In 2008, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a final biological opinion on the operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System for salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Based on that “FCRPS BiOp,” Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is compelled to collaborate with NOAA and other action agencies to improve aquatic monitoring in the Columbia River basin. They must provide evidence that an expanded habitat restoration program is an effective approach to ESA species recovery.
The basin-wide monitoring program would organize 22 crews from 12 agencies, tribes, and private companies to collect data from more than 350 sites in 11 watersheds using a single protocol standard. Collaborators were tasked with building a solution to support standardized data collection, centralized analyses, automated QC/QA, and uniform publishing of monitoring information that would assess basin-wide habitat conditions.
Sitka began the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program (CHaMP) development by focusing on a single protocol that would be extended via a programmatic approach to data collection and analysis. The program assists in selecting survey sites from a “master sample” dataset using the Generalized Random Tessellation Stratified algorithm (GRTS). This establishes a statistically valid, spatially balanced sample of the basin from which researchers can make inferences. CHaMP maps the resulting sample design in a web application so that researchers can view all sites or evaluate individual locations to determine the feasibility of actually visiting them.
The CHaMP website ensures researchers and managers stay connected to their field teams via advanced mobile technology. Program managers can push survey locations directly onto the field crews’ handheld data loggers. Field crews use iPad tablets to upload their measurements back to the central database for researchers and managers to review. Field crews control quality right as they collect data by correcting inputs as data loggers prompt them when entries are outside of prescribed boundaries. Researchers also contribute to quality assurance using online QA tools like scatter plots. Any time data is corrected, stream metrics calculated using geospatial analysis tools are automatically re-calculated by the system.
The CHaMP program significantly increased BPA and NOAA’s visibility and control over the vast amount of habitat data. The design of the web-based application and its mobile field device allowed users to evaluate sites remotely, export selected sites to hand-held devices, view data quality test results during data uploads, edit raw measurements, and analyze metrics generated by the application. Automating metric calculation procedures significantly increased the workflow efficiency of data quality assurance. It improved the speed and accuracy of generating more than 400 metrics per site. The metrics are publically available to support statistical analyses, watershed assessments, and natural resource decision making.