Citizen Science

 Mary & I both have scientific backgrounds - We met at the University of East Anglia (UEA) where Mary graduated with a degree, B.Sc (Hons), in Biological Sciences and I obtained a B.Sc (Hons). and Ph.D. in Chemical Sciences. Mary worked at the John Innes Institute in Norwich in the Applied Genetics department while I completed my doctorate. We then moved to Swansea where I did three years of postdoctoral research and Mary raised our first two children. We then moved to the outskirts of London where I worked as an analytical/research chemist at BP and, then, Intertek (about 30 years in total). Our final move was to Hereford while I was still a consultant for Intertek followed by retirement at 58 years old once I got fed up with the weekly rail/coach commute to/from London.

We have retained our interest in science. My general interests are mainly in chemistry and physics (e.g. climate change, weather) while Mary's are in macrobiology (e.g. ecology); there is a lot of overlap and we pair up for many of the activities. And this is why we are keen on Citizen Science projects.

Recently, we have both started river water testing. This involves the twice-weekly sampling of river water on a tributary to the River Wye in Hereford using the supplied kit ...

River water testing kit

  • White bucket with rope for obtaining a river water sample
  • Secchi tube for measuring water turbidity
  • Plastic syringe and jug for sampling the collected river water sample
  • HM Digital EC-3 Conductivity Tester (also measures temperature)
  • Chemical test kit comprising

Chemical Test Kit
  • HM Digital EC-3 Conductivity Tester, also measures temperature (bottom)
  • Aquachek Nitrate/Nitrite Test Strips
  • Hanna Phosphate Checker (colorimeter), 10 ml glass vials & reagent sachet
Phosphate colorimeter, vials and reagent sachet

  • Scissors (for opening reagent sachet), microfibre cloth (wiping/cleaning vial exteriors prior to colorimetric measurement), pen for recording results, pH papers (optional)
Data are uploaded via a phone app so the Environment Agency can access and review it; see below for an example of the data in graphical form ... 

Our sampling point is at the confluence of Newton Brook and the River Wye. We sample every Wednesday and Sunday with two other citizen scientists, Maggie and Alan, who sample further upstream but close by. And there are lots of other citizen scientists sampling both the River Wye and its tributaries as part of the Friends of the Upper Wye (FOUW).

Why are we testing? The River Wye is being polluted with agricultural nutrient run-off, primarily from industrial poultry farms, in Powys and Herefordshire.  See here, here, here and here for more background. The Wye is oft-cited as England and Wales's favourite river so it is imperative we protect it for future generations.

There are plenty of other citizen science projects, some more and some less energetic, that everyone can take part in. For example:
And if you are happy to sit in front of a screen and do a citizen science project in arts, history, science, nature, literature, language, medicine, space, social sciences, etc from anywhere in the world then definitely look up Zooniverse.



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