Citizen science doesn’t stop cold: Lake Tahoe mobile app helps scientists year-round

A winter Tahoe beach with snow with two dogs playing and people int he background near the water
Winter may not be beach weather, but UC Davis scientists need people to record what they see at the lake year —round on the Citizen Science Tahoe app.

While hitting the slopes at Lake Tahoe this winter, scientists from the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center are encouraging people to hit the beach, too — and record what they see there on the “Citizen Science Tahoe” mobile app.

TERC launched the app this past August, encouraging beach goers of all ages to tap in what they see at Lake Tahoe —  data shared with scientists to better understand conditions around the lake.

Programmed by Shahzeb Khan, a UC Davis undergraduate studying computer science, the app allows users to record observations on things like algae, wildlife, water quality and litter. Users can also add photos and their own comments and earn points for every observation made.

“Even though it’s no longer ‘beach weather,’ we need people to record their observations at the lake year-round,” said Heather Segale, TERC’s education and outreach director. “Our scientists can’t be around the lake at all times, so the more people that can take pictures and describe it, the better.”

Researchers will compare the information with data from a network of real-time sensors to gain a better understanding of Lake Tahoe’s nearshore environment — where people spend the most time at the lake but which researchers know the least about. As the number of “crowd-sourced” observations increases, new information and trends will be discovered.

Data from the app and the sensors will be available through a science center exhibit under development. The future “Lake Tahoe Conditions” exhibit will explore trends related to lake level, temperature, water color, water clarity, algae and more.

It is being developed by UC Davis TERC and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, and North Lake Tahoe Resort Association/Placer County.

The app is available for both iOS and Android devices. Links to download the mobile app can be found at

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Kat Kerlin, Research news (emphasis on environmental sciences), 530-750-9195,

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