Lake Erie

The Smart Citizen Science Initiative

The Lake Erie team, composed of seven community foundations and 16 community partners, launched The Smart Citizen Science Initiative in early 2020. The Initiative is a network of community monitoring programs using scalable technology to compile and organize water quality data that is useful for local watershed management as well as regional policymaking and research. This network integrates new and existing citizen science activities across the Lake Erie region into a robust monitoring infrastructure capable of addressing key water quality challenges and serving as a testbed for piloting new community data technologies.

Being a part of a Lake Erie–wide network of organizations and citizen scientists with the Smart Citizen Science Initiative is exciting, inspiring, and empowering. Contributing to something that can have significant collective impact is very motivating.

Lisa MerantiWatershed Volunteer Program Coordinator, Cleveland Metroparks

The Partners



Increased local match by $100,000 for a total budget of $600,000 over three years. Attracted additional funding from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, AT&T, and Case Western Reserve University; targeted further grant opportunities through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, and the PADI Foundation.

Partnership Infrastructure

Established core partnership network of ten watershed organizations with robust community monitoring programs. Collaborated to determine program goals and workflows. Engaged an additional 70 Lake Erie Region organizations with ties to water-based citizen science to evaluate broader needs and program scalability.

Data Infrastructure

Partnered with Chesapeake Commons to implement a cloud data platform across the network. Cleaned, formatted, and uploaded historical data collected across the network. Developed custom web widget to integrate all program data into a single visualization. Established the scope for a three-year development plan to expand the platform’s functionality and connect to other data sources.

Field Technology Pilot

Piloted Erie Open Systems’ spectrometer for nutrient detection across the network with more than 400 samples analyzed, including more than 200 analyzed side-by-side with established methods. Released white paper detailing the device’s field performance as well as next steps for ongoing pilot activities.

Curriculum Development

Worked with Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Case Western Reserve University’s Leonard Gelfand STEM Center to scope out three curriculum modules aimed at bringing Smart Citizen Science into high school classrooms. Allocated $10,000, which was matched by the Leonard Gelfand STEM Center, to recruit teachers from New York, Ohio, and Michigan and launch a curriculum development process.


Max Herzog

Program Manager