Constructing an open citizen science tool to collect information on the Baltic Sea and recreation. Proof of concept and future possibilities

Janne Artell

 

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Helsinki, Finland

 

While the physical attributes and ecological quality of the Baltic Sea are continuously monitored in an organized fashion, the views and uses of the Baltic Sea by the public are not. Further, there are few instances for the public to obtain scientific information in layman’s terms about the sea, let alone possibilities to bring about their contributions to ongoing research efforts through simple means.

From a management perspective there is a lack of simple updating channels to disseminate up-to-date information on a Baltic Sea scale on issues such as beach closures or algae blooms. Enabling citizens to contribute to a monitoring network through guided observations could provide cost savings and a monitoring network not otherwise possible.

Further, economists and management are also interested in where the public goes for recreation, how often, and what factors describe perceptions of Baltic Sea quality in real time. We lack recreation monitoring on a Baltic Sea scale – recreation information is available from single points in time through survey results, which may be difficult to compare.

The BalticAPP open source citizen science mobile application was designed to serve as a proof of concept of a platform that would allow Baltic Sea users to share their views of the Baltic Sea in photos, feelings and text amongst themselves, scientists and management, providing information on recreation behavior and water quality to scientists and management authorities. The application could also allow authorities an information dissemination channel that reaching users of the Baltic Sea on the move. This presentation describes the rationale behind the application design providing insights and warning about pitfalls for others aspiring to construct mobile apps for research purposes while looking for the future prospects of such an application on a Baltic Sea or even European scale.