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Water: Monitoring & Assessment

Chapter 6 Managing and Presenting Monitoring Data

6.1 - Managing Volunteer Data
6.2 - Presenting the Data
6.3 - Producing Reports

It is hard to overemphasize the importance of having established methods of handling volunteer data, analyzing that data, and presenting results effectively to volunteers, the public, and water resource decision-makers. Without these tools and processes, the data that volunteers and program managers have labored hard to collect are virtually useless, and the program will surely fail to meet its goals. This chapter addresses data management and data presentation. Members of the program planning committee will need to make many decisions on these issues before the first field data sheet is filled out by the program's first volunteer. In particular, they should consult any potential data users such as state water quality agencies or county planning boards regarding their own data needs. Data users will be particularly concerned about:

  • Procedures used to verify and check the raw volunteer data.
  • Databases and software used to manage the data.
  • Analytical procedures used to convert the raw data into findings and conclusions.
  • Reporting formats.
Data users may, for example, be able to offer concrete suggestions about databases and presentation formats that will make the data more accessible to them. To ensure that all questions about the validity of the data can be answered, the program planning committee should develop and implement a quality assurance/quality control plan designed to minimize data collection errors, weed out data that fail to meet the program's standards, and effectively analyze and present the results. This plan should identify key personnel with responsibilities for data management and data analysis and clearly indicate all the steps the program will take to handle the data. Unfortunately, volunteers and program coordinators seldom recognize the importance of this aspect of a volunteer monitoring program. It tends to be considered "drudge" work assigned to one or two technically inclined people. However, that attitude is seriously out of date. Program organizers should make every effort to involve a range of volunteers and program staff in all aspects of data management and presentation. Sufficient time should be budgeted to the tasks that are involved. People who produce the reports should be acknowledged. After all, it is the final reports that will be reviewed by stream management decision-makers, not the field data sheets. No other tasks are more important to the success of the volunteer stream monitoring program.

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