What tools and technologies are powering new frontiers for your citizen science projects?

Discussion hosts:

Darlene Cavalier
Founder, SciStarter
Tamra Manik-Perlman
Project Director, Azavea

At SciStarter, we’re see exciting new citizen science opportunities with the development of new online tools and platforms. We’re trying to understand and map out the useful features of different platforms, and know that many of you have questions, experiences, and insights about this topic as well. Over the next few days, we’re interested in your thoughts on the software tools you’ve tried and the tools you’re dreaming about.

With your help, we would like to brainstorm a list of software tools and platforms for citizen science. Please join this discussion and tell us about the software tools you are using or plan to use for your projects. This may include software specifically created to support citizen science projects or custom tools you are developing. Your contributions will help build a list of ideas for others to consider, and help support research about these tools*.

Some questions we ask you to consider:

  • When launching a new project, what sorts of technical resources do you have at your disposal (e.g. access to server space, developer time)?
  • Would needing such resources pose a barrier?
  • How well have existing platforms been able to support your projects? What additional tools or features would you find helpful?
  • What strategies have you found to be most useful in recruiting participants, motivating them and keeping them engaged? Are there particular technologies that support these strategies?

Thank you!

*With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we are working with Azavea, a geospatial software engineering firm, to evaluate a representative set of online citizen science software tools, but we need your help to identify that set of tools. The evaluation effort will analyze existing online citizen science tools and platforms for their technology, extensibility, visualization, and engagement features in order to better understand their ability to support a diverse and growing catalog of citizen science projects. The results of this research will be made available to the public as a report in January 2013.
  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FDAKJAIFKKIZCUGZFBPKN3J2GQ Richard

    What are people’s opinions regarding iNaturalist and Project Noah? Is one better than the other?

    It seems that iNaturalist is the better platform when trying to gather data/submission that can be verified and can be research grade.

    Project Noah seems more of a tool to get kids/families/people outside and to see what is around them. More of a tool to help them explore outside (not necessarily to contribute to scientific research).

    Is this what others think? Which of these platforms do you prefer using, as a person submitting and/or as an institution putting their project on one of these sites?


  • Jonathan Long

    I think a key issue for citizen science projects is the use of free & open source platforms versus pay for service platforms. Our project had relied heavily on Excel–it’s been our bread and butter for managing data for years because of its computational powers, charting tools, and simplicity. I’ve also used Access for my own databases, which adds in a lot error checking and avoidance features that are nice, but it is harder to train volunteers to use it and it lacks the charting tools we like. Given our Microsoft affiliations, the new ESRI product that links Microsoft office to their ArcGIS Online platform would be a natural fit, but it is too pricey. So, another avenue that we’ve considered is to import the Excel files into Google docs, and then try to link the spatial data to Google Earth using Fusion tables and spreadsheet mapper. I haven’t been thrilled with the results yet, but it seems like this will be the most practical solution in the near-term due to relatively low entry and storage costs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

    Thank you for visiting this discussion forum. Special thanks to Jennifer Shirk at Cornell for encouraging and enabling this dialogue.

    Tamara and I are very interested to learn more about the online tools (and sensors!) you use or plan to use to advance your projects. And, your thoughts on those tools.

    We’ll  compile the responses and include findings from additional research and evaluations  and share the final report with you.

    Thank you for your participation and we look forward to hearing from you!

  • Mike Bear

    Oh, I almost forgot the most important tool of all: Google Earth, for adding GPS numbers for sightings.

  • Mike Bear

    Ummm…….what happened to my first post, about tools? I was signed in when I made it too…..

  • Mike Bear

    OK, I’m a little confused: I made a post about the tools  we use, that remained for a while, then, mysteriously disappeared. Maybe I’m doing something wrong here–not being an experienced Disqus user–so, I’ll post it one more time. Not real crazy about re-typing each time. ;-)

    Let’s try this again–sorry if it’s a repeat–I’m just not seeing my own posts, for some reason. Open to suggestions.

    I have found the following tools to have been useful in our citizen science project for tracking Sevengill sharks in San Diego:

    1. The Shark Observation Network at: http://www.sharksonline.net

    2. iNaturalist.org, a citizen science website for logging sightings of various species of life

    3.  Encyclopedia of Life, for registering projects

    4. Google Docs, to store and share documents (Microsoft’s Skydrive would work just as well).

    5. Picasa for editing photographs and video

    6. The Go Pro high definition video camera, which is small, portable, but takes high quality photographs and video

  • Brian Fauver

    I work for the Front Range Pika Project, and I utilize a couple tools but I would like to see others be available.

    I currently host my project on CitSci.org. This suits my needs well, as it is free and does a good job displaying/disseminating information to volunteers(great map!). It also fits my needs for having a statistically specific sampling protocol (rather than opportunistic sightings).

    I would like to see these tools:
    - A medium for volunteers to communicate to each other about the project, to give feedback, and to facilitate discussion.
    -To aggregate known information about what we are studying. A sort of “Literature Review Tool.”
    -A tool that handles event management. For things like volunteer trainings or parties.

    I absolutely second Jonathon’s point about the need for free tools. And Richard- I have not used iNaturalist or Project Noah.

  • http://www.calacademy.org/science/citizen_science/ Alison Young

    Since this year was a “planning” year for citizen science at the Academy, we weren’t ready to create our own website/technologies for the projects we were testing. Luckily we were able to use existing platforms for data entry, like Calflora and iNaturalist, both of which also have phone apps (though, side note, our volunteers preferred paper data sheets, GPS-enabled cameras, and entering data later rather than using phones).

    We did a lot of data sharing internally via Google docs. Most of the sharing data/results with volunteers I did personally via email.

    We’re definitely looking at designing our own web space in the next few years. What would be wonderful would be to use existing tools/features/platforms and be able to synthesize them into one page. We’d ideally like data entry and visualization, while also hosting galleries of photos (since photo documentation is a big part of what we’re doing), showing map layers of various things, telling stories from our participants, showing video/media pieces that have been done about our project, hosting discussions via forum, etc. So a mashup of Calflora-iNaturalist-Flickr-FieldScope-Blogspot-Google Earth-Fusion Tables-etc.! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

     Great question, Richard. At first glance, as you suggested, iNaturalist does seem to focus on the data and, as an open source tool, data sharing aspects; while Project Noah seems to emphasize the social experience. I’ve asked the developers of both projects to consider weighing in here. Thanks for prompting this particular thread as I’m pretty sure others have the same question about these terrific tools!

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

     Thanks for your patience and determination, Mike.
    Your comment is interesting. You have a variety of input sources. Do you/how do you integrate them? 
    Thanks again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

     Thank you, Brian. Your “wish list” of features is comprehensive and, I suspect, universal to many other projects. Thank you for articulating this so nicely.
    I wonder if others have found a way to offer some or all of these features to complement their data collection activities…?

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

     Thanks, Alison! Something tells me a flexible, modular “mash up” is the way to go.  Let’s see if others have found ways to integrate these types of tools and features.
    Thanks again for sparking this particular thread.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scubapro.bear Michael Bear

    Mmmmm………..I see my post ‘disappeared’ again……..I wonder if it has to do with what ‘profile’ I log in as: Facebook, Twitter, etc, because each time I make a post here, it remains for a few minutes, then disappears. I was attempting to answer Darlene’s question about integration of the various tools. I’ll try refresh again…….

  • John Collier

    This is more a philosophical post than a specific post.  I’ve found over the years that when I communicate with others, if I take a step back and ask “Have I asked or answered the who, what, when, where, why and how?” questions, 90% is covered.  The other 10% are details.  So, when it comes to citizen science tools, apps that make it easy to ask/answer those questions would go a long way to gathering the most useful data.  For example, easy geotagging and maps can facillatate the “where” questions.  Tools that would make it easy to place this information into a timeline would help answer the “when” questions.  My 2 cents (1 cent now due to inflation).


    Hey Alison,

    Cool stuff at the Cal Acad! 

    You should check out a program coming out of Berkeley’s I School called Local Ground … uses barcoded paper maps to collect data .. really fun and engaging way but still accurate and geo-referenced

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

     Thanks, Adam. So cool. Readers, here’s the link to Local Ground, referenced above: http://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/programs/masters/projects/2010/localground

  • http://profiles.google.com/adamcalo Adam Calo

    I can see your posts mike, but I feel mine are deleted?

  • http://www.facebook.com/darlene.cavalier Darlene Cavalier

     Adam, did you post more than one comment? I can see your comment…

  • http://profiles.google.com/adamcalo Adam Calo

    I have worked with and am exploring Open Data Kit (opendatakit.org) and Local Ground (localground.org)
    Both of these tools focus on on open source platforms with high degrees of flexibility   The crucial aspect of Open Data Kit  for my previous research was the ability to customize mobile data collection schemas, with data types like audio, select one, autofill with internal lists etc. Then, ODK helps streamline mobile data collection into Google Fusion Tables and finally Google Maps for visualization and analysis.  The privacy aspect was crucial here, password protected information about the location of rare species, land tenure etc.  I guess I have focused less on ‘citizens science’  and more of participatory data collection as an environmental and social justice tool.  Citsci has a ‘hooby-esque’ gestalt which is troubling to me … in the global north there is citizen science for fun and education,but in the south it is a tool for community management of natural resources etc … I digress

    Where ODK focus on Android compatible phones Local ground is more accessible  using bar-coded paper maps for users to annotate. These data are then tagged over a geospatial web platform.  I think this system (still under development and could use some more investment) will be crucial for collecting unruly data like qualitative perceptions of the environment etc.

    In terms of motivation, I am trying to focus on projects where the reasons to participate are very clear/desirable. I am focusing on 

    (1) Science education programs where citsci is layered into a preexisting curriculum and the data is aggregated for improved analysis.

    (2) Improved decision making for disparate users. for example, farmers cooperatives who dont have adjacent plots or work with large acreage

    (3) Monitoring of ecosystem service indicators in payment for ecosystem services frameworks… e,g biomass estimates in shade grown coffee

    I would love to discuss these programs and approaches .. in fact it is what I am devoting my research towards!

    graduate student

  • http://Citizenscience.org Jennifer, Citizenscience.org

     Hi Mike and all… here’s a pro/con software tool (possible) answer to the disappearing posts problem! Disqus tries to save us all from spam posts, so it has some auto filters… one of which (unfortunate for this conversation thread) is having multiple links in a single post. I’ll see if I can do anything to reset the filters, but in the meantime be aware of the link issue. Topically I’ll suggest that good help desks are always welcome with software tools! So sorry for the complications here, will keep working on it…

  • http://www.facebook.com/scubapro.bear Michael Bear


    Thank you for trying to shed light on this issue–I’ll admit that, while I’m not new to Internet discussion forums, this *is* my first time using Disqus, so I couldn’t figure it out if it was a ‘real’ issue, or just some issue with my browser refresh settings, cookies,  etc.

    Now that I know it’s *not* all in my imagination, I’ll try and keep multiple links out of my posts! 

    Thanks again,


    PS: someone just wrote me to say *they* could see my posts, but not *their* own–so, I guess I’m not the only one having this issue.

  • http://Citizenscience.org Jennifer, Citizenscience.org

     Adam, I think I rescued your post from the spam jail… see the bottom of the thread. Sorry for all the problems! Still working to open the door to more links, you’ve shared some great ones that are new to me, thanks!

  • https://plus.google.com/+brierjon Jonathan Brier

    For the volunteer computing – BOINC is big, but we are tying into Drupal for easier packaging of core features (forums, social, etc) that are shared between projects and then building off of that further.

    GridRepublic right now uses Joomla but is moving to Drupal to share the common development and integration.

    Timing for this discussion could not be more perfect for this discussion given its ties into other work I am pursuing.

    My thoughts include creating a core framework for CitizenScience for cross project integration and let projects focus more on the science and community and less on the technical setup and starting from scratch.  

    I mentioned this concept at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2012 to a few people and the feedback was positive.  Please let me know if there is interest and if anyone would like to talk further with me about this. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/scubapro.bear Michael Bear

    Another tool I want to recommend for Project Management, is Glasscubes.com…….easy to use and pleasing user interface. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.reed.792740 Michael Reed

    Hello. You could use Microsoft Excel and Word for your research.

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Thanks for weighing in, Jonathan. We at Azavea are an Esri business partner, but also use and develop free and open source software (FOSS). It’s really helpful to hear about your workflow. You’ve put your finger on a few of the major considerations of the project: keeping project startup costs low, integrating smoothly with researchers’ existing workflows, and making the user experience as friendly as possible for volunteers.

    Could you tell me a little more about your current spatial data workflow? Are you using GPS units and manually adding data and coordinates to Excel spreadsheets, or is the data gathered and geocoded some other way?

    Thanks again for contributing!

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Thanks for sharing the tidbit about paper maps. In addition to the great Local Ground project that Adam shared, Code for America developed a similar tool this past year, called LocalData: http://golocaldata.com/

    Both of these efforts have focused on urban planning and parcel-level data. I imagine that collecting data in the field in less densely populated areas may be different. Can you talk about the paper sheets you are using? Are they just for attribute data or are they for capturing spatial data, on topo maps for instance?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Thanks for sharing– I’ll check it out! Are you integrating your work in Glasscubes with other applications?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Big picture thinking is helpful. It sounds like when you are answering the who, what, when, where, why and how questions you are moving back and forth between different tools and applications. (At least in my experience, the combination of spatial and temporal data is still in its infancy.) 
    Are you pretty content with this setup, or are there tools that make it easy to move between the different types of analysis or visualization?

    For you and others on the forum, I especially interested in how you tackle the Why and How questions. I imagine that while many volunteers are involved in the data gathering phase, the analysis phase probably involves a much smaller number of specialists. Are you using tools specific to your domain? If you’re using something like Excel, can you talk about the analytical functions you use most frequently?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Adam, thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. At this point we are interested in defining citizen science as widely as possible. Coming out of the GIS world, we have seen spatial data used for crisis response (e.g. Ushahidi) as well as community-based planning, and even conservation (SeaSketch out of UCSB is a very exciting example of this). I certainly have no preconceived notions about what citizen science should be, and would like to hear about as many applications or projects as possible.

    Participatory data collection is certainly one component of that, but we are also interested in other aspects, such as using a citizen science platform for enabling scenario modeling based on shared data. I would really like to hear more about how you use Local Ground, since it sounds like the kind of data you are collecting may be quite different in nature from kind of species inventorying that is more widely supported.

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Jonathan (and others!) have you found that it is typical for a citizen science project to have either core members (or access to folks) who are geeky enough to set up their their own Drupal or Joomla content management systems or to configure a computing project on BOINC?

    We are very interested in this question of what kinds of technical resources and expertise people have, and where the sweet spot is for platforms.

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Michael, can you talk about the typical functions you use in Excel? Are you doing primarily data visualization in charts and graphs, statistical analysis, or something else? Thanks!

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Thanks to everyone who has participated so far! I’ve definitely learned about some great projects.

    Many of the available tools, such as iNaturalist, focus on collecting data about sightings of a particular species. I’d love to hear about projects that involved other sorts of data collection, such as air or water quality monitoring. We’re also really interested in projects that use sensor data, and the challenges that may arise around acquiring and calibrating different instruments.

  • Jonathan Long

    Yes, we use GPS units and enter into Excel. We also have partners with higher precision units who probably could export coordinates. We also use digital cameras with GPS capability that makes it easy to import into Google Earth from Picasa. Finally, we use laser levels and total stations to get vertical information. Ideally, I’d like to be able to generate a map of sites with photo points (linking to photos),  and control points/survey locations (linking to spreadsheets and charts). That seems like a natural way to store data but it seems surprisingly difficult to implement.
    Thanks for any suggestions!

  • http://www.citsci.org Greg Newman

    Hi Tamara and folks!

    These are all great posts and discussions! As far as air/water quality data collection is concerned, the http://www.CitSci.org platform goes beyond sightings of a particular species to support other environmental observations such as water quality measurements. The data model is extensible such that project corrdinators can add attributes being measured and classify them as species attributes of site characteristics (measurements about the environment at a given location at a given point in time). The challenge to all platforms lies in creating innovative ways for newly added attributes specific to the needs of project coordinators to be able to be mapped to those being measured by others to enable meta-analyses across projects. In some cases, these meta-analyses are useful and in others individual projects ought to be able to just measure a specific thing in a specific way to meet their research goals.

    Also, there is a more develop-focused kit similar to the ODK mentioned above called idicia (see http://code.google.com/p/indicia/) that would be akin to Drupal and others in that the kit would require developer-expertise.

    Hope this helps some!

  • http://www.citsci.org Greg Newman

    I would also like to see a sort-of “Etcha-Sketch” mobile app where villagers in remote areas could sketch out on a map locations of potential conflict between livestock and wildlife for example (e.g., in Kenya) or skecth our polygons on a map with a stylus areas offering high ecosystem services or locations supporting high perceived biodiversity… or areas where invasive species are most prevalalent… and then couple this with time series analyses to track trends through time…

  • Alex Edstrom

    There are always Linux programs like GRASS (open GIS) and Libre (for an excel replacement) that are open source accessible. 

  • http://www.calacademy.org/science/citizen_science/ Alison Young

    That would be cool – sounds kind of like the Maprika app? I haven’t played with it too much but I know you’re able to draw your own maps and can even georeference them if you know the coordinates of at least one point.

  • http://www.calacademy.org/science/citizen_science/ Alison Young

     I know there are projects out there that can use cell phones to monitor noise pollution, like NoiseTube and Sound Around You. Quake Catcher Network uses sensors attached to home computers to monitor seismic activity.

  • http://www.calacademy.org/science/citizen_science/ Alison Young

     Our data sheets are mainly for documenting information about species encountered – abundance, habitat, phenology, etc. Because we also document everything via GPS-enabled cameras, we can the photo information to map distribution.

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    That’s very helpful, thanks. How do you link the photo and the data sheet? Is there a unique ID for each encounter?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    That’s very helpful, thanks. How do you link the photo and the data sheet? Is there a unique ID for each encounter?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    It’s great to hear about your work on two different projects. Can you elaborate a bit on what challenges you’ve faced using the CitSci.org data entry page with students?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Thanks, Greg and Alison. This is a very interesting direction. Have you work with volunteers to do this sort of work before? I’m curious about your experiences with volunteers translating on the ground knowledge to maps and, in particular, to aerial imagery. In other work I’ve done I’ve found that there can often be a learning curve for people translating between these views. Have you done education or training around this skill with volunteers?

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Great suggestions, Alex! I’ll also mention QGIS (Quantum GIS) for those interested in Open Source spatial data software.

  • http://www.calacademy.org/science/citizen_science/ Alison Young

     Our participants upload the photo and enter the associated data either on Calflora or iNaturalist, so it’s tied together that way. They also record on their data sheets which photos correspond to each observation – so I can go and look at a species observation on a paper data sheet and then look up the folder of photos taken by that group and find the ones taken of that species.

  • Anonymous

    EPA is hosting a webinar on 11/28, titled “How’s My Waterway and Other WQ Apps” that folks may find useful.  Go to  http://water.epa.gov/learn/training/wacademy/webcasts_index.cfm for more info and to register.   There was a also a great workshop at the 2012 National WQ Monitoring Conference on this topic,  go to http://acwi.gov/monitoring/conference/2012/index.html and go down to ES A9 to find the link to the presentations by Eric Burres (CA) and Allison Hughes (GA)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Faith-Zerbe/1273152954 Faith Zerbe

    thanks everyone.  Here at Delaware Riverkeeper Network our volunteer monitoring stream data gets entered into an excel database.  Over the years in PA and NJ, there have been efforts (and lots of money) to try to develop statewide databases -with in my opinion, very limited results.  So DRN continues to keep our data in a simple excel spreadsheet where we can make graphs etc. for our advocacy and reporting work.  We also as of last year, heavily using smart phone apps for field truthing and pin pointing wetlands and streams particularly in remote areas…Topo Map and All Trails are two apps that we use to plot and mark points.  And then google earth has been a very instrumental tool as well for us.  Most of this data then stays in our hands versus being broadcast to the world – reports are sent to others but the raw data is here with us on our server and laptops.  With onslaught of marcellus shale drilling here, we do have a need for perhaps a way for volunteers to enter their data online to a platform but i’m reluctant to spend the money to do this based on what I’ve seen with other monitoring databases in the region here.  So we continue to get the hard copy field sheet from the volunteers monitors, QAQC the data and then enter it into the excel spreadsheet. 

  • USU Water Quality

    I have been using lots of Google products to create ways to retrieve, store, and display data. 

    Here is an example: https://extension.usu.edu/waterquality/htm/citizen_monitoring/uww/maps/lake-secchi-map/

    Its been a good interface that most people are familiar with, but it takes some time and knowledge to create them.  Creating an automated process by linking a database to a server would be helpful

  • http://twitter.com/letthedataflow Letthedataflow

    When we work with other organizations on citizen science projects we have a team of developers, GIS analysts, data management expertise, along with cloud resources for storage and analytics, and a variety of open source web GIS technologies.

    For our clients, needing these resources would definitely be a barrier and even before they identify these specific resources, they are often simply looking for a solution…not all the pieces that go into that solution. Many of these organizations are not-for-profits or organizations that are focused on the science or the community engagement and rarely have the expertise and resources in-house to handle the IT challenges. In their ideal world, they would go to Google search for the solution, sign up for the service, and get at it!

    In our world of water and environmental data, there are few web platform services that offer what clients are looking for (data storage, data aggregation, data discovery, community administration, visualization, data analytics). We find that although many data sources want to share their data but don’t have the tools and infrastructure. Data consumers often spend 50-90% of their time (gov, industry, NGO, academia) trying to find, access, combine, and modify data into a format that they can utilize. And when it comes time to application – they are swamped by the plethora of open web (and expensive commercial software) solutions that often do a piece of what they need but require combination with a variety of other components to provide their solution.

    We hear that a data management tool would be helpful. Smaller organizations do not have off the shelf solutions. We hear that data collection tools that allow for real-time data aggregation into an administrative platform are needed. And the ability to distribute that data via an API to other organizations.


    We are Explorus http://www.explorus.org and for the past two years we have developed an open web platform that aggregates and federates water and environmental data. The Water Environmental Hub (http://www.waterenvironmentalhub.com) serves to assist people searching for water and environmental data. It assists with data discovery by allowing users to search geospatially. We have opened up conversations with a variety of government data providers (i.e. Environment Canada, USGS, etc). This has led to further conversations with provinces, states, and cities about making more data available. 

    We think of our web platform as a tool bench where applications can be built allowing organizations to connect data from other organizations directly into their own organization’s infrastructure and operations. Our API allows the data flow.

    A recent example of a citizen science project involves CURA H2O (http://www.curah2o.com). They have partnered with a water quality data collection device manufacturer and have developed a citizen science training program. As they deploy this across Nova Scotia, Nepal, Gambia, and Cuba they needed a web-based tool that would allow citizen scientists to enter their data via any web-enabled device and to have that data be aggregated into a central database that could be monitored by them. They also needed the data to be available to other organizations who wished to use the data in real-time.

    We built them just such a tool.

    Alex Joseph
    Executive Director – Explorus/Water Environmental Hub

  • Anonymous

    Thoughts from stream monitoring world. There a number of reasonable options I’ve looked into. However they don’t fill *all* our needs. Options I’ve considered or looked into for information: iNaturalist, iSpot, ESRI Mobile, Fulcrum, IMRivers, Ushahidi, and Google products. Hope that list helps y’all.

    OK, here are our needs (and I think if this was created, it could be used very widely for decentralized (not necessarily linked to larger data sets):
    - cpu or smartphone capable (a lot of the items below fall easily into an app)
    - in-field usable (aka smartphone)
    - geo-referenced (streams don’t have addresses)
    - photo-enabled (allows novices to collect more info and document for potential followup)
    - data input fields and procedures are organization based (the information different organizations need to collect are wide ranging. easy example would be streams are very different out west compared to mid-west)
    - data manipulation (back end) can be public or private
    - data is dumped into a widely used online format (so anyone can access, if needed, and no new/specialized software needs to be learned/purchased)
    - data can readily be displayed on mapping software
    - free (lots of non-profits and citizens are poor)

    I currently have a number of programs which could use this type of open-source smartphone app… identifying erosion/pollution locations in creeks and rivers; monitoring water quality parameters; student research related to previous; crowd source documentation of stormdrain problems/education; trash and large woody debris (navigation challenge) cleanup locations.

    In my mind’s eye this would be a smartphone app that allowed any number of pre-populated drop down fields which exported to Google spreadsheets, were live linked through Google fusion to Google maps.

  • Anonymous

    I know there are a lot of roadkill monitoring efforts too. Found a new (to me) app last night named “splatter spotter”

  • Tamara Manik-Perlman

    Thanks so much for this detailed list! It’s very helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526784660 Louis Liebenberg

    We will soon release an Android version of CyberTracker (www.cybertracker.org). We hope this will make our software (which is free) more available to students and citizen scientists who cannot afford the expensive rugged handheld computers used by national parks. It will be great to get some feedback from citizen scientists about the potential benefits of an Android version of CyberTracker. 

    Louis Liebenberg

  • Anonymous

    We recently created and released a new mobile app for iPads/iPhones/iPod touch devices for data collection and helping users make sense of data from stream studies.  Read below for details about the Water Quality app itself or go the the apple app/iTunes store to find it – it is named “Water Quality”.

    I can respond to some of the questions posed in the original post.
    Technical resources needed – A science education professor, aquatic biology professor and the director of a local non-profit water education organization were the creative team. Our university has a Center for Applied Informatics. Staff and student interns did all of the software programming. We pilot tested versions of the app with school groups and teachers doing watershed watch activities.
    Platforms – We chose to start with apple products because of wide use by citizens and cost. We had a limited budget to pay the programmers. The programming language for droid and other devices is completely different than apple devices and would require additional time and funding. Eventually we would like to use both major platforms.
    Use and motivation of participants – We’ve found in pilot testing that students and adults are excited about using their “smart” devices for science monitoring in addition to their everyday uses. We’ve also found that students that typically do not want to “get their hands dirty” in field activities are excited to participate by using the technology. We’ve received positive responses also on the learning pop-ups that help users make sense of the data they’ve collected.

    Here is the description of the Water Quality App I promised earlier:

    Our “Water Quality” app Version 1.0 is now available on the Apple App Store for iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch! You can find it by searching for the title “Water Quality”. The app includes stream study data collection and information to understand the data that was collected in sections for site profiles, chemical and bacterial sampling, and macroinvertebrates (digital field guide and Pollution Tolerance Index calculator). Only $4.99, and most of the revenue goes directly back into water education programs and maintenance of the app. We are using the app with our K-12 outdoor field trips, college level courses, and have received a lot of interest from citizen science watershed watch groups, scientists, and governmental agencies. We are working to continue expanding functionality in future versions.

    The Water Quality App 1.0  includes the following features and functions:
    Site Profile – pictures, gps location and map, waterway naming, date, air temperature, water level, weather in past 48 hours.
    Measurements – dissolved oxygen (concentration and saturation), biochemical oxygen demand, E.coli, fecal coliforms, pH, water temperature at site and upstream, phosphates, nitrates, turbidity (tube, and secchi disc), conductivity, and water hardness.
    Benthic Macroinvertabrates – PTI three and four taxa automatically calculated, stonefly, mayfly, caddisfly, dobsonfly, riffle beetle, water penny, right-handed snail, damselfly, dragonfly, sowbug, scud, crane fly, clam/mussel, crayfish, midge, black fly, plan aria, leech, left-handed snail, aquatic worms, blood midge, rat-tailed maggot.
    Each measurement and macro has a pop-up that helps the user make sense of the parameter, what the data they collect means in terms of water quality, pictures, and other information.

    Here is the link to find it in the iTunes App Store:

    Here is some more information about the app as a short press release from one of our technical programmers. We should have a more formal press release soon.

    River on the Web (ROW) is the accompanying website with more water quality information and curriculum:

    If you’d like more info about the Water Quality App please feel free to email me at kerlins1@nku.edu

  • http://twitter.com/johnagallo John Gallo

    Great dialogue.  Thx Darlene and Tamra for facilitating.  Looking forward to the report!  -John Gallo

  • http://thewesternghats.in/ Devayani Khare

     A little late into the discussion but I would be very keen on knowing on what parameters iNaturalist or Project Noah can be compared. We have developed a similar platform to capture distribution data through photos: http://thewesternghats.indiabiodiversity.org/observation. It would be an important learning to know how we can tweak our functionality.

    In my opinion, Project noah’s success hinges on its Patches, an interesting reputation system and an attractive user interface. Their activity stream also adds dynamism. The iNaturalist data quality assessment is a great value-ad.

    It could be interesting to compare usership across these two!

  • http://thewesternghats.in/ Devayani Khare

    Beyond the usual set of tools discussed below (open source software, citizen science modules, Drupal / Grails platform) we are going one step ahead on the IndiaBiodiversityPortal / WesternGhatsPortal. We plan to offer our platform with all its modules, to anyone who wants to create a niche biodiversity portal: on the condition that they share the data on the same principles as us.


    Are there any other initiatives that have enabled Groups within their platform? I would be very keen on knowing of your experience! We are hoping this would be the perfect way to integrate portals while retaining identity, and minimizing development costs!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Fezziwig/644811936 Paul Fezziwig

    At http://www.WildlifeSightings.net educators and organizers can setup and manage citizen science projects with multiple members, and all the tools are free and easy to use !

  • http://www.citizenscience.org/community/blog/2011/07/20/help-advance-this-growing-field/ Help advance this growing field | Citizen Science Community Forum

    [...] What tools and technologies are powering new frontiers for your citizen science projects?  Hosted by Darlene Cavalier (SciStarter.com), and Tamara Manik-Perlman, (Azavea) [...]

  • http://erc.cals.wisc.edu/volunteer/electronic-field-forms/ Electronic Field Forms : Extension Volunteer Monitoring Network