Work with Citizen Scientists for the purpose of monitoring Florida’s aquatic ecosystems to provide research quality data (Research), public education (Extension) and student training (Teaching) with respect to water quality and aquatic systems management.Florida LAKEWATCH’s primary objectives are:
- Determine how changing geologic gradients everywhere apparent in Florida impacts the Limnology of Florida aquatic systems?
- Determine the natural variance exhibited within and among Florida’s aquatic systems to help separate natural from anthropogenic changes.
- Maintain long-term monitoring to determine if any trends are occurring in Florida’s aquatic ecosystems.
Florida LAKEWATCH: Citizen Scientists protecting Florida’s aquatic systems
Mark V. Hoyer, Dana L. Bigham, Roger W. Bachmann, and Daniel E. Canfield, Jr.
Florida LAKEWATCH History (30 years and going strong)
Coordinated through the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/SFRC Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, the Florida LAKEWATCH program has been in existence since 1986. In 1991, the Florida Legislature recognized the importance of the program and established Florida LAKEWATCH in the state statutes (Florida Statute 1004.49.). LAKEWATCH is now one of the largest lake monitoring programs in the nation with over 1000 trained citizens monitoring 600+ lakes, rivers and coastal sites in more than 50 counties. LAKEWATCH maintains collection centers in 38 counties (see Volunteer Working Resources).
LAKEWATCH has been extremely successful for 30 years, thus the Editor of Florida Scientist asked LAKEWATCH to write an article describing how LAKEWATCH started, how maintained its success and what difficulties were overcome to make it such an important example of citizen science in action. The Editor was putting together a whole volume of the journal on citizen science and wanted to use LAKEWATCH as a successful example and potential template for others wishing to use citizen scientists. The article accurately describes the birth and evolution of the program and was recently printed (Hoyer et al. 2014). The following lists the citation and abstract of the article with the whole article attached below:
Hoyer, M. V., D. L. Bigham, R. W. Bachmann, and D. E. Canfield, Jr. 2014. Florida LAKEWATCH: Citizen Scientists Monitoring Aquatic Systems and How Data Are Used. Florida Scientist. 77: 184197.
Abstract: Florida LAKEWATCH is a successful example of a long-term volunteer water quality monitoring program that started in 1986. Working with thousands of volunteers, these dedicated citizen scientists have collected reliable long-term water quality data for over 1100 lakes, 175 coastal sites, 120 rivers, and 5 springs. These data encompass water resources in 57 Florida counties. This manuscript describes the start and evolution of LAKEWATCH, including discussions of the following two major (of the many) hurdles to the continued success of the program: 1) demonstrating to professional groups that trained volunteers are capable of collecting credible (research and regulatory quality) data, and 2) maintaining consistent long-term funding. Funding is especially critical because trained and committed core staff is needed to work along with volunteers. Quality staff members are also important to provide direction, ensuring consistent data are collected and enough sites are monitored to answer statewide questions such as how geology impacts water chemistry in Florida. Examples are also provided on how LAKEWATCH data have been used to address lake management issues (i.e., ‘‘fixing’’ the problem) in the State of Florida. We hope the Florida LAKEWATCH experience assists other groups who have a vast army of citizen scientists waiting to get involved and then to best develop a successful monitoring program.