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General public requested to send algal observations via smartphones

Press release 2011-06-22 at 12:00

SYKE, VTT, IBM and WWF

This summer, the general public can report its own algal observations via smartphones.

Algae watch (Levävahti) is a new mobile phone application, aimed at encouraging citizens to participate in environmental observation. Similar applications are being continuously developed at international level. Reports provided through such applications supplement traditional environmental monitoring by the authorities.

The Algae Watch pilot project involves the collection of information on the occurrence and level of blue-green algae and bladderwrack blooms. Blue-green algae is found at sea and in lakes, while bladderwrack is a type of marine algae. An abundance of bladderwrack is a sign of a healthy marine environment, whereas blue-green algae blooms are viewed as a hallmark of deterioration in the condition of a sea or lake.

Algae Watch is designed for all those interested in monitoring the condition of waters on whose shores or surface they spend time. Observations can be reported while at the beach or a waterfront cottage, as well as during boating or walking a dog along a shoreline. Reports on the absence of algae are also important.

Once you have downloaded the Algae Watch application from the Internet, reports of visual observations are easy to send with just a few clicks. The application can also be used to send images of algae blooms. Smartphones enable the use of an automated navigation service, via a GPS satellite system or mobile phone network. The Algae Watch application can be downloaded free of charge, although data transfer fees depend on your mobile phone subscription. We recommend that you use the application only if you have a mobile phone subscription based on a fixed monthly rate for data transfers, particularly for sending images via multimedia messaging services.

'Citizens’ observations of algae are saved anonymously on an online map, for everyone to see. Together with the authorities’ observations, these are used in research, decision-making and the dissemination of information. Active public involvement in environmental observation also supports environmental education. Algae Watch’s performance and its reception by the public will be assessed after the summer. Possible further development measures will be determined on the basis of experiences gained during the summer', states Engineer Maria Kämäri of the Marine Research Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE.

The Algae Watch project is implemented by SYKE, the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT, IBM and WWF. SYKE has been responsible for content planning. VTT created smartphone applications for Nokia and Android phones, while IBM did so for iPhones. Cooperation partners are using social media marketing and other forums to promote the Algae Watch application. As part of the project, a Baltic Sea Commitment has been agreed with the Baltic Sea Action Group. The BSAG uses Baltic Sea Commitments to engage various actors, such as governments, private persons, companies and organisations, in taking concrete action for the benefit of the Baltic Sea.

More information

  • Algae Watch (Levävahti): Levävahti (in Finnish)
  • Engineer Maria Kämäri, Finnish Environment Institute Marine Research Centre tel. 040 865 0977
  • IBM Communications, tel. 09 459 5900, ibmficom@fi.ibm.com
  • Researcher Timo Toivanen, VTT tel. 020 722 4596, eo@vtt.fi
  • Marine Officer Vanessa Klötzer, WWF tel. 040 763 0000

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