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  • SCCWRP unveils algaeMetrics tool to simplify algae-based bioassessment calculations

    May 02, 2016:

    SCCWRP has created a free online tool to help Southern California stream managers and scientists automatically generate stream bioassessment scores using raw algae data collected from wadeable streams.

    The algaeMetrics calculator, unveiled in April, is designed to streamline the process by which algal indices of biotic integrity (IBIs) are calculated during stream bioassessments.

    Prior to development of the calculator, stream managers were required to perform a series of lengthy calculations that required familiarity with a statistical programming language.

    With the algaeMetrics calculator, the user simply uploads raw spreadsheet data to a web-based calculator, and the calculator automatically computes scores for three primary benthic algal IBIs that are used for Southern California stream bioassessments.

    The three algal IBIs are described in a 2014 journal article co-authored by SCCWRP.

    To request a demonstration of the calculator, contact Shelly Moore.



    The algaeMetrics calculator is designed to streamline the process of calculating algal
    indices of biotic integrity for stream bioassessments. The web-based calculator is free
    to use.

  • SCCWRP testing utility of remote sensing to assess hydromodification risk

    February 19, 2016:

    SCCWRP has partnered with Orange County Public Works and the manufacturer of a professional-grade unmanned aerial system equipped with sensors to begin conducting high-resolution mapping of waterways susceptible to hydromodification.

    The first-of-its-kind pilot project will involve flying PrecisionHawk remote-controlled aircraft over stream channels in south Orange County that stormwater managers are working to protect from erosion and other morphological change.

    SCCWRP is interested in adapting professional-grade aerial monitoring systems for environmental applications because, unlike traditional airplanes and helicopters, they can be deployed to gather data quickly, at low altitudes, and at far less expense than could be accomplished by typical on-ground surveys.

    PrecisionHawk, a Raleigh, N.C.-based manufacturer of professional-grade remote sensing systems, is sending a small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) crew and system engineer to Orange County to pilot the aircraft during the project.

    PrecisionHawk uses on-board navigation and industry-standard imaging sensors to generate high-resolution location and elevation information. For the initial data collection, PrecisionHawk and SCCWRP are testing a visible spectrum camera, a multispectral infrared camera, and a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser profiling system capable of penetrating gaps in dense foliage to generate imagery of the ground surface below.

    A PrecisionHawk team visited SCCWRP in late January to begin an initial round of flight tests, including in the San Bernardino Mountains. The initial flight tests were an opportunity to assess the feasibility of using the technology for mapping areas covered in dense vegetation and snow pack. SCCWRP is working to assess the viability of unmanned aerial systems for member agency applications.

    PrecisionHawk also will benefit from the partnership, as the company is interested in learning how its sUAS systems – which are primarily used in the agriculture industry – might be extended to applications in the environmental monitoring arena.

    The PrecisionHawk project, part of a larger initiative to assess the value of sUAS systems for a range of environmental monitoring applications, is being conducted in partnership with the San Francisco Estuary Institute, SCCWRP’s sister organization in Northern California.

    Future potential applications of sUAS that SCCWRP and SFEI will be exploring include quantifying and mapping harmful algal blooms (HABs), collecting water samples from hard-to-access water bodies, mapping estuaries and wetlands, and identifying debris and pollution plumes.

    For more information, contact Dr. Steve Steinberg.


    Vev Jackson, a PrecisionHawk UAS pilot, prepares to launch a fixed-wing UAS for a high-altitude
    test flight in the San Bernardino Mountains in January. The team was testing the use of
    a multispectral camera system at an elevation of 6,500 feet near
    Big Bear along the upper Santa Ana River.


    Eric Postma, a PrecisionHawk electronics engineer, conducts a pre-flight test on a unmanned
    aerial system in the San Bernardino Mountains in January. SCCWRP and Orange County Public Works
    are partnering with PrecisionHawk to map waterways susceptible to hydromodification.


  • SCCWRP, partners launching outreach campaign for OAH modeling

    February 19, 2016:

    A team of scientists that is developing a predictive model examining how the West Coast is impacted by ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH) will launch a public outreach campaign in March to solicit input from Southern California scientists, coastal managers and other stakeholders.

    Project scientists want to share with the broader scientific and management community the approach being used to develop the model and get suggestions for how to maximize its utility while the project is still in its formative stages. The stakeholders will be asked for suggestions about data that can be used to both calibrate and validate the model.

    Later, as the model is validated and uncertainty is quantified, project scientists will continue to work with this outreach group to help define the nutrient management scenario analyses that will be run in the model.

    SCCWRP will host the first outreach meeting in March; the meeting date will be announced in early February.

    The West Coast OAH modeling project is a sweeping initiative to help West Coast managers understand which marine habitats are most vulnerable to OAH and to what extent local, land-based sources of pollution are exacerbating coastal OAH conditions.

    SCCWRP is working on the project with the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Washington, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

    The modeling work involves coupling West Coast physical and biogeochemical ocean models together to predict the relative contributions of global carbon dioxide emissions, natural upwelling processes, and nutrients introduced via local discharges.

    The model also will be valuable for assessing local management strategies, such as carbon sequestration. A downscaled version of the model is being developed specifically for the Southern California Bight.

    When the model is finished in 2018, scientists hope to be able to share with the management community whether the actions they take at the local level can have a meaningful effect in reducing or eliminating the harmful effects of OAH. Those harmful effects include the ability of calcifying organisms to form their shells.

    For more information, contact Dr. Martha Sutula.


  • Harmful algae conference focuses on research, strategy

    February 19, 2016:

    Researchers and environmental managers working to understand and address the threat of harmful algal blooms (HABs) across the nation coalesced in Long Beach in November for a five-day national scientific conference on HABs co-organized by SCCWRP and the University of Southern California.

    The Eighth Symposium on Harmful Algae in the U.S. provided an in-depth forum for scientific exchange and technical communication on strategies to manage both freshwater and marine HABs. It was held aboard the historic Queen Mary ocean liner docked in Long Beach.

    Presentations focused on the role of climate change, anthropogenic nutrient inputs, and other human and natural factors in exacerbating the proliferation of HABs worldwide.

    A key focus was on one of the largest and most toxic HABs events ever to hit the West Coast – the proliferation of domoic acid-producing Pseudo-nitzschia throughout spring and summer 2015.

    Attendees also learned about HAB modeling, forecasting and predicting, management and remediation strategies, and discussed strategies and planning efforts for better managing HABs during the El Nino season.

    The keynote speaker, Dr. Raphael Kudela of the University of California, Santa Cruz, focused his talk on chronicling HABs research in California that SCCWRP has contributed to and remains a key collaborator on.

    Dr. Meredith Howard of SCCWRP, the conference’s co-organizer, presented a talk on cyanobacteria and cyanotoxin research.

    The conference attracted 260 attendees from a wide cross-section of the HABs community – state, federal and local government, academic scientists, tribal governments, NGOs, and the private sector. The conference deliberately did not run concurrent sessions, allowing every attendee to participate in every session and maximizing opportunities for interactions.

    For more information, contact Dr. Meredith Howard.

    The Eighth Symposium on Harmful Algae in the U.S. allowed researchers and environmental managers
    to discuss strategies for managing harmful algae blooms in freshwater and marine environments.
    All five days of the conference took place on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.


    Dr. Raphael Kudela of the University of California, Santa Cruz, delivers the HABs conference's
    opening plenary session in the Grand Salon ballroom of the Queen Mary in Long Beach. All five days
    of the Eighth Symposium on Harmful Algae in the U.S. took place on the historic ocean liner.


  • SCCWRP to begin testing suitcase-sized ddPCR instrument

    August 19, 2015:

    A suitcase-sized instrument that could revolutionize the speed at which beach ocean water is tested for microbial contamination is being prepared for an initial round of testing and calibration at SCCWRP after five years of research and development.

    The droplet digital PCR instrument was delivered to SCCWRP in early August by Arizona State University researchers, who collaborated with SCCWRP and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to conceptualize and build this portable water-quality testing device.

    Unlike traditional methods that require water samples to be analyzed in a lab – a process that can take up to 24 hours – the ddPCR machine can be used by a field technician on the beach, producing results within two hours.

    SCCWRP, a world leader in adapting ddPCR for environmental monitoring, is preparing to launch extensive laboratory testing of the device, using both cultures and environmental samples.

    Then, in the spring, SCCWRP will begin field testing, followed by beta-testing by local agencies, including SCCWRP’s member agencies.

    Over the past five years, SCCWRP and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have provided expertise and guidance to the Arizona researchers about the design of a reliable, field-deployable ddPCR instrument with an interface so simple that even a beach lifeguard will be able to operate it.

    About the size of a small suitcase, the ddPCR instrument will have the capability to detect and quantify microbial targets in the field within two hours of collection.

    Shortening the testing window means that public-health officials can warn beachgoers much faster about potentially dangerous levels of pathogens in the water.

    This technology also could help investigators follow sources of fecal bacteria and other aquatic contamination to their upstream origin.

    For more information about the portable ddPCR instrument, contact Dr. John Griffith.



    Dr. Joshua Steele calibrates a prototype portable microbial device in SCCWRP's
    microbiology laboratory. The droplet digital PCR instrument is designed to be used
    in the field to dramatically speed up how quickly beach ocean water is tested for
    microbial contamination.



    SCCWRP is planning to test the utility of a suitcase-sized droplet digital PCR instrument
    that could dramatically speed up how quickly beach ocean water can be tested for
    microbial contamination. This rendering shows the plastic housing (A), a tablet PC
    mounted inside (B), the sample injection port (C), the rapid-replace consumable reagent
    bay (D), and the target primer library (E).

  • XPRIZE-developed pH sensors being tested as Bight profilers by SCCWRP, member agencies

    August 12, 2015:

    SCCWRP and its four POTW member agencies have kicked off a year-long effort to evaluate whether ocean pH monitoring instruments developed through an international XPRIZE competition can be used effectively for nearshore regulatory monitoring in the Southern California Bight.

    SCCWRP – along with the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, City of Los Angeles Sanitation, Orange County Sanitation District, and City of San Diego Public Utilities Department – completed a test deployment in early August during a training exercise in the nearshore waters off Crystal Cove. Next, the member agencies will deploy the XPRIZE sensors during their routine regulatory monitoring.

    All semifinalists in the XPRIZE’s $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health competition have been invited to compete in SCCWRP’s post-prize competition to assess the potential regulatory application of their devices.

    The main XPRIZE competition, which concluded in July, was a global contest that invited researchers to design and build next-generation pH sensor technologies that improve the ability to measure ocean chemistry and accurately track ocean acidification trends. The winner was Sunburst Sensors of Missoula, Mont.

    The goal of the SCCWRP-facilitated post-prize competition is to identify one or more viable XPRIZE technologies to replace glass electrodes, which are the standard pH profiling instrument used for nearshore regulatory monitoring.

    SCCWRP has previously demonstrated that glass electrodes cannot track changes at the level of precision required to address California’s Ocean Plan Standard, which mandates that ocean pH must not be changed by more than ± 0.2 pH units from that which occurs naturally.

    So far, three finalists from the XPRIZE competition have submitted their sensors for post-prize evaluation: the ANB sensor, a novel electrochemical system that can measure pH of low-ionic-strength solutions with no natural buffer; the Cross Strait sensor, a device built with micro solid ion selective electrodes (ISEs) and designed for resistance to ocean bio-fouling and chemo-fouling; and the SINDEN sensor, a non-glass in situ pH sensor that uses an ion sensitive field effect transistor (ISFET) as the pH electrode and a chloride ion selective electrode (Cl-ISE) as the reference electrode.

    SCCWRP also is pursuing other strategies for improving the precision of routine pH ocean profiling. As part of Bight ’13, SCCWRP and its member agencies are investigating use of discrete pH bottle measurements to improve in situ calibration with glass electrodes.

    For more information about the SCCWRP-facilitated regulatory evaluation phase of the XPRIZE prototype sensors, contact Dr. Karen McLaughlin.


    George Robertson of the Orange County Sanitation District, left, and Ashley Booth, center,
    and Erin Oderlin of the City of Los Angeles Sanitation calibrate and prepare an XPRIZE-developed
    ocean pH monitoring sensor for a test deployment in nearshore waters off Crystal Cove. All four
    of SCCWRP’s POTW member agencies participated in the training exercise in early August.


    Representatives from SCCWRP's four POTW agencies attach XPRIZE-developed pH sensors
    to a metal framework called a rosette that was then dropped into the water off Crystal Cove.