Citizen Scientists Provide Clarity for Big Questions

Citizen scientist Tim Plude monitors the Secchi depth of Lake Tomahawk in Wisconsin’s Oneida County. Photo: Laura Herman, Wisconsin DNR

Citizen scientist Tim Plude monitors the Secchi depth of Lake Tomahawk in Wisconsin’s Oneida County. Photo: Laura Herman, Wisconsin DNR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

A massive new study of water clarity trends in Midwestern lakes is sure to make some waves in scientific circles.

The study involved nearly a quarter of a million observations in 3,251 lakes spread across eight states, and data dating back seven decades. But it’s where that data came from that’s truly noteworthy. For the report, published online April 30 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers turned exclusively to citizen scientists.

Each and every observation came from a lakefront homeowner, boater, angler or other interested member of the public wanting to know a little more about what’s going on in “their” lake.

More and more, ecologists are looking at big picture issues, like how changes in land use or the climate affect ecosystems at a state, national, or even continental scale, says Noah Lottig, a co-author of the study. Lottig, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Trout Lake Station, a research facility run by the Center for Limnology, says there aren’t enough scientists in the world to collect data for these projects but, thanks to citizen scientists, “there’s a lot of information out there and, really, citizen data has been underutilized.” Continue reading ->

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