Is the water safe to swim in?
RECON measures parameters related to physical and chemical water characteristics. These parameters such as: temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, depth, CDOM, chlorophyll a, and turbidity play important roles in the health of the estuary and coastal ecosystems. RECON DOES NOT have the ability to measure toxins or bacteria which are the two main factors that would effect human health. If you have concerns as to whether it is safe to swim please contact the Lee County Health Department or 239-332-9501.
Is there red tide?
RECON does not measure red tide specifically. RECON measures the amount of chlorophyll in the water, which is representative of the amount of plankton in the water. RECON can not differentiate between the different types of plankton and tell whether the red tide orgamisim Karenia brevis is present. Lab scientists use volunteers to collect water samples and determine the abundance of Karenia using a microscope at our lab. For the most up to date information on red tide, please visit the FWC Red Tide page.
I am coming to Sanibel / Captiva for a vacation, will the water be clear?
While RECON collects a large amount of water quality data it does not predict the future. Rainfall, flood control policies, and climate can affect any location differently. Your best bet is to check https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/current-beach-conditions, visitbeaches.org. These sites are maintained by others to provide daily updates on beach conditions for the local area. You can even set up email alerts for beaches of your choosing.
Why are there gaps in the data?
Gaps can occur in the data for a variety of reasons. If the most recent data is missing, it could be an issue with the data telemetry. Sometimes a site will experience a delay in transmitting data because of maintenance of the cell phone towers causing the data to be delayed several hours. A site or one of the individual sensors at a site may also be currently offline or if the data gap is further back in time the site may have been offline. We try to keep all the sites up and running continually, but with the need for yearly factory service and occasional sensor malfunctions there will inevitability be gaps caused by downtime. Finally, gaps can occur if data was collected and determined to have a known sensor malfunction, the data are deleted from the database.
Why are there big spikes in the data?
RECON is a real-time sensor network, meaning the data is put up on the website shortly (within an hour) after the sample is collected. This allows us to access and consider the most recent data possible. The down side of this instant access to the data is that occasionally, data with some interferences appear on the website. Several of the parameters that RECON samples are measured using optical sensors. These sensors shine a beam of light into the water and measure a specific response depending on the parameter being measured. These sensors can be interfered with if something blocks the beam of light or the response. When fouling organisms, such as barnacles, or amphipods grow in front of the sensor they can change the result. Turbidity is the parameter most affected by bio-fouling. Chlorophyll and FDOM are also subject to similar fouling issues. Other parameter values, such as dissolved oxygen, may decrease over time as fouling increases. When the bio-fouling is removed on monthly maintenance trips, the values return to normal. In this example, the data can appear to have a large spike. Efforts are made to control fouling with preventative maintenance, however, fouling is a major challenge to all in situ water quality sensors and may never be fully prevented or controlled. As with any electronic equipment, the sensor may malfunction and output incorrect data. We try to address any malfunctions as soon as possible, but bad data could still appear on the website.
Why are there sudden drops in the data?
RECON is a real-time sensor network, meaning the data is put up on the website shortly (within an hour) after the sample is taken. This allows our scientists access to the most recent data possible. The down side of this instant access to the data is that raw data is reported on the website. RECON sensors can be effected by bio-fouling (the growth of organisms such as barnacles or algae on the sensors). This bio-fouling can cause the sensors to report values that are not correct. When the fouling is removed and the readings go back to normal, the data may look like it dropped suddenly. The opposite can be true and fouling can cause a parameter to drop suddenly. Efforts are made to control fouling with preventative maintenance, however, fouling is a major obstacle to all in situ water quality sensors and can never be fully prevented or controlled. Any electronic equipment is subject to sensor malfunction and output incorrect data. We try to address any malfunctions as soon as possible, but raw data still appears on the website.
What QA/QC procedures are used for RECON data?
Currently RECON has two levels of Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC). QA for both levels begins with the manufacturer, as all RECON sensors are serviced and calibrated by them on a yearly basis. In addition to factory services, each RECON site is visited by SCCF Marine Lab staff every 4-8 weeks, which varies based on location and time of the year. During service visits the sensors are cleaned with detergent and bleach, and then inspected for wear and tear and any damage. A hand-held sonde is used to collect discrete samples using a YSI EXO handheld water quality sonde. Other discrete water samples are also collected in bottles for further analysis back at the SCCF Marine Lab. This discrete data are used to clean archived RECON data.
The first level of QC is for raw data on the RECON website. Raw data on the website currently receives a limited amount of QC. This mainly involves the removal of data for periods of confirmed sensor malfunction. This is currently performed on a limited basis and is why all data on the website is to be considered provisional.
The second level of QC is conducted at the lab on archived data. Data from the RECON website in downloaded by SCCF Marine Lab staff and put into an AQUARIUS Time-Series database. The discrete samples that were collected during the RECON service trips are then entered into this database. This allows us to adjust the raw RECON data to known values and correct for sensor drift cause by calibration drift or fouling. In some cases the data is not reliable and is removed. Data that has undergone this second level of QC is the data that our scientists use for any scientific publications.
How is RECON funded?
In 2007 the initial RECON was funded through a SCCF capital campaign with support from generous donors. The majority of the operation of RECON is made possible through grants and gifts by SCCF donors and foundations.
The Marine Lab staff has written grant proposals and received local, state and federal grants to make upgrades to and help offset some of the operational cost of RECON. For example, the weather stations, wave buoy, and this website were funded through various grants the lab obtained from the West Coast Inland Navigation District. A multi year grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) helps cover some of the RECON operations as SCCF is a data provider to GCOOS. A grant from the LAT Foundation helps pay for yearly sensor calibrations and service trips to the RECON sites. If you find RECON useful and would like to insure its continued operation you can make a donation through the main SCCF Website.