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The third edition of "In The Flow," the newsletter of the Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C. Water Science Center focused on water science issues and solutions in our region.

Pioneering a Low-Cost Method to Monitor Small Streams

Video Transcript

Small-to-medium headwater streams represent crucial habitat and are the most sensitive to human impacts, though the USGS streamgage network monitoring network captures relatively few of these small streams due to technical challenges and funding limitations of covering numerous small streams.

The USGS can potentially fill that monitoring gap with low-cost time lapse imagery of these small streams. Thanks to recent advances in artificial intelligence, it is now possible to quantitatively analyze stream imagery using a novel ranking-based approach.

For the past few years, the USGS and its partners have been collecting stream time lapses at select sites from around the country to develop this method.

The images are housed in the USGS Flow Photo Explorer, an integrated data system and platform for storing user-contributed imagery and that will soon be trained to estimate flow from the imagery. While imagery-derived streamflow estimates are not a replacement for higher accuracy traditional gaging methods, they can provide supplemental information at a higher spatial density that is useful for many types of investigations.

We see this platform as a transformative tool to expand monitoring networks into under-monitored use cases (for instance, in ephemeral stream channels) and to lower the barriers for citizen science contributions of stream monitoring information.

Citizen scientists, municipal, state, federal, and tribal partners are all able to contribute their imagery to the platform to easily view their trail camera imagery. On the Flow Photo Explorer website users simply need to request an account with an email address. Currently, users can easily view their imagery alongside data from USGS streamflow data or user-uploaded imagery. Streamflow estimates will be added in the coming months as an experimental product.

To turn images into streamflow estimates there is one step that is needed to help teach the AI model – a quick user annotation telling the model which of two images appears to have more streamflow. A site needs a few hundred to one thousand image annotations before it is “smart” enough to operate on its own. In the next month or two, users will be able to help with this training – it is fun to look at how a stream looks under all flow conditions!

A special thanks to the USGS Water Mission Area, USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, USGS Northeast Region, the USGS Eastern Ecological Center at the S.O. Conte Research Laboratory, the USGS Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Water Science Center, along with the US EPA, Microsoft AI4Good program, and our university partners for making this project possible. If you have questions or want to get involved, please email


🔗 Visit the Flow Photo Explorer
🎬 Watch The Longer Video


A strengthened partnership between the USGS, UMBC, and EPA

USGS Northeast Regional Director Mike Tupper, UMBC President Valarie Sheares Ashby, and EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Director Dr. Kandis Boyd hold the signed Memorandum of Understanding.
From left to right, USGS Northeast Regional Director Mike Tupper, UMBC President Valarie Sheares Ashby, and EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Director Dr. Kandis Boyd hold a signed Memorandum of Understanding between the USGS, UMBC and EPA. Photo credit: David Fisher/USGS Contractor

The USGS MD-DE-DC Water Science Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and the U.S. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region recently signed a formal agreement to advance research, teaching, outreach, career development, and stewardship in environmental sciences and engineering.

The goal of the partnership is to advance research, teaching, outreach, career development, and stewardship in environmental sciences and engineering.

The plan includes:

☑ Supporting and promoting student recruitment, service learning, internships, career development, and employment in environmental science, engineering, and related fields.

☑ Enhancing UMBC faculty and EPA and USGS employee professional development in environmental science, engineering, and related fields.

☑ Supporting the enhancement of UMBC's environmental science and engineering curricula.

☑ Supporting community development and engagement opportunities for UMBC students, partnerships with regional communities, and potential career opportunities with the surrounding communities on environmental, health, and economic issues.

☑ Supporting capacity building efforts to increase UMBC's participation in federal programs at EPA and USGS.

☑ Increasing the capacity to support and accomplish USGS and EPA science through UMBC faculty and students while providing them meaningful and purposeful work.

☑ Cooperating on potential joint projects between the EPA and/or USGS and UMBC that create opportunities for UMBC students to partner with local entities on environmental, health, and economic issues.

Any questions about this partnership can be directed to Breck Sullivan of USGS ( or Dr. Kandis Boyd ( of the EPA.

If you are interested in setting up a university partnership with the USGS, you can reach out to Eleanour Snow (




Updates To Our Gage Network

Nick Giro holds the top part of the weighing bucket as Tyler Bowser walks towards him.
Nick Giro and Tyler Bowser build the new Rain Gage IN Winters Run Basin Near Bel Air, MD (392913076203601) gage. Photo credit: David Fisher/USGS Contractor

Our gage network is always evolving to accommodate our region's needs. Over the past six months we’ve added two new precipitation gages, moved two gages, and added water quality capabilities to another gage.

Our bacteria monitoring at the Anacostia River gage has moved downstream to its new home. Previously located at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, the new Anacostia River at Anacostia Park Boat Ramp, DC (01651812) gage is now reporting data, but we are still troubleshooting the fluorometer, which is the instrument that lets us correlate bacteria levels to tryptophan-like fluorescence. Currently, continuous data for water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity are displayed in near real time.

We added continuous water-quality monitoring capabilities to the Choptank River near Greensboro, MD (01491000) gage. Currently, this gage measures continuous pH, specific conductance, water temperature, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen, and coming soon, continuous nitrate plus nitrite.

We updated the Atkisson precipitation gage (01581753) that had been on the Atkisson Reservoir pier at Harford County's Harford Glen Environmental Education Center. The updated monitoring station, Rain Gage in Winters Run Basin near Bel Air, MD (392913076203601), is located in the meadow near the pier and features updated equipment to accurately weigh collected precipitation and convert weight to inches of accumulation.

In January, we added two new rain gages to our network in Western Maryland: Rain Gage at State Park Road Near McHenry, MD (393217079185701) and Rain Gage at Youghiogheny River Near McHenry, MD (393133079243901).


Stay Up-To-Date On Our Latest Science

Re-Prioritization of the U.S. Geological Survey Federal Priority Streamgage Network, 2022

Nitrifying microorganisms linked to biotransformation of perfluoroalkyl sulfonamido precursors from legacy aqueous film forming foams

Tracking Status and Trends in Seven Key Indicators of Stream Health in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

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