New app to help Tahoe researchers with citizen observations

INCLINE VILLAGE — Researchers at Lake Tahoe are enlisting local residents, tourists and other beach-goers to record their observations and photographs on a new smartphone app to help scientists better understand the lake’s environmental conditions.

The University of California, Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center recently launched the app, called Citizen Science Tahoe.

Users are asked to enter what they see at the beach, from algae to wildlife. Each observation automatically records the user’s location, date and time.

The citizen scientists are encouraged to report what they like at the beach as well as anything that indicates problems, from invasive species to litter, said Geoff Schladow, director of the research center.

The perceptual data will give researchers a better understanding of Tahoe’s fragile areas near the shoreline — the part of the lake people experience the most, but surprisingly, scientists know the least about, he said.

Scientists will compare that data with data from a growing network of real-time sensors to help gain information and spot new trends.

“There are aspects of water and ecological quality that depend solely on the perceptions of individuals,” Schladow said. “That is what this app is seeking to measure from everywhere around the lake at all times of year. If you want to contribute to science at Lake Tahoe, simply go to the beach.”

The app, available for download at, was programmed by Shahzeb Khan, a UC Davis freshman studying computer science who won a UC Davis-wide competition for the best proposal.

“Working on the app and solving problems has been a fun challenge,” Kahn said.

Data from the app and the sensors will be available through a science center exhibit currently under development.

The exhibit, “Lake Tahoe Conditions,” will explore trends related to lake level, temperature, water color, water clarity, algae and more. It’s being developed by the UC Davis center and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and North Lake Tahoe Resort Association/Placer County.


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