Science Center Objects

Welcome to Project eTrout [instructional video]!

Click here to begin.

Click here for a summary of results.

Virtual reality (VR) provides exciting opportunities for environmental education and research. We invite your participation in a new program to engage students, anglers, and citizen scientists in fish ecology and climate change research using new VR methods. Participants will learn about fish ecology first-hand by exploring streams in VR and will be members of a research team lead by US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists. This program is free and designed for students, anglers, and citizen scientists of all ages.

Click on the Results tab above to see data collected from March 25-April 30, 2019.


Here’s how it works:

1. USGS collects 360-degree video samples from trout streams in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (completed during summer 2018).
2. Participants access videos from a website and use standard computer monitors or VR headsets (e.g., Google cardboard) to watch them.
3. Participants then record data on fish abundance.
4. USGS then analyzes the combined data and reports key findings to participants.


For more information and how to register contact:

Nathaniel (Than) Hitt, PhD
US Geological Survey, Leetown Science Center

Project eTrout Results!

Thank you for your interest and participation in Project eTrout! Here you will find results from 3,544 counts of brook trout abundance (samples) from all over the country. We summarized the data that were entered from March 25th, 2019 to April 30th, 2019.


1. Who participated?

How old were participants?

Below you can see how many samples were submitted for each age. The majority of our participants were ages 9 to 18, with tmost samples being entered by participants of age 16.

Age History Table

Where were participants from?

As you can see from the map below, we had participants from all over the United States! Thirty-three states participated in this project.

eTrout Map

How did participants watch Project eTrout videos?

Out of all 3,544 pool observations, 92% were viewed using Regular Mode and only 2.2% were viewed with VR Mode.




2. How accurate were the fish counts?

From the box plot graph below we can see how many brook trout (y-axis) were observed for each pool (x-axis). The biologist’s count is marked as a red circle for each pool. The number of samples is shown as “n =”. The bold line represents the mean of the participants’ counts for each pool.

We hypothesize that the mean count is lower than the biologist’s count due to video visibility issues or identification issues (brook trout are possibly identified as dace). Likewise, the mean count may be higher than the biologist’s count when many dace are present and are identified as brook trout.




3. What affects accuracy of the fish counts?

Now that we’ve seen the range of participant ages and how participant counts compared to a biologist’s counts, we can look at differences between age groups for two pools. The dashed red line shows where the biologist’s count is for each pool.

Here are two example pools where the average of participant counts:

  • was lower than the biologist’s count (underestimated)
  • was higher than the biologist’s count (overestimated)

Within these two scenarios we can see that precision increases when a participant’s age is greater than 15.






Main Results

  • Crowdsourcing and citizen science have great potential for fish biology and climate change research.
  • The precision and accuracy of participant counts varied by age (more precise estimates for participant age > 15) and the presence of co-occurring species (less precise estimates in the presence of blacknose dace)
  • Future expansions could inform aquatic status/trend analysis across the Chesapeake headwaters and the nation.


Research Team:

Nathaniel P. Hitt & Karli M. Rogers, U.S. Geological Survey
Nicholas Polys, Advanced Research Computing Group at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

For more information, e-mail Dr. Hitt at