Citizen Science & Community Involvement

There are a numerous ways in which citizens contribute to water quality sciences. Volunteer monitoring, lake associations, school groups, and watershed groups all play a part in monitoring water quality.

NWMTLVMN Volunteer Kim Corette. Photo courtesy Whitefish Lake Institute

Volunteer Lake Monitoring
There are many concerned citizens throughout Montana who participate as volunteers in water quality monitoring programs. A good example of such participation can be found in the Northwest Montana Lakes Volunteer Monitoring Network (NWMTLVMN). The NWMTLVMN is a citizen science program funded by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and managed by the Whitefish Lake Institute.

Currently, over fifty volunteers monitor over fifty locations on forty-one lakes in Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Missoula counties. Program volunteers are trained to collect long-term water quality information for the lakes and to provide a front line of defense in early detection monitoring for aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Lake Association Meeting. Photo courtesy Flathead Lakers


Create or Join a Lake Association
Creating a lake association or becoming a member of one has many benefits for the lake on which you live or recreate.

 Some of the benefits are:

  • Increased public awareness about your lake, the recreational and ecological benefits it has to offer, and the issues which potentially impact the lake and its habitat;
  • Better protection for your lake and its wetlands, wildlife and fish as the association works with elected officials and other non-profit organizations;
  • Enforcement of environmental and safety laws;
  • Support for legislation that protects your lake and other Montana waters;
  • Improvement of your lake’s public access sites;
  • Improved water quality;
  • Elimination or reduction of pollution in lakes;
  • Being part of a community that shares your love and respect for your lake.

Please consider joining your local lake association or creating one if your lake doesn’t already have one.

Student Engagement
Whitefish High School’s Project FREEFLOW is an advanced high school field science program. Its purpose is to provide students with an opportunity to acquire and analyze water quality and habitat assessment data, develop an understanding of natural resource management and study current environmental issues.

FREEFLOW Students recording water quality values. Photo courtesy Whitefish Lake lnstitute

FREEFLOW has been involved with aquatic field science work for the past 20 years. Projects include water quality sampling, bank rehabilitation projects, and GIS field mapping throughout the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Students participate in organizational meetings, conduct field studies, process and download data using GIS software, listen to professional presentations, perform technical writing, present research findings to the public, and participate in the Montana State Envirothon competition. FREEFLOW students have the opportunity to work with professional scientists and participate in extended wilderness experiences every summer.


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