National Lake Blitz makes citizen science a cinch

In 2021, Living Lakes Canada launched the National Lake Blitz. The water stewardship organization had two goals: to ​help ​track the impact of climate change on Canada’s lakes and to make it easy for everyone to get involved in water monitoring, no matter their age or experience.

The idea is simple, says program manager Camille LeBlanc. Just choose a lake to monitor​ then register online​. ​Living Lakes Canada​ will send you a free kit with a thermometer, tape measure, field guide and sheets for recording data.

At the beginning of the ​monitoring ​season, take a photo of the lake to visually capture important details - the colour of the water, which can reflect algal growth, ​the shoreline habitat ​and the water level. Then, between May and September, take temperature readings every two weeks, record ​and photograph ​any invasive species​ or wildlife​ you spot​,​ and submit your findings​ via the​ ​Lake Blitz Observation Form. ​

​​Living Lakes Canada​ provides free online training, as well as monthly online meetups ​featuring ​expert speakers​ on lake monitoring​ for folks who want to learn more. Meanwhile, anyone with a camera or smartphone is invited to enter ​the Lake Biodiversity Photo Challenge, ​​a contest ​designed to raise awareness of ​the ​Lake Blitz and showcase​ lake biodiversity​ in Canada.

Now in its third year, Lake Blitz has attracted a broad range of ​volunteers ​across the country: from seniors to kids who monitor lakes with a little help from their ​​parents and guardians. Th​e​se participants all have one thing in common. “They wanted to do something more impactful and environmentally friendly, to connect with their lakes,” says LeBlanc.

The information they collect is displayed in real time on ​Living Lakes Canada’s ​​​Lake Observation Map​ and can be downloaded ​​from​​​​ the Columbia Basin Water Hub​. And now, the data is also shared on DataStream— reaching a wider audience and attracting more budding citizen scientists to the cause. “It’s been a really great collaboration,” says LeBlanc. And, she adds, the ​​DataStream team made the process of integrating the Lake Blitz data easy.

Engaging communities 

Feedback about the Lake Blitz program has been overwhelmingly positive, with many participants itching to do more. So Living Lakes Canada has added the option to purchase a “​L​evel 2” monitoring kit that includes pH testers to track acidity​​​ and basicity​ and Secchi disks to measure water clarity​ which provides a more robust level of scientific data for the lake being monitored​​ ​

LeBlanc is thrilled by ​the​ enthusiasm. She sees ​the ​Lake Blitz as a gateway to the world of citizen science. Often, that introduction inspires people to go further, and LeBlanc regularly ​​​connects​ participants to local stewardship groups in their area. “We’re all about collaborating with other organizations ... so that we can really bolster community-based monitoring ​to support​ community-focused solutions,” she says.

In a world where more and more people feel overwhelmed by eco-anxiety and the climate crisis, taking this kind of tangible action offers an empowering sense of agency. So Leblanc is excited to see ​the ​Lake Blitz ​continue to grow ​— whether it’s by reaching more youth, creating new relationships with ​other ​monitoring groups​,​ or simply deepening the connection people have to their lakes.

“It’s the thing I love about the Lake Blitz,” she says. “It’s designed ​for everyone​.”

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Header photo by Travis Adams