Using winter skaters to monitor the impact of climate change
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Frigid winter weather warms the heart of outdoor skating enthusiast and Wilfrid Laurier University Associate Professor Robert McLeman, co-founder of the Laurier-based citizen science initiative RinkWatch.

RinkWatch offers people who love outdoor skating the chance to help environmental scientists monitor winter weather conditions and study the long-term impacts of climate change by submitting information about skating conditions on their outdoor rinks to the RinkWatch website.

Since its launch in January 2013, RinkWatch has received data on over 1,400 outdoor rinks and ponds. Researchers pool and analyze the data to track the relationship between temperatures and skating activity, monitor local winter weather conditions, and predict the future impact of climate change on outdoor winter activities.

“When talking about climate change and global warming, what scientists are interested in are the long-term trends, not the variability,” says McLeman. “A couple of crazy weeks of weather isn’t a global average.”

RinkWatch recently garnered interest from the National Hockey League (NHL), which interviewed McLeman and Colin Robertson, project co-founder and Laurier associate professor, in January 2018 as part of a documentary film.

Students in Laurier’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education are also using RinkWatch for research on the social motivation behind building outdoor rinks.

"We've had about a dozen students work on the project since we launched it. It's a great opportunity for them to practice real-world research."
Robert McLeman
Associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and Co-Founder of RinkWatch
RinkWatch

Launched by researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, RinkWatch is a citizen science research initiative that asks people who love outdoor skating to help environmental scientists monitor winter weather conditions and study the long-term impacts of climate change.

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