Zach Lyon Creative

Mountain Rain or Snow

Mountain Rain or Snow is a geolocated citizen science survey app for monitoring the precipitation in mountain regions in the United States.

Designed and developed in collaboration with Desert Research Institute, Lynker Technologies, University of Nevada, Reno and funded by NASA's ROSES Earth Science Program.


The team was a climate scientist from Desert Research Institute, a data analyst from Lynker Technologies, a hydrologist from the University of Nevada, Reno, one backend developer and me.


I was contracted to produce a geolocated citizen science survey app with a data export dashboard similar to Citizen Science Tahoe’s “Tahoe Rain or Snow” and featured a single survey for precipitation. I had to do it cheap and fast (and good).

I had to synthesize the requirements from three collaborating organizations. Each organization is a group of scientists, climatologists and data analysts. The research was relatively simple compared to Citizen Science Tahoe regarding only one facet of the study related to geolocated precipitation observations.


I consulted with stakeholders and the lead strategist to design a brand, web app interface, admin dashboard and requirements for data export and create an API for more efficient data sourcing. The design process consisted of three Adobe XD prototypes each with a different brand idea and interface. The technical aspect was mostly ready as it was a clone of Citizen Science Tahoe, however some front-end views had to be created to simplify the survey process.


For reduced fees and rapid development, I chose to create a standalone copy of Citizen Science Tahoe and modify it to perform to new requirements. Ultimately this was a simplification of the former project, requiring only one multi-choice observation and omitting the need for photo uploads. The ability to add more custom surveys was retained should the team decide to monitor other weather factors.


I had a fixed, limited budget to work with, as well as a tight turnaround time of just a few months. I had to contend with new iOS Safari privacy settings that were released during the development of the app. Modifications had to be made to prompt the user to allow geolocation permissions, creating another step to an otherwise one-click observation.


The project was well received by the science community in its first year with over 10,000 observations submitted in the winter of 2020. Stakeholders obtained email and phone numbers from profile creation for SMS messaging to alert and request observations during storm events. Ultimately, the interest sparked by other organizations nationwide led me to pursue Hive Science as another startup project.


Due to challenges in obtaining grants to pursue further development, stakeholders decided to take the project in-house and use no-code app generation software.

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