Citizen Biomonitoring

Stewardship—Citizen Biomonitoring

Summary: Students contribute to the scientific understanding of a local ecosystem by collecting water quality data and reporting results to the community.

Concepts to teach: Stewardship, action, water quality, process of scientific inquiry

Goals: Students engage in scientific inquiry and come to see themselves as scientists as they collect and report data about a local outdoor site.

H.3S.1, H.3S.2, H.3S.3

Specific Objectives:

  1. Adopt a local outdoor site and collect data that describes the health of the ecosystem.
  2. Gain experience with the use of scientific equipment, data collection and reporting.
  3. Draw conclusions and recommendations about the health of the ecosystem based on biomonitoring activities.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • StreamWebs—This student stewardship network from OSU Extension provides open-source, web-based tools for watershed data management, analysis, and networking for teachers and students. Includes data sheets for mapping water quality, turbidity, canopy cover, pebble counts, etc. Use the provided data sheets and protocols to determine the extent to which changes on land may be affecting water quality. Compare data within a stream, and to other student studies posted on the StreamWebs website. Examples include:
    • Water Quality Data—Measure and compare temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and turbidity.
    • Canopy Cover Data—Relate canopy cover to nearby activity on land and water temperature, and determine whether the area is suitable for salmonids.
  • National Geographic Field Scope—A web-based mapping, analysis and collaboration tool supporting student citizen scientists.
  • Student Watershed Research Project (SWRP)—Based at Portland State University, SWRP provides teacher training, protocols and data sheets for stream analysis.
  • Collect and report invasive species information to school administrators, land managers, city officials, and through invasive species reporting websites.


  • Use the open-ended Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST) to assess student attitudes about what scientists look like, and to determine the extent to which they see themselves as scientists.  Scoring rubric example: DAST Rating Rubric
  • Compare pre- and post- pictures to determine whether students see themselves as scientists, and whether their concept of what “doing science” has expanded to include a wider variety of participants.
  • Use collected water quality data to determine whether a given body of water is an appropriate habitat for salmonids (or other species).