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Hands-on Scientist: Graphing Data

The Booker Creek monitoring station provides scientists (and students like you!) with the data they need to monitor the watershed.  Every 30 minutes the station records information about the quality of the water in Booker Creek, like pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen.  The station also takes weather readings every 6 minutes, including wind speed, air temperature, and humidity.

This data is available on the Internet for people to download, study, and compare with other locations around the state.  Let's take a look at the Booker Creek monitoring station to see what data we can find!

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will see 3 types of data: meteorological (weather), stream flow (how fast the creek water is moving), and water quality.  Since they can't talk to the creek, scientists use these pieces of information as clues to the overall health of the watershed.

Usually, scientists need to look at the data over a period of time to see if there are any "trends" - or patterns.  For example, if they noticed the pH of the water kept increasing, this might be a sign of pollution somewhere upstream - like soap in the water from a carwash.

Sometimes the period of time is very short, like a single day...or even an hour!  Other times, scientists need to study the data over a longer period, like a season or a year.  The data from the Booker Creek monitoring station can be studied over two time periods: the last 24 hours (1 day) and the last 5 days.

You can also choose how you want to see the data.  If you click on "plots" you can see graphs of the data.  If you click on "metric" you can see tables of numbers and measurements collected by the station (scientists call this "raw data").  Depending on what they are studying, scientists may need to look at the graphs, the raw data, or both to find the answers they need!

Sometimes, scientists need to take the raw data and make their own graphs.  This can be a little tricky but, luckily, there are computer programs that help make things easier!  Let's see how one works!

First, we need to collect some data to graph!  Choose a category of data and click on the "metric" link.  We can only see the raw data for the past 24 hours - the table for the past 5 days would be too big to read!!  If you can, print out the table of raw data so you have it on your desk.

Visit the Create a Graph website and follow the instructions to make a graph just like the scientists make!  You can choose what your graph looks like, the colors, and even the title!

Now that you've made your own graph, what can you learn about Booker Creek by studying it?  Do you notice any trends?  If you had to report your findings to the Mayor of St. Petersburg, what would you say?