OOS 22-6 - Can use of handhelds in citizen science programs spur public consensus on development of shale gas in northeastern Pennsylvania?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011: 9:50 AM
17B, Austin Convention Center
Kenneth M. Klemow , Biology, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Background/Question/Methods During the past three years, energy companies have begun to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation in the Appalachian Basin of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.  Residents of the region have expressed concern that the hydrofracking extraction process, which uses water and solutes pumped into mile-deep wells at high pressure, threatens the quality of surface waters and shallow aquifers.  Synoptic assessments of stream water quality are underway, especially along main creeks and rivers.  Many of those assessments are based on sondes placed at strategic locations.  While they provide excellent data, those sondes are expensive and thus the number of sampling sites is limited.  To allow a higher density of sampling sites, especially within first- and second-order streams, we are creating a protocol involving the use of handheld servers developed for this application. Those servers are being provided to a group of northeast Pennsylvania residents.  The residents will use the servers to harvest water quality data from dedicated real-time water-profiling devices placed in sections of stream near their houses.  The residents will then connect the servers to their computers, download and review the data, and then upload the data to a facility at Wilkes University.

Results/Conclusions Prototype servers and stream monitoring devices are being developed.  After testing, a set will be deployed to members of local watershed groups, who will be trained on their operation and on reviewing the data.  Since the group members will have an active role in data retrieval and review, they will act as citizen scientists, and not simply passive conduits for digital information.  As our protocols mature, we anticipate using smartphones in place of computers, providing opportunities for residents to submit images and other forms of data.  Incorporating local residents into data collection and review will provide skeptics and proponents of gas development alike an active role in monitoring local water quality and using scientific approaches to assessing the true impacts of Marcellus development.

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