Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Dr. Daniel D. Snow

Date of this Version



Olson, Christopher A. 2020. Use of Citizen Science in Monitoring Groundwater Quality: A Case Study from Nebraska, Master's thesis. University of Nebraska.


A thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the supervision of Professor Daniel D. Snow. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2020

Copyright 2020 Christopher A. Olson


Citizen science has a key role in modernizing effective communication between professional scientists and the general public. However, citizen science differs to that of professional science due to equipment and experience and is a topic argued against citizen science. However, technology in water quality testing has developed in simplicity and affordability to a point where high school students, with hands-on training, can collect groundwater samples and test for quality themselves. Nebraska groundwater quality is a critical part of the state and can utilize high school students as citizen scientists for their communities. High school students from rural communities across Nebraska collected and tested groundwater for safe drinking water quality utilizing chemistry test kits. The samples were also sent to a professional laboratory to be tested for the same analytes the students tested and further correlated. High school students had such limitations that come with colorimetric chemistry kits whereas the professional laboratory utilized analytical instruments with trained and experienced staff. For five analytes, nitrate, chloride, calcium hardness, pH and electrical conductivity, similarities and differences were expressed in terms of the coefficient of determination (R2) and the absolute difference in averages (|Δave|). For Nitrate, the R2 was 0.632 ±0.255, and the |Δave| of 3.97 ±5.32. Acomparison of the results between the citizen scientists and the professional scientists show similarities as well as areas for improvement. R2 results for electrical conductivity were favorable where |Δave| results were not so favorable. |Δave| results for pH were favorable where R2 results were not so favorable. Both R2 and |Δave| results for nitrate were not polar opposites like results for pH and electrical conductivity.

Advisor: Daniel Snow