Mapping Water Quality

Sep 12, 2017 | Guana Tolomato Matanzas, Florida

Photo courtesy of Tricia Kyzar.

There are many reasons to work at a reserve, but few can beat Tricia Kyzar’s.

“I’m interested in water quality because I’m an avid kayaker, especially of springs and estuaries,” says the University of Florida graduate student. “Someone told me I should find a way to ‘work from my kayak,’ and this seemed like an amazing way to ensure the places I like would be as beautiful as possible.”

Kyzar is mapping pollutants in the waters of Florida’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve. Her goal is to identify their sources and help reduce their impacts on water quality. She became involved when she volunteered to do a GIS project that would hone her spatial analysis skills and help her connect with other people who are interested in water quality.

“Using spatial analysis to produce site specific statistical information can tell us a lot about why something is happening in one location but not another,” says Kyzar. “I’m coming at this from the technology side, so I have learned a lot about what makes for good and bad water quality; it’s like taking chemistry and biology all over again, but a lot more fun this time!”

Kyzar is using System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) data to display water sample tests in different locations on a map. She layers this data with other types of information, including land use classification, soil drainage, and amount of rainfall. This comprehensive dataset supports a statistical analysis of whether these factors have a relationship to the presence of fecal coliform, nitrogen, phosphorus, or other pollutants. Understanding those relationships can help Kyzar and others stop these pollutants from entering the estuaries and develop related public education programs.

Kyzar will complete a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning with a certificate in GIS this fall and continue with a Ph.D program—with work at the GTM reserve—in the spring. “Working for the reserve is amazing,” she says. “I really like that what I am doing will contribute to solutions to improve the natural environment.”

ReservesGuana Tolomato Matanzas, FloridaMapping Water Quality