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A Printable Device for Measuring Clarity and Colour in Lake and Nearshore Waters. Sensors, 19(4), 936. (2019)

Two expanding areas of science and technology are citizen science and three dimensional (3D) printing. Citizen science has a proven capability to generate reliable data and contribute to unexpected scientific discovery. It can put science into the hands of the citizens, increasing understanding, promoting environmental stewardship, and leading to the production of large databases for use in environmental monitoring. 3D printing has the potential to create cheap, bespoke scientific instruments that have formerly required dedicated facilities to assemble. It can put instrument manufacturing into the hands of any citizen who has access to a 3D printer. In this paper, we present a simple hand-held device designed to measure the Secchi depth and water colour (Forel Ule scale) of lake, estuarine and nearshore regions. The device is manufactured with marine resistant materials (mostly biodegradable) using a 3D printer and basic workshop tools. It is inexpensive to manufacture, lightweight, easy to use, and accessible to a wide range of users. It builds on a long tradition in optical limnology and oceanography, but is modified for ease of operation in smaller water bodies, and from small watercraft and platforms. We provide detailed instructions on how to build the device and highlight examples of its use for scientific education, citizen science, satellite validation of ocean colour data, and low-cost monitoring of water clarity, colour and temperature.

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Citizen science tools reveal changes in estuarine water quality following demolition of buildings. Remote Sensing, 13, 1683. (2021)

Turbidity and water colour are two easily measurable properties used to monitor pollution. Here, we highlight the utility of a low-cost device—3D printed, hand-held Mini Secchi disk (3DMSD) with Forel-Ule (FU) colour scale sticker on its outer casing—in combination with a mobile phone application (‘TurbAqua’) that was provided to laymen for assessing the water quality of a shallow lake region after demolition of four high-rise buildings on the shores of the lake. The demolition of the buildings in January 2020 on the banks of a tropical estuary—Vembanad Lake (a Ramsar site) in southern India—for violation of Indian Coastal Regulation Zone norms created public uproar, owing to the consequences of subsequent air and water pollution. Measurements of Secchi depth and water colour using the 3DMSD along with measurements of other important water quality variables such as temperature, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen (DO) using portable instruments were taken for a duration of five weeks after the demolition to assess the changes in water quality. Paired t-test analyses of variations in water quality variables between the second week of demolition and consecutive weeks up to the fifth week showed that there were significant increases in pH, dissolved oxygen, and Secchi depth over time, i.e., the impact of demolition waste on the Vembanad Lake water quality was found to be relatively short-lived, with water clarity, colour, and DO returning to levels typical of that period of year within 4–5 weeks. With increasing duration after demolition, there was a general decrease in the FU colour index to 17 at most stations, but it did not drop to 15 or below, i.e., towards green or blue colour indicating clearer waters, during the sampling period. There was no significant change in salinity from the second week to the fifth week after demolition, suggesting little influence of other factors (e.g., precipitation or changes in tidal currents) on the inferred impact of demolition waste. Comparison with pre-demolition conditions in the previous year (2019) showed that the relative changes in DO, Secchi depth, and pH were very high in 2020, clearly depicting the impact of demolition waste on the water quality of the lake. Match-ups of the turbidity of the water column immediately before and after the demolition using Sentinel 2 data were in good agreement with the in situ data collected. Our study highlights the power of citizen science tools in monitoring lakes and managing water resources and articulates how these activities provide support to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on Health (Goal 3), Water quality (Goal 6), and Life under the water.

Citizen scientists contribute to real-time monitoring of lake water quality using 3D printed mini Secchi disks. Frontiers in Water, 3, 662142. (2021)

Citizen science aims to mobilise the general public, motivated by curiosity, to collect scientific data and contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge. In this article, we describe a citizen science network that has been developed to assess the water quality in a 100 km long tropical lake-estuarine system (Vembanad Lake), which directly or indirectly influences the livelihood of around 1.6 million people. Deterioration of water quality in the lake has resulted in frequent outbreaks of water-associated diseases, leading to morbidity and occasionally, to mortality. Water colour and clarity are easily measurable and can be used to study water quality. Continuous observations on relevant spatial and temporal scales can be used to generate maps of water colour and clarity for identifying areas that are turbid or eutrophic. A network of citizen scientists was established with the support of students from 16 colleges affiliated with three universities of Kerala (India) and research institutions, and stakeholders such as houseboat owners, non-government organisations (NGOs), regular commuters, inland fishermen, and others residing in the vicinity of Vembanad Lake and keen to contribute. Mini Secchi disks, with Forel-Ule colour scale stickers, were used to measure the colour and clarity of the water. A mobile application, named “TurbAqua,” was developed for easy transmission of data in near-real time. In-situ data from scientists were used to check the quality of a subset of the citizen observations. We highlight the major economic benefits from the citizen network, with stakeholders voluntarily monitoring water quality in the lake at low cost, and the increased potential for sustainable monitoring in the long term. The data can be used to validate satellite products of water quality and can provide scientific information on natural or anthropogenic events impacting the lake. Citizens provided with scientific tools can make their own judgement on the quality of water that they use, helping toward Sustainable Development Goal 6 of clean water. The study highlights potential for world-wide application of similar citizen-science initiatives, using simple tools for generating long-term time series data sets, which may also help monitor climate change.

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Effect of reduced anthropogenic activities on water quality in Lake Vembanad, India. Remote Sensing, 13, 1631. (2021)

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal Life Below Water (SDG-14) aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development”. Within SDG-14, targets 14.1 and 14.2 deal with marine pollution and the adverse impacts of human activities on aquatic systems. Here, we present a remote-sensing-based analysis of short-term changes in the Vembanad-Kol wetland system in the southwest of India. The region has experienced high levels of anthropogenic pressures, including from agriculture, industry, and tourism, leading to adverse ecological and socioeconomic impacts with consequences not only for achieving the targets set out in SDG-14, but also those related to water quality (SDG-6) and health (SDG-3). To move towards the sustainable management of coastal and aquatic ecosystems such as Lake Vembanad, it is important to understand how both natural and anthropogenic processes affect water quality. In 2020, a unique opportunity arose to study water quality in Lake Vembanad during a period when anthropogenic pressures were reduced due to a nationwide lockdown in response to the global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 (25 March–31 May 2020). Using Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 multi-spectral remote sensing and in situ observations to analyse changes in five different water quality indicators, we show that water quality improved in large areas of Lake Vembanad during the lockdown in 2020, especially in the more central and southern regions, as evidenced by a decrease in total suspended matter, turbidity, and the absorption by coloured dissolved organic matter, all leading to clearer waters as indicated by the Forel-Ule classification of water colour. Further analysis of longer term trends (2013–2020) showed that water quality has been improving over time in the more northern regions of Lake Vembanad independent of the lockdown. The improvement in water quality during the lockdown in April–May 2020 illustrates the importance of addressing anthropogenic activities for the sustainable management of coastal ecosystems and water resources

•Brewin, R.J.W. & Brewin, T.G. (2013) Mini-Secchi disk: A simple tool for the lake and near-shore environment with implications for recreational crowdsourcing. (2013)

Presented at ‘A kaleidoscope of colour: from the turbid to the oligotrophic’ a Meeting of the Challenger and Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society Marine Optics Special Interest Group, December 2013, Plymouth.

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