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Through citizen science, anyone can gather robust data to generate environmental information and inform future policy. MONOCLE will develop and use existing citizen science to expand its in situ monitoring programme and engage the public in the project.

What is citizen science?

Citizen science usually involves research collaboration between scientist and volunteer communities. The activities undertaken aim to advance science, develop scientific understanding and encourage the engagement and understanding within local communities of science and their natural environment.

By using a wider range of devices and techniques including citizens own devices (such as mobile phones and tablets), social media and novel applications citizens can more easily than ever engage in scientific endeavours, providing much needed data to researcher and other organisations such as charities and NGOs.

Citizen Science in MONOCLE

Aerial shot of lakeMONOCLE partners are developing low-cost optical sensors, methods and technologies to support water quality monitoring by regional and national agencies.  In addition to our research programme we are exploring the role local communities and volunteers (led by MONOCLE partner Earthwatch Europe) can play in collecting essential environmental data to complement existing monitoring networks, evaluate the performance of in-situ sensors, and the role citizens can play in the maintenance and deployment of sensors.

Existing and new citizen science observatories will be used to evaluate the role citizens can play in an integrated observation platform of in situ autonomous and citizen operated sensors and earth observation services to monitor the water quality parameters, for large rivers, lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, bays and other coastal zones around the world including, in particular, data poor regions.

Volunteers will be recruited to support existing and new citizen science observatories in the Mälardalen in Sweden, Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, the Pyrenees lakes in Spain and Danube Delta, Black Sea Coast in Romania. Additionally, information sessions on the use and benefits of citizen science for conservation and water management purposes will be organised at various other sites across Europe (see below for our upcoming event in Loch Leven, Scotland).

MONOCLE supports the following citizen science projects:

  • FreshWater Watch (by Earthwatch) is a water quality monitoring program that aims to understand the drivers and causes of freshwater degradation to better manage and protect the world’s fresh water resources. Participants test for nutrients; phosphate and nitrate, turbidity which are indicators of water quality, and record contextual observations like vegetation cover, water color, surrounding land-use, presence or absence of pollution sources, litter, algal growth to identify potential drivers and causes of the observed water quality.
  • iSpex (by University Leiden and DDQ) is a low-cost, mass producible add-on for smartphones with a corresponding app that has previously been used to measure air quality across 11 European cities. The iSpex team are upgrading the add-on and sensor capabilities to monitor air and water quality properties. A low-cost sensor that will be tested and deployed within the MONOCLE project.
  • KdUINO (by CSIC) is a low cost device to measure water transparency which is currently being upgraded to gather information at different colour bands (RGB). A key challenge for KdUINO team in MONOCLE is to engage greater numbers volunteers to deploy units in a broad range of locations. To support this, a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) version is being developed along with improved usability, reduction in weight and increased portability.  Together these developments will support greater wide scale application of the unit, especially in more remote locations. See here for published paper on Kduino.

Why citizen science matters

Local people understand their local environment and can access it better than most people. Citizen scientists become stewards of their local environments as they gather robust data that generates environmental insights and informs future policy.

Data collected by volunteers has contributed to vital scientific discovery in the fields of ecology, medicine, physics, meteorology and various environmental science disciplines. Harnessing the power of citizen science gives scientists the opportunity to gather more data than they ever could alone, gain a greater understanding of how we're impacting our planet.

Check out the Earthwatch website for more information on Citizen Science programmes and ways to get involved. 

Upcoming events

Loch Leven

Citizen Science - Improving environmental management with the helping hands and minds of citizens.
This event has now ended.

An informative, interactive and fun activity on how citizens can monitor their local environment, and provide scientifically robust data to guide management and protection of freshwater ecosystems (like Loch Leven) and to inform decision-makers about air quality. Participants will be introduced to and able to test two citizen science tools called FreshWater Watch and iSpex during a hands-on training session on the shore of Loch Leven.

Freshwater watch logoIspex logo


Citizen scientistsGuide the development and design of the next generation of useful and practical citizen science tools.
For local community members, organisations and interest groups (e.g. anglers association, outdoor learning and education programs etc)

Learn about simple and quick methods to independently assess water or air quality of their living environment, and integrate this into campaigns for monitoring, education and awareness rising about environmental issues.

For environmental agencies/trusts

Introduction to methodologies that provide an opportunity to increase the spatial and temporal coverage of existing monitoring programs, while engaging communities in providing essential data to inform management and evaluate catchment management and restoration practices.





In August 2018 the international MONOCLE team gathered around Loch Leven in Kinross, Scotland for the project’s first field campaign.

The video diary above shows the team during the fieldwork and their interaction with Citizen Scientists.