Citizen Data Scientists Take on Bacteria at Chicago Beaches

The Chicago Parks District has long tested water samples from 28 city beaches to measure levels of E. coli, a bacteria found in animal intestines that can make swimmers sick. But with results taking 18 hours — too late to issue an advisory if levels are unsafe — the agency implemented a predictive model in 2012 that aimed to estimate what levels might be the following day. However, after attendees at Chi Hack Night realized that approach wasn’t actually predicting very well, the first direct collaboration between the city and these citizen data scientists was born. The result: Three new predictive models will be tested on Chicago’s beaches this summer. The search for a better predictive model began with two projects initiated by Scott Beslow, a software developer who regularly…


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