By Shannon Dunnigan
For over a decade the GTM Research Reserve has been monitoring seasonal changes in water quality at four stations (Pine Island, San Sebastian, Fort Matanzas, and Pellicer Creek) found within the Tolomato, Matanzas, and Pellicer Creek estuaries as part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve’s (NERRs) System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP). The goal of the SWMP is to measure short-term variability and long-term changes in the estuary to gain a better understanding of how our estuaries function, change over time, and to predict how coastal systems respond to natural and human-induced change. SWMP measures a variety of water quality parameters from water temperature and salinity to dissolved oxygen and pH.
In addition to water quality, SWMP has a weather station located near Pellicer Creek that directly measures rainfall, wind speed and direction, as well as other things like photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), which is a way of measuring the amount of light energy we get from the sun. Seasonal weather changes can greatly impact life within an estuary. Our long-term SWMP water quality and weather monitoring helps to provide us with information on what our estuaries have experienced in the past in order to compare current events as well as those in the future.
Another cool aspect of the SWMProgram is that it is NATIONWIDE! Yep, you heard me. Nationwide. SWMP is implemented at each one of the 28 NERRs across the country. This program also has standardize protocols so we are all collecting the same type of data, just in different places! I often find myself looking up other Reserves just to see what their water and weather are doing compared to ours at the GTM Research Reserve.
If you are interested in viewing or downloading the SWMP data from the GTM Research Reserve or to find a reserve near you, please visit www.nerrsdata.org. All SWMP data collected at the Pellicer Creek water quality and weather stations are transmitted via telemetry and are available for viewing online real-time!