Citizen Science

Citizen science is the process of involving citizens in the scientific process as researchers.

CS2Just like doctors rely on accurate time series data about your body to make good decisions on how to properly manage your health, water resource scientists and managers alike rely on accurate, accessible, and distributed (both spatially and temporally) data to understand and manage hydrologic systems.  Unfortunately, in most contexts, but acutely so in developing countries, these fundamental data are lacking.  This lack of information makes it is impossible to know how our water systems are changing over time and space due to natural or human activities, in addition to what management actions should be taken to either avoid or mitigate undesirable conditions in the present and future.

Traditional approaches to hydrologic data collection rely on permanent installations of sophisticated, highly accurate, but expensive monitoring equipment at limited numbers of sites. Consequently, the spatial coverage of the data is limited and the cost is great. Achieving adequate maintenance of the sophisticated equipment in places like Nepal usually exceeds local technical and resource capacity, and experience has shown that permanently deployed monitoring equipment is susceptible to corrosion, vandalism, and theft.  Citizen hydrology overcomes these limitations by turning the traditional data collection approach on end.  Rather than using expensive installations at a few points, citizen scientists and mobile technologies can be leveraged to gather data at many sites.

Citizen science can including community based monitoring and or community based management.  Citizen science is on the rise in the USA, Canada, and in many other areas around the world.  New developments in sensing technology, data processing and analysis, and methods of knowledge communication are opening novel opportunities for citizen science.  In particular, recent advances in mobile technologies make smartphones a perfect tool for citizen science.  GPS and high resolution camera technology embedded in smartphones can be used to collect verifiable records in the field, and cellular networks can be leveraged to transmit collected data to a central repository.  Water resources for human purposes is one of the most fundamental ecosystem services, and yet fundamental data required to adequately management water resources is often lacking both spatially and temporally.