Picture this: snap the sea for science

By Natalie Kikken

18 September 2018

3 minute read

 

Person using the Eye on water app on their mobile phone at the beach

Contributing to water quality monitoring, from the palm of your hand

Most people often think of water as blue, but in reality, it rarely is. Sometimes it turns brown after a storm, other times there might be floating green things in it, and sometimes there might be a rainbow sheen on the surface. All of that information is invaluable to scientists when assessing the quality of water. So when you see it, snap it, upload it using the Eye on Water Australia app and you can help scientists get a global picture of water quality.

A simple tool for complex science

Eye on Water enables you to take a photo of water – both fresh and sea water – and upload it to the app. This helps us monitor changes to Australian waters such as algae blooms, seasonal changes, sediment and salinity.

Water colour can be seen from space using satellite imagery however it can be easily affected by clouds, lighting and the time of day. The information you capture will feed into a global database to monitor water quality while supporting our extensive research to calibrate in-water measurements with satellite data to understand any changes.

How does the app work?

The first step is to grab your mobile and download the free app. Then head to your nearest water source that’s relatively deep – the photo can’t have the bottom of the river or ocean in the shot. Ideally, find a spot where the sun is behind you then snap a photo of water. Make sure we can’t see anything else in the photo, like your feet or your finger! Once you have uploaded your image, you will be asked to compare the colour of the water in your photo to a colour chart and submit it. And that’s your job done – you can now call yourself a citizen scientist! You can even create your own profile in the app so you can keep track of your valuable contributions.

Hit us with your best shot

The citizen science images are used to validate satellite imagery acquired by our scientists. This means that any small changes in a water system can be accurately detected and monitored over time, such as heavy rainfall or dredging.

Users can learn about how regular tidal or seasonal patterns can affect water colour. Recognising specific water colour traits can also educate users on the uniqueness of the waters in their area and the expected and unexpected parameters of a healthy water system.

Starting young: students leading the water charge

We have been introducing Eye on Water to community groups, schools and education programs to bring science to life for students. This provides them with hands-on learning tools and scientific knowledge, plus the opportunity to use other water quality methods such as Secchi disks to test water clarity and water properties like pH, salinity, temperature and conductivity. This information can also feed into the app.

We recently visited the Broome Senior High School Bushrangers Group to conduct water quality testing, and are planning to visit more schools this year.

Eye on Water Australia is an effective way to capture more data on our oceans which will help us better understand its current conditions, monitor changes and the effect this can have on the future. Make a splash and join us to build on our aquatic knowledge – all from the palm of your hand!