Thornhill, I. FreshWater Watch: Lessons and outcomes from a global citizen science program. Citizen Science Association Annual Conference. St Paul, USA. May 2017.
FreshWater Watch (FWW) is a global citizen science project, launched in 2012 and operating in more than 30 cities on 5 continents. So far, over 16,000 data have been generated from thousands of trained participants. This data is being used to explore location specific research questions regarding freshwater ecosystem conditions, resulting in a series of peer-reviewed articles on urban ecosystem dynamics and citizen science engagement. Results from citizen scientist acquired data have been used in Brazil to identify phosphate thresholds to reduce the incidence of harmful algal blooms (HABs), in the Great Lakes to identify and help manage sources of anthropogenic beach litter and in China to compare catchment land use thresholds in three major cities. The availability of such a range of participants in the FWW provided a unique opportunity to contrast the potential for citizen science across cultures and climates. A survival analysis of FWW engagement dynamics identified mechanisms that promoted longer term engagement of participants. Within this analysis, we tested different models of training, data collection (individual or team activities, site allocation, sampling frequency) and feedback frequency and channel). Finally we undertook a novel analysis of social media activity (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and related it to outreach events. Here we present a synthesis of these findings for the improvement of citizen science project design and for FWW into the future.