Virtual Staff Gauges for Crowd-Based Stream Level Observations

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 01:38

We are proud to announce, that lately, we formed part of the author-team of a scientific paper, published in the Frontiers magazine, about Citizen Science based on hydrological observations.

Along with Jan Seibert, Barbara Strobl, Simon Etter and H.J. Ilja van Meerveld from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, we wrote about the design of the Crowdwater App, its key elements and how the SPOTTERON platform for Citizen Science apps works in general. The Citizen Science app Crowdwater is all about hydrological observations by Citizen Scientists like water level measurements through virtual staff gauges, temporary streams and now also plastic pollution in rivers, which contributes to the huge amount of plastic waste in our oceans.

Abstract of the paper: Hydrological observations are crucial for decision making for a wide range of water resource challenges. Citizen science is a potentially useful approach to complement existing observation networks to obtain this data. Previous projects, such as CrowdHydrology, have demonstrated that it is possible to engage the public in contributing hydrological observations. However, hydrological citizen science projects related to streamflow have, so far, been based on the use of different kinds of instruments or installations; in the case of stream level observations, this is usually a staff gauge. While it may be relatively easy to install a staff gauge at a few river sites, the need for a physical installation makes it difficult to scale this type of citizen science approach to a larger number of sites because these gauges cannot be installed everywhere or by everyone. Here, we present a smartphone app that allows collection of stream level information at any place without any physical installation as an alternative approach. The approach is similar to geocaching, with the difference that instead of finding treasure-hunting sites, hydrological measurement sites can be generated by anyone and at any location and these sites can be found by the initiator or other citizen scientists to add another observation at another time. The app is based on a virtual staff gauge approach, where a picture of a staff gauge is digitally inserted into a photo of a stream bank or a bridge pillar, and the stream level during a subsequent field visit to that site is compared to the staff gauge on the first picture. The first experiences with the use of the app by citizen scientists were largely encouraging but also highlight a few challenges and possible improvements.

Read the whole article here: Front. Earth Sci., 12 April 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2019.00070

We would like to thank the CrowdWater Team for the collaboration!

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