Visualize Your Water: A Citizen Science Challenge for High School Students

Visualize Your Water (credit: EPA)Today, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announce Visualize Your Water, a citizen science challenge for high school students who live in the Great Lakes basin and Chesapeake Bay watershed. This open competition in innovation, supported by a coalition of government agencies and private industry, aims to equip high school students with new skills in geographic analysis and help to broaden their understanding of nutrient management and pollution issues.

Plant nutrients can be valuable in agricultural and urban settings, but too much nutrient or too much at the wrong place or time will produce algal blooms, hypoxia, and other nutrient-related water quality issues that are particularly acute in the Great Lakes basin and Chesapeake Bay watershed. Nutrient pollution is the general term for high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in some of the nation’s waters. Nutrient pollution comes from sources such as urban and agricultural fertilizer runoff, municipal sewage treatment and leaking septic tanks, and even atmospheric deposition from factory and car nitrogen oxide emissions, with the relative balance of sources depending on location.

In this educational competition, students will use digital mapping technology from Esri (a leading geographic technology company) with data from the USGS, EPA, and other sources to analyze local water quality. They will then create a map that tells a story about the problem and suggests viable solutions.

Today, January 13, marks the start of the competition. Contest submissions are due March 1. Winners will be announced on April 22. A free Esri ArcGIS Online school account is available to allow participating students to view and analyze relevant data and create maps.

A grand prize of $2,500 will be awarded plus an opportunity to attend the 2016 Esri Education Conference in San Diego, California along with publication in Esri’s Mapping the Nation book. In addition, two regional first place prizes of $2,500 will be awarded for the Great Lakes basin and Chesapeake Bay watershed. National Geographic will recognize one visualization that will be promoted on National Geographic’s education website, and the author will receive a copy of the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

U.S. high school students in the following states are eligible to participate.

  • Great Lakes basin: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin
  • Chesapeake Bay watershed: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia

For further challenge details, visit the Visualize Your Water website.