Project eTrout—Linking Research and Education with Virtual Reality

Science Center Objects

In the Chesapeake Bay headwaters, native brook trout are economically and culturally important and require high-quality, cold-water habitats. Project eTrout, led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), explores the use of crowdsourcing and virtual reality (VR) to estimate the abundance of brook trout in headwater streams of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Project eTrout engages students, anglers, and citizen scientists of all ages in fish ecology and climate change research.

Project eTrout Graphic

How This Project Works

  • The USGS collected 360-degree video samples from trout streams in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
  • Participants from 34 States viewed the video samples online with standard computer monitors or VR headsets.
  • Participants counted adult brook trout in the video samples and submitted counts through the Project eTrout website.
  • More than 3,500 trout-count samples were submitted in 1 month.
  • Initial results are summarized at the home page.


Main Conclusions

Brook trout

  • Crowdsourcing is useful for fish biology research and abundance estimation.
  • The precision and accuracy of brook trout counts varied with participant age—estimates were more precise for participants over the age of 15.
  • The precision and accuracy of brook trout counts varied with the presence of co-occurring species—estimates were less precise in the presence of blacknose dace.
  • Future expansions of Project eTrout could inform aquatic status and trend analysis across the Chesapeake Bay headwaters.

The results of the project, and other USGS science, will help inform restoration and conservation of brook trout and their habitat, which is an outcome in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.


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