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You are here: Home eNewsletter Archives 2009 September 2009 SAEON Egagasini and MCM secure valuable SA data set

SAEON Egagasini and MCM secure valuable SA data set

With its long history of conducting routine monitoring surveys as well as dedicated research cruises, MCM has a rich repository of biological, chemical and physical data.

Dr Juliet Hermes, Manager of SAEON’s Egagasini Node (left) and MCM Data Archivist Christine Illert examine MCM data records (Picture: Penny Price)

Dr Marten Gründlingh, SADCO Manager (left)and Ursula von St Ange, SADCO Data Manager inspect the MCM data store (Picture: Penny Price)

One of the primary factors defining the uniqueness of the SAEON Egagasini Node within the SAEON context, is the constraint associated with the excessive cost of accessing the offshore marine environment to originate long-term environmental monitoring programmes.

In view of this, the Egagasini Node is hosted by the state facility responsible for offshore data collection - the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), the largest marine data generator in the country.

Previously known as the Sea Fisheries Research Institute, MCM has a long history of conducting both routine monitoring surveys as well as dedicated research cruises and is therefore very rich in biological, chemical and physical data. A constraint exists in the utilisation of this data for the establishment of long-term environmental trends in that not all the data is corrected, verified and archived in a central repository.

Attempts in the past to create in-house databases in which to archive this data have never fulfilled the overarching role they were designed for. The data remains scattered between scientists, technicians and a plethora of small databases.

The regional oceanographic data repository, Southern African Data Centre for Oceanography (SADCO), was set up in the 1960s with the objective of archiving all oceanographic data from the southern African region. The CSIR manages SADCO, and SAEON currently administers it by providing the SADCO secretariat, while the Manager of the SAEON Egagasini Node is a member of the SADCO Steering Committee.

Improving the flow of data

SADCO, SAEON and MCM are currently working together on improving the dataflow from MCM to SADCO. Working alongside SADCO and MCM technicians, data archivists and scientists, SAEON staff member Penny Price has taken on the task of creating an inventory of MCM metadata. For this purpose she has created “Pen’s mega-spreadsheet” as it has been dubbed, which is proving a very useful tool for SAEON, MCM and SADCO to establish and track the status of the MCM data.

Regular meetings between the partners have resulted in significant headway being made with identifying gaps in the data flow from MCM to SADCO and the status of the data once it reaches SADCO. As this process progresses, more and more of these gaps are being addressed.

This collaborative effort will continue to make a significant contribution to securing one of our nation’s most valuable data sets.

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