Is Marsh Surface Tracking Sea Level Change? Developing Tools and Visualizations for Sentinel Site Data

  • Photo credit: Sandra Huynh

    Photo credit: Sandra Huynh

  • Photo credit: Sandra Huynh

    Photo credit: Sandra Huynh

  • Photo credit: Sandra Huynh

    Photo credit: Sandra Huynh

  • Photo credit: Delaware NERR

    Photo credit: Delaware NERR

To better understand the local impacts of climate change, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System expanded their long-term monitoring efforts to include a Sentinel Site Application Module. A centerpiece of the Sentinel Site program is the use of highly specialized equipment—called Surface Elevation Tables, or SETs—to precisely measure and track changes to the marsh surface height over time. However, handling, analyzing, and interpreting Surface Elevation Table data is challenging and requires skills and statistical techniques that have not been standardized. In addition, the system has identified a need to create visualizations and educational tools about SET data for scientists, managers, and the public. 

This project addresses these needs by developing standardized tools to quality-check Surface Elevation Table data, perform trend analyses, and generate informative visualizations for a variety of technical and non-technical audiences. The team’s collaborative approach to developing statistical methods and outreach products will build both technical expertise and a broader understanding of how the data can be used to better understand how sea level rise is impacting marshes.