Citizen Science Improves Stream Climate Change Forecasts

Track 5A: Innovative Technologies for Data Collection and Management
Friday, October 13, 2017, 1:00 pm – 2:50 pm

Nathaniel (Than) P. Hitt, Craig Snyder, Martin Briggs, Keith Curley
U.S. Geological Survey, Leetown Science Center, Kearneysville, WV
U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Groundwater, Geophysics Branch, Mansfield, CT
Trout Unlimited, Arlington VA

Predicting stream responses to climate change requires an understanding of groundwater-surface water interactions, but prior data limitations have restricted regional applications. Here we present a novel approach to (a) use heat as a tracer of groundwater influence in streams, and (b) engage citizen science to collect temperature data across large regions of interest for trout habitat conservation. We demonstrate that groundwater influence can be estimated from the statistical relationship between daily mean air and water temperatures during summer baseflow conditions, and we provide case studies from Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) and Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland). We then demonstrate the utility of citizen science for rapid, landscape scale assessment of stream temperature data in a case study of Shenandoah River valley streams. We show that groundwater-surface water interactions are spatially patchy within streams (i.e., more variation within HUC12-scale watersheds than between them) and that accounting for groundwater changes predicted future distributions of trout habitat. We describe hypothesized mechanisms of groundwater control through geomorphic features regulating depth to bedrock and lateral hillslope processes.