Iowa Lakeside Residency Pt 3: Citizen Science Initiatives

One of the main points of interest for attending this residency was learning more about citizen science initiatives, especially for monitoring water quality.  Lake Okoboji, the lake the lab resides on has been running Cooperative Lakes Area Monitoring Project (CLAMP) since 1999. CLAMP is a volunteer program that monitors areas of the lakes regularly between May and September. img_3335

On my last day of the residency, I was able to go out with Stan, Dick and Leroy, three CLAMP volunteers while they collected water samples, turbidity and temperature at various points on the lake.  After picking up a cooler filled with prepped bottles and equipment for water testing, we set off on Leroy’s boat early in the morning to visit the 5 different spots for testing. Samples were collected at each point and turbidity was measured via Secchi disk and recorded on a datasheet.  In between collection sites, I was able to talk to and ask these volunteers about their motivations for participating in CLAMP. along with the changes that they’ve witnessed in and around the lake throughout the years. img_3336 Upon returning to the lab, we filtered out the samples using this device which drained the water onto a paper filter that is stored in a tube for later processing by the chemists at the lab. img_3186

Along with CLAMP, a hydrological buoy keeps tracks of changes in the lake’s waters. Every ten minutes, the buoy will relay info via radio regarding humidity, temperature, turbidity, wind direction, barometric pressure… etc. The info is online and is available as an app that is connected with other buoys in the world using the Global Lake Ecology Observation Network (GLEON).

I was also able to speak with the Education Coordinator and resident chemist who tests for water quality in assessing what possible challenges they face with water quality monitoring. In thinking along the lines of what tools scientists / field researchers might need out in the field, I made a really low fi prototype of a a suit that a researcher might wear for water quality monitoring (while swimming). This suit would be able to collect various data points surrounding dissolved oxygen, turbidity and water sampling, but also has a “Geographic Annotation Button”, which would be a way to record the GPS points of where a researcher is at the time of collection. This idea came out of observing the volunteers having to rely on visual cues and a clipboard to assess their position and wondering if there was a possible way of “marking” a point when your hands are occupied. The design and placement of sensors on the prototype to some degree is inspired by anatomical placement of organs/bones on the human body. With this design, the suit can draw comparisons to ideas of how our bodies can connect with technology and the environment.

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Some challenges in building this project would be waterproofing the electronics for prototyping and building. I did some initial tests using a bag sealer to contain a flexible textile circuit. However, this might be beyond my skill range and would need to consult some engineering folks on the feasibility of this project.


Hike out to a kettle lake. Doesn’t really have to do with citizen science initiatives, but is an interesting geological formation left over from the glaciers.

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