• Riverwatch Citizen Scientists
  • About RiverWatch


    Illinois RiverWatch safeguards the future of Illinois rivers and streams through stewardship, education, and sound science. RiverWatch utilizes trained volunteers to collect quality assured data on wadeable streams and fosters coordination among groups involved in similar monitoring efforts.


    Illinois RiverWatch’s primary goals are:

    • to provide consistent, high-quality data that can be used by scientists to measure changes in the conditions of our state’s streams over time;
    • to educate and inform community members about the ecology and importance of Illinois water resources; and
    • to provide an opportunity for everyone to become involved in the stewardship of our state’s rivers and streams.


    The Illinois DNR initiated the RiverWatch program in 1995 in response to the need for more high-quality data on the condition of Illinois’ streams and requests for a science-based citizen monitoring program. RiverWatch became a vital part of Illinois’ professional monitoring effort and was recognized as a national model of a successful citizen science program. State budget cuts eliminated the program in 2004, but the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC℠) took ownership of the program in 2006 and has made a commitment to continue it.


    RiverWatchers are the volunteers who participate in our RiverWatch training workshops to become “citizen scientists.” In the context of RiverWatch and other citizen science programs, the term citizen refers to any person who is interested in contributing their effort and expertise to the program. It is not intended to exclude any person, regardless of national origin or legal citizenship status.  All are welcome!

    Data collected by RiverWatchers enriches the scientific data record by filling gaps in times and places that scientists are unable to monitor. Long-term datasets (those collected over multiple years) can help land managers make informed decisions on ecosystem restoration, water resource protection, and invasive species control. By monitoring a local stream, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds increase their own understanding and appreciation for the great rivers. These volunteers extend and apply that knowledge, serving as advocates for the protection of our water resources.

    Each year, the Illinois RiverWatch Network recognizes volunteers who go above and beyond. Volunteers are nominated by their peers in December, and awards are announced in January. Learn more about these exceptional RiverWatchers and RiverWatch partners on our Volunteer Awards page.

    Our Programs

    The Illinois RiverWatch Network has developed several projects and programs to support citizen scientists as they collect water quality information.

    • RiverWatch Monitoring – Each year at adopted stream sites in their communities, RiverWatchers conduct habitat and biological surveys.
    • Mussel Monitoring – Several rivers in Illinois are home to freshwater mussels, a group of animals that are among the most threatened and endangered on the planet.
    • Temperature Monitoring – Water temperature plays a very important role in the health of stream ecosystems.
    • Chloride Monitoring – Chloride from the winter use of road salt is a pollutant of concern in many urban and suburban areas.
    • Microplastic Monitoring – The RiverWatch program is in the process of developing a microplastics monitoring program.
    • Stream Discovery – The lessons of the RiverWatch program are valuable at any age. Stream Discovery offers teachers and informal educators and opportunity to incorporate our program into their curriculum.
  • Contact

    Danelle Haake, RiverWatch Director and Stream Ecologist

    One Confluence Way
    East Alton, IL 62024

    Phone: (618)468-2784
    Fax: (618)468-2899

    Hannah Griffis, Riverwatch Technician and Volunteer Coordinator

    One Confluence Way
    East Alton, IL 62024

    Phone: (618) 468-2781
    Fax: (618) 468-2899

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