Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of the Estuary

Here at Matanzas Riverkeeper, we could not do the work that we do without help from our awesome partners around the watershed. For more than 15 years, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM NERR) has diligently monitored the seasonal shifts in water quality at four stations around the estuary - Pine Island, San Sebastian, Fort Matanzas, and Pellicer Creek - situated within the Tolomato River, Matanzas River, and Pellicer Creek. This effort is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve’s (NERRs) System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP). An intriguing facet of the SWMP is its nationwide scope. Implemented across all NERRs nationwide, this program operates under standardized protocols, ensuring consistency in data collection methodologies despite varying geographical locations. 

United States map illustrating all National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs). 

The overarching aim of SWMP is to monitor both short-term variability and long-term change within the estuarine environment, enhancing our understanding of ecosystem dynamics over time and enabling us to anticipate responses to both natural processes and human activities. SWMP keeps a close eye on water quality by using automated data sondes (pictured below) for continuous monitoring, collecting data on a wide range of parameters including water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen levels, and pH. Monthly grab samples are also collected to analyze other parameters such as phosphorus, nitrogen, chlorophyll, carbon, total suspended solids, bacteria that indicate fecal contamination, and many more. This information can help us to identify sources of pollution, so that we can work to minimize or eliminate them. 

Since October 2023, Matanzas Riverkeeper has been collaborating with GTM NERR to keep a finger on the pulse of the estuary. Program Director, Capt. Silas Tanner has actively participated in the collection of monthly SWMP water samples alongside the GTM field crew. Through these efforts, our organization gains invaluable insights into the ongoing dynamics within the estuary. This collaboration between Matanzas Riverkeeper and GTM NERR strengthens our combined ability to safeguard the health of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas estuary, ensuring that the estuary remains clean and safe for everyone who lives, works, and plays in our waterways.


Pictured above: Left - Silas collecting surface water quality samples utilizing a sampling pole and the "straw" method. These samples are sent to Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Central Lab in Tallahassee and results are available in 3-4 weeks. Right - Continuous monitoring data is collected utilizing data sondes which record sensor data readings every 15-minutes including water temperature, conductivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, chlorophyll fluorescence, and fluorescent dissolved organic matter (fDOM).

Interested in SWMP data? You can view and download SWMP data (including GIS information) from the NERRs Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO) at