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Virtual staff gauges for crowd-based stream level observations


Seibert, Jan; Strobl, Barbara; Etter, Simon; Hummer, Philipp; van Meerveld, H J (2019). Virtual staff gauges for crowd-based stream level observations. Frontiers in Earth Science, 7:70.

Abstract

Hydrological observations are crucial for decision making for a wide range of water resource challenges. Citizen science is a potentially useful approach to complement existing observation networks to obtain this data. Previous projects, such as CrowdHydrology, have demonstrated that it is possible to engage the public in contributing hydrological observations. However, hydrological citizen science projects related to streamflow have, so far, been based on the use of different kinds of instruments or installations; in the case of stream level observations, this is usually a staff gauge. While it may be relatively easy to install a staff gauge at a few river sites, the need for a physical installation makes it difficult to scale this type of citizen science approach to a larger number of sites because these gauges cannot be installed everywhere or by everyone. Here, we present a smartphone app that allows collection of stream level information at any place without any physical installation as an alternative approach. The approach is similar to geocaching, with the difference that instead of finding treasure-hunting sites, hydrological measurement sites can be generated by anyone and at any location and these sites can be found by the initiator or other citizen scientists to add another observation at another time. The app is based on a virtual staff gauge approach, where a picture of a staff gauge is digitally inserted into a photo of a stream bank or a bridge pillar, and the stream level during a subsequent field visit to that site is compared to the staff gauge on the first picture. The first experiences with the use of the app by citizen scientists were largely encouraging but also highlight a few challenges and possible improvements.

Abstract

Hydrological observations are crucial for decision making for a wide range of water resource challenges. Citizen science is a potentially useful approach to complement existing observation networks to obtain this data. Previous projects, such as CrowdHydrology, have demonstrated that it is possible to engage the public in contributing hydrological observations. However, hydrological citizen science projects related to streamflow have, so far, been based on the use of different kinds of instruments or installations; in the case of stream level observations, this is usually a staff gauge. While it may be relatively easy to install a staff gauge at a few river sites, the need for a physical installation makes it difficult to scale this type of citizen science approach to a larger number of sites because these gauges cannot be installed everywhere or by everyone. Here, we present a smartphone app that allows collection of stream level information at any place without any physical installation as an alternative approach. The approach is similar to geocaching, with the difference that instead of finding treasure-hunting sites, hydrological measurement sites can be generated by anyone and at any location and these sites can be found by the initiator or other citizen scientists to add another observation at another time. The app is based on a virtual staff gauge approach, where a picture of a staff gauge is digitally inserted into a photo of a stream bank or a bridge pillar, and the stream level during a subsequent field visit to that site is compared to the staff gauge on the first picture. The first experiences with the use of the app by citizen scientists were largely encouraging but also highlight a few challenges and possible improvements.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:12 April 2019
Deposited On:17 Dec 2019 10:16
Last Modified:17 Dec 2019 10:18
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:2296-6463
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2019.00070

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