Citizen Science and Pharmaceuticals in the Great Lakes

Pharmaceuticals have been found throughout the Great Lakes and there is currently a lack of systemic sampling, reporting and publicly accessible information on their presence and impacts. Citizen science initiatives have the potential to amplify current knowledge and contribute to filling gaps in existing science and research programs. They have been shown to be an effective means of increasing environmental awareness and supporting conservation efforts because they provide opportunities for participants to feel like an important part of the solution, to share their experiences and to advocate for a cause.

This report, prepared for Environment and Climate Change Canada, is the result of consultation with a wide range of stakeholders working on issues related to pharmaceuticals, toxicology, water quality and citizen science and was developed with the guidance of an expert advisory group. It examines the potential for citizen science to contribute to increased public engagement and the development of a more complete dataset on the presence of pharmaceuticals in the Great Lakes.

The report provides an overview of the types of processes and methods that should be considered by those looking to develop a citizen science program related to potential emerging contaminants in the Great Lakes, in an effort to ensure scientifically meaningful and consistent results. In addition to providing high-level guidance, the report uses a focus on pharmaceuticals as a means of providing examples of how these methods can be applied to a specific issue. It also contains preliminary results from a proof-of-concept case study conducted in partnership with Swim Drink Fish and Dr. Chris Metcalfe and his research group at Trent University, to determine whether there is an effective indicator for pharmaceutical presence.

The contents of the report informed the development of additional resources including a brief Guide to Citizen Science in the Great Lakes, a Case Study on Determining an Indicator for Pharmaceutical Presence in the Great Lakes and a short, animated video on the importance of citizen science. Click through the slides at right to access these resources. 

Download the Report

For questions or comments, please contact:

Melissa De Young,
Director, Policy and Programs,
Pollution Probe