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Monitoring Programs at GTM Research Reserve Quick Topics

Monitoring is an essential part of ecosystem science and management programs. It helps provide baseline data to identify new threats and to assess the effectiveness of management programs. GTM Research Reserve hosts and participates in dozens of monitoring programs. An interactive map with information about GTMNERR's monitoring sites, research projects, restoration efforts, and much more is available at ArcGIS.

Monitoring Programs

  • Water Quality
    GTM Research Reserve participates in the System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP).
  • Staff measure canopy height at a marsh platformEmergent intertidal vegetation monitoring was initiated in 2011 with the goals of increasing understanding of the ecological characteristics of this dynamic community and discerning the impacts of local and global environmental changes. In accordance with National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) SWMP protocols, salt marsh vegetation species cover and canopy height are estimated within 90 plots throughout the Reserve (six sites, three platforms at each site, and five m2 plots at each platform) as well as along triplicate shore-to-upland transects at two sites. Sediment elevation tables (SETs) are installed at each salt marsh platform (three at each site, 18 total) and have been monitored since 2012. Mangroves are also monitored along shore-to-upland transects using standard NERRS protocols at two sites. Data and metadata reports are submitted to the NERRS Biomonitoring Workgroup for review and published on the Centralized Data Management Office website (www.nerrsdata.org) when available.
  • Three plankton monitoring programs are conducted by GTMNERR staff and volunteers:
    • Sampling is conducted for NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Program (https://products.coastalscience.noaa.gov/pmn/) bimonthly at two sites near the Guana dam and one site on the Tolomato River with the goals of detecting harmful algal species, teaching participants about the microscopic world of plankton, and training participants in plankton identification. Plankton are collected via net tows and samples are viewed live. Data on environmental conditions and presence/absence of major plankton groups, as well as qualitative metrics of relative abundance, are collected, entered online, and archived at the GTMNERR.
    • Sampling is conducted for FWC's Harmful Algal Bloom monitoring program (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/monitoring/) monthly at six nearshore sites and four inshore sites. Whole water samples are preserved and sent to FWC. Abundances of dominant plankton species are estimated by FWC staff and data are sent to GTMNERR regularly.
    • Whole water plankton samples are collected monthly at SWMP water quality sites, preserved, and archived. GTMNERR staff and volunteers work to quantify plankton community composition in samples and data are archived at the GTMNERR.
  • Quadrats for oyster reef monitoringNatural intertidal oyster populations have been monitored by GTMNERR since 2014. A number of regions were initially targeted and reefs were randomly chosen within each region to characterize oyster population structure (e.g., size and abundance) in summer and winter. Populations of other suspension-feeders (i.e., barnacles and mussels) are also characterized. Oyster recruitment has been monitored within the targeted regions since February 2015 using shell strings. Efforts are now underway to characterize oyster condition throughout northeast Florida in partnership with several agencies and universities, and in parallel with mapping efforts throughout the region.
  • A survey of mud crab community change in relation to environmental conditions and the presence of parasites and invasive species was conducted quarterly from 2002-2012 at one site in the Matanzas River (Eash-Loucks et al., 2014).
  • GTMNERR staff conducted monthly otter trawl surveys during 2012 to estimate nekton diversity and abundance at 20 sites throughout the Reserve. Surveys resumed at a reduced number of sites in 2016 in partnership with the GTMNERR Education program and Dr. Ed McGinley from Flagler College.
  • American eels (Anguilla rostrate) have been sampled at the Guana dam since 2001 in accordance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Fishery Management Plan (Bonvechio, 2016). The monitoring effort is continuing through present with funding from FWC, field work and data analysis by UNF, and logistical assistance from GTM.
  • Sea turtle surveys have been conducted annually, seven days a week from May through October, on GTMNERR beaches since 1987. Of the seven endangered marine turtle species, six have been observed nesting on GTMNERR beaches. Monitoring is conducted primarily by volunteers and data are submitted to http://seaturtle.org.
  • Shorebird populations on GTMNERR beaches in the northern component have been monitored, mostly by volunteers, since 2000. Data are available at http://ebird.org.
  • Since 2008, volunteers at the GTMNERR have worked with the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network to assess the distribution and population trends of both common and at risk species. Volunteers collect data along the trails as a part of monthly surveys.
  • Monitoring for microplastics began on October 2015 to understand and document the prevalence and concentration of microscopic marine debris. Samples are collected at six nearshore sites and four inshore sites. GTMNERR staff and volunteers filter samples and count particles using a dissecting microscope. Data are reported to Florida Sea Grant's Microplastic Awareness Project (http://plasticaware.org) and archived at the GTMNERR.

More detailed information on each of these programs is available in the GTM Research Reserve Site Profile (pdf - 4.46 MB). All research-related inquiries at GTM Research Reserve should be directed to the Research Coordinator, Nikki Dix, at: Nikki.Dix@dep.state.fl.us.

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Last updated: August 30, 2016

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