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GLEON Embraces Citizen Science

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The Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant Number DBI RCN 0639229 and MSB 1137327, 1137353 and other generous donors. This blog receives technical support from the Center for Limnology (CFL) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Any information, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog are those of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF, CFL, Cary Institute, GLEON or GLEON Student Association (GSA).


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Photo: Divers participate in citizen science on lake in Belgium. Credit: Laurent Miroult.

Divers from Project Baseline Muisbroek, Ben van Asselt and Koenraad van Schuylenbergh, retrieving tea bags in Lake Put van Ekeren, Belgium. (Photo by Laurent Miroult courtesy of NETLAKE.)

A new citizen science working group formed in July at the most recent all-hands meeting of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) in Gaming and Lunz, Austria. With the official end of the Networking Lake Observatories in Europe (NETLAKE) EU COST Action this year, the working group activities under GLEON’s sister network in Europe found a new home by merging with ongoing initiatives in GLEON. What had been an adhoc group on citizen science in GLEON became a full-fledged working group this summer with several joint projects already underway.

“Experience from GLEON demonstrates how citizens contribute to the formulation of new research questions about their lakes as well as how research scientists are embracing citizen science in the network,” said Kathleen C. Weathers, co-chair of GLEON, and G. Evelyn Hutchinson Chair in Ecology at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY. “With the establishment of a new working group, GLEON members are not only embracing citizen science but actively designing and implementing

NETLAKE Citizen Science

Photo: citizen science on lake in Czech Republic. Credit: NETLAKE.

Markéta Fránková‎ sampling for microplastics in Czech lake Žebětínský rybník, carefully monitored by the kids. (Photo courtesy of NETLAKE.)

“Pantyhose were coming in weekly, tea bag weights were uploaded on the website every day and the All about Water book was being translated,” said Netherlands Institute of Ecology doctoral student Laura Seelen in early November. Seelen coordinates NETLAKE citizen science activities and provided this update:

“NETLAKE, might have had its official final week in October but our citizen scientists are certainly alive and kicking! During the last 4 years, NETLAKE’s Working Group 3, the Citizen Science working group, has made some great progress in water education for kids and adults by making a water book and taking it one step further by involving project participants in real water quality research. Volunteers from Europe teamed up with scientists to sample for microplastics and determine the decomposition of organic matter in their lakes over the summer. Both projects are performed with homemade sampling equipment. Who knew that pantyhose would make great nets for sampling microplastics and tea bags are perfect ready-made litter bags?

After the very successful GLEON meeting in Lunz, Austria this summer, several U.S. lakes joined the NETLAKE water quality survey as well. Pantyhose “samples” from overseas (Lakes Sunapee, NH and Chautauqua, NY) began arriving in late September and are being added to the growing pile to be analyzed over the winter. More than 200 volunteers, citizen scientists and scientists helped gather water quality data in 32 lakes during the summer and fall 2016. Hopefully we can bring you the results of this joint GLEON and NETLAKE Citizen Science effort in the coming months.”

Photo: lake citizen science in Turkey. Credit: NETLAKE.

Duygu Tolunay placing the decomposition experiment cage in Lake Eymir near Ankara, Turkey. (Photo courtesy of NETLAKE.)

Lake Observer Mobile App Used for 2016 Secchi Dip-In

Photo: GLEON 18 meeting. Credit: Lisa Borre.

Julia Hart tries out the GLEON Lake Observer app on Lake Lunz. (Photo by Lisa Borre.)

GLEON teamed up with the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) and USEPA as part of the White House Water Summit to make the Lake Observer app available for use in the 2016 Secchi Dip-In, an annual event held in July since 1994. The Secchi Dip-In taps into the power of volunteers to collect water transparency data on America’s lakes, streams, and estuaries.

GLEON has made Lake Observer available for Android (Google) and iOS (Apple) devices to streamline the way that research and citizen scientists record and share water quality data while working in the field. About 300 users have already registered for the app. In the summer of 2016, the app was used to record 130 Secchi depth observations, 444 water quality observations, 190 algae observations, and 269 weather observations on lakes and in watersheds on two continents.

For the Secchi Dip-In in July, GLEON member Jason Stockwell, director of the University of Vermont Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, trained a group of primary school teachers to make Secchi depth observations and use the Lake Observer app for a one-day science experiment on Shelburne Pond, VT. The teachers made observations at twelve stations in the morning, mid- and late-afternoon to study variability based on location and time of day. They also contributed 38 observations as part of the Secchi Dip-In.

Image: Map of Secchi observations on Shelburne Pond, VT. Credit: Jason Stockwell, UVM.

A map showing Secchi depth observations made by teachers at Shelburne Pond, Vermont for the 2016 Secchi Dip-In. (Image courtesy of Jason Stockwell.)

One outcome of the GLEON18 meeting in Austria is a new collaboration with the NETLAKE Citizen Science program. NETLAKE partners from Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey have now submitted Secchi depth and water quality observations using the Lake Observer app.

Musical Interpretation of Data

Photo: GLEON 18 meeting. Credit: Lisa Borre.

A live performance of a musical interpretation of data from Lake Lunz, one of the outcomes of the new Citizen Science working group at GLEON 18.

A new Musical Interpretation of Data project was initiated at the GLEON 18 meeting in Austria, led by sound artist and GLEON member Alex Braidwood, assistant professor in the College of Design at Iowa State University. GLEON artists and musicians are exploring and interpreting data through a variety of media, developing innovative ways to experience the data. Projects enhance collaboration, creativity and communication between the arts and sciences.

Convective Heat Transfer Between Air and Water

Another GLEON citizen science project, led by Gesa Weyhenmeyer, professor of aquatic biogeochemistry at Uppsala University, shows systematic change in the convective heat transfer between air and water with global warming. Weyhenmeyer’s team examined the difference between in situ air and water temperature to study variations in the conductive heat transfer between air and water. They developed a research project for high school students, ages 13-16. From the students they received almost 1500 temperature data from about 100 lakes, streams, and rivers distributed across Sweden. Together with high frequency data from 12 different lakes distributed across the globe they made new observations on the fate of the conductive heat transfer under global warming. The results will soon be published. Information about the high school project is available on the Uppsala project website.

“I was a bit skeptical about the project at first, but it was so much fun. The school kids and teachers were just great, and we had lots of media attention. The story was picked up by Swedish newspapers, radio programs, and even the Royal Academy of Science,” said Weyhenmeyer.

6 March 2017 Update: The results of Weyhenmeyer’s research project — also an example of GLEON’s team science approach — was published in Scientific Reports: Citizen science shows systematic changes in the temperature difference between air and inland waters with global warming.

This post was compiled by Lisa Borre, a senior research specialist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and coordinator for the Lake Observer app project.


  1. Ben van Asselt says:

    Nice to read!
    One of the divers in top photo is not maxime santermans but koenraad van


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