Citizen Science ProjectChesapeake Water Watch

Satellites & Samples Event FAQ

Chesapeake Water Watch is a joint project between the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and the City College of New York (CCNY) and is funded by NASA. Our team’s researchers are developing new ways to use remote sensing to fill in water monitoring gaps.

We’ve prepared answers to a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ). If your question isn’t answered, visit the Chesapeake Water Watch page to learn more or contact Sam Elliott at

Water samples are being collected so that the Chesapeake Water Watch program can “ground truth” or optimize NASA satellite algorithms to accurately monitor water quality conditions in the Chesapeake Bay. Using remote sensing as a monitoring tool will help to fill in any monitoring gaps and provide predictions of any major ecological events occurring in the Bay.

Once it’s dropped off at a collection hub, your water sample will be processed by our team (or partners) using a couple of different benchtop machines. One machine, the turbidimeter, measures water clarity or how “mixed up” the water sample is. The turbidity is important to track, because if a water sample is too turbid sunlight cannot penetrate through the water column and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) or seaweed cannot grow. This seaweed naturally filters the water and provides important nursery habitat for various creatures. The other machine that samples will be processed on is an AquaFluor. The AquaFluor provides an in vivo chlorophyll and color dissolved organic matter (CDOM) estimate. We use the in vivo chlorophyll reading to track the amount of “plant-like” matter in the water and any algal blooms that might be forming. CDOM is a good proxy for dissolved carbon, a vital resource for aquatic life but if levels are too high or too low can cause many issues for sustaining a healthy environment.

Unlike other satellites, the high-resolution satellites that Chesapeake Water Watch uses only pass over every 5-8 days. For two of the satellites to match up on the same day means double the amount of imagery for us to compare samples with!

The Chesapeake Water Watch primarily focuses on the less-studied rivers and tributaries connecting to the main part of the Chesapeake Bay. Don’t sample from streams, which are typically smaller, shallower, and not useful for the project because satellites can’t see them very well.

When you sample, try to get 100 feet away from shore (on a dock or boat). If you don’t know the specific body of water you are sampling from, just write the latitude and longitude on your water bottle.

You can use any empty water bottle that has only held water before. Be sure not to use any bottles that have held other liquids.

Please fill up the water bottle all the way.

At one of the collection hubs listed on our webpage.

Please drop off your water sample on the same day that it was collected. Most collection hubs are accepting samples from 9AM – 5PM but some are only accepting samples until 3PM. Be sure to double check the drop-off windows for your chosen collection hub.

Write the date, time, and your unique station name on the bottle. The unique station name will be the first two initials of the body of water_a unique name of the station_your initials. Ex. Jane Doe samples on the Rhode River at her pier. She would name her sample, RR_JanesPier_JD. You can also put the latitude and longitude on the bottle instead of a unique name.

Yes! Not only will you receive an email with the results of the collection day, but all data will be uploaded to our open-access database on