A Printable Device for Measuring Clarity and Colour in Lake and Nearshore Waters

Sensors (Basel). 2019 Feb 22;19(4):936. doi: 10.3390/s19040936.


Two expanding areas of science and technology are citizen science and three-dimensional (3D) printing. Citizen science has a proven capability to generate reliable data and contribute to unexpected scientific discovery. It can put science into the hands of the citizens, increasing understanding, promoting environmental stewardship, and leading to the production of large databases for use in environmental monitoring. 3D printing has the potential to create cheap, bespoke scientific instruments that have formerly required dedicated facilities to assemble. It can put instrument manufacturing into the hands of any citizen who has access to a 3D printer. In this paper, we present a simple hand-held device designed to measure the Secchi depth and water colour (Forel Ule scale) of lake, estuarine and nearshore regions. The device is manufactured with marine resistant materials (mostly biodegradable) using a 3D printer and basic workshop tools. It is inexpensive to manufacture, lightweight, easy to use, and accessible to a wide range of users. It builds on a long tradition in optical limnology and oceanography, but is modified for ease of operation in smaller water bodies, and from small watercraft and platforms. We provide detailed instructions on how to build the device and highlight examples of its use for scientific education, citizen science, satellite validation of ocean colour data, and low-cost monitoring of water clarity, colour and temperature.

Keywords: 3D printing; citizen science; secchi disk; water clarity; water colour.