UCSC researchers help launch program to monitor coastal oceans

The University of California, Santa Cruz, will soon be at the center of an extensive new program to monitor California's coastal oceans. The Network for Environmental Observation of the Coastal Ocean (NEOCO) will funnel real-time data from seven UC research sites along the California coast to a database at UC Santa Cruz.

Information in the database will be useful to researchers studying coastal ecosystems, global warming, and other issues. The database will also be open for public access on the Internet and will be a valuable resource for educators and students.

"We will obtain long-term data on the coastal environment from a large network of sites," said UCSC programming analyst Lauren Wilkinson, who is in charge of the database and web application.

Wilkinson and Margaret Dekshenieks, assistant professor of ocean sciences and NEOCO codirector, described the project at the 2002 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu on February 11. Participating campuses and the observation sites where they will be collecting data for the network include UC Davis (Bodega Head), UC Berkeley (Farallon Islands), UC Santa Barbara (Goleta), UCLA (Santa Monica), UC Irvine (Newport), and UC San Diego, Scripps Institution (La Jolla). John Largier of the Scripps Institution codirects the project with Dekshenieks.

"This type of broad, interdisciplinary monitoring project is critical for the oceanography community," Wilkinson said.

The database will provide concurrent physical, chemical, and biological measurements at regular intervals. Data will be collected at the observation sites, checked at Scripps, and sent to UCSC, where it will be made web-accessible in about an hour.

In its first year, the variables in the NEOCO database will include temperature, density, salinity, conductivity, pressure, and turbidity. The researchers hope to expand the database in the future to include additional parameters. Wilkinson said she also hopes to add graphing capability to the program, which would be an especially useful tool for K-12 teachers.

NEOCO will eventually link with other environmental monitoring programs. The researchers plan to collect data for decades to come, providing a record of changing coastal conditions over the next century.

The NEOCO web site is http://es.ucsc.edu/~neoco/. Researchers anticipate that the database will be operational by April. The project is funded by the University of California Marine Council.


Editor's note: Reporters may contact Wilkinson at (831) 459-2876 or lauren@es.ucsc.edu and Dekshenieks at (831) 459-4632 or margaret@es.ucsc.edu.