A Citizen Science project to save the Arctic Ocean from pollutants using Smart Phones!

December 18, 2017

The Arctic Ocean is under threat. Aboard Nanuq, the water quality project WeTest will make available for its users unpublished data on the quality of Arctic waters, to highlight the impact of pollutants and the expansion of dead zones in the Arctic. WeTest will equip Nanuq with a water quality measurement station that will continuously test the concentration of heavy metals in surface waters, as well as data on concentrations of phosphates, nitrites and algae populations. Gaspard Durieux, the Polarquest2018 WeTest young scientist and entrepreneur is now in Canada to finalize the project.

Gaspard, you are now working as a research coordinator at the University of Alberta in Canada to develop the We Test project. Tell us more about it.

Global warming and pollution have a huge impact on water resources. Water is connected to our everyday life and to any industrial or commercial process. The WeTest project is an attempt to empower the people, lowering the barriers between people and science, between people and institutional decisions, by including citizens in water monitoring and water management to achieve together a sustainable future.

How can we do that? Simply by taking a picture. At the University of Alberta, WeTest is developing a technology enabling water quality testing with smartphones: with a mobile app, we analyse the colour change of a small water quality sensor.

My work here is about designing this water quality sensor and the mobile app (by improving the one we have) to collect the results and share them on an open source database. I’m also trying to find partnerships around the world where our sensors could be deployed and where the WeTest project could be pushed forward.

What are your objectives for the Polarquest2018 expedition?

Scientists demonstrated in 2015 that 80% of the impact of contamination of the oceans comes from improper water management on land. This contamination has created dead zones in the ocean of the size of countries, because there is no more oxygen to support live species.

I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to work with Polarquest2018 because I believe that the WeTest users have to understand how big the issue of water contamination is. Joining the expedition is a first step towards providing data to the WeTest users on how the pollution and contamination of the waters on land is also affecting the Arctic ocean. That is for the users to understand that the contamination in their water, in their city, anywhere in the world is connected to what is happening in the Arctic, which is supposedly away from sources of pollution.

What’s next?

I would like to develop a WeTest water quality sensor that could be incorporated to any sensing devices on boats. For example, the depth meter that any sailing boat has could be modified to incorporate our sensor to test and collect data in real time on our platform.

Interview by Safiria Buono

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