DEQ Press Releases

Driscoll, Paul

Montana Smith River Algae App designed to take advantage of citizen science

HELENA – The Montana Departments of Environmental Quality and Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, announce a new mobile application designed to engage citizens in collecting information about algae growth in the Smith River.


In recent years, there have been numerous reports that algae growth on the Smith River is increasing and interfering with recreational activities. There are no obvious new sources of nutrients facilitating the recent change in algae growth; however, the App was developed as a grass roots effort to help DEQ collect information about algae conditions in the Smith River by using information gathered and submitted by the public. 


The application allows users to easily take and submit photos of algae in the river. Recipients of Smith River float permits and their parties are the intended users. However, other people recreating or working on the Smith River may use it as well.


Called the Montana Smith River Algae App, it is easily downloadable for free from the App Store on an Apple device and Google Play on an Android device.


DEQ is interested in knowing where algae are growing, as well as where it is not. Photos should be taken along the entire Smith River float, from put-in to take-out. The app will record the photo, location, date and time. Two associated questions for each photo will help identify conditions of the river at a given place and time. Upon trip completion, final submittal will send the photos and data directly to DEQ.


“This is an exciting new approach using citizen science to collect water quality information,” said Darrin Kron, DEQ Water Quality Monitoring Supervisor. “Because it is remote and requires a permit to float, the Smith is a difficult river to collect data on. By engaging users of the river, the public can help us learn more about where, when and how much algae is growing.”


Many types of algae grow in Montana, especially when nutrient, temperature, light and flow conditions allow. Excessive algae in water bodies can negatively affect recreational experience and can harm fish and other aquatic life.


The Montana State Parks Smith River State Park webpage has additional information for downloading and using the application at:


For more information about the project, contact Katie Makarowski at 406-444-3507 or: Maps will be available showing the results of the survey on DEQ’s website by early 2019.

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