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Data Collection Methods

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Monitoring Estuaries

The Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
for an example of a good monitoring plan.
(360) 428-1558)

Why we monitor
  • to identify the most serious problems so we can focus our limited financial and human resources on them,
  • to see if our corrective programs are really working,
  • to identify emerging problems before they become critical and difficult to solve, and
  • to determine whether the overall health of a water body is improving or declining.
Baseline Data

When studying a particular estuary, researchers begin by carrying out a baseline study, a broad assessment of what is already there and how it works. They do this so they can compare results with future data to see if there has been any change. Measuring your temperature to see if you are healthy does no good unless you know what your normal healthy temperature is. To assess the damage done by an accident such as a toxic spill, it is important to have an idea of what the estuary was like before the spill. Researchers also use baseline studies to determine which topics they should investigate further. If a baseline study shows an unexpected high level of coliform bacteria, then the researcher may want to design a study to determine why.

Shoreline Inventory

A citizen shoreline habitat inventory can: help predict trends over time, identify changing habitat types and quality, identify sensitive areas, pinpoint critical areas for restoration, and invest the public with the stewardship of their shorelines. Surveys can include information such as physical characteristics, adjacent land use, physical modifications, streams or outfalls, vegetation communities, invasive species, and problem signs like dead waterfowl, excessive algal growth, and oil slicks.

For information about citizen shoreline inventories, contact

4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Room 305
Seattle, WA 98103-6900
(206) 632-1390.

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