Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New paper out: Using citizen science data to study long-term trends in lake water clarity

I'm a co-author on a cool new CSI limnology ( paper published during April in the online, open access journal PLoS One. This research examines long-term water clarity trends in Midwestern US lakes. There are not enough researchers or government agency staff to collect data on lakes every week, let alone every month, or even every year! But, citizens living on lakes can collect these data, and many do. In fact, my own parents and grandfather collected water clarity data for years on Quacumquasit Lake in MA and Elk Lake in MI! 

My colleague, Noah Lottig, led a team of CSI researchers to compile data from some of the more long-running citizen science programs in the Midwest, including MN, IA, MO, WI, IL, IN, MI and OH. Check out our paper to see the results: University of Wisconsin, Penn State University, and the National Science Foundation all wrote wrote stories about this paper. Check them out here:

Very fun!

Photo: Katherine Webster
All of this research is thanks in part to the dedicated citizens who have spent years sampling their lakes, agency personnel who help train them and sometimes maintain the databases, and also to Father Pietro Angelo Secchi, a papal astronomer, who invented the Secchi disk well over a century ago. The picture to the right shows a monument to him in the Villa Borghese Park in Rome that some CSI members STUMBLED upon while strolling in Rome one day about a decade ago. The black and white pattern on the statue attracted the attention of the limnologists, and they paid homage to this important limnological historical figure. Meanwhile, observers walking by the photographer (our very own Katherine Webster) were heard saying, “tourists will take pictures of ANYTHING in Rome”.  Ha!

CSI Limnology continues to build our large, geospatial database, LAGOS, by integrating limnological data such as these citizen datasets with data from: state and federal government agencies, tribal agencies, and university researchers, with large numbers of geographic data sources to address further basic and applied science questions across broad spatial and temporal scales. More to come! A big thanks to Ed Bissell for database support and guidance for this effort and Pat Soranno for her contributions to this post.