The goals of this study were to utilize citizen scientists in groundwater research in a coastal community where groundwater plays a large role in sustainable water resources management, and assess the extent of groundwater and marine inundation in response to future sea-level rise scenarios. A total of 7 citizen scientists participated in the study by measuring water levels from 15 groundwater monitoring wells using water level meters once a week over a 10-week period. Automated water level loggers were deployed in three of the same wells to assess the quality of the data collected by the citizen scientists. Additional water level loggers were deployed in other groundwater monitoring wells to increase the amount of water level data collected across the island. Several methods were used to assess agreement (i.e., validity) between water level measurements collected by citizen scientists and automated water level loggers. Scatter plots showed that data did not significantly deviate from the line of linearity, suggesting that the data collected by the citizen scientists were comparable to the data collected by automated water level loggers. The Pearson correlation coefficient was greater than 0.9 for all plots that revealed a linear correlation between measurements from different methods. The Bland-Altman method was also used to evaluate the validity of measurements by assessing agreement between measurements from citizen scientists and automated water level loggers. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) and the concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) were used to assess reliability of measurements of water levels from citizen scientists. The values for the ICC and CCC were greater than 0.95 indicating excellent agreement. These values demonstrate that environmental data collected by citizen scientists can be trustworthy. A pretest-posttest survey design and a focus group were used to examine how participants perceived the citizen science project, and how participation as a citizen scientist influenced the participants’ knowledge about water resources and stormwater flooding. Qualitative data suggest that citizen scientists improved their knowledge about groundwater systems on the island. Additionally, the citizen scientists found the project to be enriching and beneficial to their understanding of issues facing the island (e.g., storm water flooding). The groundwater data from both the citizen scientists and automated water level loggers were used to calibrate a numerical groundwater model that characterized the baseline conditions of the water table on the island. Impacts of projected sea-level rise ranging from 0.2 m to 1.4 m on the baseline water table were then simulated under steady state conditions. Finally, geospatial techniques were used to estimate the proportion of land that would be lost to marine inundation and groundwater inundation under identical sea-level rise scenarios. Results indicate that marine and groundwater inundation would have comparable effects on the island, with between 7 and 22% of the land being lost under sea-level rise scenarios of 0.2 to 1.2 m. At extreme sea-level rise scenarios (1.4 m), the effects of groundwater inundation are far much greater than those of marine inundation (with losses of 28% for marine inundation and 40% for groundwater inundation). As a consequence, groundwater inundation may therefore play an important role in future discussions about how climate change and sea-level rise may impact groundwater resources in coastal communities. Involving community residents in scientific research such as the project described in this report may therefore be an effective way for positively engaging with residents about important environmental issues such as climate change, sea-level rise and groundwater resources.
Original Publication Citation
Manda, A., & Allen, T. (2016). Coastal groundwater watch: A citizen science project - report no. 477. North Carolina Water Resources Research Institute.
Manda, Alex and Allen, Thomas, "Coastal Groundwater Watch: A Citizen Science Project - Report No. 477" (2016). Political Science & Geography Faculty Publications. 31.