Community science on the agenda in the Great Lakes

Jessie Reynolds headshot
Jessie Reynolds

Since DataStream began in 2016, we have focused on amplifying the important work of community-based monitoring groups. We’re excited that community science has been a central theme at the many gatherings we’ve attended over the past few months throughout the Great Lakes region.

One of the things I see very clearly is the value of community science, both tangibly and intangibly. We have well over 400 community-based monitoring groups in Canada. Community science is not new. But perhaps valuing community science is new.

Gabrielle Parent-Doliner, Director of Water Rangers, while hosting a panel discussion on community-based monitoring at the IAGLR conference.

Community-based monitoring amplified at the IAGLR conference

In May, Meghan McLeod (Data Specialist) and Jessie Reynolds (Communications Coordinator) attended the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference in Windsor, Ontario. The event brought together almost 800 researchers and participants from around the world.

Water data is crucial for understanding and managing water.

Dr. Kelsey Leonard during the plenary session of the IAGLR conference.

Dr. Kelsey Leonard is a water scientist, legal scholar, policy expert, writer, and enrolled citizen of the Shinnecock Nation. While discussing her research on Indigenous water justice, Dr. Leonard took particular care to highlight the importance of sharing water data. Dr. Leonard explained that gathering information about water is essential for its protection, making the open sharing of data crucial.

Data sharing was also a key topic of conversation at the Great Lakes Observation System (GLOS) annual meeting, which brought the Great Lakes monitoring community together. Meghan discussed DataStream’s open access platform and its integration with Seagull, a data platform run by GLOS. The integration allows seamless connectivity between platforms, making community water data more accessible and easier to find.

DataStream helps to amplify the important work of community-based monitoring groups so that their data can inform decisions about water management.

Jessie Reynolds during IAGLR’s Community Science session.

At the end of our week at the IAGLR conference, Meghan and Jessie presented on how DataStream drives data to action. They highlighted how groups like Passamaquoddy Recognition Group Inc., WWF-Canada, and community-based monitoring programs in the Mackenzie River Basin have used DataStream to make real impacts in their communities.

Experts discuss open data and community science at Toronto Metropolitan University workshop

A week later, Meghan attended the Toronto Area Water Quality Data Workshop, led by Dr. Carolyn Johns and Dr. Sima Saadi. Several members of DataStream's user community discussed the value of open data and their motivations for uploading to DataStream's open data platform. Users discussed the benefits of being able to access community data alongside large-scale government data in one centralized location on DataStream. This broadens the availability of critical data and amplifies the important work that community monitoring groups are doing in the region.

Panelists emphasize the value of community-based monitoring data

With community monitoring, the story is part of the data. We need to figure out ways to better connect the data with the stories. You can’t get that with large scale data collection. You can only get that by working closely with the people that collect the data.

Dr. Nandita Basu, Professor of Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology at the University of Waterloo.

Dr. Nandita Basu joined Meghan McLeod, Dr. Soren Brothers (Royal Ontario Museum), and Dr. Piatã Santana Marques (University of Toronto) for a panel discussion during the Confluence: Next Wave of Action on Community Driven Water Monitoring in June. The two-day event heard from many people in the Great Lakes community about how we can collaborate to protect our shared waters.

Community data fills a lot of gaps both spatially and temporally. We see a lot of inherent trust in community data. People know their land and they know the people collecting data and may trust this local data more than data shared by others.

Meghan McLeod during the Action, Outreach, and Research panel.

Fostering dialogue and demonstrating the value of community-based monitoring is vital for strengthening freshwater protection in the Great Lakes region. We gladly joined conversations at the IAGLR conference, the Toronto Area Water Quality Data Workshop, and the Confluence gathering. We look forward to continuing these important discussions.

DataStream's open data platform contains water quality data shared across regional hubs by over 150 community-based monitoring groups. Hubs include Great Lakes DataStream, where data from over 27,000 monitoring sites can be explored and downloaded.

Visit Great Lakes DataStream

Jessie Reynolds headshot
About the author
Jessie Reynolds

Jessie joined The Gordon Foundation in 2022 as Communications Coordinator. She works with teams across the organization to develop and implement communications strategies that enable them to reach new and existing audiences and promote The Gordon Foundation’s valuable work.

Jessie has a background in biology and ecotoxicology with research experience in freshwater pollution. She is passionate about using communications strategies to make science and policy information engaging and accessible to diverse audiences.

Jessie completed her MSc in Biology at Queen’s University and her BScH in Biology and English Literature at Queen’s University.

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