who is interested in helping to Catch the King can sign up online to do so.
Qaren Jacklich will serve as the coordinator of volunteers. She said volunteers must download the app to a smartphone (there will be no WiFi connections for tablets, so volunteers must be willing to use their cellphone) and be willing to take a short training (about an hour) on how to use the app.
“Most people we deal with are very patient and eager to help,” she said. “Plus, we have a good number of returning volunteers from last year.”
Jacklich said it’s helpful if volunteers are able to move along a shoreline for as much as 30-90 minutes as they collect data, but if they’re not physically able to do that they can also participate simply by keeping their eyes open for flooding and trouble spots and reporting them. That would allow organizers to send mappers to those areas.
“There are definitely opportunities for people who are not mobile to get involved,” she said.
As of Friday about 200 people have already signed up. Volunteers will receive periodic updates and communications, and will also have the chance to practice their mapping skills prior to the Oct. 27 event.
Typically volunteers work in teams of two, with a “tide captain” overseeing an area or a neighborhood.
Jacklich said they try to assign areas to be mapped, but when they sign up volunteers are given the chance to ID their area of interest.
The deadline for signing up is Oct. 15.