EGU 2015

GeoTalk: Fishing meets science with waders and smartphones

GeoTalk: Fishing meets science with waders and smartphones

Dutch and American researchers have developed waders equipped with temperature sensors that enable fly-fishers to find the best fishing locations while collecting data to help scientists study streams. The research is published today (29 February) in Geoscientific Instrumentation Methods and Data Systems (GI), an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union. In this GeoTalk interview we talk to Rolf Hut, a hydrologist at the Delft University of Technology, and lead author of the paper, as well as with Tim van Emmerik, co-author of the paper and also a hydrologist at Delft University of Technology, to learn more about this unique invention and its application for both hydrologists and fly fishers!

What was the motivation behind this study? How did the idea to use temperature sensing waders for environmental sciences come about?

Rolf: The idea originated during a discussion between Scott Tyler and I at the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting . We were discussing the difficulty in calibrating DTS (Distributed Temperature Sensing, see Selker et al., 2006) in streambeds and suddenly the thought popped in our heads that we are wearing waders when installing DTS cables, why not equip the waders with temperature sensors? When we started to further think this idea through (beer may have been involved), we realised that fly-fishers walking in streams with temperature sensing waders would make a great source of data for scientists studying hyporheic exchange (the study of groundwater-streamwater interaction).

Furthermore, fly fishers themselves could benefit from knowing local stream temperature to find optimal fishing locations. Therefore, we set out to, as a first test, prove that temperature sensing waders could potentially provide this information. The result of that test is presented in our current paper.

What data do you hope to collect with your waders and what applications, both for the scientific community and the wider public, would the data have?

Rolf Hut testing the temperature-sensing waders in the field. Credit: Tim van Emmerik

Rolf Hut testing the temperature-sensing waders in the field. Credit: Tim van Emmerik

Rolf: As scientists, we hope these data help us better understand where groundwater enters streams and where stream water drains away to the groundwater. Hyporheic exchange (groundwater-streamwater interaction) is a complex field of study, with very local places where groundwater enters small streams. Understanding this is vital in understanding stream-water ecology: which species live where in the stream. Ultimately, good understanding of stream dynamics helps us advise policies that better balance multiple use of stream water: as a natural habitat for plants and animals, and as a human drinking resource and place for recreation.

However, measurements of streamflow dynamics, including stream temperature, are usually labour intensive and at the same time, stream dynamics vary highly between different streams. For better understanding, more measurements are needed, but scientists are (rightly so) budget constrained in this. Therefore, we believe our temperature sensing waders, when applied at large scale, can be very beneficial to our understanding of stream dynamics.

Tim: In just the USA alone, an estimated 27 million recreational anglers regularly fish in freshwater streams and lakes. Imagine if they were all equipped with a temperature sensing wader! This would mean a constant supply of new, accurate data, which can be used to estimate water quality and quantity, fish ‘hotspots’, and overall state of the ecosystem.

How did you show your idea of using waders and smartphones to measure water temperature was feasibility?

Rolf: In this paper we only wanted to test whether a sensor in the bottom of a wader would be able to detect (large) differences in stream temperature so we could pinpoint locations of groundwater-streamwater interaction.

We tested this in two ways. First, we tested it in the field by walking in a stream where we knew a localised influx of cold groundwater was present. I was wearing the waders and also used a reference thermometer to measure water temperature. Secondly, we tested how long it takes for the waders to change temperature when exposed to a drop, or rise, in temperature. We tested this in the Water Lab of Delft University of Technology by preheating the waders and then exposing it to the colder water of the flume in our lab. We differed the flow velocity in the flume, and also tested what the influence of having a (warm blooded) human leg in the wader was to the temperature it sensed.

Could you clarify what advances you’ve made since you first presented this research at the EGU General Assembly last April?

Rolf: After the initial idea, I submitted an abstract to the General Assembly. In the abstract for the GA I merely promised to “show a prototype”. Because of other academic deadlines, and my own chaotic mind, this meant that the prototype demonstrated at the General Assembly was made the Sunday before the GA started, in our AirBnB apartment in Vienna. My poster had an explanation of “the idea” in it, and my phone showed the real-time temperature of the wader. I had to calibrate it on the spot, so I needed both a hot and a cold reference temperature. We used the ice intended for the beers during the poster session as cold calibration. If people are still wondering why the beer was not as cold as it should have been that day: now they know. Hooray for last minute science :-s. However, walking around in waders during the poster session drew the attention of journalist who covered our work. Which was, honestly, at that point at a very early stage. For the work presented in this paper, we took the time to be more precise and did a proper calibration in our lab.

Tim: The presentation at EGU got a lot of enthusiastic reactions, from scientists, professionals, journalists, and many others. We used the momentum that was gained at the GA to very effectively do our lab measurements, fieldwork campaign at a beautiful Dutch windmill-filled site, and wrap up the study in a concise paper.

Location in the Dutch country side where researchers tested their prototype waders. Credit: Tim van Emmerik

Location in the Dutch country side where researchers tested their prototype waders. Credit: Tim van Emmerik

Do you have any plans to actively engage the fishing community and get members of the public to use the waders?

Rolf: Now that we have demonstrated first feasibility we want to discus with producers of waders to find the best way to easily incorporate sensors in many waders. Once that is sorted out, we want to reach out to communities with interest, such as (fly-)fishing groups, local conservation groups and schools. After the press coverage that the GA sparked, several of these groups already reached out to us. I have kept that at arm’s length for now, because we wanted to be sure that the ideal would hold up to a first test, which we now have demonstrated.

In your view, what are the most important results and implications of this study?

Rolf: it works!

Basically, we had a wild idea at the AGU Fall Meeting and demonstrated a prototype at the EGU General Assembly. We now have demonstrated that this prototype is capable of measuring the type of temperature changes we are interested in. With that hurdle taken, the road to citizen science campaigns is now open.

Tim: This work really is an example of how relatively simple measurement devices can be fused with existing equipment to actively involve communities in gathering scientific data. It’s becoming a trend to find ways to incorporate ‘alternative’ communities in science. Whether it’s school kids or fishermen, studies like ours demonstrate that everyone can be a scientist.

For more information about the research published in Geoscientific Instrumentation Methods and Data Systems (GI) you can read the associated press release issued today to accompany the publication. You’ll also find the open-access paper by following this link.

At the Assembly: Friday highlights

At the Assembly: Friday highlights

The conference is coming to a close and there’s still an abundance of great sessions to attend! Here’s our guide to getting the most out of the conference on its final day. Boost this information with features from EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly – pick up a paper copy at the ACV entrance or download it here.

Be sure to attend today’s Jean Dominique Cassini Medal Lecture by Jonathan I. Lunine, who will be discussing habitable environments and life in the Saturn system (ML4, 12:15 in Y1).

It’s your last chance to make the most of the networking opportunities at the General Assembly, so get on down to the poster halls and strike up a conversation. If you’re in the queue for coffee, find out what the person ahead is investigating – you never know when you might start building the next exciting collaboration! Here are some of today’s scientific highlights:

The final Union Symposium (US4) this week is dedicated to planetary interiors and how advances in space observations have furthered our ability to understand what is inside planetary bodies. Talks begin at 08:30 in Y5. Our final Great Debate of the week, which is co-organised with the AGU (American Geophysical Union), will be on open access publishing. The discussion kicks off at 15:30 in Room R1.

Today we also announce the results of the EGU Photo Contest and the Communicate Your Science Video Competition. Head over to the EGU Booth at 12:15 to find out who the winners are.

Following the success of this year’s theme, EGU 2016 will also have a theme: Active Planet. Join us on this adventure in Vienna next year (17–22 April 2016)!

What have you thought of the Assembly this week? Let us know at and help make EGU 2016 even better.

We hope you’ve had a wonderful week and look forward to seeing you in 2016!

Nibbling round the edges. Credit: Maria Hernandez-Soriano (distributed via

Nibbling round the edges. Credit: Maria Hernandez-Soriano (distributed via

At the Assembly: Thursday highlights

At the Assembly: Thursday highlights

Welcome to the fourth day of General Assembly excitement! Once again the day is packed with great events for you to attend and here are just some of the sessions on offer. You can find out more about what’s on in EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly – grab a copy on your way in or download it here.

The first Union-wide session of the day focuses on geophysics and resilience and what is at stake (US3). The talks at this session will critically analyse large-scale projects that have been developed in order to increase resilience to geophysical extremes in Europe and elsewhere. Discover more from 13:30­–17:00 in B14.

Thursday also sees another interesting Great Debate take place: Negotiating climate policy – resigning to resilience? (GDB3, from 15:30–17:00 in Y1). With nations striving to negotiate a new global climate change agreement in late 2015 in Paris, there are two possible avenues that humanity can choose: pursue negotiations and achieve a solution that combats global warming, or put more effort on adaptation and resilience building. During the debate the panel will discuss emission scenarios and related climate consequences. Tune into to the session on Twitter using the #EGU15GDB hashtag or online at

Today’s interdisciplinary highlights include sessions on…

Take the opportunity to expand your skills in one of today’s short courses and splinter meetings:

There’s also a number of medal lectures on throughout the day – here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

What have you thought of the Assembly so far? Let us know at, and share your views on what future EGU meetings should be like!

If you need a change of pace, stop by the Imaggeo Photo Exhibition beside the EGU Booth (basement, Blue Level). You can vote for your favourite finalists there and – while you’re in the area – take the opportunity to meet your Division’s representatives in today’s Meet EGU appointments. While on the subject of competitions, make sure to ‘like’ your favourite Communicate Your Science Video Competition film on the EGU YouTube channel.

Have a lovely day!

Credit: David Bernard (distributed via

Credit: David Bernard (distributed via

At the Assembly: Wednesday highlights

At the Assembly: Wednesday highlights

We’re halfway through the General Assembly already! Once again there is lots on offer at EGU 2015 and this is just a taster – be sure to complement this information with EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly, available both in paper and for download here.

Today features more Union-wide events which celebrate the conference theme: A Voyage through Scales. First up is a symposium on the geocomplexity of scales (US1): a series of talks which will explore the variability of geosystems over a huge range of scales both in space and time. This is followed by a Lecture of general scientific interest (GL2) in the afternoon on archives of the continental crust by Chris Hawkesworth, which you can join in Y1 from 13:30 onwards. You can follow the sessions on Twitter with #EGU15US and #EGU15GL, and, if you’re not attending, tune in with the conference live stream.

The educational and outreach symposia (EOS) feature sessions on geoscience education, science communication, public engagement and related topics. This year there are a large number of EOS sessions on offer: today you could head over to the geoethics for society: general aspects and case studies in geosciences session, from 13:30–17:00 in Room R12, where talks will focus on the ethical and social implications in geoscience. Make sure to check the EOS programme to see if anything else catches your fancy.

Another promising event set for today is the EGU Award Ceremony, where the achievements of many outstanding scientists will be recognised in an excellent evening event from 17:30–19:00 in Room Y1. Here are some of the lectures being given by these award-winning scientists:

Today also sees the Penck Lecture of the Geomorphology Division take place. Ann V. Rowan will be talking about what can mountain glaciers tell us about climate change: quantifying past and future discharge variations in the Southern Alps and Himalaya (KL2) from 12:15–13:15 in G2.

Now on to short courses! Today offers the opportunity to learn how to write the perfect paper in geomorphology (SC47/GM11.2, 17:30–19:00 in G2), learn the basics of climate modelling (SC43, 19:00–20:00 in B12) and increase your chances of securing funding for your next project by attending this two part workshop: How to write a successful ERC Starting Grant proposal (SC19/TS10.1, 15:30–17:00 / Room B4), followed by the broader, finding funding: how to apply for a research grant (SC39, 17:30–19:00 / Room B13).

And check out some of today’s stimulating scientific sessions:

Finally, remember to take the opportunity to meet your division’s representatives in the day’s Meet EGU sessions and, if you’ve had enough of the formalities, head on over to GeoCinema, where you’ll find some great Earth science films, including the finalists of EGU’s Communicate Your Science Video Competition. Make sure to vote on your favourite entries by ‘liking’ the videos on the EGU YouTube channel.

Have an excellent day!