USGS, EPA, Blue Legacy announce winners of Visualizing Nutrients Challenge

The U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency and Blue Legacy International have released the results of the 2015 Visualizing Nutrients Challenge, an innovation competition focusing on inventive ways to organize and analyze existing data of nutrient levels in water.

Aug. 12, 2015 -- In April 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Environmental Protection Agency and Blue Legacy International, a nonprofit organization, launched the Visualizing Nutrients Challenge, an innovation competition focusing on inventive ways to organize and analyze existing data of nutrient levels in water (see "USGS, EPA, Blue Legacy launch innovative nutrient awareness challenge").

The project challenged water leaders to use open government data sources to create compelling visualizations that would inform individuals and communities about nutrient pollution (high-levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that cause excessive growth of algae). The ultimate goal was to inspire citizens to take action at the local watershed level to reduce nutrient pollution and thus help to prevent algal blooms and hypoxia.

Below are the results (here) of the 2015 Visualizing Nutrients Challenge:

First Prize

  • A Resource Out of Place: The Story of Phosphorus, Lake Erie, and Toxic Algal Blooms
    This visualization, created by Matthew Seibert, Benjamin Wellington and Eric Roy of Landscape Metrics, uses USGS monitoring data to inform individuals and communities about phosphorus runoff to Lake Erie. The authors sought to "inspire multiple stakeholders to strive toward both better resource management and improved environmental quality."

Runners Up

  • LA River
    Short film illustrating nutrient levels on the Los Angeles River using a digital elevation model. Author: Catherine Griffiths, Isohale
  • How does increasing nutrients affect you?
    Animated illustration and interactive nitrogen concentration tool. Authors: Amanda Winegardner, Dr. Zofia Taranu, Monica Granados, and Kristina Enciso
  • Visualizing Nutrients
    Interactive chart illustrating water quality results on the Loxahatchee River. Author: Chris Echezabal
  • The Silent Predator of the Deep Blue: Hypoxia
    Infographic explaining hypoxia. Authors: Kayla Brady, Sathya Ram, Michael Ruiz, Matthew Peters, and Thaumas Mathew -- (all with Computer Aid, Inc.
  • VizNut48: Nutrient Pollution in the US Surface Waters and Management Actions
    ArcGIS map of U.S. surface water plotting nutrient pollution results. Author: Kerem Gungor
  • Visualizing Water Pollution Data Using Beck-Style Flow Path Maps
    Illustration of water systems and site results modeled after public transit maps. Authors: Prof. Edward Aboufadel, Department of Mathematics, Grand Valley State University; and Daniel P. Huffman, somethingaboutmaps

First Place will receive $10,000. Both the Challenge Winner and Runners Up visualizations will be highlighted in a number of important forums, including a showcase at the Nutrient Sensor Summit in Washington, D.C., on August 12, 2015.

The Visualizing Nutrients Challenge is part of the broader work of the Challenging Nutrients Coalition. The coalition was formed in 2013 when the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy convened a group of federal agencies, universities and non-profit organizations to seek innovative ways to address nutrient pollution.

This Challenge marks the starting point for further discussion and application of data visualization tools to help tell the stories of water. Blue Legacy International, a water advocacy organization championed by global explorer Alexandra Cousteau, will promote the results of the Challenge across a variety of digital platforms, where anyone can join the discussion to advance three critical areas of data visualization for public awareness:

  • Reliable and accurate use of water data
  • Effective and clear communication of water issues supported by data
  • Transformation of complex water issue into relatable, tangible stories that inspire and activate the public

See also:

"Federal agencies use satellite data to protect U.S. fresh water from algal threats"

"New WRF study explores effective methods for toxic algae removal in drinking water"

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