USA Volunteer Water Monitoring Network

Data Entry, Storage, Retrieval, and Management

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Question 1: I am trying to understand how volunteer monitoring groups store and retrieve their data.

Question 2: Does anyone know of other less massive data storage programs than STORET for physical, chemical, and biological data that are available for volunteer monitoring groups to use?

Question 3: I am looking for a database that volunteer monitoring groups can use.

Question 4: Does anyone have a written policy/guidelines, that can be shared, regarding how and when they share their volunteer data?

Comment 1: For those were aren’t already aware, Excel has some “problems” with its statistical functions.

Question 5: I’m looking for advice on how to get volunteers excited about entering their water quality data online.

Question 6: We are looking to make some changes to our program such as having volunteers enter data online.

Question 7: Do the costs outweigh the benefits for having online databases?

Question 8:  Is getting data into STORET really that difficult?

Question 1

On 5/9/05 8:32 PM, “Muns Farestad” wrote:

I am trying to understand how volunteer monitoring groups store and retrieve their data. As I see it, there may be three general levels:

1st) data sheets,
2nd) data sheets converted to spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel, or
3rd) data sheets converted to an in-house relational database such as Microsoft Access, or
4th) data sheets converted to an on-line database.

These data management levels are dependent on a volunteer’s group resources of time, money and skill.

Our group uses a custom designed database tool based on Microsoft Access. We have found this tool to be especially useful for creating queries responding to unanticipated questions that are not covered by regular reporting.

How does your group manage your data? Have you considered using a relational database? If so, what is your opinion of using a relational database regarding cost, difficulty, or sustainability? Do you think that using a relational database is worthwhile?

If you are already using a relational database, what software are you using and did your group customize your tool? Do you have any problems with your program?

If you are not using a relational database and would like to, what do you need?

Would you find a forum to exchange data management ideas and tools valuable?

— Muns Farestad
— mufarestad@sprintmail.com

Responses to Question 1

From: Rita Jack [mailto:rita.jack@sierraclub.org]
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 6:45 PM
To: Volunteer water monitoring
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

In the volunteer projects I oversee, we currently enter our datasheet data into an Excel spreadsheet. I would like to use a relational database, but Access is the one Microsoft product I’ve not taken time to understand enough to build my own really useful database. I’d like to be able to graph our results when the data warrant it – but right now, the setup doesn’t support that. We’re using benthic macroinvertebrates for most of our monitoring, but also do a bit of chemistry, too- pH, conductivity, TDS, temp, DO. Benthics are id’d to order level in some cases, to species in other cases.

I don’t want to spend my grant on software if I can avoid it, and if I can make what’s already on my laptop do what I need it to do!

Hope this helps…

-Rita Jack.

>>

Rita Jack

Water Sentinels Project, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter

tel: 517-484-2372

Make all Michigan’s waters fishable and swimmable.

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 08:20:01 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Our volunteers fill out a paper datasheet on site. They can then enter the data online or fax or mail us the sheet and we enter it. The database itself is in Access. We cannot manipulate it online (nor can the volunteers – just store in it) but we can download it for manipulation. I think a forum would be cool.

 

From: Marian Beddill [mailto:beddill@nas.com]
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 8:50 PM
To: Volunteer water monitoring

Rita;

Excel does graphs (Access does not, afaik.) But for building datasets with stability, a database like Access is by far preferred.

I recently wrote a mini-tutorial on Access for a friend. It’s in an RTF generic word-processing format. I have posted it at one of my websites, http://noleakybuckets.org/files/ms_access_intro_tutorial.rtf . Enjoy and share and send suggestions.

Marian Beddill
WA State
“If you cannot trust the way your votes are counted, nothing much else in politics matters.”

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 14:30:23 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: re:[volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Muns,
The Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program has volunteers fill out data sheets in the field. Since our volunteers process samples for laboratory analysis, the data sheets stay with the samples until they are picked up. The data is entered by LMVP staff (that’s me) into Excel.

Our Excel spreadsheet is becoming entirely too cumbersome, however, and I think it’s time for us to make the jump. We have both Access and Filemaker Pro and I’m considering the latter for it’s friendly interface.

For what it’s worth, I’d join a volunteer database forum if it existed. I have LOTS of questions on the subject that I won’t pepper the listserve with!

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070
www.lmvp.org

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 13:08:46 -0400
To: “Volunteer water monitoring”
From: Karen Diamond

Hello everyone,

I have been reading portions of this conversation as my supervisor (Ann Reid) passes them along.

Here at Great Bay Coast Watch, we use a combination of Excel and Access to store our data in. We used Excel exclusively until the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) wanted to include our data in their database. Since the form they wanted it in was very different from ours, we decided to use Access to make it more pliable. It worked very well for this. It also works well for when another groups wants specific information, but not the entire data set.

However; there were several complications that arose from this. We found that we did not have the graphing ability that we have in Excel. We have volunteers enter our data at home from copies of the data sheets. We cannot expect them to have Access on their home computers. I am the only person here, currently, that knows how to program in Access, so when we need a new query, form , report … from it, I am the only one who can do it.

Our process now is to have the data entered in Excel, verified at the office and imported to the database. We use the Excel for calculations and graphs in our Annual Report. We use the database to shuffle the data around into the format for NHDES, and export it back to Excel for them. The Excel data pages are yearly, the database is the entire data set.

I created the database myself, as well as the one we use for tracking all of our grants and volunteer activities. (I am a programer, which is rare for a volunteer organization to have.) If your group wants to use a database, the MOST important thing you need to know before you start is what you want out of it. If you don’t know yet, don’t waist the time. Changing a database is much more complicated than doing it right from scratch. Also, computers are binomial, they do not do “sometimes” well.

I hope this helps some of you understand the advantages and disadvantages better,

Karen

GBCW Mission
The Great Bay Coast Watch is citizen volunteers, working within the UNH Cooperative Extension/NH Sea Grant Program, protecting the long-term health and natural resources of New Hampshire?s coastal waters and estuarine systems through monitoring and education projects.

*********************************
Karen Diamond
GBCW Assistant
Kingman Farm
Laboratory Leader
Phone: (603) 749-1565
Fax: (603) 743-3997
karen.diamond@unh.edu
*********************************
Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 18:27:01 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: [volmonitor] Fwd: re:Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Thanks Karen (via Anne!),
I like the notion of using Excel for the present year, but then moving everything to the database. I think I’ll implement that this year.

Does anyone else here use Filemaker? I bought it for managing the volunteer contact information, since I can include photos (my inability to connect names to faces is pathetic). I was thinking about using Filemaker to house the data too.

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070
www.lmvp.org

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 13:26:08 -0700
From: Marian Beddill
Subject: Re: Fwd: re:[volmonitor] Database useage; set volmonitor ack

I support and concur with Karen’s mixed-method.

I, too, have programming experience, and I do my own civic activities just like she described — a diverse crowd enters data in Excel (we pre-specify the fields and formats) data-fixing is done there if needed, then the sets are imported (appended, etc) into Access. Output may go directly from a Report function in Access, or exports to Excel for graphics or sharing out.

Marian Beddill
http://lakewhatcom.org/

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 21:13:22 +0000
From: Katznelson Revital
Subject: [volmonitor] Data management functions

Reading yesterday’s and today’s chain of responses from VolMon folks about the recent data management question is very illuminating. Been there! I have done a lot of digging into various local, State, and National WQ databases over the years, and ended up creating a set of spreadsheets…. in an Excel workbook. The Workbook takes care of a very basic function, often overlooked, which I call (1) “Documentation & QA/QC”. This function is separate from all consecutive functions of a data management system: (2) storage & sharing (3) retrieval, and (4) interpretation & presentation.

Function (1) – Documentation & QA/QC – should be done at the monitoring Project level by folks who know about the project. This is where we need a platform for data entry & documentation, error calculation, data verification and validation, and all other manipulations related to measurement quality. This is where all essential metadata is captured as well. It can be done in Excel by most people, or in a combination of Access and Excel, if there is an Access guru available.

Function (2) – storage – is very easy if all the information is already captured and can be stored as is, at the Project level. However, sharing data with others must be selective, because others never need all the nitty-gritty detail in a central database. We can take a sub-set of essential information fields – for example, the Water Quality Data Elements – to put on our Project website or to export into a central database, be it Regional, State, National, or Worldwide.

Function (3) – retrieval – requires that information is organized and interlinked in a way that allows any data user to sort, filter, group, and do any other query activity using anything from basic Excel tools to sophisticated Access or Oracle tools. If you follow the three normal forms of database structure and you provide for effective linkage between data tables (for example, Station ID is the link between the Location table and the Results table), any search engine and query tool can be applied to retrieve your data from just about any relational database.

Function (4) – data interpretation & presentation – can be done ONLY after your retrieval tools extract the desired information from the database tables effectively, AND you will need additional tools for plotting, mapping, or running statistical comparisons. Some programming-endowed folks like to automate it in sync with the retrieval. Here the sky is the limit.

OK folks. If anyone has seen a data management system that does it all, please let me know ASAP!

Thanks
Revital
============================================
Revital Katznelson, Ph.D.
Regional Citizen Monitoring Coordinator
State Water Resources Control Board

Mailing address:
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400 Oakland CA 94612
Office Phone: (510) 622 2470
Cell Phone: (916) 947 4816
Fax: (510) 622 2460
Email: RKatznelson@waterboards.ca.gov
(please note new email address, Nov 2004)

Clean Water Team website: www.waterboards.ca.gov/nps/volunteer.html

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 11:02:03 -0400
From: Mayio.Alice@epamail.epa.gov
Subject: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Dear Folks,

Several of you have expressed interest in a volunteer database management forum of some sort. Does anybody have any ideas re: what form this would take? are you thinking of a separate list serve? some other technology? a meeting?

Exchanging ideas and approaches re: database management certainly seems like a worthwhile topic for an extended volunteer monitoring workshop session at the upcoming National Water Quality Monitoring Council conference in San Jose, CA next May (7-11), and is duly noted!
However, we can clearly make progress before then if people see a need and a way to foster info exchange on this key topic. Personally, I’d vote against a separate listserve; people can always delete messages they don’t want to read simply by looking at the subject line.

I’m assuming, as well, that everyone has read the most recent issue of the Volunteer Monitor on Data Documentation and Interpretation. If not, check it out at http://www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring/volunteer/newsletter/volmon17no1.pdf

Alice Mayio
USEPA (4503T)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 566-1184

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 11:32:40 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

I’ve been following this topic closely too. I agree that we need to have some kind of meeting of the minds with this topic. I also agree that this is a much needed discussion at the 2006 conference. But I
need this now, I’m interested because in NJ we are gearing up to create a data management system for the volunteer community to use as a powerful tool for their own data comparisons and interpretation with the bonus of us (DEP) having access to their data. (We’ve been closely following what our neighboring state of PA is doing as a model, great stuff!)
However, the last thing we want to create, is another unused database. It would be great to have the insight and support from our larger national community of volunteer programs so we don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We are only going to be given funding for this once…

In the idealistic world where we had money to travel… it would be great to see what everyone is doing in a more intimate setting. I would love to see 20/30 minute presentations on the successes and failures of data management and data use. And I would even take it to the next level and say, have the discussion over several days. However, in the real world of budget woes, an internet based data discussion over several weeks or months may be the way to go. Maybe we can always post to the
list serve with the subject line reading DATA DISCUSSION. That way people that do not want to be involved can just delete it, or we may need to set up another list serve?

“In order to achieve something, you must get started” Fortune Cookie wisdom

Danielle Donkersloot
609-633-9241 (direct line)
609-633-1458 (fax)
PO Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 16:15:52 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: Re:[volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Just a thought.
What if somebody were to set up a Yahoo forum or something similar?

I suspect such a forum would be very active for a month or so, then fizzle out (and therefore probably not warranting a seperate EPA listserve). Also, I have a lot of questions that I feel hesitant to ask to the general listserve. The answers to these questions will certainly invite more questions, ad infinitum, which would generate lots of emails for everyone. I don’t think I’d feel as inhibited in a more specific “database forum”.

Tony Thorpe

Coordinator, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program
302 ABNR University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 1-800-895-2260
Fax: 573-884-5070
www.lmvp.org

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 12:40:02 -0400
From: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Hi all,
This also could be a topic for a workshop and associated paper sessions at the May 2006 national conference in CA. At that conference there will also be opportunity for more informal side meetings too. The call for abstracts for this conference will be coming out with in a month. It will get posted
to this list serve when it does!
Linda Green

URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804
401-874-2905
www.uri.edu/ce/wq/
www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer

 

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 10:09:35 -0700
From: Stacy Renfro
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Volunteer Database Management Forum

Please keep discussing this topic here – my 2 cents
I’d prefer that the conversations take place here – though I may not need the information right now – I often save discussion threads that are of interest and when I get a moment scan through them for morsels of knowledge that might feed our program or my imagination –

Having to join yet another list to partake of the information and see the questions asked is more cumbersome than I’d like – I find it easy to delete what I don’t want

Stacy
Student Watershed Research Project

 

Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 11:38:59 -0400
From: URI Watershed Watch
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Data management functions

Hello all:

The data management discussion has been really interesting to read – and really highlights the fact that there is a tremendous amount of useful information out there within the volunteer monitoring community, and that we need to find an effective way to store and share. Unfortunately we have also discovered that there is not an easy solution – a fact that the professional monitoring agencies have also discovered (hence the development of the much maligned STORET…)

As has already been mentioned – this is definitely a topic that will be addressed as part of the volunteer monitoring component of the National Water Quality Monitoring Council conference next May. As one of the individuals working on that aspect of the conference, I would be very interested in any specific issues that should be part of a several hour workshop as well as suggestions of folks we should get involved in the development of that workshop.

In the meantime (and for those unable to attend the conference) as part of a national facilitation of Extension volunteer monitoring efforts we have been working on a factsheet addressing data management for volunteer programs. Initially we had been trying to create a template for a web-based volunteer monitoring database, but discovered pretty quickly that there were just enough individual differences between programs to make a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach impossible. So we now hope to offer a factsheet that helps guide you in developing your own data management system (the combination of a spreadsheet based system for short-term management, calculations and graphing, with relational database for long-term storage seems to be an effective and popular option!) The factsheet will rely on the experiences of a number of volunteer monitoring coordinators and database managers. Please check out our website at www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/ to learn more about our project or to contact us about participating in the database survey. We also appreciate any comments or corrections to any materials found on the website.

Looking forward to hearing more on this important subject!

Elizabeth Herron
Program Coordinator
URI Watershed Watch
Phone: 401-874-4552
Fax: 401-874-4561
Web: http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/

 

Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 15:54:25 -0400
From: ALLARM
Subject: re: [volmonitor] Fwd: re:Database useage; set volmonitor ack

Tony –

We use filemaker for our member information and access for our water quality data. I like filemaker and think it would work well for a water quality database. Our reason for not using it is more a matter of history and staff who had more experience with Access. We use excel for data summaries and graphing and the ease of use with Access is pretty good; not sure if this would be true with filemaker.

Lauren Imgrund

 

Date: Sun, 15 May 2005 23:22:42 -0400
From: Muns Farestad
Subject: [volmonitor] DATA DISCUSSION; set volmonitor ack

I think the data management discussion to this point has been very broad, covering a lot of information and even coming up with a ?popular option? of a ?mixed-method? which I will try to summarize:
Volunteers work with data sheets; pass them along to a central location for data entry into either an intermediate spreadsheet or the database itself. If there is an intermediate spreadsheet, the data can be imported as a block into the database with an append query. The database is the ultimate repository of program data and can then export data in several forms, one of which is a back to a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets facilitate data sharing, charting, and (I?ll add) some statistical analysis.
I?ve tried to keep this summary simple and recognize that there may be in place efficiencies like using on-line tools, but add to it as you see fit.
My further questions may be a bit more difficult to answer, and I thank all for the time spent so far.
What is the justification for building a database tool? I assume it must be based on improving some valuable output.
What is the cost of building a database tool? Unless a volunteer group has a capable volunteer, building their own database may be unaffordable.
What is the cost of operating a database? I think that the main cost is data entry but not too different from whatever is happening now, while the main expertise is in query building. I could be convinced that report writing is not as necessary since queries can be exported to Excel, which is what most inquirers want anyway.
Are there any snags (other than version) in the waiting for Access users? Is there a limit to the size of the database?
Does putting an intermediate data transfer spreadsheet add annoying complications to the data append to the database? Can this be controlled with a template that allows volunteers to be a bit ?creative??
Is there anybody that is willing to share some of the tools they have already developed?
This is too long. If you get here, thanks again.
— Muns Farestad
— Delaware Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Program
— mufarestad@sprintmail.com

 

Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 10:46:41 -0400
From: URI Watershed Watch
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] DATA DISCUSSION; set volmonitor ack

I would say that your summary of how data is entered and managed is pretty good.

In terms of justification for building a database tool I will offer the reason our program is in the process of doing so. The URI Watershed Watch program is starting its 18th year of monitoring – with some sites have been monitored hat entire time. We have data on in excess of 250 individual sites (lakes, ponds, tributaries, rivers, salt ponds, open marine…) We use Excel spreadsheet files in a variety of formats for managing that information (individual site files for primarily field data (i.e. water clarity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, weather and also lab analyzed chlorophyll concentration.) For other lab analyzed parameters (i.e. nutrients, bacteria, chloride, pH and alkalinity) we use a parameter specific multi-sheet spreadsheet. These files have been created to facilitate BOTH data entry and our reporting mechanisms. And for annual data this works out quite well. Where we have problems is when we start to ask questions like “what was the lowest water clarity in ABC Pond over the ten years of monitoring and when?” We have to go back through 10 Excel files to manually determine that information – we can’t just do queries easily through that many files. And unfortunately spreadsheets of the size we would need to keep ALL this data in one set of spreadsheets it would be way too cumbersome and slow.

So the database will allow us to do trend analyses, other comparisons and assessments much more easily – as well as allow us to customize data output via queries for various data users (such as our state environmental agency and the many consultants that use our information.)

Unfortunately entering data directly into the database (which was created by the RI Dept of Environmental Management for their use and being modified to better reflect our needs) is would make it much more difficult, and slow down our proofing process considerably. So we will continue to use Excel as our ‘intermediate’ data management tool (as well as for graphing, calculations, etc.) with a well defined template set-up to reduce errors in appending information into the database.

Our program has two full-time staff and multiple undergraduate students responsible for managing the program including volunteer training, equipment maintenance, laboratory analyses, data entry and management, etc. so it is difficult to assess what portion of our time is spent specifically on the database. However, once a system is set-up, I would expect that given today’s level of computer sophistication that a well trained volunteer could enter and manage the data fairly easily. The big expense would be the up front cost of setting up a system.

Unfortunately as I wrote earlier, we had investigated developing a web-based database for volunteer programs, but found that programs differed too much to really be able to do that effectively. That said, there are some good examples to help guide development of your own database (or other data management system.) A couple that come to mind are the Missouri Stream Team on-line database, another was developed for Wisconsin (please see http://www.uwex.edu/ces/csreesvolmon/DataReporting/ for more information.) I’d love to hear about other good examples…

Elizabeth Herron

Program Coordinator
URI Watershed Watch
Phone: 401-874-4552
Fax: 401-874-4561
Web: http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/

 

Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 18:44:59 -0700
From: Revital Katznelson
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] DATA DISCUSSION; set volmonitor ack
To: Volunteer water monitoring

Folks
I am happy to read the discussion and learn about all the combinations people use; it seems like we are all aware that an “interim” platform is needed and that data might need to be bounced around for different functions. Here are my 9 cents.

California is too big for a centralized system for citizen monitoring that will cater for all data management needs (and all quality assurance needs that are an essential part of it). Our Clean Water Team – two part-time citizen monitoring coordinators plus a couple of part-time student assistants – needs to support multiple monitoring Projects done by many groups in our nine Regions for a variety of data users. Data entry cannot be centralized (unfortunately), nor can we centralize our data quality management. All we can do is deploy, and provide training for, a set of tools: templates and guidance documents.

Essentially, our groups need a platform for “on the ground operations” such as data entry, data manipulation, and specific communication within a Project. A big chunk of the information residing on that platform (e.g., calibration records) has nothing to do with data retrieval, interpretation, presentation, etc. In other words, this platform takes care of two of the four major functions of Data Management Systems [which are: DMS Function # (1) “Documentation & QA/QC”; (2) storage & sharing; (3) retrieval; and (4) interpretation & presentation].

I am aware of several systems used in CA, including the Data Quality Management Project File (an Excel workbook that works “underneath the database”); the Coastal Watershed Council’s database (Access and Excel combined); the BayKeeper data management system (Access); and another system originally based on FileMaker. If you are interested in details about how the first two systems are applied to FIELD OPERATIONS, read on.

A. —- DQM Project File:

This Excel workbook has been used by many groups as a platform for data capture, documentation, error calculations, and data validation at the Project level. It is also used for communication of Project-specific information between multiple field crews (e.g., the specific location and habitat unit where the Hobo-Temp needs to be deployed each time).

WHO: The file is used “on the ground” by Project personnel with basic Excel skills.

DATA ENTRY
— Traditional mode: observations, measurements, and calibration records are captured on hardcopy forms in the field, and then entered into spreadsheets sporting the same appearance. Information on Station Locations, Instruments, Standards, Organization, etc. is entered into spreadsheets directly or from hardcopy notes, and the spreadsheets are kept in the same workbook (this is the “database setup” information).
— PDA (New!) Mode: all field records (observations, field measurements, sampling log, GPS coordinates & associated error, calibration records, and flow discharge) are captured directly in electronic format into Excel spreadsheets on a personal digital assistant (PDA) with SpreadCE software. I have augmented the original Project File spreadsheets with drop-down menus to minimize the need for typing, and added color-coding of special cell ranges to facilitate navigation thru the spreadsheet on the small screen of the PDA. Information on Stations, Instruments, Standards, etc. is filled in the traditional way and the unique IDs of these entities feed the drop-down menus where needed.

ERROR CALCULATION is done by Project personnel (the Trainer & QA person) within the Project file spreadsheets, using a specific set of instructions to glean each Instrument’s precision from repeated measurements pairs, and its accuracy from post event calibration records.

DATA VERIFICATION and VALIDATION is also done by Project personnel (the Technical Leader & QA Officer) working with the Project File spreadsheets. This includes attaching flags and qualifiers, as well as accuracy and precision information, to the Results.

TRAINING REQUIRED: Data entry can be done by any Excel user after 30 minutes training. Training someone who already has some PDA and Excel skills to capture data in the field takes about 20 minutes. Learning how to use the spreadsheets for error calculation and data validation takes about 3 hours, mostly for QA training.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) SUPPORT: Beyond basic Excel skills, the only IT support is needed to prepare and migrate batch files into a central database. If the spreadsheets are organized with a certain receiving database in mind, data migration templates can be created easily. I already have a template that takes field data from the Project File into STORET via SIM, but I need the SIM guru to take it from there.

FUNCTIONS: The Project File is used for all Documentation and QA/QC Function activities (DMS Function # 1), for long-term storage at the Project level (DMS Function #2), and as a platform to create batch files for a SUBSET of information fields for export, to share data with others (DMS Function #2 as well). Small-scale data retrieval operations (DMS Function # 3) are possible via Excel’s tools to Sort, Filter, etc., and data stored in the Result spreadsheets can be easily used for plotting, comparisons with Water Quality benchmarks, basic statistical analyses, and other DMS Function # 4 operations. Excel has got a lot of good tools, however its workbooks are too small for a Region-wide or Statewide monitoring Program database.

B. —- Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) Database:

This system was constructed in ACCESS in 2003 to accommodate the needs of a Coastwise Snapshot Day event, and has been refined since. The multiple database tables include all essential placeholders for data capture, documentation, error calculations, and data validation.

WHO: The database was used for data entry by regional volunteer coordinators, and by a Data Management Team for data entry and other activities. IT support is available most of the time.

DATA ENTRY: Field measurements and calibration records are captured on hardcopy forms, and then entered into Data Entry Forms sporting the same appearance. Data entry on the Internet is in the works.

ERROR CALCULATION was done on Excel spreadsheets generated from queries of the Access database. Once in Excel, it can be done by Project personnel (the Trainer & QA person).

DATA VERIFICATION and VALIDATION is also done by Project personnel, working with Access tables or with query products as Excel spreadsheets; there are also ways to attach flags and qualifiers to the Results.

TRAINING REQUIRED: Data entry can be done by any computer user after 20 minutes of training, if all the bugs have been worked out. Learning how to use the spreadsheets for error calculation and data validation takes about 3 hours, mostly for QA training.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) SUPPORT: This system works because we have two dedicated volunteers that are also IT gurus! Beyond all the structural programming and continuous troubleshooting done by our gurus, routine use of the system requires availability of a person with a number of Access skills (database setup, writing queries, moving batches of data between Access and Excel, etc.). As many of you folks found about Microsoft Access, the software version you are using and the setup of your individual workstation can create a lot of instability and compatibility issues. Having data entered at different workstations and then merging data tables is another challenge. Data “massaging” for export of batch files may or may not be a big task (depending on availability of crosswalks into the target database and other variables). Last but not least, management of data protection and data accessibility requires IT support too.

FUNCTIONS: The CWC database is used for all Documentation and QA/QC Function activities (DMS Function # 1), for long-term storage of data from multiple local Projects and for export of batch files into the regional database (DMS Function #2), as well as for some retrieval operations (DMS Function # 3). As in most cased, once exported or retrieved, data can be used for interpretation and presentation using Excel, SAS, GIS, or other plotting/statistical analysis/mapping tools that cater for DMS Function # 4.

Since my last email I have seen a very nice web presentation (with plots and all) on the Alabama Water Watch!

Good day,
Revital

 

Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 14:54:08 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re:[volmonitor] volunteer datamanagement discussion

The South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program (SCORE) managed by the SC Dept of Natural Resources is a community-based restorationprogram. Once component of the program is a volunteer water monitoring program. Volunteers measure water quality weekly at about 20 sites statewide. The parameters measured are salinity, DO, pH, temperature (air and water), secchi depth (or turbidity tube if at a shallow site) and associated weather and tide observations.

Monitoring data collected by volunteers for the SCORE program are managed in a Microsoft Access database which resides on a web server. There is a user-interface, or on-line form, programmed in ASP that allows the volunteers to enter their monitoring data via the Internet into the database running in the background. Volunteers actually use paper forms in the field, then enter the data into the on-line form later (the on-line form mirrors the paper forms). Since the data are stored in a relational database such as MS Access, the SCORE program staff are able to query and manage the data fairly easily.

In order to QA/QC the data, we currently take the database off-line at pre-scheduled times, make the necessary edits, then repost it to the Web, but the process does not have to function this way. The database could be reviewed over the Web, and changes made directly to the database while on the Web server as needed. We are also able to quality control some of the data entry by setting up a good on-line form. Many of the data entry fields in our form are set up with certain requirements that reduce the chance of human error during data entry. For example, if a measurement is only suppose to be carried out to one decimal place, the on-line form will reject the user¹s entry if they accidentally enter a value carried out to two decimal places.

Some graphical display options are available online for volunteers to use. For more sophisticated displays we export the data to Excel or Sigmaplot.

Please visit our website http://www3.csc.noaa.gov/scoysters and check out the monitoring data section (both the entry portion and the display portion).

 

Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 16:25:29 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot
Subject: Re:[volmonitor] volunteer datamanagement discussion

Here’s a question for ya…
I want to know if anyone else is trying to organize many different groups into 1 on-line data management system? (I know PA is working on this) I have about 34 active monitoring groups in NJ and I’m trying to figure out the best way to get them all in one system WITHOUT changing the way the normally do business.

“In order to achieve something, you must get started” Fortune Cookie
wisdom
Danielle Donkersloot
609-633-9241 (direct line)
609-633-1458 (fax)
PO Box 418
Trenton, NJ 08625

http://www.nj.gov/dep/watershedmgt/volunteer_monitoring.htm

 

On 5/19/05 8:37 AM, “Cooke, Ken (EPPC DEP DOW)” wrote:

Hi,

Thanks for the description of your system.

I am particularly interested in how you get Access to draw graphs for you (as scripted in your http://www3.csc.noaa.gov/scoysters/monitor/cresults.asp ASP code.)

Can you point me to the documentation on how that is set up?

Thanks

Ken Cooke
KY Water Watch

 

Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 10:43:29 -0400
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] volunteer datamanagement discussion

We are using a separate program to do the graphing, as this can not be performed within MS Access. We use a program called ChartDirector developed by Advanced Software Engineering (http://www.advsofteng.com/). It reads that data from the Access database and allows it to be graphed or charted on a Web page.
This software is specifically designed for visualizing data on the Web, and allows it to be done on-the-fly. If project managers want to do analyses and graphing with their volunteer data, but not for the purpose of making it readily available over the Web, they are better off pulling the data out of Access into Excel or a stats program.

Question 2

From: J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator [mailto:ESTeam@worldnet.att.net]
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 6:30 PM
To: VOLMONITOR
Subject:[volmonitor] Data storage

I noticed EPA’s new and improved STORET is now available http://www.epa.gov/STORET/. Does anyone know of other less massive data storage programs for physical, chemical, and biological data that are available for volunteer monitoring groups/organizations to use? I know of several other organizations that that have developed their own at a significant cost and I’ve had several organizations ask if there are already developed programs that are less expensive or free that they could use to store their accumulating data.

Any help would on this would be appreciated.

Regards,
J. Kelly Nolan
Capital Region Coordinator
Hudson Basin River Watch
www.hudsonbasin.org

Responses to Question 2

From: Rita Jack [mailto:rita.jack@sierraclub.org]
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 3:22 PM

I’d like to elaborate on a response now in relation to volunteer groups and STORET – but I’m on my way out to a meeting!

What I’d like to know is – who and how are volunteer groups using STORET? I’m interested in knowing hat volunteer groups’ data are being used by their states when the states prepare the 303(d) lists? I believe – and please correct me if I’m wrong or if I’m missing something – that if data are in STORET and they indicate that a water body is impaired or threatened, then a state should reference that data in preparing the 303(d) list. What are other folk’s thoughts on this?

Thanks!

~~Rita Jack, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter (Michigan), Water Sentinels Project

 

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 15:26:58 -0500
From: Lyn Hartman
Subject: [volmonitor] Data storage

Earth Force/GREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network) has an excellent online database they developed for just this use – check it out at www.green.org

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lyn Hartman
Hoosier Riverwatch Coordinator
Email: HoosierRiverwatch@dnr.state.in.us
Web: www.in.gov/dnr/soilcons/riverwatch
Hoosier Riverwatch is sponsored by the IDNR in cooperation
with Purdue University
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
—–Original Message—–
From: NOLNACSJ@aol.com [mailto:NOLNACSJ@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 4:01 PM
To: VOLMONITOR
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Kelly, I recently received an email from MA Coastal Zone Management who has offered to train a small number of our area (Cape Cod) water quality monitoring volunteers on how to use a new data management tool (MS Access based) they developed under one of their programs. This “tool” may be helpful to you regarding your efforts, but I do not know much more about it right now. I recommend you contact Bruce Carlisle at MA CZM for more information. His email address is: Bruce.Carlisle@state.ma.us

Hopefully, I did not just cause him to become inundated with emails……

Judy Scanlon
Freshwater Monitoring Coordinator
Orleans Water Quality task Force

 

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 17:36:34 -0400
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator”
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

NYS doesn’t use nor apply any weight to any volunteer monitoring data or from any other source i.e. college/universities, organizations, and or private companies in preparing its 303(d) list. “The fact is, no matter how good the data volunteers – or anyone else – collects, it is DEC’s role to evaluate the data and make an assessment that is consistent with assessments throughout the state.” This means the NYS DEC is the only one who gathers the data for determining the 303(d) list and needless to say the NYS DEC Division of Water, a small but dedicated staff, cannot possibly assess all of NYS waterways. Volunteer data and any other sources of data or reports are lucky to be used for the preparation of the States 305(b) reports.

HBRW is not using STORET.

Regards,
Kelly

 

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 15:42:29 -0700
From: Revital Katznelson
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage and data quality management (DQM)

Kelly I think you hit the nail on the head, so to speak.

It is not the role of the “data users” (e.g., regulators in charge of 305(b) reporting or 303(d) listing/de-listing) to assess the reliability and quality of data submitted by citizen monitoring groups. We simply cannot expect them to. Generally, users of monitoring data appreciate reliable, defensible, and usable data, but the tools to communicate these quality attributes often lack clarity and consistency, especially where field activities are concerned. In the absence of unambiguous communication tools and understandable reporting formats, assumptions about data quality are often made on the basis of other notions. Too often, users choose data based on who collected the data, whether they were adequately trained, whether they used established protocols, and whether they had an approved Quality Assurance Project Plan in place. This “programmatic” approach, which relies on external perception of merit, does not provide the data user with the relevant facts regarding the actual quality of specific data sets or individual results.

In California we have recently begun implementing a data quality management (DQM) system which allows for each data point to “speak for itself.” I got into it several years ago when I looked for a system that will provide for the primary data management functions of documentation and quality assessment. I couldn’t find any (STORET was not the answer either), so I started developing our own. We apply this DQM system for individual, small-scale monitoring projects, i.e., manageable chunks of monitoring efforts. Today the DQM is an assemblage of tools and guidance all “talking to each other” and all revolving around a set of “placeholders” for information that needs to be captured and manipulated. The placeholders are all packaged in what I call the DQM Project File and includes the Results (Result is the outcome of a measurement or analysis) and all their descriptors. Essentially, the Project File is a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with multiple spreadsheets that hold the Results, the measurement information (i.e., the unique identity of the instrument or kit used, as well as its features and specifications), and the quality of the measurement (i.e., instrument-specific calibration, accuracy checks, and precision records). All this information is used – at the Project level and by Project personnel – to calculate error, validate the data, and generate qualifiers. When submitted to the data users, the results can be accompanied by a clearly defined set of qualifiers that inform the user about the range of associated error, whether the data have been validated, and whether they are supported by adequate documentation. Last time I sent a full DQM Project File to our Regional Water Quality Control Board staff, they had to look at a very small number of fields to quickly see all they need to know about the data. Needless to say, they were very happy to pick and choose what they can use to fit their different needs.

Bonus: The Project File also contains placeholders for “data retrieval handles” that allow the user to sort, filter, and pool individual results based on the monitoring intent (e.g., characterization or capture of worst-case scenario), sampling design (e.g., probabilistic or deterministic), station type (e.g., outfall or creek), conditions during sampling (wet or dry weather), etc.

I have a NWQMC 2002 paper on DQM and I can easily email it to interested folks –
Revital

=======================================================
Revital Katznelson, Ph.D.
Regional Citizen Monitoring Coordinator
State Water Resources Control Board
Mailing address:
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400
Oakland CA 94612
Office Phone: (510) 622 2470
Cell Phone: (916) 947 4816
Fax: (510) 622 2460
Email: rk@rb2.swrcb.ca.gov

 

From: Rich Schrader [mailto:res13131@cybermesa.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 6:51 PM
To: VOLMONITOR
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

My understanding is similiar to Rita Jack’s, that if you can get your data into a format that your state and it indicates impairment that they must look at it for preparing the 303(d) list. Thus, some volunteer monitoring trainers provide databases (or even excel templates) that can dump data into Storet. EPA Region 8 and the Montana Volunteer Water Monitoring Project have been developing these tools which are on the verge of being widely used by tribes and watershed groups/teachers.

My sense is that this approach – non-STORET interface with STORET compatibility is the best direction to take if you want your state to use your data in enforcing the Clean Water Act. As usual, it depends on your monitoring goals .
— Rich

________________
Richard Schrader
River Source
1803 1/2 Agua Fria
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-0726 wk
www.riversource.net

 

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 19:39:17 -0400
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator”
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

As I’ve previously mentioned, in NYS even if its in the same format following the same QA/QC NYS DEC will not use it for 303(d) listing. They may look at it… but they will not use it.

Going back to my original request: Where can I get the data bases or excel templates that are user friendly for data storage?

Kelly

 

From: “Alison L. Reber”
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage
To: VOLMONITOR

I hate to ask newbie questions but I got on this list serv so I could get a better feel for what’s happening outside the (occasional) alternate reality we call Kansas. Are the data in STORET subject to quality assurance? I can’t see how data could legitimately be used for in a 303(d) without this initial step. The other question that seems looming is WHO determines the impairment or threatened status and HOW is the determination made for water bodies shown in STORET?

Here there’s no shortage of 303(d) listings but there does seem to be a shortage of people who are willing to accept and pursue the long-term value of addressing problems in the “headwaters” as well as the mainstems. I can see that in states with very minimal 303(d) lists, being able to garner compulsory attention to impaired areas is a pretty valuable asset.

The program I work for, Kansas StreamLink, is almost exclusively an educational tool. We are trying to get communities (REAL people) tied into identified local (as in “this REALLY is YOUR problem”) water quality issues. The 303(d) and the TMDL Implementation Plans are primary documents we put in the hands of our teams as we try to push them beyond casual (but protocol compliant, of course 🙂 stream sampling excursions. For us, working through the schools seems to be a steady and reliable system for maintaining direct community connections.

I know this time of the year is pretty intense but I’d love to hear about some of the other programs out there. -Alison Reber

PS I’m not sure if someone from Kansas can credibly use the term “headwaters” but “uplands” just seems almost comical….

KS StreamLink
414 East 9th Street Lawrence, KS 66044-2629
785-840-0700 fax 785-843-6080
streamlink@streamlink.org

 

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 19:51:26 -0400
From: Liu.Ed@epamail.epa.gov
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Good for you Alison — Just know that you are doing the right thing. Don’t expect to hear that from the DC EPA people for various reasons, the most important that contentious issues has kept any administration from bringing to the congress a revision of the clean water act since 1987. That is three cycles of the usual reauthorization (5 yrs)of major agency legislation. In sum, we are stuck in approaches that are nearly 20 years old.

 

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 23:18:40 -0400
From: Geoff Dates
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Alison,

You may know all this, or have received similar replies, but here’s my take on it. Impairment determinations based on data in STORET (or whatever data storage system the state is using) are usually made based on the state’s assessment protocol or assessment methodology. In some states, this is a separate document. In others, it’s described in the 305b report or 303d guidance, or something similar. It usually takes the form of a “use support” determination: Fully Supporting, Partially Supporting, or Not Supporting the uses designated in the water quality standards and the conditions needed to support them described by the water quality criteria. For example, the aquatic life use is not supported if greater than 10% of the samples for dissolved oxygen violate the 6 mg/l criterion for a cold water fishery. The assessment protocol should also describe the data and data quality requirements needed for both 305b and 303d (e.g. minimum # of samples, age of data, etc.).

Once a water body is determined to not be supporting its designated uses, it may or may not go on the 303d list. Again, the assessment methodology should describe the conditions under which an impaired water body would not go on the 303d list. In PA, for example, there are 3 reasons why an impaired water would not go on the 303d list:

1) The impairment is not being caused by a pollutant as defined in the Clean Water Act. Impairment can result from physical barriers, exotic species, prolonged drought and other sources. DEP does not place these waters on the list since there is no pollutant load to allocate through the TMDL process.
2) Impairments are being, or will be, addressed by required pollution control efforts. DEP determines that eliminating the impairment is better addressed through existing enforcement and compliance pollution control efforts. 3) The waterbody already has an EPA-approved TMDL developed for identified causes of impairment. However, these waters remain in the 305(b) report as impaired until the designated use is fully supported.
(Note: this is from 1999, things may have changed).

Each state is different and I’m not familiar with Kansas, but try to get a copy of the assessment protocol.


Geoff Dates
River Watch Program Director
River Network
Home Office:
6 Poor Farm Road
Hartland Vt 05048
802-436-2544
email: gdates@rivernetwork.org
River Network Web Site: www.rivernetwork.org

 

Rich Schrader
To: VOLMONITOR
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Alison,
Look what a storm of competing visions you provoked !!!

Tina Laidlaw of EPA Region 8 has an excel template and access database format that seems robust and is STORET compatible using an SIM interface that uploads the data to STORET. The tool was developed for tribes and comes along with training for the tribal monitoring audience. I’ve got a copy but don’t feel at liberty to share sinces it’s not my tool to hand out. You might try to contact Tina Laidlaw (Montana office) directly or wait for a response from her (I think she’s on this listserve since she turned me on to it).

Rich
________________
Richard Schrader
River Source
1803 1/2 Agua Fria
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-0726 wk

 

Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 13:11:45 -0500
From: “Alison L. Reber”
Subject: [volmonitor] State 303ds

Thanks for the information, Geoff! The 303d determinations for Kansas’ 305b report are technically made exclusively by our Dept. of Health & Environment even if identical protocols are used. This is consistent with what Kelly in NYS is saying as well. I know Kentucky incorporates Water Watch data into their 305b – that must have been either a legislative feat or sheer desperation to stay out of court! It sounds like states are free to make their designated use impairment determinations as per their established & EPA accepted (?) prerogative, I mean, protocols – murky water to say the least!

Explaining all this to an arm chair audience is very difficult since there are so many twists and turns in the strands of information. I see the drama in it all but most find it pretty dry. (as in the Sahara!) -A

 

Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 15:50:07 -0400
From: Linda Green
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: State 303ds
X-Sender: lgr4576u@postoffice.uri.edu
To: VOLMONITOR
Cc: “Alison L. Reber”
Reply-to: VOLMONITOR
X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Light Version 3.0.1 (32)
List-Unsubscribe:
Original-recipient: rfc822;kfstepenuck@facstaff.wisc.edu

Hi Alison,
Just wanted to let you know that RI incorporates the volunteer monitoring data from the URI Watershed Watch program into its 305b report, and relies on it for 303d listing for locations and parameters we monitor. As a matter of fact we are in the midst of a 5 year grant from RI DEM where they provide us with a list of lakes/ponds with no/little/old monitoring information. We recruit volunteers to join URIWW and monitor these locations so that RI DEM will have data on which to base 303(d) list or not-listing. This was after we did a QA/QC assessment of our monitoring and successfully compared it side-by-side on-site with “professiional” monitoring.

I represent the volunteer monitoring community on the National Water Quality Monitoring Council and have appreciated all the comments on this situation. And its not just volunteer monitoring. I know of 2 unnamed state environmental agencies that are unable/unwilling to use US Geological Survey monitoring data for their assessments.

Linda Green
Program Director,
URI Watershed Watch
URI Cooperative Extension
Natural Resources Science Department
College of the Environment and Life Sciences
1 Greenhouse Road, CIK
Kingston, RI 02881
401-874-2905 voice
401-874-4561 fax
http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer

 

Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 18:42:08 -0600
From: Laidlaw.Tina@epamail.epa.gov
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

EPA Region 8 has developed an Excel template that can be uploaded to a website (managed by Gold Systems) and migrated to STORET. The template tries to explain and simplify the requirements for metadata (data about your data).

There are several other tools (STORET compatible web-entry tool for small data sets, access databases, etc) for getting data into STORET. If your goal is to have a state consider your data, I would encourage you to consider making your data STORET compatible and be sure to include the metadata describing your data.

Building upon Geoff’s email that explains how states conduct assessments – I think it is important to clarify the distinction between state uses of “data” versus “assessments”. As Geoff explained, most states have assessment methodologies that explain (some in clearer terms than others) the data requirements and process used to establish whether a waterbody is meeting its designated uses. In most states, the only entity making those “assessment” calls is the state environmental agency. Whether or not a state chooses to use volunteer data to make the use assessment (determination of fully supporting, not supporting) is based, in part, on the state’s described assessment methodologies and the explanation of the level of rigor needed for the data. Some states even specify the format needed for submitting data.

Thanks my two cents.
Tina

Tina Laidlaw
USEPA Montana Office
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626
406-457-5016

 

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 11:35:27 -0500
From: Jason Pinchback
Subject: [volmonitor] Texas 305(b) and volunteer monitoring

Greetings from Texas Watch,

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) accepts limited amounts of quality assured data into its database that develops the 305(b) report. From our ~300 active sites, 22 sites submit data (via Texas Watch) to TCEQ. In response to the laborious nature involved with data validation of these data collection activities, Texas Watch facilitates our monitoring efforts through two QAPP’s. After supporting these efforts for nearly four years, we have decided the resources required to complete all prescribed QA validation measures are too intensive.

The BEST use our resources and data are at the local level.

If we have additional resources in the future, we will once again create this awesome opportunity for citizen monitors to positively contribute to official state assessments.

P.S. The TCEQ is still willing and able to accept certified volunteer water quality monitoring data.

Jason Pinchback
Texas Watch Project Coordinator
Southwest Texas State University
512.245.9148
JP30@swt.edu

 

Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 15:28:21 -0400 (EDT)
From: Treedncr1@aol.com
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Alison,

What a great “newbie” question! I have enjoyed the responses regarding other organizations’ approach to the TMDL issue. We coordinate a volunteer program in the St. Johns River Basin in Northeast Florida. It has been listed in the state’s plan as a priority watershed under the TMDL program. While our data is not on STORET (due to the same difficulties that everyone encounters), it has been requested by state project managers responsibile for assessments. The volunteer data is covered by an extensive QA plan and program, so is providing supplemental data to the process due to its temporal and spatial coverage (approximately 30 sites on the river proper, another 30 in tributaries are monitored on a weekly to monthly basis). However, we have found the most effective application of our volunteer efforts applied at a local basis where local agencies provide a list of critical sites. We recruit and assign volunteers to these sites where they conduct ambient monitoring and collect samples for local agencies to analyize for nutrients and metals. QA issues of these collected samples are covered by the labortory’s QA plan.
We are striving to make our data more useful as well through integration with STORET as we have made great efforts to provide a solid QA program. If you or anyone else learns of ways to integrate Excel or Access programs to STORET and can share or offer at a low cost the programs, we would be very interested!
It is great to see volunteer efforts progress in the application to such high profile program such as TMDL. Any additional tools to further the cause would be great!

Annette M. Paulin
Program Director
Community Watershed Fund
apaulin@cwfund.org

 

Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 15:39:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: Treedncr1@aol.com
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Data storage

Rita and Kelly,

Our group (Watershed Action Volunteers; St. Johns River Water Management District) does not use STORET. However, we have developed a solid QA program and QA data management system using Access. Our water quality data and QA data are maintained in separate tables and linked by a common parameters (volunteer name or assigned number). All results from QA checks are provided in the QA table and include standards, results, corrective actions, and corrections factors to apply. The results qualify a specified period of the dataset (QA conducted on a yearly basis). We have found this system to work well for our data users. However, we would like to see our data become more accessible through the STORET system. What would be most helpful is a tool for integrating the information kept under more manageable systems such as Excel or Access to STORET. If anyone has such a tool, we would very interested in learning more!

Annette M. Paulin
Program Director
Community Watershed Fund
apaulin@cwfund.org

 

From: mark a kuechenmeister
Subject: [volmonitor] data storage
To: VOLMONITOR

mark keuchenmeister,stream team 888- Mo. stream teams.I,am level 3 certified. This is currently the highest level that I can attain as a volunteer.I attend many learning seminars and field trips. We monitor Maline creek 4 times a year.This takes about 2 hours. We fill out a visual data sheet, a chemical data sheet, a macroinvertibrate data sheet, and a stream discharge worksheet. We then send it to the Mo. dept.of Natural Resources where they check it out. If there are any problems they will contact us.They post our results on their web site for anyone to ues or view.They put our results to good use. I’am not sure how or what they use to store the data. I personally store our data on data sheets in a binder.We’ve been doing this for the past 6 years. I would like to find a way to just enter it onto my computer using a program that can also displays graphs. This will show trends in our creek. This would also help others to see whats going on with our creek and how to make it better since our creek is very, very impacted – mayors, civic leaders, council men, etc. Please check out the mo.stream teams website it is an invaluable resource for me! It is very up to date. mostreamteam.org

Question 3

Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 11:38:05 -0500
From: christine rodick
Subject: [volmonitor] Databases for Volunteer data

I am looking for a database that volunteer monitoring groups can use. We have two groups near us in GA who have asked us to assist them with data analysis and each have lots of historical data, but no organized way to store it and make it user friendly for analysis.

Does such a database already exist? If yes, please let me know who I could contact for more info.

We could provide some support for getting the database up and running for each group, but we’re looking for a really user friendly one that a volunteer group could easily use without having to depend on us for tech support.

Many thanks, Christine


Christine Rodick
UGA River Basin Center
110 Riverbend Road
Athens, GA 30602-1510
(706) 542-9745

Responses to Question 3

Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2007 12:55:25 -0500
From: Robert McCall

Hi all,

I am in the process of initiating discussion with others on the below topic for watershed groups in NW Ohio as well and would be interested in seeing any responses anyone might have.

Thanks,

Robert D. McCall

Watershed Educator

Ohio State University Extension
Center at Lima
1219 West Main Cross, Ste 202
Findlay, Ohio 45840
Ph: 419-422-6106
Fax: 419-422-7595
Cell: 419-306-9407
Email: mccall.57@cfaes.osu.edu

 

Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 11:15:34 -0500
From: Muns Farestad

Christine and Robert…

I am interested in your question. I am the database creator and manager for Delaware’s Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Group. I use Microsoft Access.

I have been waiting to see if anyone responded to your questions with a definitive answer; if so, please let me know.

What data do your monitoring groups collect? How do they use their data now? How do they organize their data now, e.g. paper data sheet, spreadsheet, etc.? Can you describe how your monitoring groups would use this database tool? Are you looking to consolidate their data into an existing central database?

Muns Farestad

 

Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 11:43:09 -0600
From: Kris Stepenuck

Hi

We recently completed a learning module about online databases for volunteer monitoring programs which is available at: http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/Outreach/Databases.pdf

Within that module is a listing and links to online database of numerous programs across the country as well as information about some developing networks for data sharing. In our research, we’ve found that it’s extremely difficult for an online database to work for multiple programs since parameters that are monitored are often different among programs. But, there are some possibilities for sharing databases mentioned/explained in the module that I think would be of interest (e.g., data exchange networks, world monitoring day database, nature mapping, PA Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement, or the Clean Water Team of the California Water Resources Control Board which has a template that can be modified for individual program needs).

I think it will provide you with some good resources and links

Cheers,
Kris Stepenuck

for the USDA-CSREES Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring National Facilitation Project
http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/

 

Also see STORET listserv discussion

Also see compiled list of online databases

Also see data storage discussion

Question 4

Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 11:03:48 -0400
From: Kristen Travers
Subject: [volmonitor] Data sharing policy

Hello,
Does anyone have a written policy/guidelines, that can be shared, regarding how and when they share their volunteer data? A small watershed association in our area is concerned about their data being used by a large corporate farm to downgrade a local stream and would like a written policy providing
flexibility for how/when to share their data in the future.

Thanks for the assistance,

Kristen Travers
Stroud Water Research Center
970 Spencer Road
Avondale, PA 19311
610-268-2153 x239

Responses to Question 4

Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 11:48:04 -0400
From: Geoff Dates
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Data sharing policy

Hi Kristen,

Great question. The real issue may not be whether to share or not. I think it’s fair to assume that the data will eventually get out. If not, what was the purpose of collecting it? And once the data are out there, they are fair game. That means that anybody can use them for whatever they want.

I think that at least the following should accompany the data:

get it out accompanied by the group’s summary and interpretation. Then they can place it in the context they define and perhaps create a situation where any entity tempted to misuse it will develop credibility problems.
They also need to be able to back up the data and establish their own credibility with a good monitoring plan (including data management, summary, and interpretation) and/or quality assurance plan.

I’m an advocate for sharing data. In fact, I’m an advocate for involving communities and interested residents in the interpretation process. This may not be possible or wise in some area, especially if there are bad actors. But the information and “buy-in” you get may be well worth it.


Geoff Dates
River Watch Program Director
River Network
Home Office:
231 24D Heritage Conds
Woodstock, VT 05091
802-457-9808 w & h
email: gdates@rivernetwork.org
River Network Web Site: www.rivernetwork.org

Comment 1

Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 10:17:45 -0400
From: Danielle Donkersloot

For those were aren’t already aware, Excel has some “problems” with its statistical functions. The attached website that provides a freeware source for a spreadsheet with correct equations named Gnumeric. Our thanks to the retired Dave Steadfast at USGS for this info. Hopefully you will find this useful.

http://www.gnome.org/projects/gnumeric/

Responses to Comment 1

Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 08:36:01 -0700
From: David Kirschtel

Another potential FOSS spreadsheet is the one included in OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org). This is an integrated software set developed as an opensource off-shoot of Suns StarOffice. OO runs on all major platforms (osx, linux, solaris and windoze)

If you are planning on doing anything more than very simple descriptive stats, you may want to consider looking in to R (http:// www.r-project.org). However, it’s effectively a programming environment and the learning curve can be rather arduous. R runs on osx, unix and windoze

Excel is notorious for problems with its stats functions – from what I can recall from discussions on other list the problems tend to centered around things like missing data, unbalanced designs (and I’m sure there a more). What makes it even worse is that Microsoft won’t allow the stats researchers to look at the algorithms. So not only are there problems, but you’re never sure when and were the problems will crop up.

David

====================
David Kirschtel, Ph.D
Sr Program Manager
CUAHSI
2000 Florida Ave, NW
Washington, DC

Question 5

Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 14:13:44 -0500
From: Anne Sturm
Subject: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers

Hello,

I’m looking for advice on how to get volunteers excited about entering their water quality data online. We have a well established lake volunteer monitoring program with dedicated volunteers, some of which have been collecting monitoring data for decades. Until recently, hard copies of the volunteer monitoring datasheets were sent to program staff and these data were then entered into the database by program staff. We are now trying to make a transition to an online data entry system where olunteers enter the data they collect directly into the database using an online data entry system.

Have other volunteer monitoring programs have successes or problems trying to make this switch? If so, how have you handled these issues? What sort of response rate can we expect for the online data entry? Also, how can we motivate volunteers to make this transition to online data entry?

Thank you very much for your help.

-Anne

*********************************************
Anne Sturm
Great Lakes Commission
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
asturm@glc.org
*********************************************

Responses to Question 5

Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 15:48:38 -0700
From: Anna Holden
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers

Anne,

I don’t have a direct answer to your problem, but I will be facing a similar problem–some of our volunteers will be entering data on a website, and others will be giving us hard copies. My suggestion (if you have the time) is to spend an extra afternoon with your volunteers at the computer. Make it clear that it’s an important end to the day (or week). In other words, include the data entry into the day as part of the process, and volunteers should catch on pretty quickly.

Anna

 

: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 08:05:12 -0500
From: John Yagecic
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers

Anne,

One idea that we contemplated was having a separate group of volunteers enter the data. Our field volunteers would collect the data, fill out the field sheets and send them in as usual. Instead of our staff entering the data, however, we would send copies of the field sheets to people who had volunteered to enter data from home. This potentially has 2 advantages:

First, it provides an opportunity for involvement for folks who would like to volunteer, but for whom field sample collection is beyond what they can do. Data entry can be done from home, after the kids are in bed. It opens up volunteer opportunities to a whole new set of participants.

Second, if you send the same data sheets to two different volunteers, you have an automatic QC check. You can query your database to only accept entries that are identical in both sets. Typos and other erroneous entries are deleted.

Good luck,

John Y.


John R. Yagecic, P.E.
Water Resources Engineer / Modeler
Delaware River Basin Commission
P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360
Phone: 609-883-9500 X271
Fax: 609-883-9522
www.drbc.net

 

From: streamaintenanc@netscape.net
To: Volunteer water monitoring
Sent: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 08:08:30 -0500
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Online Data Entry by Volunteers

Hi, the problem of ‘computer avoidance’ is quite popular among the older generation. I first discovered it when training teachers to use computers and utilize computers in their curriculum about twenty years ago. In Illinois we have some unique tools “on line” that you might use to motivate your volunteers and your state officials to consider.

Online tools combined with Google Earth, and Google search skills, may help them to visualize and accept the importance of the computer technology in their daily lives. I have a humanitarian form of ‘shock therapy’ with which many seniors seem to relate – –

I have heard reports that about a third or more of the senior population have an apparent ‘cholesterol processing problem’ and many were placed on ‘Statens’ and many may have had side affects like muscle cramps. One day, I heard a report on National Public Radio about the lack of correlation with these drugs for heart attacks and strokes. But, there was light at the end of the tunnel, as they described an expensive test C-RP (C-Reactive Protein) that did correlate based upon several years of studies. Well, after educating my doctor, i received the < $50.00 test and proved what the stress test showed was correct. This health check-up was activated by my 50th birthday (thirteen years ago), when i decided it was time for my '50,000 mile check-up' and learned that my cholesterol was over the recommended 200.

Well, to make a long story short, as I reacted to all the Staten drugs and also participated in the Margarine Studies, the C-RP result gave me some piece of mind.

I have one other brief example and that pertains to the health affects of fluoridated water. Northwester University has a web site that supports what former Surgeon General Coop alluded to about this issue. 'That there is no scientific evidence that Fluoride via drinking water will protect your teeth'. Actually, lbased upon the Periodic Table, one might conclude that Fluoride can replace Calcium in your body and weaken your teeth and bones. The Northwestern site which you can find with Google even indicates a possible link arthritis.

PS One final tip, you should communicate by E-mail to all your associates. Even if they do not have a computer as they can get free E-mail in the library. The referance librarian should be able to assist them in getting a free 'Netscape' account. I am not pushing Netscape in particular but the price is right.

Regards, Chuck Dieringer, Ed.D., Thorn Creek Watershed, Illinois

Question 6

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 08:13:06 -0400
From: “Weglein, Sara”

Greetings all,

I am with the MD Department of Natural Resources volunteer stream sampling program, Stream Waders. We are looking to make some changes to our program such as having volunteers enter data online and possibly identifying macroinvertebrates in the field. I was just wondering if anyone who had such programs in place had any comments or suggestions that may be helpful.
Thank you!

Sara Weglein
MD Dept. of Natural Resources
RAS – MANTA

Responses to Question 6

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 10:19:01 -0700
From: Sandy Derby

Hello Sara,
Just thinking some of what I have online might be helpful to you– and interesting. Our BioSITE Program, curricula, and data can be viewed online (actually, the data is not updated yet so more will come..) Let me know if you have any questions–

S
Sandra Derby
Environmental Education Manager
BioSITE Program Director
Children’s Discovery Museum
180 Woz Way, San Jose CA. 95110
w408.298-5437 x261
f408.298-6826
www.cdm.org/biosite

 

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 12:40:43 -0700
From: Eleanor Ely

Sara,

Are you familiar with the Summer 2005 issue of The Volunteer Monitor newsletter? It profiles a number of macroinvertebrate monitoring programs and hopefully will give you some ideas about the different possible approaches. See www.epa.gov/owow/volunteer/vm_index.html.

I believe online data entry by volunteers is getting more and more common. One good example is Alabama Water Watch (https://www.auburn.edu/).

Good luck with your program!

Ellie

Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112

 

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 16:35:01 -0400
From: Jo Latimore
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] MD Stream Waders

Hi Sara,

Here in Michigan we’ve had mixed results in asking volunteers to enter their data online. The Michigan Clean Water Corps (www.micorps.net) set up an online database a few years ago for both stream and lake monitoring data. We handle stream and lake monitoring a little differently, based on program history. Our lake program has been functioning in one form or another since the 70s, with some monitoring done by lake associations, and some by individuals. They pay a small fee to participate, to (almost) cover the cost of equipment and lab analysis. In general, our lake volunteers have been resistant to entering their own data online. Some say that they don’t want to do more work, and others are uncomfortable with computers. We initially hoped to make volunteer data entry required, but so many were opposed that we have abandoned that hope and do much of it ourselves.

Our stream monitors are all organized within their own groups (watershed councils, conservation groups, etc.). The statewide stream monitoring program is relatively young, compared to the lake program, and so are the folks involved. Computer literacy can be assumed, and when groups join the stream program, we require that they enter their own data – and these groups are fine with that. Since they are already organized into groups, they already have plans to use their data for stream/watershed
protection, and want their data in electronic form anyway. Our online database allows volunteers to enter their data and then download a copy for themselves in Excel format, so we essentially save them from having to design their own database. We also offer groups an alternative – if they already have their own database they use, they can just send us a copy of their electronic data, and we import it into our database.

Regarding field ID of macroinvertebrates, I’d give the handy answer, “It depends.” It depends on the level of taxonomic resolution. Order-level IDs by volunteers in the field are certainly possible, with training. I’ve found that often, though, volunteers – especially new ones – aren’t always comfortable with that level of responsibility. You’ll want to have a Quality Control plan in place to check ID’s, and make sure the volunteers know that, so they don’t worry quite as much about getting one or two wrong. I’d also recommend providing a way for them to turn in bugs that they are unsure of – a “mystery jar” of sorts. One big upside of field ID is that the volunteers know the result of their search right away. If you’re looking for family-level ID, though, I’d steer clear of field ID. Even the pros (myself included) don’t have the best track record with that.

On the other hand, at my previous job at the Huron River Watershed Council in Ann Arbor (www.hrwc.org), we found a way to involve volunteers in identifying bugs at a separate indoor event – described in the issue of the Volunteer Monitor that Ellie mentioned. This type of event may not be feasible at a statewide scale, but your individual watershed groups might try it. The Michigan Clean Water Corps permits field or lab ID of bugs, as long as there’s a QC plan in place to check those IDs.

Good questions! I’m sure others have other perspectives…

-Jo

Jo A. Latimore, Ph.D.
Lake, Stream, & Watershed Outreach
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Michigan State University
13 Natural Resources
East Lansing, MI 48824-1222
(517) 432-1491
latimor1@msu.edu

 

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 22:30:11 -0500
From: Kris Stepenuck
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] MD Stream Waders

Hi Sara

We have a fact sheet about online databases (as well as other types of databases) with links to numerous volunteer monitoring programs’ databases within it. It also includes tips from program coordinators across the country who replied to a request for feedback to share with others about planning and implementing such databases. Here’s a link to the fact sheet:
http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/Outreach/Databases.pdf

There are also some relevant discussions from this listserv posted at:
http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/Special/EPAListserv/index.html Scroll down to online databases – there are two discussions there that seem relevant.

Third, we also did a survey of volunteer monitoring programs across the country about their online databases. We used the information we learned in the fact sheet noted above, but results of the survey itself are also posted online. They’re available at:
http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer/DataReporting/index.html

Hopefully these will be of help to you.

As for identifying macroinvertebrates in the field. To what level? We have volunteers ID to order level on a regular basis (see our methods:
http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu/wav/monitoring/methods.html – choose biotic index, and data sheets:
http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu/wav/monitoring/sheets.html. But you may mean to family level?

Sincerely,

Kris Stepenuck

 

Date: Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:52:49 -0400
From: Debra Gutenson
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] MD Stream Waders

Sara,

You may wish to contact Stacey Brown ( coordinator of VA SOS) re’ our volunteer monitoring and data reporting efforts in VA. This is an all volunteer statewide program, not run by any state agency.

Email : Stacey@vasos.org

Otto Gutenson ( OW, EPA- retired)

Question 7

From: Kris Stepenuck
Subject: [Databases] cost-benefit of online databases?

First, thanks to many who offered tips about planning an online database. A summary of responses will be included in an upcoming fact sheet about developing online databases.

Second, another question for those of you with online databases…Have you found that between educating people about how to use your online database for data entry, sending password reminders, quality checking the data that have been entered to the system, and doing other ongoing maintenance with the database that costs are outweighing the benefits of having data entry online? (In other words, would it be easier to have a staff person in your program manually enter the data once it’s sent in to you? -It could still be available online for searching, just that it would be entered to the database internally vs. externally.)

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Kris

Kris Stepenuck
WI Volunteer Stream Monitoring Coordinator and staff on Volunteer Water
Monitoring National Facilitation Project
UW-Extension and WI Department of Natural Resources
210 Hiram Smith Hall
1545 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1289
Phone: 608-265-3887
Fax: 608-262-2031
http://clean-water.uwex.edu/wav
http://www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer

Responses to Question 7

From: William Deutsch
Subject: Re: [CSREESVolMon] cost-benefit of online databases?
To: kris.stepenuck@ces.uwex.edu

Kris,

Regarding your question below, it’s my opinion that, now that the pain of developing and trouble-shooting is over, there is overwhelming benefit to our online database. It’s impossible to imagine our program without it, because of the financial savings in our office and the motivation this gives to the monitors. We’re coming up on 90% of all data entered online. That and our 30 volunteer trainers are what keeps us going with declining 319 funding.

Bill

 

From: Jacob Apodaca

Kris,

We just started our on-line data entry at the Colorado River Watch Network in Austin, Texas in November and had %80 of our monitors use the on-line option.

We review all submitted data before the data goes live on our interactive map. Here is a link to our map http://crwn.lcra.org/.

Please feel free to visit our website at http://www.lcra.org/. Let us know if you have any
questions.

So far, we are extremely happy with our on-line data option. It has cut down on the time we spend entering data, and it seems our monitors enjoy entering the data themselves. It gives them a feeling of being more involved with the program.

The benefits have far out weighed the costs.

Our database administrator is willing to share the code he used to put our on-line data option together.

Thank you.

Jacob Daniel Apodaca
Program Coordinator
Colorado River Watch Network
Lower Colorado River Authority
http://www.lcra.org/

(512) 473-3333 Ext. 7859
1-800-776-5272 Ext. 7859
Mobile: (512) 731-0269
Fax: (512) 473-3390

 

I don’t think the costs outweigh the benefits but there are costs. You have to be aware of that. We don’t use a password for our data entry so we don’t have that problem. We don’t quality check as often as we ought to which maybe we would be better about if we were entering it ourselves. About half our monitors send us the hard data to enter anyway (they are not computer capable). The ones who enter it seem to be pretty reliable – we don’t often find errors. I guess to a large extent it depends on what you do with the data and we are not doing anything really critical with ours.

The thing to me about the online database is despite your time (is it more than doing it yourself) it enables the volunteers. Some of them don’t want to be enabled that way and you cannot force them but for those that do I think there is a value-added component that is hard to measure but is worth something! And when you come down to it the time spent either way is probably a wash for most groups. Either they entered it and you have to do QA/QC or you enter it. But if they enter it there is the added benefit that they feel more involved, they have an extra ownership level. And assuming they enter it correctly the QA/QC level is no different really – it all comes down to whether their data is believable and that doesnt change no matter who entered it. So actually their entering it saves you some time because you have to do the “can i trust these numbers” question either way. I do find that we do that up front if we receive the data and enter it ourselves whereas we put it off if they are entering it online.

Question 8

Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 18:16:10 -0500 (EST)
From: “Pete Schade”
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Volunteer Monitroing and Storet

Hi Folks,

I am interested in what Volunteer Monitoring Organizations are doing to get their data into STORET.  We here in Montana have been working on a system that will allow monitors to input their data online to a SIM-compatible database that can then be uploaded to STORET. What seemed to be a straight-forward process has blossomed into a quite a monster, and I am interested in boiling things down to bones and rebuilding. Is it really that difficult even though it SEEMS to be a rather simple proces of formatting databases correctly and then writing an application that will allow data-entry through a web-enabled interface? My beleif is that it idoable, yet costly in terms of programming, review, refinement, etc…. What I was hoping was a $10,000 project may in actuality be a much larger. Is anyone else struggling with this problem? …and what conclusions/solutions have you come up with? My understanding is that there are a number of monitoring groups who are working on this same thing.  Is $$ this issue?  Is lack of technology the issue?  Is there a need for a regional or national, even, SIM-compatible web-enabled data entry system for volunteer-collected data?  Can we pool $$ so that we can meet all needs? What is the EPA doing to address this?

..must….get….information….

*******************************
Pete Schade
Montana Watercourse
Volunteer Water Monitoring Coordinator
ph:  (406) 994-5398
fax: (406) 994-1919

Responses to Question 8

From:
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 21:55:00 EST

Pete, I just attended a EPA workshop for volunteers last week where STORET was one of the topics.  You may want to contact Joe Hall, one of the guest speakers from EPA about your question.  They may be hosting another workshop in your area this year.  There is also another database they have (EIMS) that wants volunteer data, and they stress the requirement for “metadata” to be included.  Joe’s email address is:  hall.joe@epamail.epa.gov.  And yes, STORET can be confusing!  I am including Joe in this email response in hopes
He can give you some technical advice.

Judy Scanlon
Orleans Water Quality Task Force
(Cape Cod, MA)

 

Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2002 07:26:47 -0500 (EST)
From: BrownSt1@cs.com
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: re:volunteer monitoring and storet

I know it is generally policy to reply to the sender only – but I am also interested in other groups’ experience with STORET. Could answers to this request either be sent to the entire list serve – or send any response to me too.
We are in the planning process at this point, and do PLAN on using STORET. We plan on putting a data entry form on our web page for our biomonitoring program, downloading it and manipulating it as needed, and doing a batch file upload to STORET.  Any experiences (good or bad) and insight into this matter is greatly appreciated.

As an aside – assuming our organization can get this done, I would be glad to share the correctly formatted mechanism (access database, excel spreadsheet, etc) to anyone who is interested. Of course, our organization only collects biomonitoring and habitat data.

Stacey Brown
Staff Scientist
Virginia Save Our Streams Program
7598 N. Lee Highway
Raphine, Va. 24472
brownst1@cs.com
540 377 6179 or 434-466-2613

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Eleanor Ely
To: Multiple recipients of list
Sent: 2/3/02 4:13 PM
Subject: Re: STORET

Hi Pete:
Thanks for raising the STORET issue, which I think others are also struggling with. I would like to second Stacey’s susggestion that responses be sent to the entire listserve volmonitor@unixmail.rtpnc.epa.gov).
Ellie

*********************************************************************
Eleanor Ely
editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
133 – 9th St., 3rd Floor
Providence, RI 02906
*********************************************************************

 

Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002 22:45:52 -0500 (EST)
From: Ken.Cooke@mail.state.ky.us
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: RE: STORET

Greetings from Kentucky Water Watch

US EPA Staff at the National and Region 4 have been quite supportive of our volunteer monitoring program using STORET as a data archive.

They have offered free training in Atlanta and Washington for anyone that can make the two day trip. They had sessions at the National Volunteer Monitoring Conference on the topic.

But, all their enthusiasm does not cross the hurdle of how complex the STORET system is. A 200+ table relational database is not to be approached lightly.  Especially if your program has  years of data from hundreds of sites with different methods of analysis.

Designing an interface between your existing data set and STORET can be a complex process requiring the services of a professional database designer. Many volunteer monitoring programs have access to competent database managers, but those database managers need specific training in STORET’s new data design and batch upload systems before they can work.

In my humble opinion, if US EPA wants volunteer programs to use STORET For their data sets, then they need to implement a pyramid system to provide this training to VM data managers through the regions. This training needs to be hands on, computer lab based, with actual task level activities.

One concern I have heard expressed from folks that have taken some of the training offered, is it is more “demonstration” with little chance for practice, trial and error under the supervision of an experienced mentor.
I believe the State of Florida has the best example of this mentoring approach in our region (4). Florida DEP has an individual who takes time to train VM data managers. He has the right mix of technical knowledge AND the ability to teach (not just “show”) those skills to someone else. Get a few more Pat Detschers running around out there and STORET would take off in a big way! For more information of Florida’s program, visit:

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/storet/index.htm

Kentucky has requested support from US EPA Region 4 to conduct STORET training for its VM database managers. We anxiously await their answer to that request.

Thanks for your time.

Ken Cooke
KY Water Watch
1-800-928-0045 Ext 473

 

Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 09:39:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Schade.Trent@epamail.epa.gov
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Volunteer Monitoring and Storet

Pete,

I am working on a similar project with two local watershed groups, Greenacres Foundation and Mill Creek Watershed Council. My role in this project is to provide an interface to STORET for volunteer data
submitted to a website. Our technical approach is to produce a flat file from the on-line database that can be imported to STORET. As we produce something, I will submit it to the list server.

Also, I should add a disclaimer. I see this as a significant issue, and one that I am very excited to help solve. This is tangential to my main duties as an EPA employee.  So, we will probably not have time or
resources to come up with a general solution.Our solution will be specific to the forms that we use, but I think others will be able to modify what we have done.

Anyway, let’s stay in touch.

-Trent

Trent Schade, P.E. (e-mail: schade.trent@epa.gov)
WSWRD Homepage
U.S. EPA ORD/NRMRL/WSWRD/WQMB
26 W. Martin Luther King Drive-MS 690
Cincinnati, Ohio 45268
(513) 569-7654 fax-(513) 569-7185

 

From: “Wager, Jerry”
Subject: FW: STORET
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 07:50:20 -0500

HB 479 proposes to require Ohio EPA to establish a volunteer monitoring program and expand the STORET data base among other things. Groups should review and comment on the bill. This is an email I got recently that speaks about the difficulties of data management, the need for training and
references the Florida STROET website.

Jerry Wager, Administrator
Pollution Abatement & Land Treatment Section
Division of Soil & Water Conservation, ODNR
614.265.6619
614.262.2064 (fax)

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