Toward citizen science-based ocean acidification observations using smartphone devices

pH is a key parameter in many chemical, biological, and biogeochemical processes, making it a fundamental aspect of environmental monitoring. Rapid and accurate seawater pH measurements are essential for effective ocean observation and acidification investigations, resulting in the need for novel solutions that allow robust, precise, and affordable pH monitoring. In this study, a versatile smartphone-based environmental analyzer (vSEA) was used for the rapid measurement of seawater pH in a field study. The feasibility of the use of the vSEA algorithm for pH quantification was explored and verified. When used in conjunction with a three-dimensional (3D)-printed light-proof shell, the quality of captured images is guaranteed. The quantitative accuracy of vSEA pH measurements reached 0.018 units with an uncertainty of <0.01, meeting the requirements of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) for “weather” goals (permitting a maximum pH uncertainty of 0.02). The vSEA–pH system was successfully applied for on-site pH measurements in coastal seawater and coral systems. The performance of the vSEA–pH system was validated using different real-world samples, and t-test results showed that the vSEA–pH system was consistent with pH measurements obtained using a state-of-the-art benchtop spectrophotometer (t = 1.986, p = 0.7949). The vSEA–pH system is applicable to different types of smartphone devices, making it possible for vSEA–pH to be widely promoted for public citizen use. The vSEA–pH system offers a simple, accurate, and applicable method for the on-site measurement of seawater pH, assisting the large-scale monitoring of ocean acidification by allowing the contribution of citizen science-based data collection.

Li H., Zheng S., Tan Q.-G., Zhan L., Martz T. R. & Ma J., in press. Toward citizen science-based ocean acidification observations using smartphone devices. Analytical Chemistry. Article.

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