Automating Coastal Citizen Science with a High-Tech Surfboard Fin: the Smartfin

Philip Joseph Bresnahan Jr1, Todd R Martz2, Tyler Cyronak2, Andreas J Andersson2, Robert J W Brewin3, Garrett Schmid4 and Andrew Stern5, (1)La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, United Kingdom, (4)California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, United States, (5)Maryland Heights, MO, United States
Citizen science has had powerful impacts in terms of both academic research and community engagement; however, there are numerous challenges in implementing a successful citizen science program. For example, data quality control issues can be problematic for application of citizen science datasets in research settings and prospective citizen scientists are often overwhelmed by training requirements and learning new technologies. We have developed a low-cost and automated oceanographic sensor package to improve coastal datasets while reducing the burden on the citizen scientists. Smartfin, a surfboard fin–shaped sensor package, contains temperature, motion, and position sensors as well as solar charging, automated water detection, and wireless data transfer. Smartfin temperature data are already in use in coastal remote sensing validation and ecosystem modeling studies and motion data are being analyzed for coastal wave statistics. A pipeline of new water quality sensors for Smartfin, including pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll fluorescence, turbidity, and salinity, is in development. In addition to Smartfin’s scientific and engineering successes, the program has been very effective in engaging the public through several dozen community presentations, radio, television, and podcast interviews, and social media presence—all of which contribute to Smartfin’s core goal of communicating coastal ocean and climate change science and inspiring the next generation of coastal stewards.