In the last fortnight I have turned my attention to getting to know FreshWater Watch data and, more specifically, how we might use it. My first impression was, wow! We currently hold over 12,000 data, in over 70 towns and cities from Worcester, UK to Bogor, Indonesia and across more than 30 countries. It is a stunning effort and no solitary scientist or collection of scientists for that matter, could mass this amount of data on their own.
Now, how does one begin to explore this data? By using a sampling methodology that has been robustly tested, where each FreshWater Watcher has been trained and has access to a multitude of online resources and programme personnel, many of the potential challenges of citizen science data have been avoided. Crucially, a balance has also been struck which neatly consolidates the needs of the scientist whilst being intuitive enough for anyone to engage with FreshWater Watch with a minimum of training. However, where and how regular CSLs sample varies from city to city, country to country. It’s a little bit like cutting a cake. How much cake you are left to devour once it has been shared out varies upon the question.
Let’s say hypothetically that we wanted to compare the water quality of ponds across three cities. In City A 90% of measurements focused on flowing water, City B focused 50% of their efforts on ponds and in City C randomly, 36% of data was pond-related. Assuming they all had the same amount of sampling effort, that’s 68% of the information that can’t be used to answer our question about ponds. Now, the question might be specifically regarding the winter months. So again because, understandably, it’s much nicer to do field work in the summer a further 60% of data is not suitable from temperate cities A and B and because it’s nice all year round in city C, only 20% isn’t suitable. To summarise, to answer our question about ponds in winter 68% and then 46.7% of data was not suitable, meaning overall 14.9% of data is available for us to use. If across our three cities there were originally 1,500 data, this equates to 256 data available to answer our question (which is still pretty good).
In short, we have to ask the right questions to get the most out of the data. Gladly, in this fifth year of the programme we are focusing in on some important ones. One publication is already out there(link is external) and a suite are in final draft stages that either focus on one region or take a global perspective.
There are also a number of international conferences at which the FreshWater Watch researchers will be presenting. So do keep a check on FreshWater Watch for research updates and tune in to the regional or global webinars to keep up to date.