Citizen Science Celebration 2024

By Rohinee Bishwas Mandal and Hanik Lakhe

Each April, Citizen Science Month is celebrated to highlight the significance of citizen science and its impact on scientific research and environmental conservation efforts. It serves as a platform to raise awareness about the vital role played by citizen scientists and the positive contributions they make to society. This year, on April 20th, 2024, Smartphones For Water Nepal (S4W-Nepal) hosted the Citizen Science Celebration event at Universal Engineering and Science College. The event was dedicated to honoring and expressing gratitude to the dedicated citizen scientists of S4W-Nepal who contribute to water resource monitoring and research activities. The celebration featured esteemed guests and speakers, including Dr. Bhesh Raj Thapa, General Secretary at S4W-Nepal, who served as the session chair. Dr. Madan Lall Shrestha, an Academician at the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), graced the event as the chief guest, while Mr. Rajaram Prajapati, the SmartPhones4Water (S4W) Global Ambassador, joined as a special guest. Among the distinguished attendees were Dr. Rabin Malla (Executive Director, Center of Research for Environment, Energy and Water), Dr. Saurav KC (Deputy Executive Director, Center of Research for Environment, Energy and Water), Er. Suraj Gautam (Executive Director, Institute of Himalayan Risk Reduction), Mr. Niranjan Bista (Program Coordinator, The Small Earth Nepal), and Dr. Alka Sapkota (Board Member, S4W-Nepal). Most importantly, the event warmly welcomed the motivated citizen scientists of S4W-Nepal, whose presence and contributions added significant value to the celebration.

Group photo of the participants of the event

The program began with a brief welcome and introduction by the emcee, Research Assistant Ms. Rohinee Bishwas Mandal, followed by a welcome speech from Dr. Sanjiv Neupane, CEO of S4W-Nepal. Subsequently, a brief introduction session via Mentimeter that aimed at collecting background information about all participants and engaging them effectively, was conducted. Following this, Research Associate Mr. Sudeep Duwal delivered a presentation on “Citizen Science-Based Hydro-Meteorological Monitoring in the Kathmandu Valley,” focusing on the hydrological monitoring activities of S4W-Nepal.

The special guest, Mr. Rajaram Prajapati, shared his remarks, referencing a climatic event from July 28, 1997, in Colorado, USA, where unexpected heavy rainfall occurred, surpassing forecasts based on advanced technology. Through this, he underscored the necessity for ground-based, evidence-based local monitoring to complement technological forecasting methods, ensuring more accurate predictions. He introduced S4W-Nepal’s “Soda Bottle Science” concept and other global projects of S4W, such as the ‘Schools and Satellites’ in Africa and ‘Delft Meets Rain’ in the Netherlands, as steps toward it. Prajapati emphasized the importance of monitoring hydro-meteorological data, with only 9% of the least developed countries currently doing adequate monitoring. Moreover, he stressed the value of human observation and encouraged youth involvement in collaborative efforts for better progress.

Special Guest Mr. Rajaram Prajapati delivering his remarks

Dr. Madan Lall Shrestha, our esteemed Chief Guest, emphasized in his remarks the crucial role of Citizen Science in monitoring rainfall. He highlighted the need for prior validation and standardization by comparing it with DHM/satellite data before its end use. Moreover, he motivated S4W-Nepal’s team to initiate monitoring projects in unmonitored areas. Dr. Shrestha envisioned collaboration with international organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization, and UNESCO to advance this innovative concept. He also encouraged the young citizen scientists to continue generating data and using it confidently in their research.

Chief guest Dr. Madan Lall Shrestha delivering his remarks

The formal session was followed by certificate distribution. Certificates were distributed to Citizen Scientists who contributed to monitoring of suspended sediment, groundwater level, and rainfall. The rainfall and groundwater “Citizen Scientist of the Year 2023”, Mr. Sagar Gosai and Ms. Shrena Shrestha, were awarded a token of appreciation for their significant contributions in rainfall and groundwater data monitoring, respectively. Then, a few citizen scientists also shared their experiences related to water monitoring.

Mr. Saroj Gosai being Awarded Rainfall Citizen Scientist of the Year 2023 by Chief Guest Dr. Madan Lall Shrestha
Ms. Shrena Shrestha being Awarded Groundwater Citizen Scientist of the Year 2023 by Chief Guest Dr. Madan Lall Shrestha

Following this, Research Associate Goma Khadka moderated a round table discussion. Five groups of participants interacted and discussed various questions provided to them regarding citizen science. The motivation to be a part of the citizen science campaign, possible challenges in citizen science, achievements and learnings of citizen scientists, opportunities for citizen scientist and researcher collaboration, and improvement in citizen science were discussed in this session. Each group presented their findings and offered valuable suggestions. The Citizen Scientists stated that their contribution should be acknowledged more and should be provided with a platform for more collaborative research training and workshops for capacity building.

The program concluded with Dr. Sanjiv Neupane expressing gratitude to all participants, guests, and team members for their presence and efforts. Following the event, individuals interested in rainfall monitoring during the upcoming Monsoon Expedition 2024 were provided with rain gauges and training on data collection. Additionally, feedback and suggestions from the Citizen Scientists were collected through feedback sheets to facilitate necessary improvements in our activities. With a total of 58 participants, including Citizen Scientists, students, guests, and S4W-Nepal team members, the event was a success. The entire S4W-Nepal team is enthusiastic about hosting similar events to foster stronger connections with our dedicated citizen scientists and inspire their continued participation in future projects.

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Empowering Science Through Citizen Participation: Barsha Gautam’s Inspiring Journey with S4W-Nepal

Citizen science offers the power of science to everyone, and the power of everyone to science.” -J. Shirk

Imagine a network of over 700 citizen scientists working together to bridge the water data gaps in Nepal. This ambitious effort by S4W-Nepal is brought to life through the unique and inspiring journeys of its citizen scientists. At the heart of this endeavor is the story of Ms. Barsha Gautam, a dedicated citizen scientist whose journey with S4W-Nepal exemplifies the transformative impact of citizen participation in scientific research.

Ms. Barsha Gautam is a resident of  Suryabinayak, Bhaktapur. Barsha is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Science at Khwopa College, Bhaktapur, and is working as an Environment Analyst at Himalayan Research Forum Nepal, Baneshwor, Kathmandu. Besides this, she is also an enthusiastic reader and nature explorer.

Ms. Barsha Gautam, S4W Rainfall Citizen Scientist

She has been associated with S4W-Nepal as a rainfall citizen scientist since 2021 and has been actively participating in the Monsoon Expedition ever since. Barsha discovered S4W-Nepal through her college seniors and decided to gain more information through our social media handles. She was fascinated by the idea of using smartphones and soda-bottle rain gauges to support monitoring, research, and sustainable water resource management. She describes her experience as fulfilling and notes that it has deepened her understanding of environmental monitoring and data collection. Despite her busy schedule, which includes college, work, studies, and various projects, knowing that her small contribution supports sustainable water resource management and research motivates her. Her family also understands the importance of environmental conservation and encourages her to follow her passion.

Ms. Barsha Gautam recording rainfall data using S4W-Nepal’s rain gauge and ODK- Collect application

Barsha recognizes that S4W-Nepal’s work encompasses more than just collecting rainfall data; it extends to monitoring groundwater, streamflow, and sediment concentration. As an environmental science student, she understands the complexities of groundwater management compared to surface water management. Intrigued by the potential for improving management practices through quality and level monitoring, she is eager to contribute to groundwater monitoring efforts in her community. Barsha is committed to continuing her journey with S4W-Nepal and encourages others, especially those interested in water-related studies, to join as Citizen Scientists.

Ms. Barsha Gautam (on the right) with fellow citizen scientists during the Citizen Scientists Celebration 2024

Looking ahead, she hopes for continued support and guidance from S4W-Nepal in her research initiative too. Furthermore, she suggested that S4W-Nepal should encourage young researchers often by conducting sessions and sharing resources. Lastly, she believes being a part of S4W-Nepal has enriched her experience, and she eagerly anticipates further learning and opportunities to contribute.

We congratulate her on her recent achievement of receiving the Chandra Gurung Memorial Fellowship 2023 from WWF Nepal! This achievement reaffirms her commitment to conservation and inspires her to contribute even more effectively in this field. We wish her continued success in her vision of making significant contributions to environmental conservation and sustainable practices.

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VICTORY: Visualizing the Power of Citizen Science Through Observations and Repository for Anticipatory Action

By Sudeep Duwal and Goma Khadka

Smartphones For Water Nepal (S4W-Nepal) in collaboration with the Institute of Himalayan Risk Reduction (IHRR) and supported by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) has successfully launched the Victory Project at two municipalities: Barbardiya Municipality, Bardiya district which is prone to flood and Bhimeshwor Municipality, Dolakha district which is prone to landslide in Nepal. The VICTORY project stands for “Visualizing the Power of Citizen Science Through Observations and Repository for Anticipatory Action,” and aims to leverage citizen science to improve disaster preparedness. The project harnesses the collective strength of communities, turning everyday individuals into scientific contributors for the Early Warning System (EWS) in floods and landslides via the use of low-cost hardware (precipitation and water level sensors) and software solutions (citizen science crowdsourcing mobile application). The VICTORY facilitates early action and decision-making, minimizing the impact of disasters thereby demonstrating when science and citizens unite, remarkable transformations are possible.

Citizen Scientists of the Victory Project

The project began with an inception meeting with local representatives and ward-level sensitization meetings in both municipalities to enhance the understanding and capacities of local stakeholders in disaster management and preparedness. These meetings introduced the VICTORY project’s objectives, familiarized participants with the principles of citizen science, and emphasized the importance of community-driven data collection for developing effective early warning systems. During these interactive sessions, participants engaged in thorough discussions and transect walks to identify the most flood-prone and landslide-prone areas.

Victory Project Launching Ceremony

Subsequently, 58 citizen scientists in Barbardiya Municipality and 56 in Bhimeshwor Municipality were recruited to monitor rainfall, floods, and landslides. Capacity-building training sessions were organized for these citizen scientists to enhance their knowledge and skills in disaster preparedness and response. During the training, the citizen scientists pledged to monitor local disaster events, taking oaths from the respective Mayors and Deputy Mayors of Barbardiya and Bhimeshwor Municipalities. Additionally, 906 students from 15 secondary and high-level schools were oriented on the citizen science approach, the importance of water resources, and the need for monitoring for sustainable management.

Outreach programs organized in the academic institution

Currently, citizen scientists are actively collecting rainfall, flood level, and landslide data in their localities using the Victory mobile application. To ensure data quality, each data entry undergoes a quality control process to address any potential challenges or issues. Simultaneously, we are motivating the citizen scientists through various approaches, including regular follow-ups and messages, awarding points, providing communication allowances, sharing weather data forecasts, and disseminating the collected data.

Citizen scientists learning to take rainfall measurements using an S4W rain gauge

Looking ahead, we will sustain continuous engagement with local representatives, stakeholders, and relevant government agencies to ensure the sustainability of this citizen science approach and its integration into the municipalities’ disaster risk management strategies. Moreover, the project aims to foster risk-informed and resilient communities by empowering local governments, communities, and individuals through the innovative application of citizen science.

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