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New Analysis Tool Harnesses Massive Coastal Margin Data

11/03/10 Portland, Ore.

Data Explorer is capable of creating time series and scatter plots of river and ocean data.Sifting through the immense amount of data from modern coastal margin collaboratories, like SATURN, can be a daunting task. The quantity of data, collected at a high frequency, makes it challenging to harness it for research, education or public awareness.

To address this issue, researchers and educators at the Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP) have created the Data Explorer, a unique, new web application that makes it easier to visualize and explore river and ocean data.

“Whether you are a fisher, a high school student, teacher or a leading oceanographer, too much data can be challenging to grasp,” says António Baptista, director of CMOP. “What Data Explorer does is to allow you to control what and how much data you see, when and how you see it, and how you share and communicate what you find out – directly from the web and without complicated logistics.”

This is an example of the Data Explorer plotting time verses the amount of dissolved oxygen at three depths over a four-month period from the SATURN-03 observation station in the Columbia River estuary.
The Data Explorer website,, is designed to be a time saver because cruise, glider and endurance station data is located in one place. The user-friendly design makes it easier to focus on understanding the data, instead of wrestling with complicated interfaces.

Three CMOP high school interns from Health and Science High School are just learning about coastal margin data. Rachel, Mitch and Jonathan are unfamiliar with the intricacies of CMOP’s extensive database for the Columbia River ecosystem. Yet because of the intuitive design of Data Explorer, they have quickly gotten up to speed and are selecting, plotting, and sharing data on oxygen variability in the estuary.

“It’s interesting to see how intuitive the tool is for users,” says Alex Jaramillo, a CMOP scientific programmer and chief architect of the tool. “That’s just what we were hoping for when we built the application.” Jaramillo gives a large amount of credit for the ease of use from the feedback he got from early adopters.

One such early adopter is Sarah Riseman, a CMOP marine biochemistry technician. She is using the tool to help develop quality control procedures for SATURN biogeochemical data.

“I am looking at relationships and patterns between different sensors and stations,” Riseman says. “The tool is ideal for me to visually explore subtle changes from multiple sources. The tool also allows me to take a plotted dataset of interest and download it in a format that will import directly into programs such as MATLab.“

As Riseman develops new quality control procedures, she can use the tool to easily share the ‘blueprint’ of her analysis on the web with the CMOP cyber-team. This gives the team an easy way to review her blueprints and automate them, which translates into a much faster way to process the data.

Recently, Baptista gave at talk at the Eastern North Pacific Conference and 65% of the data plots in his presentation were either downloaded or interactively generated using the Data Explorer. “The plots generated interactively were done in a near real-time collaboration with Charles Seaton, who was working about 70 miles away,” Baptista says.

“A plus is that the blueprints of most analyses are available for quick updates and adjustments,” Baptista adds . “Data Explorer proved to be very robust and easy to use, a credit to the entire cyber-team.”

The next step for the Data Explorer is to connect it with other databases in the region, starting with the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) database.

Written by Jeff Schilling


This research was supported in part through the National Science Foundation cooperative agreement OCE-0424602.

Related Links

Data Explorer

SATURN Observation Network

Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS)