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You are here: /main/research expeditions/September/October 2007/Kaylene Keller

Scientist Interviews: Data Manager, Kaylene Keller

by Darla White

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Kaylene Keller

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is working in partnership with Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami researchers Jerry Ault and Steve Smith to test a random stratified sampling method for monitoring coral reef ecosystems.  The method is based on the generation of (choosing) random sites within a set of defined habitat and depth strata, based on the Geographic Information System (GIS) habitat maps provided by the Monument office.  The randomly selected sites will be surveyed in addition to permanent transect sites already established.  Each team needs to visit a certain number of sites in each type of habitat (lagoon, forebank, and backreef) and depth strata (shallow, moderate, and deep).  The random selection of sites eliminates bias from the data and the additional samples will increase the sensitivity to detect changes in the ecosystems over time.

An often overlooked but absolutely vital person to the mission is the data manager.  In today’s technology the data manager not only works with spreadsheets, but with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), creating or building a geodatabase and models.  With GIS, maps can be generated with sampling site locations overlaid on satellite images of the atolls and reefs.  The sampling sites can also be entered into Global Positioning System (GPS) units and scientists can navigate to specific locations to conduct field studies.  Data collected at each site can then be linked to each location to display site characteristics including collections of species, and analyze how species composition varies spatially.  Kaylene Keller, Ph.D., from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument office is a GIS specialist and the data manager for this cruise.  She creates the maps with the sampling site locations to let the teams know where they are going each day, as well as alternate options for sites.  Time on the water is at a premium, and she makes sure they get the sites they need to cover. 

The divers choose the actual sites based not only on the criteria they must cover, but also on ocean conditions and safety factors such as the length of transit, distance from the ship, and radio communications abilities.  After the day of diving is through, the data has been collected and the divers are back on board the ship, the work begins.  Each team brings in their GPS units for download, as well as additional metadata (data about the data).  Kaylene records the sites visited and generates new maps for the next day.  The scientists then enter their data to later be linked to the GIS and compiled in a summary cruise report.
Two separate data sets are being created on this cruise.  The first includes all of the observed data, such as fish counts and benthic cover, collected by the scientists.  This information will be used by managers (e.g. NOAA, FWS, and DAR) to aid in decisions needed to protect the health and biodiversity of resources within the Monument, and also for education and outreach.  The second data set looks at usage of the Monument itself.  The usage dataset includes data on where people went, how many people were there, and what they were doing.  With this data, managers will be able to track which areas are getting more use than others and make future recommendations.

Information management is yet another aspect of the bigger picture.  There are two database types constructed here.  The first is a database for permits and activities (e.g. usage data).  Permits are an important part of any scientific research mission, especially with the high levels of protection provided the resident organisms and ecosystems within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  The new permit system within the Monument is a multi-agency effort.  Learn more about the permitting process at

The second database is for the monitoring data collected on fish, corals, algae and invertebrates.  The data in the second database will be combined with data from the previous monitoring cruises to analyze the ecosystem trends over time.

The data is the backbone to any research, and the doorway to understanding that which we do not yet know.  The management and accessibility of this valuable information is a new challenge for the management partner agencies that have come together to work as a team.  Through this effort, greater benefits to the management of the Monument and all of Hawaii’s reefs will be achieved.


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