Citizen Science ProjectChesapeake Water Watch

The "What" and the "Why"

What we are trying to learn?


We are aiming to improve how effective satellites are at monitoring the health of Chesapeake Bay by comparing information collected from satellites with information collected by researchers and citizen scientists on the ground. Right now, NASA's cutting-edge satellites, provide a unique capability to capture water quality changes in areas that are economically and environmentally important. However, the satellites require measurements collected on the ground to verify the information from the satellites.

Why is this important?

Citizen science can provide a powerful framework for understanding earth systems (Lee et al 2020). Water quality monitoring programs have been among the longest-running and most successful citizen science programs in the United States (US) (Compas and Wade, 2018). There is a long history of public engagement in water quality monitoring in fresh and coastal ecosystems, with volunteer collected data being used as part of monitoring for the US Clean Water Act (Jollymore et al 2017). However, water quality monitoring programs are distributed unequally around the Chesapeake Bay region and some areas lack the capacity to take on large scale monitoring projects or are difficult to access by volunteers. Therefore, this is where remote sensing has enormous potential to fill in these gaps. Having satellites monitor water quality would give researchers an overall picture about things like chlorophyll a, water clarity, and colored dissolved organic matter rather than certain points of these data collected on the ground by researchers and volunteers. These large-scale datasets from satellites would provide a greater understanding of the overall environmental conditions to support aquatic life, and economic and recreational activity. However, citizen scientists are important in ground truthing and adjusting the algorithms to be more effective and raising awareness about NASA and the projects it provides in understanding Earth’s changing environment. 

Compas, E. D., and S. Wade 2018. Testing the Waters: A Demonstration of a Novel Water Quality Mapping System for Citizen Science Groups, Citizen Science: Theory  and Practice, 3(2), 6, doi:10.5334/cstp.124.
Lee, K. A., J. R. Lee, and P. Bell 2020. A review of Citizen Science within the Earth Sciences: potential benefits and obstacles, Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, doi:10.1016/j.pgeola.2020.07.010.
Jollymore, A., M. J. Haines, T. Satterfield, and M. S. Johnson 2017. Citizen science for water quality monitoring: Data implications of citizen perspectives, J. Environ. Manage., 200, 456-467, doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.05.083.