Posted: 8 July 2014

12-13 November 2013
Pensacola Beach, FL

The seventh annual meeting of the Education and Outreach Council (EOC) of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association (GCOOS-RA) was held at the Holiday Inn, Pensacola Beach, FL, November 12-13, 2013. This document constitutes the report of the EOC.

Special thanks to EOC members Charlene Mauro, Santa Rosa County School District, and Chris Verlinde, Florida Sea Grant, for hosting a field excursion to the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, and to Susan Martin, GCOOS Office, for providing administrative support. The GCOOS-RA could not develop its Education and Outreach (E/O) program without the continued commitment of the EOC to build ocean literacy programs in the Gulf of Mexico region, and the GCOOS-wide support the EOC receives. Dr. Shin Kobara, GCOOS web developer, Dr. Matt Howard, GCOOS Data Management and Communications (DMAC) lead, Dr. Ruth Mullins Perry, GCOOS Communications Specialist, and Lei Hu, GCOOS DMAC Committee liaison to the EOC, were valuable participants at our council meeting.

1.0 Opening of Meeting

1.1 Welcome, Introductions

The meeting began with a welcome by Chris Verlinde, interim Chair, GCOOS EOC. Verlinde asked that each participant give a brief introduction to the group, primarily for the benefit of the invited participants. Dr. Chris Simoniello, GCOOS Education and Outreach Coordinator, provided an overview of the agenda, summarizing the purpose of the meeting as a means to gather preliminary information to be used as a guide for the design and development of the GCOOS Citizen Scientist website. The list of attendees with affiliations is provided in Appendix 1. The meeting agenda is provided in Appendix 2.

1.2 Purpose of the Meeting


  1. Develop a framework for GCOOS-hosted Citizen Scientist data (parameters to include temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and others to be specified).
  2. Identify relevant data layers and content that will facilitate the sharing of citizen-collected data and make it relevant to Gulf-wide E/O stakeholders.

2.0 GCOOS ECO Hero Game Update

Special recognition was given to GCOOS EOC members for their contributions to the Gulf Guardian award winning game ‘Are You an Eco Hero.’ Because individual Gulf Guardian awards were prohibitively expensive, Simoniello awarded each a medal and acknowledged the collective effort. Discussion about when individual programs could access and use the game ensued. An action for Board consideration is to set a date after which aquarium and informal learning center project partners no longer have exclusive rights to use the game.

3.0 GCOOS Website and Banner Stories

Mullins-Perry provided a 15 minute overview of the GCOOS newsletter and banner story strategy. Story ideas were solicited from participants and the GCOOS online story submission template, available on the GCOOS website was shared with the group. She emphasized that GCOOS staff are available to draft the stories and minimize the burden to contributors. Several stories were identified for the December 2013 and January 2014 newsletters and website feature articles.

4.0 Invited Speakers: Setting the Stage for the Citizen Scientist Project

Howard summarized the GCOOS Integrated Water Quality Network project. He shared progress made following two Water Quality workshops for data providers (see GCOOS meeting reports: url) and explained how thinking has expanded from integrating data with a near-real-time focus to include historical/archived data. He informed the group that two proposals have been submitted to fund development of the network and that a senior research associate has been working part time for GCOOS since November 2013 to develop the network.

Charlene Bohanon and Katie McCann, Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), TX, and Jessika Blersch, Natures Academy, FL, provided summaries on their respective programs (link to presentation), with emphases on their volunteer data collection networks. They provided valuable input for later discussions about how to design and develop a GCOOS site that can handle data from citizen scientists.

5.0 Citizen Scientist Website Discussions

Prior to the workshop, two groups were established (see Appendix 2). One had Website Framework Development as its priority, and the other had Content Development. The pre-meeting assignment was for members of each group to identify programs and websites currently hosting and disseminating citizen-collected data. Simoniello identified the tasks and provided guidelines for the breakout session. The Framework Team focused on storyboarding the web page design and data layers and the Content Team focused on identifying supporting information and linking data to real-world applications. Participants were asked to:

  • Generate ideas for how the interactive component might look.
  • Match data to specific Gulf issues.
  • If appropriate, sketch ideas or provide schematics to clarify the interactive components.

Before dividing into groups, Kobara provided guidance on existing web development capabilities. It was fortuitous that he recently participated in an ESRI GIS Forum to learn about new technologies that could be used to make the Citizen Scientist product dynamic. The EOC members were excited to learn about the new ESRI Story Map feature, which can be used to showcase the water quality monitoring volunteers as well as the data. It is a tool that can be implemented to have people take ownership of the web product because it will enable them to make and contribute their own stories to the collective map product. EOC member Dr. Rusty Low was familiar with the new ESRI product and shared her preliminary experience working with the software.

Kobara gave the group two ground rules to follow when sharing citizen-collected data: 1) Data location (latitude and longitude) in decimal degrees is preferred; and 2) Tabular formats (e.g., CSV, Excel, text) should be consistent and include time (mm/dd/yy) if time series are desired.

5.1 Conceptual Design

Attendees were separated into the two previously established groups to start developing a conceptual design for the Citizen Scientist web pages. Hu facilitated the Framework Development discussion and Mullins facilitated the Content Development discussion. Participants were asked to accomplish the following:

  • Develop a framework for GCOOS-hosted Citizen Scientist data. Parameters to consider included air and water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, nitrates, and others to be specified. Ideas on how to handle data on the presence/absence of vegetation, and vertebrate and invertebrate species were also discussed.
  • Identify relevant data layers and content that will facilitate the sharing of citizen-collected data and make it relevant to Gulf-wide E/O stakeholders.
    • Reach consensus on the example(s) that should be used to demonstrate how the data are applied.
    • Identify key messages that link the volunteer efforts to research priorities in the Gulf of Mexico (i.e. those identified in the GCOOS Build out Plan and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Governors’ Action Plan I and Action Plan II.

Each group spent time deciding who the target audiences should be and the level of material to be presented. Discussion about the types of interactive components that might be used, and the physical, chemical, and biological parameters that should be displayed ensued. Each team reported to the larger group. A synthesis of the information reported is below.

5.1.1 Conceptual Design Criteria: A Synthesis of the Framework and Content Development Team Reports

  • Audiences identified by this group included the general public, GK-12 students and educators, including the home school community, informal learning center program participants, and senior citizens. Seniors were identified as particularly valuable contributors of volunteer data.
  • Website access should have different entry points. The ‘KISS’ rule to keep it as simple as possible should apply.
    • Tiered levels for contributors to engage based on training and experience–from no training to experienced samplers;
    • Hierarchy of website user levels (e.g., maps only, data manipulation capabilities, time lapse viewing, multiple map overlays);
  • Numerous website features were identified.
    • Parameters to present included air and water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and water level; others as requested by volunteer communities;
    • Parameters should be clearly labeled with units, and ‘normal’ ranges for different Gulf environments indicated;
    • Provide web pages with definitions of water quality parameters and why they are measured. What is their implication in the real world (e.g., the relationship between dissolved oxygen and hypoxia; the effects of rising sea surface water level on coastal communities)?
    • Technology resources might include information about the sampling methods used;
    • Climatology information should be provided to allow users to review averages, high and low values, and extreme/anomalous values over time for one station or several for comparison);
    • Make real-time and archived information available;
    • Main entry point should be a map with monitoring sites and mouse-over capabilities that give a brief summary of the site and a ‘click for more information’ option;
  • Simple metadata, explaining the challenges of comparing different methods and spatial and temporal scales of measurements should be included;
  • Basic data standards need to be established for Citizen Scientists’ data entry and the GCOOS-RA should identify a simple coding method to make users aware of the level of standards met by various data sets;
  • Options for viewing data should include graphs, maps, text (.csv) format, and a preview data option before downloading;
  • Data contributors should have the ability to upload pictures, videos, and information that brings the work to life;
  • Show local content to provide place-based relevance of the data (e.g., not data for the sake of data but for the benefit of society);
  • Highlight volunteer stories (e.g., how/why they became interested in volunteer monitoring). Include examples of how the information is beneficial to society at local levels; and
  • Expand the Eco Hero concept. Name annually or bi-annually an outstanding monitoring volunteer and award a GCOOS Eco Hero medal;
  • The GCOOS Citizen Scientist website should offer communication channels among the data contributors to allow discussions, share information and foster collaborations

Simoniello wrapped up the session, summarizing that the EOC intention is to have a final product that will engage the public with hands-on activities, promoting knowledge and understanding of the fragile ecosystems that are the Gulf. Overall, we aim to protect invaluable resources so long taken for granted.

6.0 Election of the GCOOS EOC Chair

Simoniello opened the floor to vote for a new Chair. Prior to the meeting, nominations were solicited. Chris Verlinde and Charlene Mauro were elected as co-Chairs by unanimous vote.

7.0 Field Trip to the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station (NBMSS)

On Day 2, meeting participants were offered an optional field trip to the NBMSS. Graciously hosted by EOC members Mauro and Verlinde, a brief presentation of the station’s history was provided, followed by a tour of the facility. A highlight for EOC members was getting to meet the high school staff and students who have done a magnificent job creating an enriching learning environment under the leadership and direction of Mauro and Verlinde.


Appendix 1: List of Participants and Affiliations

GCOOS EOC Meeting, 12-13 November 2013

Name Affiliation
Heather Barrineau Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, student
Jessika Blersch * Nature’s Academy
Charlene Bohanon ** Galveston Bay Foundation
John Dindo * Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Matthew Howard * GCOOS
Lei Hu * Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Barb Kirkpatrick ** Mote Marine Laboratory
Shin Kobara * GCOOS
Tricia LeBlanc ** Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Dianne Lindstedt * Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
Rusty Low * Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
Carol Lutken * University of Mississippi
Jean May-Brett ** Louisiana Department of Education
Katie McCann * Galveston Bay Foundation
Ruth Mullins-Perry ** Texas A&M University/GCOOS
John O’Connell ** Texas Sea Grant College Program
Angela Sallis * NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center
Margaret Sedlecky * Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Chris Simoniello GCOOS
Mike Spranger ** University of Florida
Pamela Terasaki ** Claughton Middle School
Chris Verlinde ** Florida Sea Grant
Sharon Walker ** Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
Lee Yokel * Gulf of Mexico Alliance

* Framework Team
** Content Team
Dinah was on the Content Team but unable to attend the meeting.



Appendix 2: GCOOS EOC Meeting Agenda

Holiday Inn Resort
14 Via De Luna Drive, Pensacola Beach, FL
November 12-13, 2013


  1. Develop a framework for GCOOS-hosted Citizen Scientist data (parameters to include temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and others to be specified).
  2. Identify relevant data layers and content that will facilitate the sharing of citizen-collected data and make it relevant to Gulf-wide E/O stakeholders.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

10:15-10:30 Check-in
10:30-10:50 Welcome, introductions (Chris Verlinde)
10:50-11:00 Meeting objectives and deliverables (Chris Simoniello)
11:00-11:15 Eco HeroUpdate and Special Recognition (Chris Simoniello)
11:15-11:45 GCOOS Website and Banner Stories (Ruth Mullins-Perry)
15 min overview; 15 min discussion/solicit stories
11:45-12:00 GCOOS Integrated Water Quality Network (Matt Howard)
12:00-12:30 Introduction to the Galveston Bay Foundation (Charlene Bohanan, Katie McCann)
12:30-1:00 Introduction to Nature’s Academy (Dana Pounds, Jessika Blersch)
1:00-2:00 Lunch provided by GCOOS
2:00-2:15 Guidelines for afternoon breakout (Chris Simoniello)
2:15-2:30 Framework for web page design (Shin Kobara)
2:30-3:30 Breakout Session: Two Groups – *Framework Team and **Content Team
Framework Team will focus on storyboarding the web page design/data layers; Content Team will focus on identifying supporting information, linking data to real-world applications

  • Generate ideas for how the interactive component might look
  • Match data to specific Gulf issue(s)
  • If appropriate, sketch ideas/provide schematics to clarify the interactive components.
3:30-3:50 Afternoon break
3:50-5:00 Continue breakout group activities
5:00-5:15 Opportunity to share information and provide suggestions for day two.
6:30 Poolside dinner reception provided by GCOOS

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

7:15-9:30 Optional trip to visit the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station (Charlene Mauro/Chris Verlinde)
9:30-9:45 Reconvene, review goals for the day (Simoniello)
9:45-10:45 Resume breakout groups. Continue refining framework and content details. Work on layout, language and specific data sets that demonstrate key messages.
10:45-11:45 Report out by Web Page Framework Team (15 min summary; 45 min discussion)
11:45-12:45 Lunch provided by GCOOS
12:45-1:45 Report out by Content Team (15 min summary; 45 min discussion)
1:45-2:00 Election of GCOOS EOC Chair
2:00-2:30 Summarize EOC Action Items for 2013/2014 (New Chair)
2:30-3:30 Open Floor to EOC members
3:30 Meeting Adjourned


Prior to the meeting, please try to identify at least two websites where citizen/student data are hosted and shared. You do not need to limit your search to information related to water quality or ocean data. Two examples include the GLOBE ( and REEF ( programs. It would be helpful to come prepared to discuss what you like and dislike about the sites you explore and to identify elements we might want to consider implementing.