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Water Quality Team


David Herring , Ed Laine, Emil Petruncio, Jim Acker, LuAnn Dahlman, Erin Bardar

Workshop session goals and workspace:
August 12
August 13


Hi - Emil Petruncio here, from USNA in Annapolis. I have been teaching Waves and Tides, Satellite Remote Sensing, and Ethics for Military Leaders since I arrived at the Naval Academy in December 2004. I will begin teaching Quantitative Methods in Oceanography this semester. With Jim's help, I incorporated a GIOVANNI-based class project in my remote sensing class, and have also guided a student in the use of GIOVANNI and other satellite data sources for an independent research project. I'll try to come up with some potential projects for the workshop, and will post my thoughts to this site.




Hi All from Ed Laine

I am looking forward to meeting everybody in a few minutes. When I teach at Bowdoin College I try to enable of community based and problem based learning in my students. I work closely with a community partner, the Friends of Casco Bay (FOCB), who has an excellent and long standing (at least a decade) citizen/volunteer monitoring program in Casco Bay. My classes usually provide more intensive sampling and measurements than the volunteers can manage. Through the good influences of Jim and SERC I have started using Giovanni in my classes and have had one wonderful success which I will talk about next week.

If you ever want to know what the ocean is like in inner Casco Bay, tune into our ocean observatory

Talk to you soon



Hi Everyone, from LuAnn, who works at TERC from her home in Mesa, Arizona. I've been working as part of the AccessData team since its inception. It's always interesting to work as part of a group that represents the full range of stakeholders in getting data used. I'm thrilled at using this approach to develop some initial activities for Citizen Scientists!


Hi, this is Jim. I've uploaded my first cut at a datasheet for examination prior to the workshop.


Hi Everyone, this is Erin. Sorry for the late post. As a quick introduction, I'm a curriculum developer at TERC in Cambridge, MA. My background is in astronomy, but the majority of my work over the last year+ has been developing Earth science curriculum focused on sustainable fisheries, coral reefs, and sea level rise. I'm really looking forward to working with all of you on this new and exciting project. See you all tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 12

Chlorophyll datasheet draft (Microsoft Word 83kB Aug7 08) Original datasheet draft

For hands-on activity: What's washing off our land?

Suggest a range of tests that folks can do. For water quality, folks can use aquarium test strips (low end) up through various instruments.

Ocean measurements nitrate, nitrite, ammonium, silica, $20 per sample, must be delivered on ice.

Jim will supply URL to descriptions of water quality parameters.

If you see increased nitrate concentrations, they need to be compared to discharge: overall volume of nitrate controls blooms. Seasonal cycle. Stream gauge data or build-your-own flow meter.

Secchi disks used for checking clarity.
K490 light penetration at 490 nanometers (blue-green light)
How is this related to depth at which Secchi disk is visible???

Consider Sea Turtles with GPS from Wilmington, DE, swimming patterns in Gulf Stream. Folks are interested in sea grasses, turtles, whales,

Productivity sounds like a good thing, but it's the precursor to Dead Zones.

Multiple motivations:
Why is crab so expensive?
Is my fertilizer causing dead zones?
Can I direct people toward resources that will help them change current practices?

New Jersy Dept. of Water Quality has information online. States that offer these data could serve as a validation activity. Some states offer training to become certified water quality training.

MODIS Data resolutions in Giovanni: 9 km, monthly, in special cases, SeaWiFS has 8-day data.

Perhaps take a look at chlorophyll in different seasons and before and after rainy or dry seasons.

Consider building a database with photos and locations of water quality measurements. This might be done in Google Maps (or some specially designed open-source tool) or some publicly accessible place so folks can compare their water quality measurements to other folks'.

Consider the value of being able to compare your data over a full year (or more). Make sure people can see their data.

Wayne Esaias - Honeybee story (Potential Speaker for AccessData Workshop)

Using satellite data
Generate a spring image of chlorophyll. Compare it to summer, fall, and winter.
Look at images from months when weather events occur.
For instance, Santa Anna winds, floods in Mississippi watershed,

Add "Eddys that feed the Sea" EO story to datasheet. Biologically rich lenses.

How does chlorophyll distribution vary over seasons?
Here's how to document where chlorophyll is.

NEO's transect and probe tools could be used to compare months (3 at a time).

Start with a single image (a monthly image that we identify with some )
and help folks interpret what the colors mean.
Higher concentrations are closer to land and close to rivers.
Generate an animation.

Understanding chlorophyll images
Take a look at existing explanations
Link to EO articles
Look at phytoplankton (NOT coccolithophore) blooms in natural color, compare to chlorophyll images.

Check EO images for a nice natural color image of a phytoplankton bloom, check monthly chlorophyll images in Giovanni (or daily images in NEO) to find one that pops. Identify two others that folks can find on their own.
Spring bloom in North Atlantic. March 28, 2003
March 16 2004 off coast of California, search for image ID 16487

So what?
Global chlorophyll images (animation?) frequently show high concentrations around river mouths and near the Galapagos and springtime "flashes" in the north.
There're also places where you never see chlorophyll: deep ocean basins.

U.S. outline chlorophyll image plus zoomed-in view of Mississippi delta.

Let's frame the science question for the satellite image analysis:
Is chlorophyll good or bad?
Is chlorophyll near or far from land?
How does river runoff effect chlorophyll?
Does wind effect chlorophyll concentration?
What are the necessary ingredients for the growth of chlorophyll?
Why is chlorophyll good or bad for fish?
How do we measure chlorophyll from space?
How and why would we measure chlorophyll in the ocean?
Secondary: How does chlorophyll concentration change over seasons?
What can chlorophyll tell us about dead zones?
Why is chlorophyll measured from space?
Can we get a big picture view of plant life in the ocean?
When is phytoplankton growth not good for the ocean?
Ingredients for phytoplankton growth: sunlight and nutrients.
This year, is your area making a bigger or smaller possible contribution to the formation of a dead zone?
How does what's washing off our land effect the ocean?

#1: (How) Does your local stream or river affect marine ecosystems?

marine ecosystems?
the growth of phytoplankton in the ocean?
health of coastal waters?
the health of marine ecosystems?
along the coast and in the ocean?

What contribution does your local stream or river make to chlorophyll growth in the ocean?

Does it matter if your community sends stuff downstream?

Look at maps of river mouth for different times of year, zoom into mouth of river, does chlorophyll concentration change over time or other conditions.

Gather data to understand when chlorophyll is higher and lower.

watersheds carry nutrients to the ocean.
#2: What are the necessary ingredients for growing phytoplankton?

Here's what phytoplankton growth looks like in the ocean.
Point to paired natural color and chlorophyll images
Look for places that have higher concentrations
Zoom in on the Mississippi, an extreme example. (too extreme??)

Could this be happening at the mouth of your river?

Sediment load is another parameter to check. K490 images, Secchi disks, 550 images show sediment load and turbidity.

Encourage folks to "get in their cars and drive upstream" to see what's causing changes in water quality.

Choose a specific river mouth that shows a seasonal change in chlorophyll productivity and use it as an example.
Chesapeake (not 2002 or 2003) Check the EO story "Drought and Deluge in the Chesapeake"

An idea: Take a picture of your stream every day.

Wednesday, August 13

Where does the salt on roads go?
Sodium bromide as a chemical indicator.

Identifying the range of possible/expected nitrate/nitrite levels is problematic.

Nitrites (from the EPA)

Online training (professional) EPA's Watershed Academy:

Test strips/kits

Provide a range of testing procedures
Low end test: Secchi disk test for clarity
Aquarium/pool test kits
Water test strips (include links to suppliers and costs $.25 to $1 per test)
Water test kits ($1000 instrument plus $33/10 tests)
Encourage folks to work together or find a sponsor. Perhaps the local high school or college has testing equipment you could borrow?
High end: Send samples to laboratories ($10 to $20 per sample??)

Summary of nutrient monitoring
Chemical monitoring

Range of ideas for sharing data
Low tech: compare your own measurements over time
Call your "neighbor" to see what they're seeing
Compare your data to USGS and/or EPA maps of water quality
Water Quality Enviromapper
Look for local or regional network
i.e. Colorado or an academic or University program (call around!)

NOW What??
A range of ideas for sharing your findings
Realize that environmental activists are likely to engage in this type of activity. Encourage

Updated Chlorophyll Datasheet (Microsoft Word 85kB Aug13 08) Updated DataSheet

Back to automagically collected data interpretation/analysis
In addition to examining chlorophyll images from Giovanni/NEO:
Ocean monitoring buoys
Eyes on the Bay (Chesapeake)
Regional Associations: NOAA/IOOS

Once folks identify an area with relatively high chlorophyll
Parameters that indicate a developing dead zone:
Low DO
High SST
CDOM (Colored Dissolved Organic Matter) (water turns brown) increases with discharge.

An elegant example of displaying current data: Continuous Monitoring Latest Results Maryland Chesapeake

On chlorophyll images:
Identify unusal impacts
  • first, note interannual/seasonal variation
  • look for anomalous events
  • hypothesize/search for possible causes (floods, droughts, releases, storms)
  • relate to your local measurements
Instructions for using Giovanni
See EarthLabs/Fisheries/Lab7

Refining our overarching question:
(How) Does your local stream or river affect marine ecosystems?

Identify some resources on marine ecosystems.
Readable info about Trophic Levels
Dr. Ocean ??? Pepperdine or San Jose State???

Water Encyclopedia: Marine Ecology entry
GoMOOS Marine Ecology

Dead Zone resources from recent Science review article by Diaz and Rosenberg

[The article is at:]

Table S1 in the Supporting Online Material has a list of all "dead zones" around North America and the world. This should help citizen scientists trying to understand the impact of local and watershed land use practices.

I think it would be useful if the citizen scientists could determine whether their river flowed into the ocean next to one of these dead zones, but am having trouble getting EDNA to output that. Problem is for the west coast and the south Atlantic states EDNA only delineates broad watersheds with many rivers acting as point sources all along a very long coastline. Of course, maybe I am doing it wrong. Help.

A note from LuAnn on 8/21/08:

Hi Ed and everyone else:

Thanks for posting up the very timely article to the group! The listing of dead zones was really interesting: I only wish it were in an Excel worksheet or a database or a GIS so I could sort them by different parameters and make some maps and graphs. With several missing values and no delimiters, I couldn't get the data into Excel easily, but I'm sure it can be done with a little time and effort. Joining the 2nd table (the one with lat/long values) to the dead zone listings could also enhance the ways folks could use the dataset. (It occurs to me that this data prep might be a good assignment for undergrads who are spending time "living with" data, or perhaps the study authors would provide us with a database file?)

In looking for a way to solve the problem Ed described, I used Google Earth with the EDNA (Elevation Derivatives for National Applications) watershed outlines, available at and searched for a couple of the dead zone "System" entries. In some cases, the named System is part of an identified watershed, but in other cases (as Ed mentioned), it wasn't clear. I used the lat/long of the system from the second table to find where some of these dead zones were and visually examined which rivers or land area might be contributing to their formation. This made me wonder if there's an overlay that would show current directions in the ocean, or if I could use buoy data to figure out which river mouth was "upstream" from a dead zone. I think the complexity of the problem of determining if your watershed is contributing to the formation of dead zones is a worthwhile challenge that will engage people–especially if we make it clear that it's an open-ended question.

For our chapter, I'm thinking that producing a publically accessible Google Maps or Google Earth map with placemarks denoting all the dead zones and associated info would be a good start. It would be a great place to send folks for an initial exploration, inviting them to move upstream (or up current) from several of the dead zones to figure out which land areas the freshwater is coming from.

In case I didn't mention it before, here's an activity that Betsy Youngman and I recently wrote on watersheds. It starts with building a simple physical model to help students develop the concept of a watershed, then walks them through exploring data for their own watershed in Google Earth.
Educator's page:
Students' page:

I hope this is helpful, Ed (and Erin). And thanks for keeping us posted on your explorations!

Arizona smiles,


Hi Everyone,

Because of the large file size, I've posted the Water Quality chapter draft (Microsoft Word 3.2MB Mar2 09) here for anyone who might be having trouble getting it through email.

Looking forward to your feedback,