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Marine Lab Data Enables DEP to Evaluate Gulf

April 27, 2021
The SCCF Marine Laboratory recently uploaded its extensive water quality data from Gulf waters off our islands into the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) Watershed Information Network database system. This is a major step forward so that the state can officially evaluate the Gulf of Mexico’s quality for management planning.
Southwest Florida residents are likely to assume that the state already understands what’s happening in the Gulf due to repeated red tide and algae bloom events that impact humans and wildlife. However, not even one “waterbody unit” in the Gulf has ever been evaluated by FDEP due to a lack of enough water quality data.
SCCF put forth a tremendous effort for this very purpose. The SCCF Water Quality Database was created in 2009 and it includes 88,000 sampling and analysis records from nearly 9,700 separate sampling events. Using the R/V Norma Campbell, The Marine Laboratory regularly collects water quality data in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to funding from the Vince Family through Goldman Sachs Cares.
“That’s a lot of records,” said SCCF Research Associate Mark Thompson. “The FDEP requires each record to go through a series of more than 100 quality-assurance checks before it can be accepted. The data must be in the correct form and order, with the correct elements that fall within acceptable ranges. You can imagine how time-intensive this feat was to upload 88,000 records.”
This massive undertaking will eventually be rewarded through improved state and federal management. The Impaired Waters Rule requires the state to identify impaired waterbodies based upon existing water quality data—so now it has data that show how and where the water is impaired and the sources of those problems.
The FDEP’s Watershed Information Network (WIN) database evaluates and maps the state’s waters, each portioned into what the state calls a “waterbody ID unit” as indicated on this chart. A certain amount of data is needed before the unit is evaluated, and the information is used by researchers and reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“SCCF has collected enough data to satisfy FDEP requirements for evaluating Gulf of Mexico waterbody segments near Sanibel and Captiva,” said Thompson. “This data is ready to be accessed by FDEP so it can get started on improving water quality in the Gulf.”
Thompson added, This sounds dry and boring to most folks – even to the person who did it. But there was a warm and fuzzy feeling which transpired just after the deed was done.”
  • Editor’s Note: In our April 7 Wednesday Update, an article stated that the SCCF Marine Lab was founded in 1967. That was when SCCF was founded. Our Marine Lab was formalized in 2002. Click here to read about the history of the lab in a 2010 article co-authored by Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D.


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