04 May Data Management with Help from MERMAID

With over 1,000 transects observed at more than 100 sites in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, CTC has amassed a boatload of data in its 10+ years of coral reef health monitoring. These data include estimates of coral cover, fish lengths and population sizes, and other indicators of a reef’s condition and the pressures it faces. Keeping these data organized and consistent from year to year, however, is a challenge. Enter Data MERMAID (https://datamermaid.org/), a free web application that we hope will help us better manage and share critical information about the reefs we monitor. 

From the field to the office, MERMAID supports each step in the data management process. Following an underwater survey, an authenticated user with appropriate permissions can transcribe data from an underwater slate into a MERMAID project, whether online or offline. A validation step checks the entries for typos, and a donut chart immediately summarizes the observations. There is no need to fiddle with Excel Pivot Charts to review the results of a long day of surveying; MERMAID provides instant gratification. Pending a final check and approval by the project administer, the data can be shared with other users or made public in full or summarized form through MERMAID’s dashboard (https://dashboard.datamermaid.org/).

We have recently begun using MERMAID to manage and visualize our coral reef data. By visiting MERMAID’s global dashboard and filtering for Organization = ‘Coral Triangle Center’ using the tool bar at left, anyone with an Internet connection can see a growing map of CTC’s monitoring sites. Currently included are the marine protected areas (MPAs) of the Buano Islands, Lease Islands and Banda Islands in Maluku, the Sula Islands in North Maluku, and Nusa Penida in Bali, as well as Atauro Island and Liquiçá in Timor-Leste. 

Clicking on any site will bring up a summary of the observations collected there, providing a convenient way for scientists and non-scientists, alike, to peruse reef data. We are currently preparing and uploading our archive of fish and coral data to MERMAID, anticipating that it will be fully integrated by July 2021.

Ecological data describing the state of a coral reef can help us understand how threats, such as destructive fishing, may be damaging a reef. MPA managers can study trends in the data over time to determine whether threats are persisting or abating, and whether goals, such as growing fish biomass, are being met. When data from thousands of sites are aggregated under initiatives like the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, broad-scale regional and global trends that emerge can spur to action intergovernmental bodies such as the United Nations.

By organizing our data in MERMAID, making it easier to share in a standardized format, we hope the data will bring more broad-scale benefits to marine conservation within and beyond the Coral Triangle. 


Screenshot of MERMAID’s dashboard (https://dashboard.datamermaid.org/)

showing a summary of hard coral cover and other categoriesobserved by point intercept transect (PIT) for a site in the Lease Islands, Maluku Province. 

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