Citizen Scientists Phone It In!
Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
You know the expression asking someone to work harder: "Don't just phone it in." Well in California now you can - phone it in. In fact, The Nature Conservancy is asking you to do just that, using your smartphone to help it document the beach erosion and coastal flooding caused by the El Nino storms that have pummeled the state.
Calling on "Citizen Scientists" to lend a hand by taking photos at the beach, The Nature Conservancy wants you to take photos of the shoreline and uplink them to its El Nino Monitoring Initiative site.
Sarah Newkirk, Senior Coastal Project Director for the Nature Conservancy in California, says that individuals can capture far more images and at a more local scale than researchers on their own or through satellites.
"It’s incredible! You can take a picture and your phone automatically captures time, date, and a precise location. Geolocation features on phones are so good that you can map to within a meter or two of where you are."
The Conservancy is asking drone operators to get on board, too, with any aerial shots they can provide.
For the best results, The Conservancy says to "take pictures at high tide or after flooding events to show the greatest level of inundation."
Newkirk calls these crowd sourced photos "ground truthing" that will provide researchers with another way to test their scientific models of how climate change and sea level rise are changing California's shorelines.
According to the Conservancy, photographing both gradual and episodic changes to the shoreline this way helps give researchers the real-world, real time evidence they need, leading to more accurate predictive models. This, in turn, will enable communities to know what to expect and to better plan how to protect people and nature into the future.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel have heard experts saying that as much as 80% of California's coast is experiencing erosion, with the potential for sea levels to rise an additional five feet by 2100. A recent study, From Boom to Bust? Climate Risk in the Golden State, reports $19 billion of coastal property could be below the water line then. So, the more information we can gather about this, the better.
"We are pushing the boundaries of modeling," says Newkirk. With the advent of smartphone and drone photo inputs researchers can draw on the power of many to assist them in their predictions...crystal ball glimpses into the future that can have a big impact on all of us
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