Thornhill, I., Loiselle, S. FreshWater Watch, a global study of aquatic ecosystem health using citizen science. GEO BON Open Science Conference & All Hands Meeting, Leipzig, Germany. July 2016. (and panel member for ‘Discussion on freshwater and wetland biodiversity monitoring and data mobilisation’)
FreshWater Watch is a global citizen science project carrying out research into lentic and lotic freshwater ecosystems. To date, in excess of 13,000 datasets have been collected in over 30 countries. Following a globally consistent training programme conducted by local research partners, citizen scientists support local scientific research by collecting hydrological, ecological and chemical data related to freshwater quality and ecosystems. The data are uploaded to an online database using smartphone technologies. The platform itself provides a range of feedback to the individual and promotes a community of FreshWater Watchers who are free to ask questions, post blogs or engage further.
An international team of scientists are currently using the FreshWater Watch data to explore and compare the driving factors of freshwater ecosystem dynamics with respect to differences in climate, land use and catchment conditions. Preliminary results suggest population density, land cover and precipitation are key factors controlling aquatic ecosystem dynamics. Furthermore, data from across the globe indicate that smaller water bodies present better ecological conditions than larger waterbodies. The use of micro scale citizen science data such as the presence, absence and composition of bankside or instream vegetation and water colour, together with macro scale satellite and remote sensing information enhances the ability of practitioners to identify potential areas of concern. FreshWater Watch provides an integrated approach to address and involve new audiences in data collection, interpretation and stewardship, which is key to ensuring the sustainable use of our freshwater resources.