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EPA funds Montana project to engage citizen scientists on Smith River algae issue

Innovative research across the country receives EPA grants to address environmental issues

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Richard Mylott (

DENVER -- Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced research projects addressing priority environmental and human health problems in 14 states through partnerships between EPA’s research office, regional offices, and states.

“EPA encourages the use of innovative scientific approaches to help solve important environmental problems,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “By working with our state partners and engaging the public we can foster creative solutions to these challenges.”

The research announced today is designed to address pressing environmental issues faced by the states. EPA is uniquely equipped to provide scientific expertise to help tackle these problems. The selected projects focus on non-point source nitrogen pollution, volatile organic compound emission detection, harmful algal blooms, roadway air pollution near schools, and other environmental and human health issues across the country. The projects will employ innovative approaches including citizen science, crowdsourcing, a challenge competition, and advanced monitoring technologies.

One of these projects is Montana’s Smith River Algae Crowdsourcing Project. The Smith River is one of Montana’s premier recreation destinations, and visitors have expressed concerns to state agencies about excess algae growth. EPA, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks will develop a mobile app to capture crowdsourced data to engage visitors in collecting photos of the excess algae growth on Montana’s Smith River during the 2018 recreation season.

“This is a great opportunity for using technology to engage citizens, raise awareness and help find solutions to reduce algae growth in Montana’s treasured Smith River,” said Montana DEQ Water Quality Specialist Darrin Kron.

By collecting photographs and documenting algae along the river, citizen scientists will provide information that state agencies and local planning groups can use to determine potential causes and guide solutions. A website with mapped results will be available after the 2018 floating season.  Project success will demonstrate that a collaborative partnership between citizens and state and federal programs can contribute meaningfully to scientific investigation and problem-solving. This project will receive $50,000 in EPA funding.

“Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed algae growth much earlier in the season and at a higher density than in the past. Engaging the public to assist with this project will help determine a cause and potential solutions and address the many concerns we’ve heard from recreationists and landowners,” said Smith River State Park Manager Colin Maas.

Learn more about the Smith River project and the other innovative research projects EPA is supporting: