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Ocean Observatories

Ocean observing is a broad term that applies to almost any scientific effort that tracks changes to some aspect of the ocean, be it physical or biological. These observing activities are performed for various reasons including public safety, research, and conservation. The organizations that are involved in ocean observing range from volunteer groups and academic institutions to private consultants and government groups. Throughout the coastal United States, including the Great Lakes, regional ocean observing systems have been initiated to coordinate and integrate local observing efforts. This network of ocean observing systems is known as the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).

In the central northern California region observing efforts are coordinated by the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS). One of the functions of CeNCOOS is to provide centralized access to real-time and near-real-time data sets (biological, chemical, physical, and geological) applicable to the CeNCOOS region (from Point Conception north to the California-Oregon border and from the coastline to the seaward extent of the Exclusive Economic Zone). Read more on CeNCOOS.

Continue below to learn about the ocean observing efforts on the West Coast initiated by the National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) and to access their data products.


NMSP West Coast Observatories

The West Coast Observation Project (WCOS) deals with observation data collected at the five sanctuary sites located on the west coast. The sites involved include Olympic Coast, Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay, and Channel Islands. The project focuses on various data streams including ocean temperature, current speed and direction, oxygen, salinity, wind speed and direction, turbidity, and fluorescence collected at numerous new instrument moorings located within each of the five sanctuaries. These instrument moorings are maintained and operated in collaboration with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and the University of California-Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory as part of the Pacific Coast Ocean Observing System (read more about PaCOOS http://pacoos.org)

The primary objective of the project is to develop a system to make west coast National Marine Sanctuary Program monitoring data accessible via the internet in an Integrated Ocean observing System (IOOS) compatible format. WCOS project partners developed a three pronged approach: in situ observations, information delivery, and technology development.

WCOS partners include:

The Guided Search interface provides the user with a simple tool to locate WCOS data. Access to the WCOS data is in compliance with OPeNDAP standards.

Figure 1. Map of WCOS sensor locations.

WCOS Interactive Map

This web-based map application provides a common, geospatially referenced view of coastal and ocean observations in and around the West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries. Observation data are generally grouped into two categories: 1) near-real time observations; 2) long term observations. Near real time observations include marine and land surface weather data acquired from the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS). Data are assimilated into a geospatially enabled database on an hourly basis and stored for 48 hours. Long term observations include imagery products created for a three month period.

Launch Map





In 1997, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and partners began a beach survey program called Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys (Beach COMBERS) using trained volunteers to survey beached marine birds and mammals monthly at selected sections of beaches throughout the Monterey Bay area. The project uses deposition of beach cast carcasses as an index of the health of the MBNMS. Currently, 70 volunteers, each of which received at least 20 hours of training, survey 45 kms of beaches monthly in the MBNMS.

Point Lobos Ecological Reserve Otter Survey

Monthly land-based standardized surveys of southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) have been conducted by experienced volunteer docents in Point Lobos State Reserve since 1989. These data are then entered into the SIMoN database and compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with other otter survey data ranging from Santa Barbara to Half Moon Bay. The surveys record numbers of independent otters and pups observed, location and behavior. Results are used as an indicator of the population trend of California sea otters in this area. The primary purposes of these surveys have been to identify and illustrate changes in the local otter population for Point Lobos Reserve visitors and to provide this information to the USGS.

Access Data

Near Real-time Locations of Sanctuary Research Vessels and Data

In partnership with the National Coastal Data Development Center, a new Google Map displays near real-time positions of Sanctuary research vessels and west coast ocean observatories with links to data. [More Information]

Go to Map

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