[Data Contributor] California Sea Grant Fellow Laura Lilly bridges gaps in Ocean Observing

This article was originally posted at the SCCOOS Website. 

Laura Lilly’s, California Sea Grant State Fellowship was developed out of a partnership between the West Coast Ocean Observing System Regional Associations (Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS), Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS), Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS)) and the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA). The scope of her fellowship has involved connecting oceanographic data from the OOS RAs to West Coast managers and stakeholders through the WCGA West Coast Ocean Data Portal (WCODP) and other regional and state data portals. The two focus areas of Laura’s fellowship were marine debris and ocean acidification, although her work has included broader oceanographic data uses as well.


Based on user surveys of WCGA Marine Debris Action Coordination Team members and other marine debris-related managers, she developed several sets of time-averaged oceanographic data products:

Figure 1. Surface Currents multi-year month-long average for June 2012-2014, from CORDC High Frequency Radar (HFR) data. These plots were generated in response to oceanographic data needs expressed by marine debris managers interested in tracking trash movements with surface currents, but also to provide information to coastal managers on general West Coast ocean conditions.

Figure 2a & 2b. Plots of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) (top) and Significant Wave Height (Hs) (bottom) from data collected by the CDIP Mission Bay buoy. These plots were created in response to requests for greater access to the SCCOOS datasets. SST data plots were created to help monitor the exceptionally warm ocean temperatures during Summer 2014. Wave height plots were created to provide more information on general West Coast oceanographic trends, as well as provide additional information to marine debris managers about the effects of physical oceanographic data on coastal trash movements.


These products will be available through several regional portals, in the hope that coastal and ocean managers and policymakers will benefit from greater access to oceanographic information.

Laura also shared data-generation code and resulting plots via the following mechanisms:

  • Shared Python coding scripts with other researchers interested in plotting similar high-frequency radar visualizations.
  • Produced the plots as GeoTiff files available for download through the WCODP.
  • Created an associated metadata record for the above files.


In response to growing concern about increasing ocean acidification along the West Coast, and the resulting effects on the shellfish industry, part of Laura’s fellowship has involved assessing oceanographic products that can be used to help monitor and understand ocean acidification events in the California Current. Laura surveyed potential interest groups, including shellfish growers, water quality agencies and governmental and non-governmental conservation agencies, for their oceanographic data needs.

Created new WCGA OA webpage

Updated the OOS-compiled West Coast OA Assets Inventory (incorporated into the IOOS Pacific Region Ocean Acidification (IPACOA) Portal) (Fig. 3)

In the process of linking to additional potentially useful OA products, including future predictions of modeled pH and aragonite saturation in the California Current System

Figure 3. The IOOS Pacific Region Ocean Acidification (IPACOA) Portal is a collaborative effort between the Pacific Region OOS RAs to document real-time data from OA sensors maintained in collaboration with local shellfish farms. The IPACOA Portal also contains a West Coast OA Assets Inventory, which lists all West Coast OA monitoring assets, and for which Laura provided a complete update during her fellowship.

Laura Lilly’s work as a California Sea Grant Fellow has greatly linked the ocean observing regional network. Communication and collaboration amongst the West Coast Ocean Observing System RAs (SCCOOS, CeNCOOS, NANOOS) and the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA) will continue to progress as a result of Laura’s work. For more information regarding Laura’s experiences during her fellowship, check out her blog.

This Fellowship has been an incredible growth experience for Laura. Through the process of wrangling Pythons (coding scripts) and refining her knowledge of U.S. West Coast oceanography and ocean-related organization acronyms, she has come to realize that this kind of integrated, policy-applicable oceanographic work is something she wants to continue in the future. She will miss working at the incredible Scripps Institution of Oceanography as she takes time off to travel and pursue some of her land- and ocean-based interests, including horse polo, bird-watching, tall boat sailing and SCUBA diving. She will be checking the CDIP wave forecasts religiously, however, as she attempts to take up surfing, and will remain vigilant in her quest to pick up every scrap of beach trash and educate her fellow grocery-shoppers about the environmental benefits of reusable bags. She hopes to dive back into the world of oceanography soon, via a Ph.D. program or related work.

ipython notebook