Last updated: 27 August 2014

Regional Southwest Florida Workshop for
Potential Water Quality Data Providers to the GCOOS

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, 28 June 2012

A workshop for potential water quality data providers from the Southwest Florida region was held at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) facility in Sanibel, FL, on June 28, 2012. This workshop, sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association (GCOOS-RA), was by invitation and was attended by 27 individuals whose names and affiliations are given in Appendix 1.

At 10:00 am on June 28, SCCF Board member Dr. Claude Crawford welcomed participants and provided information about the SCCF, including that during its 40 year history approximately 70% of the island has become protected lands. After welcoming the attendees on behalf of the SCCF, Dr. Eric Milbrandt, SCCF Research Scientist, provided an overview of meeting logistics and the agenda. The final agenda is given in Appendix 2.

Dr. Alex Rybak, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and SCCF Research Scientist, introduced Dr. Worth Nowlin, GCOOS-RA Board of Directors, who briefly introduced the meeting objectives and deliverables. Nowlin provided an introduction to the Global Ocean Observing System, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), and the GCOOS Regional Association, emphasizing the benefits of data sharing and focusing on the integration of distributed observational/forecast systems into a System of Systems. He explained that we currently do not have capabilities for routine and rapid detection of changes in the ocean and atmosphere, or for their prediction, over a broad spectrum of time and space scales. However, the GCOOS-RA is seeking new data providers to help remedy these deficiencies. The integrated water quality monitoring system from rivers to the Gulf is to be a pilot study in Southwest Florida that then can be expanded throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Rybak commented that the GCOOS-RA is adaptable and willing to work with each data provider as needed, making it as easy as possible on them. He then introduced Dr. Matt Howard, GCOOS Data Management Coordinator, who provided an overview of the development and operation of the GCOOS Data Portal. Howard informed participants that the IOOS data management goal is to develop automated and largely unattended data systems to deliver high quality data and products to consumers. Required elements and services to achieve this include a data catalog, data discovery and online browse tools, access and transport, metadata, archive, and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC). IOOS will require QA/QC on all data streams to award certification, which will give some protection to providers from civil liability issues. Some data providers choose to become full-fledged IOOS nodes. Others provide their data to the GCOOS Data Portal and let the Portal serve the data back out in an IOOS-compatible manner. The GCOOS-RA wants to make the barrier to data sharing as low as possible. The GCOOS minimum provider requirements are: shared data will be publically available, providers will use FTP to move files to GCOOS, file names include the date and time, and the data providers conduct minimal levels of QA/QC and provide minimum metadata (e.g., parameters given, units). GCOOS currently is not incorporating data products from providers, only the data.

Following Howards presentation, potential GCOOS data providers were invited to give seven-minute presentations on their organizations water quality programs. There were five presentations prior to lunch, an invited talk during lunch, and another eight presentations post-lunch.

Milbrandt and Rybak provided an overview of the 11 SCCF stations that make up the River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network (RECON). The impetus for the system was the need for freshwater management of Lake Okeechobee and its watershed. Data are transmitted in real time. The biggest advantage of their system is that it has plug and play capabilities and is easy to view and graph parameters. The SCCF is seeking to deploy an offshore buoy next year to measure wave height (for boaters) and to add meteorological capabilities to the stations that currently lack these. Data are publicly available at

Dr. Li Zhang, Assistant Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park at the Kapnick Center in Naples, a Florida Gulf Coast University facility, is using a YSI 6600 system in her research to understand how wetlands function and to determine if and how we can enhance mangrove restoration. She currently has one station for near-shore mangrove restoration and is trying to establish two more sites, one in the cypress area, and initiate a geochemistry project. Data, including salinity, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and turbidity, as reported on a 30-minute cycle, are available on their website (

Erin Rasnake, Environmental Manager, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), has a water quality monitoring system in the Fort Myers area in the Caloosahatchee Estuary. Continuous, but not real-time-data, are collected and put in the Storage and Retrieval (STORET) Data Warehouse, which has no capacity for continuous, real-time data. There have been several stations and parameters monitored since 2008. Other variable parameters have been measured (e.g., DO, metals, Nitrogen and Phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), flow rate, sea grass), in other locations (e.g., Estero Bay, Caloosahatchee, Imperial and Gordon Rivers), and using several different data management solutions (e.g., Excel, Access, STORET, FDEP Statewide Biological (SBIO) data base).

Melynda Brown, Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve, and Julie Drevenkar, Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, provided information on three locations that have been monitored using YSI 6600 multi-parameter Water Quality sondes since July 2004. Data treatment follows protocols of the Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO) of the National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS). Data files are downloaded monthly into Excel spreadsheets. Near-real-time-data are not generally available, but can be provided upon request. There has been a strong Corp of Volunteers collecting discrete water samples for Charlotte Harbor since 1998 – the Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network (CHEVWQMN). Nineteen data streams (field and laboratory) are uploaded to STORET and the Charlotte Harbor Water Atlas. Program points of contact are Cheryl Clark (; Melynda Brown (; and Heather Stafford (

Eduardo Patino, USGS Southwest Florida Coastal Monitoring Network, has instruments ranging from the southern tip of Charlotte Harbor to Cape Sable. These have been deployed for varying lengths of time, the oldest an 11-year station in the Everglades, but most for three to five years. Most stations report sea level, discharge, and water quality parameters and are reported on 15-minute intervals. Data are available at Patino routinely collaborates with county, city and state agencies. GCOOS has automated access to the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) storage site and currently ingests data on a daily basis. Howard said it would be easy to a write script to ingest the data in near-real-time. However, he would need to know where ‘Mile Zero’ is for the USGS ‘upstream’ miles reported with the measurement sites.

Invited lunch speaker Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick, Mote Marine Lab (MML), described a Harmful Algal Bloom pilot study planned in Southwest Florida. Funded by GCOOS and in collaboration with GCOOS and the University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science, MML and USF will coordinate glider operations on the West Florida Shelf to get a better understanding of how to forecast and track harmful algal blooms. The team will work to establish protocols for glider data acquisition by numerical models and integration with satellite data. Previous work resulted in showing that forecasted information from numerical models disagreed with information provided as sensors moved through the bloom. One focus will be concentrations of Karenia brevis at the pycnocline. Compared to the previous coordinated mission that only had surface circulation available to guide the area operations, the 2012 mission will use a vertically integrated model circulation.

Keith Kibbey, Lee County Surface Water Monitoring Program, Lee County Environmental Laboratory Division of Natural Resource Management, reported that his team does not collect continuous data or report information in real time, with the exception of one site measuring atmospheric data. Weekly, bi-monthly, and monthly discrete sampling is conducted at 33 estuary (bay and tributary) stations (e.g., Estero Bay, Pine Island, Caloosahatchee River) and at several beach sites using YSI 650 MDS-600 XL instruments and Campbell data loggers. Most data are stored in a Structured Query Language (SQL) data base. Because the team has an Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) mass spectrometer, they monitor many metals. Most recently, they are collecting DO saturation data to accommodate new DEP DO criteria. Long term data are stored on their website in Access format and can be queried. Kibbey stated that data are loaded to STORET one to four times per year and to the Water Atlas nightly.

Alina Corcoran, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, oversees the FWC HAB project. Jim Ivey oversees the HAB Marine Observation Network (HABMON), formerly called MARVIN under Cindy Heil’s leadership. Currently, there are three data sondes; a full system on the MML dock, a YSI sonde in Tampa Bay, and a HABMON floating platform scheduled to be deployed in Old Tampa Bay this summer to monitor Pyrodinium bahamense. Data are currently reported to the USF Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System (COMPS) site and transported to FWC/FWRI.

Lindsey Visser, NOAA AOML, reported on behalf of project PIs Michelle Wood, Chris Kelble, and Libby Johns. NOAA AOML has 77 stations along the Atlantic reef track and the southwest Florida Shelf, 40 of these in Florida Bay. A variety of discrete and flow-through data are collected and shared via AOMLs website (see However, only contour plots are uploaded, not raw data, which is why AOML is interested in partnering with GCOOS.

Christina Panko Graff, Water Quality Program Manager, FDEP Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas Rookery Bay NERR, reported that most of her program funding is from NOAA. Like all 28 System-wide Monitoring Programs (SWAMPs) in the NERRs network, monitoring data goes to the CDMO. The CDMO keeps NERR data standardized, following the same QA/QC protocols, and with similar data dissemination mechanisms. Some stations in Rookery Bay have been operational since 1996; two currently have telemetry capabilities. Most have a 15-minute sampling interval, but data are typically collected from the sondes every two to four weeks. Information is made available at CDMO as provisional data immediately. Real-time data are available through the RTD application link on the CDMO website. Metadata are uploaded to CDMO on a quarterly and annual basis and only then does it become authenticated. A query tool was recently developed and data are fed into IOOS via the GCOOS and SECOORA data portals.

Jon Perry, Water Quality Monitoring, Sarasota County, is focused on monitoring flow rates to establish guidelines for storm water discharge. The information available includes nutrient and general chemistry from 40 discrete sampling stations sampled monthly since 1992 and from 30 coastal creek sites since 2006; monitoring of biological parameters (e.g., seagrass and oyster mapping, scallop and spat monitoring) from 40 creek-side stations; and water level and meteorological data from four sites along the coast with a 10-year record. Some data are stored in STORET, incorporated into the Water Atlas, and served via an internal website. A pollution loading model (Spatially Integrated Model for Pollutant Loading; SIMPLE) is also run.

Brad Robbins, Southwest Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) could not attend, but relayed the message that participants should contact him at to access SFWMD data sets.

Lisa Beever, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP), presented on behalf of Judy Ott. She reported that the main challenge for monitoring in the CHNEP network, which consists of several funding, sampling, and lab partners, is that there is no consistent method of monitoring throughout the study area. For example, there are random sampling and fixed sampling sites, the latter usually in areas of poorer water quality. Random water quality sampling has been done by CHNEP partners since 2002 through the Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network (CHEVWQMN). The CHEVWQMN ‘volunteers’ are professionals working for other agencies (e.g., county and state agencies, aquatic preserves) who report information to CHNEP in a standardized form for further analysis. Data are displayed in the USF Water Atlas. Beever reported that CHNEP only recently gained access to STORET data.

Jason Scolaro and Jan Allyn, USF Water Atlas Web Content Manager and Data Base Applications Team Leader, respectively, provided an overview of the USF Water Atlas. The Atlas is a warehouse to help manage water quality data from a variety of Florida county programs, provide interactive maps and tools for viewing data, and offer an online venue to recruit and organize volunteers. The Water Atlas is a ‘fee-for-service’ program which tries to achieve economies of scale by sharing website templates and services among participants. Displayed in addition to data are maps, histories, current information, and other materials requested by the participants. Recently, New College of Florida has been contracted to create spatial maps and the USF team is working to develop a section on the website to host data collected by volunteer citizen groups.

Ray Leary, FDEP Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), reported that the Water Quality Priority Issue Team of the GOMA is focused on monitoring coastal pathogens, methyl mercury, and Harmful Algal Blooms. The team’s primary need is a catalog of monitoring programs, a resource the GCOOS-RA is currently working to develop.

There was an open discussion period following the invited presentations. Key points of discussion include the following:

  • Participants asked about the types of data the GCOOS-RA is interested in sharing. GCOOS staff clarified that there are only certain data sets they are currently able to integrate and serve via the portal. The portal began with only atmospheric and physical ocean data, but is being broadened to include biogeochemical data such as dissolved oxygen and nutrients. The broadening will continue to include selected model output and water quality data. Many wanted to know if GCOOS is only interested in real-time data. Howard answered that the initial effort is for real-time data. However, the portal will be broadened to include non-real-time (legacy) data.
  • When asked if GCOOS is also a data archive, Howard explained the difference between backup and archive. Backup sites may not store the complete data or metadata and may not keep them permanently. The U.S. IOOS is trying to make archive mandatory, so GCOOS will need to help data providers comply. It is possible that the National Oceanographic Data Center and other national archives will provide the archive solution.
  • One of the benefits to joining GCOOS is that data can be shared, collaborators identified, and new projects built upon existing data. Ray Leary emphasized that participants study regions and subjects for which data have gaps. Colleagues present at the workshop could likely fill many of the existing gaps if all made their data accessible on the GCOOS Data Portal€”it would be a large-scale regional water quality database.
  • There was discussion about how to fix issues on the portal if problems are corrected in-house after information is pushed to the GCOOS site. The consensus was that there are currently no automated updates to correct for bad data. However, these could be tracked in the database and fixed manually once tagged. Howard stated that National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) currently turns off a data channel if bad data are received and then sends a report to notify the provider.
  • Because many of the data providers have different data objectives, there is the issue of merging multiple data sets. Minimum data and metadata requirements are needed for the future if there is to be adequate precision and accuracy to make data comparable once integrated. Despite use of different equipment, there needs to be quality parameters for data providers.
  • Barbara Kirkpatrick, MML, inquired how participating programs determine if people are satisfied with their data products and asked what drives the monitoring strategies. Jon Perry responded that customer needs typically guide the monitoring plans, though few formal assessments have been conducted. Some programs have a Board of Directors to guide development of their monitoring implementation plan.

Next Steps and Benefits of Partnering with GCOOS

  • There is a tremendous amount of water quality data being collected in the Southwest Florida region in a conscientious way. The best path forward requires the group to identify what data should be shared (i.e., are needed by users). Then, the GCOOS portal can be developed to facilitate data use and create layers to compare data from multiple sources. Because the GCOOS-RA has limited human and financial resources, a decision has to be made about how far upstream into the estuaries data will be included.
  • One benefit of partnering with GCOOS, as stated by Alex Rybak, is that when providers apply for federal grants, they have to describe ways they will share data. The easiest and fastest way to share is to work with GCOOS.
  • An interesting area of possible collaboration is for the data providers to pool resources to gain telemetry capabilities. Eric Milbrandt stated that there might be opportunities to share Blue Tooth costs to telemeter from buoy to dock. A partnership between Charlotte Harbor and USGS was used as an example. This economy of scale might help alleviate the obstacle of no modem for many of the participants. It could also reduce program costs if less frequent field work is needed to access data loggers.
  • Eric Milbrandt expressed the need for understanding regional patterns. Looking at trends in data, salinity contour maps, and HAB event maps on a regional scale drives SCCF needs. The capability to make regional maps would be a valuable asset on the portal.
  • Meeting participants requested that GCOOS host a web page on the website for the Southwest Florida Water Quality data providers.


Appendix 1: Names and Affiliations of Attendees

Name Affiliation
Kristie Anders SCCF
Lisa Beever CHNEP
Melynda Brown DEP Charlotte Harbor AP
Cheryl Clark Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve
Alina Corcoran FWC-FWRI
Claude Crawford SCCF
Julie Drevenkar Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve
Bridgette Froeshke FCCDR, USF
Christina Panko Graff Rookery Bay NERR
Matt Howard GCOOS
Keith Kibbey Lee City
Barbara Kirkpatrick Mote Marine Lab
Gary Kirkpatrick Mote Marine Lab
Ray Leary GOMA
Jay Leverone SBEP
Barbara Linstrom WGCU/TOTI
AJ Martignette SCCF
Eric Milbrandt SCCF
Worth Nowlin TAMU/GCOOS
Eduardo Patino USGS
John Perry Sarasota County
Erin Rasnake FDEP South
Alex Rybak SCCF
Jason Scolaro USF Water Atlas
Chris Simoniello GCOOS
Lars Soderquist USGS
Jennifer Thera FDEP South
Lindsey Visser NOAA-AOML
Li Zhang FGCU Wetland Center


Appendix 2: Final Agenda for SCCF-hosted New Data Providers Workshop

Regional Southwest Florida Workshop for Potential Data Providers to the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS)

Objective: To identify water quality monitoring programs and organizaitons in Southwest Florida, introduce them to GCOOS, and to invite them to partner with GCOOS as data providers.

Time & Location: Thursday, June 28, 2012, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Nature Center Conference Room, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Rd., Sanibel, FL 33957

1000 Registration & coffee
1015 Welcome to SCCF’S Nature Center, Mr. Erick Lindblad, Executive Director
1020 Dr. Worth Nowlin (GCOOS Board): Introduction to GCOOS and benefits of data sharing through GCOOS
1040 Dr. Matthew K. Howard (GCOOS Data Portal lead): Development and operation of the GCOOS Data Portal
1100 7-minute presentations from invited organizations: What is being observed?
1200 Lunch (provided) with invited speaker – Gary Kirkpatrick: Mote Lab and USF’s plan to link gliders data to the GCOOS Portal during a red tide monitoring mission
1300 7-minute presentations from invited organizations: What is being observed?
1500 Discussion and questions
1530 Matthew Howard: Next Steps for new data providers