Project Baseline

Project Baseline empowers passionate citizens to observe and record change within the world’s aquatic environments in a way that fosters public awareness and supports political action.

Project Baseline

What is Project Baseline?

Project Baseline is a grassroots, environmental conservation initiative. Our organization exists to support people who are invested in water quality and availability by providing a platform that gives voice to otherwise under- or undocumented aquatic areas. We started as an organization built around underwater cave and open water divers.

Project Baseline encourages people to use pictures, video, dive logs, and observations already being collected for personal records, and upload that data into our database. Observations that are cataloged in an accessible, defensible and consistent manner can be used over time to gain a deeper understanding of each place visited by everyday adventurers. We are thrilled to be part of the Citizen Scientist movement that, when managed effectively, can be extremely influential in any number of scientific or public policy applications.
Project Baseline’s roots lie within the diving community, however, we envision an expansion of participants that includes a collection of observations from any individual or group that frequents the same aquatic locations. Teams might include river runners, fishermen, swimmers, biologists, hydrologists, and boaters. There are just a few simple parameters required for any Project Baseline area. Please visit our Methods page to find out more.

Why Project Baseline?

Slow change can sneak up on all of us. The story, for many, is all too familiar. We wake up one morning, look in the mirror and realize that we are not the same person we were five, 10 or 20 years ago. We grow and evolve over the years and sometimes we see that accumulated wisdom written all over our faces and bodies. A few extra pounds here and there, where before we were trim and fit. Wrinkles around the eyes reveal time-tested resilience to life’s lessons. We think we look the same as ever, until one morning we realize: time has left its mark. Our bodies are like our environments. Springs, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans all undergo gradual change. A once pristine stream now hosts trash in its eddys. Our oceans, once teaming with diverse life, are now pocked with dead zones. The lakes we  swam in as kids, clear down to the bottom, are now brown, murky and choked with algae and invasive plants.

Water is our planet’s most valuable resource. For thousands of years, fragile ecosystems have evolved around fresh, clean water. Springs bubble up from the ground. Ocean currents swirl around the globe. Estuaries interface fresh and saline waters. Underground aquifers hold and transport millions of gallons of water right beneath our feet every hour of every day. Ice caps and glaciers creak and groan under their own weight. Moisture waits in healthy soil to serve plants, microbes, insects and animals their daily dose of what they need the most: water.

Water is also our planet’s most underserved resource. It is being stressed and pulled in unsustainable directions. Rampant development places high demands on our fresh water. Agriculture and industry tap into supplies that are growing scarce. Non-point pollution sneaks into our streams, rivers and aquifers.

There is a quiet contest between excessive use and fresh water supplies.

It’s time to get loud.

Gradual loss of knowledge about what should compose a healthy ecosystem leads each new generation to accept a different environmental standard; thus, our “baseline” shifts to accommodate an often changed, and, most relevant to our mission, sometimes degraded environmental “norm.” This phenomenon is generally referred to as environmental generational amnesia and leaves people unable to recognize nearly imperceptible change as it occurs over time.

Project Baseline grew out of the love our organization founders have for the clear springs of northern Florida. Generations of people grew up swinging and jumping  into this magical environment. In its waters, they were suspended in a new, fascinating reality, even if just for a minute, while they held their breath as long as they could. These experiences are visceral, tactile and essential parts of who are today. Now, we have to go deeper and deeper into the wild to find such places and experiences. In some cases we will never find their like again on the earth or in ourselves. We miss our springs. They do not look the same, taste the same, or feel the same. They are dying and with their death goes generations upon generations of people that will never again experience such transformative magic.

At Project Baseline, we’re banking on the fact that millions of people all over the world have similar stories to share. Where clean drinking water is not available, where planted fields are dry, where a favorite SCUBA spot has gone dark. In response to this, Project Baseline coordinates a global cast of volunteers who transform their everyday adventures in varied aquatic environments into data that is accessible and defensible and — over time — creates a baseline record of environmental quality.

Let’s get loud. Let’s take action.