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Synthesizing Long-term SWMP Datasets to Quantify Estuarine Ecosystem Dynamics and Identify Trends Along an Ecological Gradient

Synthesizing Long-term SWMP Datasets to Quantify Estuarine Ecosystem Dynamics and Identify Trends Along an Ecological Gradient

Collecting nutrient samples at Lake Superior, NERR, WI. (Photo Credit: Lake Superior NERR)

This project offers a flexible approach to categorize system dynamics, analyze trends, and build capacity to analyze SWMP data by engaging Office of Coastal Management, Centralized Data Management Office, UW-Madison graduate students, and staff from seven reserves.

The NERR System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) provides an opportunity to compare spatiotemporal dynamics across a wide range of estuaries in the nation to discover patterns and trends in ecosystem dynamics. With decades of SWMP data being amassed, there is ample opportunity and NERR interest to conduct analyses to investigate long-term changes, yet limited personnel capacity has meant that these datasets have not been fully utilized. This project offers a flexible approach engaging OCM, CDMO, UW-Madison, and staff from seven NERRs to directly address specific user needs while testing new analysis methods on a wide range of datasets. 

To address current SWMP synthesis needs as well as systemic capacity issues, the team will develop and pilot data analysis techniques to quantify ecosystem dynamics as non-linear, linear, or linear-stochastic; identify trends; perform break-point analyses to identify potential state shifts in the data; and develop ‘lessons learned’ for tool application. This approach includes the development of a graduate level course in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - Madison, in which graduate students will conduct analyses in collaboration with each of the reserves throughout the process and incorporating tools from the Guide to Collaborative Science. The nonlinear time series tools that will be applied in this work are a logical next step to build on the foundation of existing SWMP data tools such as SWMPr and SWMPrExtension R software packages, SWMP status reports, and the SWMPrats widgets website. The questions being addressed range from that of fundamental ecological questions of how trends vary spatially based on site setting or influences such as regional climate change, to applied questions such as impacts of wastewater treatment plant upgrades or effects of instrumentation of measurements. The team will work with staff in each reserve sector to develop tools for analyzing SWMP data across multiple regions and to determine how to use and communicate results, including potential incorporation into Data Mysteries. The analyses may also be used as a springboard for more complex analyses to understand the relative importance of ecosystem drivers at varied spatial and temporal scales.