USA Volunteer Water Monitoring Network

Documenting Site Location

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Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 16:11:24 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Dear volunteer monitoring colleagues:

First, I appreciated the many thoughtful responses to my earlier posting about “volunteer monitoring trends.” I plan to put this information together for a short newsletter article.

Now I’m looking for your feedback on another topic. For an article in the upcoming issue of VM, I’ve been doing some investigation on how volunteer monitoring programs describe and document sampling site location. As with everything (everything in the monitoring world, that is), the approach taken is tied to data use. For very local uses, something like “behind the high school parking lot” might be sufficient. For use by a state agency, you might want to use a specific water body designation system devised by your state. But for many purposes a more universal method is desirable or necessary (since states apparently use a number of different systems).

The commonly used universal systems are latitude/longitude and UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator). Now that GPS units are down to about $200, quite a few volunteer monitoring programs use these. I believe that you can set them to read either (a) latitude/longitude in degrees-minutes-seconds, (b) latitude/longitude in decimal degrees, or (c) UTM coordinates. My first question is, am I right about that?

I have also learned that some states have interactive GIS maps of the state that are accessible online. For example, volunteers with IOWATER can go to the Iowa Water Monitoring Atlas (created by the Iowa DNR) and zoom in on their sampling site. What’s especially cool is that they can also turn on layers that show other information, such as the location of other IOWATER sites, professional monitoring sites, features like sewage treatment facilities, and watershed boundaries. Once they have zoomed in to their approximate site, they can switch to the aerial photography layer and use visual landmarks to help pinpoint their exact sampling site. When they put their mouse pointer on the spot they get the UTM coordinates.

My second question is, what other volunteer monitoring groups have access to an interactive GIS map to identify site locations? If so, is the information provided as latitude/longitude or UTM coordinates?

My third question is, if you don’t have a GPS unit or an online interactive GIS map, what do you do? I would assume that you would use a 7.5′ USGS topo map. Does anyone have a good set of instructions for reading latitude and longitude off a topographic map?

I’m also interested in hearing from any volunteer monitoring groups that would like to tell me their “story” — how they are identifying site location, whether their method has evolved over time, how well their current method is working out, or anything else that could be of interest in shedding light on this topic.

Finally — I could really use some kind of geography or GIS guru to review what I’m writing on this topic!! (It’s pretty short.)

Thanks as always,

Ellie

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

Responses

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 20:39:21 -0800 (PST)
From: David J Wilson
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Ellie, ever since I got a GPS a couple of years ago I’ve been taking latitudes and longitudes of sites (dd mm ss) so that they can easily be located on a GIS. Other formats are possible–decimal degrees and UTM.

There is a worksheet for doing latitude/longitude calculations from a topo sheet that is in EPA’s “Volunteer Stream Monitoring – a Methods Manual”. This worksheet, “Worksheet for Calculating Latitude and Longitude”, is available separately on the web as an Adobe file and can be found by searching on Worksheet for Calculating Latitude and Longitude–pops right up. See also TN Valley Authority’s Clean Water Initiative Volunteer Stream Monitoring Methods Manual, pp. 64-65. If anyone has a lot of positions for which lat. and long. must be calculated from topo sheets, I have a computer program that does all the arithmetic once you have measured the distances on the map–available free on request.

With best regards,

Dave Wilson

David J. Wilson
11544 Quirk Road
Belleville, Michigan 48111
(734) 699-7623

 

Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 15:47:43 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: re:[volmonitor] documenting site location

For what it’s worth,
For our program we’ll use GPS when available, and store the information in decimal degrees. We also use the Topozone website (www.topozone.com) extensively to locate coordinates for sites when a GPS unit is not available. If you aren’t familiar with Topozone, you essentially can interact with topographic maps of various scales and “click” on any spot to identify the coordinates.

The Topozone method is fairly accurate and works well for lake sites.

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: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 08:33:12 -0500
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Since our monitoring sites are fixed we (SCDNR) did the initial determination of location. We do have GPS but we have also found the maptech website to be invaluable. It has USGS topo, NOAA nautical and areal photography and when you put your cursor over your location you can see the longitude/latitude or the UTM cooridinates. This system is also available for purchase so that it can run on a computer that may not be connected to the internet.

http://mapserver.maptech.com

Nancy Hadley
Marine Resources Research Institute
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 12559
217 Fort Johnson Road
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 953-9841
(843) 953-9820 (fax)
http://www3.csc.noaa.gov/scoysters

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 09:25:16 -0500
From: Chris Sullivan
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Hello,

For Project SEARCH in CT we originally selected sites with each of our participating schools with proximity to the school in mind. For our records many sites were recorded as to how close they were to the closest road crossing and if they were upstream or downstream of the road. We have now started to take GPS coordinates at each site as they are visited and are updating our GIS maps for each major basin. We are using deg min sec format.

We do not have the GIS map interactive on the web as of yet but that is one of our future goals so that students at any of the over 80 participating schools can see the information collected and produced at every site in the state. We have also started to use GIS with some schools to create land use maps of their watershed to compare with other streams and enhance the discussion of NPS and its effects on a waterbody.

GIS has great potential for volunteer monitoring programs and connecting the use of GPS units to get accurate coordinates is great! We have found Garmin etrex units to be useful enough to collect the data and basic enough to use with high school and middle school students. We were able to purchase these units for close to $100 even. Definitely worth the purchase if your group can afford the expense.

Hope that helps.

peace
chris

Chris Sullivan
Project SEARCH Coordinator
(203) 734-2513
FAX 203-922-7833
Center for Environmental Research Education
Kellogg Environmental Center
500 Hawthorne Ave
Derby, CT 06418

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 10:45:15 -0500
From: Bob Carlson
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Has anyone ever checked to see how far off the coordinates in Topozone (Trails.com)are from GPS measurements? If it isn’t all that bad, I would think it is far better to have at least the Topozone coordinates on record than to wait for a GPS system to find its way into the budget. I know from sad experience the frustration when nobody bothered to find out where a private pond really was before the volunteer quit the program.

I prefer Topozone because of ease of use, but Terraserver is also useful. DeLorme’s TopoUSA is a nice stand alone program for about $100.

We see all sorts of location descriptions come in for the Secchi Dip-In. It would certainly help us out if the volunteers were given long/lat coordinates, particularly in decimal degrees, since that format transfers directly over into mapping programs such as ArcView. If the site also has an official state ID, as many lakes do, it is a good idea to have that recorded as well. I know every coordinator and project manager thinks their program will last forever, but so much good information can be lost if the site is not well-documented.

Bob Carlson Phone: (330) 672-3992
Dept Biological Sciences FAX: (330) 672-3713
Kent State University E-mail: rcarlson@kent.edu
Kent OH 44242

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 17:21:19 +0000
From: Tony Thorpe
Subject: RE:[volmonitor] documenting site location

Bob (and everyone else),
I have checked the GPS-obtained coordinates for several of our sites at Topozone, and they are spot on. Lake sites are, of course, a little more forgiving than small stream sites, since we don’t need to be extremely precise in the pelagic zone.

I have not, however, field checked any of the coordinates obtained from Topozone. Perhaps I’ll do that this summer, and I’ll report back then.

Tony Thorpe
Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 10:47:26 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Dear Nancy: I have already heard from several people about another web site, www.topozone.com, which I have tried. Just now I tried the maptech web site that you mentioned. It seems to me that TopoZone offers more — for example, you can zoom to different scales for different amounts of detail, and you have more choices for the coordinates and datum. Are you familiar with the TopoZone site? I’d be interested in your opinion and whether you agree that the topozone site is more useful.

(I am posting this to the whole listserv to give others a chance to offer their opinions as well.)

Ellie

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

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 10:59:58 -0800
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: [volmonitor] documenting site location

Dear listserv:

Phil Emmling sent me the message below and asked me to post it on the
listserv.

I have a question about Phil’s message. He states that you can get accuracy of 1 meter with a hand-held GPS unit. This was surprising to me because other sources I have read say it’s more like 10 meters — but perhaps they are out of date.

Ellie

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

Ellie,

The Lyris list manager would not let me forward this message. Could you
send it out?

Phil Emmling
Environmental Chemistry & Technology Program
660 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608 262-2899
FAX: 608 262-0454

Bob Carlson makes a good point that should be discussed concerning map coordinates on the various programs. Perhaps the map coordinates are good enough when accompanied by meta data, however topographic maps have been taken in different years having different technologies. Since the government stopped jamming signals and allowed about 1 meter accuracy instead of 10 meter accuracy, the hand-held units are very accurate and probably better than most topographic maps. I might be wrong but I doubt you could consistently pick points off any map to within 3 feet. Improperly set up GPS units add another level of problems.

It seems to me that good map program or hand-held GPS coordinates recorded to seconds or 0.001 minutes accompanied by some meta data about the site would be as good as agencies could do and would be OK for volunteers. It may be important to be aware that map coordinates may not transfer to field locations as well as a GPS location going back to the same location with the same GPS unit.

Here is another point for appreciation. A second of latitude is about 101 feet 3 inches and 0.001 minute is 6.076 feet. When we record GRS coordinates to either seconds or 0.001 minute, these are the round off accuracies. Longitude is another matter and varies according to latitude.  I monitored a creek that crossed Highway Q three times in about 2 miles making some form of GPS location better than the old township, section, range information.

A degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles, or 69.04 statute miles. A minute of latitude is equal to one nautical mile, or 6076 feet; thus, a second of latitude (6076 divided by 60) is 101 feet, 3 inches. Conceptually and practically, latitude is the same no matter where you go on earth; however, in reality it varies from 69.41 statute miles per minute at the poles to 68.70 statute miles per minute at the equator due to the earth bulging slightly from its rotational spin.

Longitude, of course, varies in length according to degree of latitude. The following is a sampling of longitude lengths for selected latitudes, beginning in the southern US and working north.

30 degrees North, (approximately Houston, Texas) a degree of longitude is 59.96 statute miles, 5274 feet per minute (almost equal to a statute mile), 88 feet per second.

35 degrees North, (approximately Albuquerque, New Mexico) a degree of longitude is 56.73 statute miles, 4992 feet per minute, 83.2 feet per second.

40 degrees North, (Kansas/Nebraska border), a degree of longitude is 53.06 statute miles, 4669 feet per minute, 77.8 feet per second.

45 degrees North, (Montana/Wyoming border), a degree of longitude is 49.00 statute miles, 4312 feet per minute, 71.87 feet per second.

49 degrees North (US/Canada national boundary), a degree of longitude is 45.40 statute miles, 3995 feet per minute, 66.59 feet per second.

50 degrees North (approximately Powell River, BC, Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Winnipeg, Manitoba), a minute of longitude is 44.55 statue miles, 3920 feet (1195 meters) per minute, 65.34 feet (19.9 meters) per second.

55 degrees North (approximately Ketchikan, Alaska and Dawson Creek, BC) a degree of longitude is 39.77 statute miles, 3500 feet (1066.8 meters) per minute, 58.33 (17.78 meters) per second.

Finally, 60 degrees North (southern border of the Northwest Territories), a degree of longitude is 34.67 statute miles, 3051 feet (930 meters) per minute, 50.85 feet (15.5 meters) per second.

Phil Emmling
Environmental Chemistry & Technology Program
660 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608 262-2899
FAX: 608 262-0454

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 15:16:11 -0500
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, EST Coordinator”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] documenting site location

The National Map Viewer
A useful resource: http://nationalmap.gov/viewer.html

 

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 15:55:59 -0500
From: Nancy Hadley
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

I just tried topozone and I will say it is greatly improved since I last used it which may have been two years ago. However one feature I like about maptech does not appear to be on topozone. If you know your coordinates (for instance you had your GPS with you) you can move the cursor over the page and it scrolls the coordinates and when it matches up to your known coordinates you can mark that spot. This is how we check the correctness of the map and also double check our GPS.

Also, you may not have noticed all the features at mapquest. Coordinates are available as UTM, Lat/long in decimal degrees, and lat/long in DMS
Topo, nautical and aerial photo maps are available
Topo, nautical and aerial photo maps are available
All maps are zoomable to different scales – however you can only zoom to a scale for which an original map exists. Topozone allows you to zoom in to a resolution the map did not provide (a false zoom like the digital zoom on a camera).
Mapquest has its flaws – the free online version has annoying popup adds for GPS services and sometimes when you zoom the database switches to a different map altogether which can be frustrating. But in general I have found it useful.

However, I read with interest the references to other websites, many of which are improved in the last year, so I will be checking them all out.
Nancy Hadley
Marine Resources Research Institute
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 12559
217 Fort Johnson Road
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 953-9841
(843) 953-9820 (fax)
http://www3.csc.noaa.gov/scoysters

 

From: Kris Stepenuck
Date: January 25, 2005
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location
Hi Ellie-

We have a number of GPS units that are with Basin Educators and local monitoring coordinators across WI. They are available to be borrowed by the volunteers to use to determine latitude and longitude. In our database we code the sites by Hydrologic Unit Code (USGS watershed ID system), as well as our state’s waterbody identification code (as you said, that’s unique to our state and based on legal location information (T-R-S-Q-QQ) at the mouth of the stream). We also have people tell us a verbal description of a site as well (like Cedar River at Hwy Y in Wanaukee). The latitude and longitude information is being collected to give us the ability to make maps of sites online. So, it’s not required to register a site in the database, but does help us do additional things for the volunteers or other database users.

I tell volunteers to use topozone.com to find lat/long information, but they can also use DNR WebView: http://dnr.wi.gov/maps/gis/appwebview.html to find the information and make maps to print or email to others. It’s much like the IOWATER mapping system you described – with layers to turn on or off and digital photos to add to the map, etc.

Cheers,

Kris Stepenuck

 

Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2005 16:52:20 -0700
From: Richard Schrader
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] documenting site location

I work for River Source, a company in Santa Fe, New Mexico that works regionally designing and managing volunteer monitoring projects. My partner, the NM Department of Game and Fish has funds to purchase some expensive spectrophotometers for the secondar school program, New Mexico Watershed Watch (go to the Programs menu at www.riversource.net to see more about this). We’ve used the old DR2000 for many years now and need to upgrade or buy something else that’s cheaper (the new model DR2500 costs around $2,300 plus standards, etc.). Their colorimters work pretty well is seems at a lower cost but they can’t be calibrated regularly.

do any volunteer program managers have words of wisdom for us folks with lots of flowing rivers for the first time in years? My questions include:
1. Can students really get repeatable data from such a sensitive instrument as the DR2500? Why not buy something that at least the glass ware is relatively cheap?
2. The colorimeter is more portable and uses the same reagents at the old DR 2000’s, many of which are still chugging away. Perhaps it’s time to move away from big budget items like the DR2500 and move to something the program could support with less money.
your thoughts are appreciated…

Rich

Richard Schrader
River Source
2300 West Alameda, A6
Santa Fe, NM 87507
505-992-0726
www.riversource.net

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