Eddowes, D., Thornhill, I., Leveraging the Local to Go Global: Citizen Scientists Exploring the Drivers of Eutrophication. 10th National Monitoring Conference, Tampa, Florida, USA. June 2016. (and panel member for ‘From the Office to the Field: Perspectives on a Global Citizen Science Project’)
With more than 6,000 participants, FreshWater Watch (FWW) is one of the largest citizen science programs to examine the impact of land use change and environmental management on the health of freshwater ecosystems. By using globally consistent research methodologies, and working alongside local scientists, these volunteers are providing new insights into the drivers of eutrophication in 20 countries across the globe.
Based on an integrated hands-on training and online engagement platform, participants make measurements in local waterbodies to examine changes in nutrient concentrations, local pollution sources and land use, as well as the presence of elevated phytoplankton densities and sediment loads. Participants upload datasets onto an online database, where automated quality control and analysis functions provide real time feedback to participants. We use more than 10,000 datasets obtained by participants since 2013 to show key spatial and temporal patterns in eutrophication conditions across 30 urban areas. Preliminary results show expected differences in nutrient dynamics between river and lake ecosystems, where catchment conditions have a clear impact on the level of eutrophication. Most interestingly, smaller ecosystems, ponds and streams are shown to be least impacted.
FreshWater Watch enables citizen scientists to become stewards of their local environment; they not only take action on water quality issues themselves but encourage colleagues, friends and family to do the same. Through an open and fluid communication between partners, agencies and local scientists, the program creates an opportunity for an inclusive local ecosystem management.