CISNet: In Situ and Remote Monitoring of Productivity and Nutrient Cycles in Puget Sound

EPA Grant Number: R826942
Title: CISNet: In Situ and Remote Monitoring of Productivity and Nutrient Cycles in Puget Sound
Investigators: Emerson, Steven , Devol, Allan , MacCready, Parker , Newton, Jan , Perry, Mary Jane
Current Investigators: Emerson, Steven
Institution: University of Washington
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001 (Extended to September 30, 2002)
Project Amount: $581,876
RFA: Ecological Effects of Environmental Stressors Using Coastal Intensive Sites (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Statistics , Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Growing population and associated nutrients from sewage and agriculture pose a threat of eutrophication in the Puget Sound coastal water system. We hypothesize that it is possible to identify and monitor potential anthropogenic effects by remotely sampling a time series of critical chemical, biological, and physical parameters with a profiling mooring system and coupling these results with satellite remote sensing. We will test this hypothesis in South Puget Sound where water residence times are long and effects of population growth are projected to be strongest.


The proposal has an EPA/NOAA section (The Profiling Mooring Study) and a NASA section (The Remote Sensing Study). In the EPA/NOAA portion of the proposal our approach to test the hypothesis will be to deploy a mooring capable of determining profiles of T, S, depth, oxygen and N2 gas concentrations, nitrate and phosphate, light, fluorescence, and currents four times per day. We will use a mooring design and sensors that are available commercially. Their efficacy for continuous measurements will be verified using traditional water sampling methods monthly when the sensors will be cleaned and replaced. The NASA portion of the proposal describes a study of water leaving radiance at and around the mooring site to ground truth images from the Navy Earth Map Observer (NEMO) satellite scheduled to be launched in 2000. The NEMO spectrometer has the option of providing either 30 or 60 m pixel resolution which will be ideal for a study in a narrow, elongated fjord such as Puget Sound. Our objective is to demonstrate that long-term variations in productivity and nutrient cycling can be observed through a combined study of remotely-sensed color and autonomously derived in situ chemical profiles so that these methods can be used to assess anthropogenic effects on water quality.

We have two major collaborators in this research that will dramatically increase its impact. The Washington State Department of Ecology has targeted South Puget Sound for an intensive study of the effects of nutrient loading on water quality and primary production. One of the P.I.s of this proposal (Newton) is in charge of this program and has agreed to make one of their intensely studied sites the mooring location and share the costs of a postdoc to carry out the mooring verification and water-leaving radiance studies. In-kind support provided by the Department of Ecology in this collaboration is outlined in the Budget section. We are also collaborating with an internally funded University of Washington study of Puget Sound (PRISM). This research group has created a three-dimensional model of Puget Sound circulation that will be expanded to include ecosystem dynamics which we will use to help interpret our measurements in a three dimensional context. This group is committed to supporting a field aspect to their Puget Sound research and has agreed to provide a postdoctoral fellow to carry out day-to-day details of the mooring project. Thus, we are able to leverage a much larger and more effective program using the requested EPA/NOAA and NASA funds.

Expected Results:

Our project addresses 4 of the 5 research areas suggested in the CISNet program announcement. (1) Development of indicators of coastal ecosystem integrity and sustainability: Our indicators will be based on the variables productivity, oxygen and nutrient content, and phytoplankton biomass. We propose to develop methods for monitoring these and other variables nearly continuously and remotely. (2) Problems of temporal and spatial variability in environmental measurements: The increased temporal and spatial resolution of measurements of critical parameters afforded by the in situ profiler and the increased horizontal spatial resolution from remote sensing will determine whether critical time and space scales are missed in current monitoring programs. (3) Nitrogen and phosphorus effects on coastal systems: We propose to measure changes in nitrate and phosphate using in situ instrumentation on the profiling mooring. This information coupled with the distribution and dynamics of phytoplankton biomass from remote sensing, and modeling of ecosystem dynamics, will allow quantitative assessment of the impact of eutrophication on the Puget Sound Basin. (5) Development of remote sensing capability: The EPA/NOAA and NASA components of this proposal are closely integrated. The latter proposes to develop a capability to use and ground-truth remote sensing images as indicators of changes in phytoplankton biomass in Puget Sound.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 11 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Northwest, monitoring, marine science, environmental chemistry, biology, aquatic., Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Nutrients, State, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Risk Assessment, nutrient supply, remote sensing, coastal ecosystem, nutrient transport, eutrophication, aquatic ecosystem, anthropogenic stress, CISNet, bioavailability, Puget Sound, remote sensing data, chemical speciation, coastal zone, Washington (WA), biomass, CISNet Program, water quality, gas concentrations, nutrient cycling, nutrient transport model, in situ chemical profiles

Relevant Websites:

Oceanic Remote Chemical/Optical Analyzer:
Washington State Department of Ecology's long-term monitoring program:

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report