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Water Quality Monitoring and Watershed Programs APPS

The Clean Water Team supports and has been active in the development and use of apps and innovative mobile solutions to collect watershed and water quality data. In 2010 the Clean Water Team partnered with IBM. This collaboration resulted in the Creek Watch App. This was one of the first apps dedicated to collecting water quality data. Throughout 2014 we also partnered in the development of the Test the Waters App. Since then, the Clean Water Team also developed its own digital solutions for water quality monitoring and we have collaborated on others. Over time though, some of these applications have been discontinued. But today there are many useful apps available for your program’s needs. From crowdsourcing apps to dedicated digital field data sheets there is an application for almost anything.

  Note: Apps described below are not endorsed specifically nor generally by the State Water Board or the SWAMP Program.

Resources for Understandng the Use of Apps to Collect Data

Defining principles for mobile apps and platforms development in citizen science

Citizen Science in the Digital World of Apps

Crowdsourcing data collection

Application Programming Interfaces
There are several Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in use across the growing citizen science community of practice that illustrate the value of sharing data and metadata in advancing the field of citizen science and public participation in scientific research.

SciStarter is a collection of smart web tools and an event-based organization that connects people to more than 1,200 registered and vetted citizen science projects, events, and tools. New tools, developed by SciStarter with support from the National Science Foundation, enable citizen scientists to find, join, and track their contributions across projects and platforms. The organization's primary goal is to break down barriers preventing non-scientists from fully engaging in scientific research.

Apps for Water Quality

Sanitary Surveys for Recreational Waters
EPA has updated its recreational sanitary survey app, EPA Sanitary Survey App for Marine and Fresh Waters (App), to help waterbody managers evaluate all contributing waterbody and watershed information including water quality data, pollution source data, and land use data. The data from the App can be exported for use in predictive models and for sharing within or between agencies (e.g., public health and environmental).

The App includes routine and more comprehensive annual sanitary surveys for both fresh and marine waters. The App enables jurisdictions to easily gather information on possible existence of harmful algal blooms, in addition to sources of bacterial pollution. This app uses ESRI’s Survey 123.

CrowdWater stands for an independent and reliable data collection by citizens  – Citizen Science – for modelling of floods and droughts and as a supplement to existing measurements.

EarthEcho Water Challenge
The EarthEcho Water Challenge is an international education and outreach program, coordinated by EarthEcho International. It builds public awareness and involvement in protecting waterways around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of local waterbodies, share findings, and protect our most precious resource.

Lake Observer App
The Lake Observer mobile app was designed by members of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) for both research scientists and citizen scientists to record lake and water quality observations. Lake Observer is part of a crowd-sourcing platform to facilitate the collection and sharing of lake- and water-related information across the globe

You can participate in the Secchi Dip-In and support lake-monitoring efforts by submitting your data through the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network’s (GLEON) Lake Observer App. You can use a mobile app, the new web-based data entry form or a batch data entry form (registration and login is required).

Citizen Science Lake Tahoe
In less than five minutes, you can help protect Tahoe’s beauty and health. While you enjoy Tahoe’s beaches, deep blue waters, or soaring mountains, share your observations through the Citizen Science Tahoe app to help scientists better understand and protect the Lake.

Bloom Watch (English/Spanish)
Algal blooms are visibly abundant proliferations of freshwater algae and have the potential to cause risks to human and animal health. Their occurrence is presently not well documented. bloomWatch! is an App that has been developed to track and document the occurrence of these potentially harmful algal blooms.

Your input using this App will provide documentation as to the location and frequency of potentially harmful bloom events, helping scientists, water quality managers, and public health officials effectively track and manage the water resources that the public depends on for potable water and recreation.

One of the most apparent characteristics of water to the human eye is water color. Water color indicates the algae and organic content of the water that feeds organisms.

Phyto helps you learn to identify phytoplankton and their proper pronunciation. It includes the most common saltwater phytoplankton. The program consists of two main modes. The first mode is a listing of the different species and includes different images taken with a light microscope and the ability to hear the correct pronunciation. The second mode is a flash card game to help you improve your phytoplankton identification skills.

California Digital Reference Collection (aka Bugs 2 Go)
This is a digital resource tool to assist citizen scientists identify and learn about California’s stream dwelling benthic macroinvertebrates and water quality. Made to be portable for easy streamside access this tool is an interactive PDF.

Clean Water Team's Enhanced Excel File for Conducting Visual Habitat Assessments
A Visual Assessment is a technique to document waterway and watershed conditions and uses.
It requires minimal technical equipment and training and relies primarily on the monitor’s
sensory abilities and common sense. There are really two general approaches to visual
assessments. The narrative approach involves the use of standardized forms to interpret visual
(and other sensory) observations into words or numeric descriptions.

California Trash Monitoring Methods and Assessments Playbook
The Playbook is intended as a reference for trash monitoring practitioners and agency staff interested in learning more about the considerations for selecting a suitable trash monitoring program, whereas the Field Testing Report is a resource for researchers and other technically minded people who wish to dive more deeply into the findings of our study.

Are you interested in trash monitoring, drones, artificial intelligence, or all of the above? Take a look at the Playbook and Field Testing Report and let us know what you think: outreach@trashmonitoring.org. You can also download machine learning data and the Survey 123 application information from the SFEI website.

Clean Swell App
Join a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. Head out to your favorite beach and use the app to easily record each item of trash you collect. Then share your effort with family and friends.

Save The Waves App
Empowering surfers, beachgoers and ocean lovers to report and track coastal threats in real-time. Save The Waves App crowdsources data from coastal users (like you!) who identify coastal threats. The app has six main threat categories: Coastal Development; Plastic Trash and Marine Debris; Sea Level Rise and Erosion; Water Quality; Coral Reef Impact; and Access. We work hand-in-hand with Coalition partners to address reported issues.

Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (for Invasive Species)
CDFW’s Invasive Species Program enlists the help of citizen scientists in invasive species monitoring and management. For the last decade, the Department has taken public sighting reports by telephone, email, and via an online reporting link. Now, launched in conjunction with the 2020 Invasive Species Action week, the Department has an exciting new platform to reach the public and receive invasive species reports!

The smartphone app is called “EDDMapS” which is an abbreviation for Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System and will allow invasive species reports to be submitted from your smartphone while outdoors. On the user-friendly app, anyone can report an invasive species sighting, submit photos, provide sighting details, and document a negative survey

Apps for Wildlife

One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

Seek by iNaturalist
Take your nature knowledge up a notch with Seek! Use the power of image recognition technology to identify the plants and animals all around you.

eBird is among the world’s largest biodiversity-related science projects, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed annually by eBirders around the world and an average participation growth rate of approximately 20% year over year. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

eBird data document bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends through checklist data collected within a simple, scientific framework. Birders enter when, where, and how they went birding, and then fill out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing. eBird’s free mobile app allows offline data collection anywhere in the world, and the website provides many ways to explore and summarize your data and other observations from the global eBird community.

Leafsnap is a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. The free mobile apps use visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. They contain beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruits, petioles, seeds and bark.

Odonata Central
This citizen science web site site is focused on expanding our understanding of the distribution, biogeography, biodiversity, and identification of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) in the Western Hemisphere. We encourage you to contribute your observations and explore the observations of others in maps, lists of records and species lists. The Odonata Central phone app allows you to easily enter complete checklists into Odonata Central from your phone. Available for both IOS and Android and supporting English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (Online)
The Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) project is an ambitious effort to collect and provide access to quality-controlled data about butterflies and moths for the continent of North America from Panama to Canada. The project is hosted by Metalmark Web and Data LLC and is directed by Kelly Lotts and Thomas Naberhaus. Our goal is to fill the needs of scientists and nature observers by bringing verified occurrence and life history data into one accessible location.

Monarch SOS Citizen Science App
Monarch SOS is a collaborative mobile app development effort between Naturedigger, LLC in cooperation with the Monarch Joint Venture and its citizen science partners. This monarch-focused app provides an informational foundation for identifying monarchs and milkweeds in different stages, and testing is underway for adding reports to each of the participating programs, so that users can report to various programs from the app. These will be released in the app as they become available.

Apps for Climate Change (and Related Sciences)

Track the effects of climate change with the touch of a button. When it comes to finding ways to mitigate climate change, we like to start in our own backyard: observing plants and pollinators is critical to understanding how our environment is responding to the changes in our climate. These observations come from community scientists just like you. With Budburst, you can experience the magic of nature, while contributing to the fight to save it.

GLOBE Observer
GLOBE Observer, the app of The GLOBE Program, invites you to make environmental observations that complement NASA satellite observations to help scientists studying Earth and the global environment.

Our climate is changing—and so are we. Share your experiences and collect data to investigate our environment and help our communities change.

What you see change in your backyard, neighborhood, and city is important to our understanding of how climate change and weather affect our communities. Your observations and block-by-block insights can help cities, engineers and local organizations advocate for and create solutions to climate challenges.

If you or your community has a question or hypothesis about how climate is changing your area, you can also use your ISeeChange account to collect data and answer those questions.

Natures Notebook (Online)
The USA-National Phenology Network brings together volunteer observers, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States.

Apps for Environmental Education & Outdoor Activities

Using technology to connect students & the environment the National Environmental Education Foundation, with generous support from Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., and in partnership with Project Noah, presents Using Technology to Connect Students & the Environment, a video on how technology can further STEM learning through the environment, both in nature and in the classroom.

Apps for Drinking Water

The WeTap App
Drinking fountains enhance communities. Drinking fountains are essential. We engage and we transform around the watering hole. To reclaim and to celebrate municipal water with equitable access is vital to freedom from the pervasiveness of privatized bottled water interests and everlasting plastic waste. With the WeTap app and technology we galvanize collective support, empowering and transforming communities. With site-specific data on a drinking fountain’s functionality and whereabouts, these tools improve community considerations and maintenance planning for our public parks and schools into the future. Tap water access is key to our community health. In Los Angeles, LADWP encourages its customers to use drinking fountains.

Field Data Collection Apps & Mobile Forms

Collecting research data with paper forms, especially around water, can be a real mess. To avoid the troubles of having to transcribe data from paper forms or the fears of it being lost entirely, you can use a data collection app.

Data collection apps are mobile applications that helps your volunteers and staff collect data from a smartphone. One of the main advantages of data collections apps is the possibility of gathering data offline while on-the-go.

The use of these apps is not just avoiding the use of paper surveys. Data collection apps allow data to be quickly exported for data archiving, quality assurance reviews, analysis, and reporting. A quick search on the internet will provide you with many options to consider.

ArcGIS Survey123
ArcGIS Survey123 is a complete, form-centric solution for creating, sharing and analyzing surveys. Use it to create smart forms with skip logic, defaults, and support for multiple languages. Collect data via web or mobile devices, even when disconnected from the Internet.

SENSR is a tool to create, share and manage a citizen science project running on mobile devices to harness the power of citizen scientists. SENSR provides a simple and easy way to obtain a custom data collection application running on mobile devices for your project. If you are running a grassroots project for science, education, environmental conservation, community monitoring, or other reason, and are seeking ways to expand citizen scientists’ participation in contributing data, SENR can help you create a mobile data collection tool for your project.

SPOTTERON is a fully customizable solution for your Citizen Science, environment protection, and volunteer monitoring projects. It can be fully adapted to your project's needs and is constantly updated and maintained.

Wildnote’s environmental field data collection app and web management software streamlines Construction Compliance, Wetland Delineation, Cultural Resource Management projects, and more.