Enabling citizen science

Background:

The amount of data available for catchment planning and decision making has decreased, therefore third-party data is now more essential than ever.  A pilot conducted in catchments using a collaborative local evidence approach to monitoring found that some catchment partnerships lacked the technical capacity to plan and deliver the scale of local evidence gathering, interpretation and sharing that is required.

Groundwork has been made to propose a national scale Catchment Monitoring Cooperative to address this, and Natural Course provides an ideal launchpad for this approach.

The Catchment Monitoring Cooperative Working Group have identified key barriers and opportunities that need addressing for catchment partnerships to bridge knowledge gaps with local, quality assured data and evidence that will be trusted to underpin decisions.  These include standardised methods, training and support, effective use of data, and sustainable funding.

What we are doing:

We will build an interactive monitoring and citizen science hub using ArcGIS, that will pull monitoring data from multiple platforms, and include a library of methods, case studies and training resources.  Outfall safaris and other monitoring tools will be included.

Training workshops and webinars will be created to build technical capacity around analysing local data.

A monitoring method audit will be developed to select ‘kite marked’ citizen science methods.

Two demonstrator pilots will refine local evidence packs and technical support developed previously by Natural Course to adopt an integrated local monitoring strategy and catchment plans.  It will incorporate standardised and quality-controlled methods including citizen science, professional monitoring, eDNA, earth observation, low-cost sensor networks and machine learning.

Wider engagement to building social capital via citizen science data collection.

Campaign to raise awareness and increase public participation in citizen science activities.

Production of a final evaluation and benefits report to provide support for upscaling and to help secure additional, sustainable funding.

Who else is involved?

Rivers Trust, United Utilities, Environment Agency, Natural England, GMCA, and CaBA partnership hosts.

Project location:

North West River Basin District, with demonstrator pilots taking place in Lune and Upper Mersey catchments.

Latest update:

Staff time resourced by Natural Course has resulted in a successful joint bid (led by United Utilities and the Rivers Trust) to the Water Breakthrough Challenge in the OFWAT Innovation Fund.  £7.1 million has been awarded to revolutionise the way crucial data about the water environment is gathered and shared.  It will ensure a robust evidence base with direct support for local evidence gathering and community engagement in demonstration catchments including the Lune and Upper Mersey, and a national framework of standardised tools and training.  This ties in with the Enabling Citizen Science project and demonstrates how Natural Course has enabled relationships to develop and complementary funding to be drawn in by increasing capacity of key organisations.