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 intiated 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, Greater 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:
- Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) – http://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/
- Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) – http://cordellbank.noaa.gov/
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) – http://montereybay.noaa.gov/
- Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) – http://farallones.noaa.gov/
- Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) – http://channelislands.noaa.gov/
- National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) – http://www.nodc.noaa.gov
- National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC) – http://www.ncddc.noaa.gov
- Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) – http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/
- Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) – http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/index.html
- Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN)
- Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) – http://www.piscoweb.org
- Pacific Coastal Observing System (PaCOOS) – http://www.pacoos.org
- Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) – http://www.cencoos.org
- University of California-Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory – http://www-bml.ucdavis.edu/boon
- Coastal Services Center (CSC) – http://www.csc.noaa.gov
- NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program Office – http://ioos.noaa.gov/
- Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) – http://swfsc.noaa.gov/
MBNMS Beach COMBERS
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.