SWMP Data: Renewable Resource for North Carolina

Sep 25, 2017 | Clean Water, DC Download, North Carolina, North Carolina

Kevin McVerry, former GIS specialist, switches out a water quality sonde. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Reserve.

At our North Carolina Reserve, System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) data is a “renewable resource” for local science and education. For 20 years, the reserve has monitored local environmental trends as part of a national initiative to track short- and long-term changes in water quality, biological systems like salt marshes, and land-use and cover characteristics along our coasts and estuaries.

Research partners from federal, state, and regional organizations incorporate this data into their work. Scientists from East Carolina University are using SWMP data to investigate the relationship between water quality and the habitat use of coastal sharks. A SWMP-like station maintained by reserve staff also supports operations at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Wilmington Shellfish Research Hatchery and Seawater System.

The reserve partners with UNC scientists on many long-term projects. One, led by Dr. Jessie Jarvis at UNC Wilmington, explores the connection between submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and water quality conditions captured in SWMP data. The goal is to support the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries on the status and trends of SAV habitat in the state.

“SWMP collects essential water column measurements continuously in sites across the state,” Jarvis said. “When used together, observations of SAV status and SWMP water quality data can help show the cause and effect of local management practices or even highlight a new area for coastal policy makers to address. Without the SWMP data we would only have one side of the story!”

SWMP data is also integrated into the classroom to inspire the scientists of tomorrow. Masonboro Island Explorers is a coastal environmental education program for upper elementary school children conducted in partnership with New Hanover County Schools, the nonprofit Masonoboro.org, and Carolina Ocean Studies. Students use the data to understand the importance of water quality on natural processes in the estuary. Last year more than 750 fifth-graders explored SWMP data after visiting Masonboro Island.

SWMP data from North Carolina and reserves around the nation is available on the NOAA Centralized Data Management Office website. There, you can download and visualize water quality and marsh monitoring data. For more information about the North Carolina Reserve and its work, contact Communications Specialist Michelle Brodeur.

—Story by Michelle Brodeur.


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