FreshWater Watch took centre stage at the National Water Quality Monitoring Conference in Florida to share our citizen science. The conference held in Tampa was attended by leaders in water quality monitoring from across the USA.
FreshWater Watch researchers Dr Scott Schupe from the ‘Vancouver Streams’ project, Jamie Cross from the ‘Great Lakes Beaches’ and Jannice Velazquez from the ‘Chinampas and Canals of Mexico City’, joined Earthwatch US’s Rita Galdos and Diana Eddowes, and Dr Ian Thornhill, FreshWater Watch Research Coordinator from Earthwatch Europe.
Dr Thornhill learnt about the strong tradition of citizen science in the USA, a relatively new phenomenon in the UK:
“The whole event was incredibly positive. I was previously unaware that stream and lake monitoring initiatives have been running in the US since the 1990's. This kind of monitoring is quite in-depth and carried out by the few whereas our modern form of citizen science encourages mass participation. That said, there is clearly a substantial overlap. The UK’s Riverfly Monitoring Initiative might be the most comparable and has been running since 2007. The upshot is that some of the volunteer-gathered schemes in the US can call upon 20+ years worth of data. By comparison, FreshWater Watch is just getting started but the early results after some three years of data collection show great promise.”
Whether in the US, UK or it would seem nearly anywhere the key water challenges remain the same. Most researchers are studying excess nutrients and sediments, the same observations that FreshWater Watchers make.
Dr Scott Shupe presents FreshWater Watch findings from Vancouver
Water quality is improving in the US, and citizen science programmes are looking towards new, modern water issues. Dr Thornhill said:
“Some emerging problems are a whole other ball game and relate to a wide range of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), herbicides, solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, metals and an antidepressant as well antibiotic resistant bacteria. All quite alarming but the long term data on nutrient enrichment does suggest that in the US at least, water quality is ever-so-slowly improving but is still far from ideal.
"The conference reaffirmed the importance of citizen scienctists, with FreshWater Watchers praised for their water research around the globe. The biggest take home message is that volunteer monitoring works and is increasingly important.
"Similarly after our Friday panel session we, by whom I mean you, were warmly thanked by a senior employee of the US Geological Survey for our efforts. In Europe, we might be a few years behind but, all the signs point towards a growing recognition of the data citizens can gather provided that the data collected is quality assured and controlled. To this end we can be quietly confident that our data meets the mark and the more we collect, the more meaningful it will become.”
Read Diana Eddowes’ blog from the first day of the conference.