Extended Sessions

All times EDT
Agenda subject to change.
Updated 16 March 2021


Monday, April 19, 2021

Introduction to Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge and Season (WRTDS) and the EGRET R-package, for analysis of surface water quality data
11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Exploring water quality and streamflow data is critical for understanding the world around us. The USGS has developed the EGRET R package to facilitate obtaining and interpreting surface-water quality data. This short course, presented by the developer of EGRET, will describe how these tools can be used. The EGRET package is designed to retrieve relevant water quality and streamflow data from USGS NWIS and EPA Storet and then structures the data in standard formats for analysis. EGRET uses the Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) method to evaluate trends in concentration and flux. It is focused on producing graphical outputs that can help enhance the understanding of the nature and possible drivers of the observed trends. These methods are highly flexible, allowing for the examination of non-monotonic trends and allowing for considerations of trends that may be different across different seasons or flow conditions. They also allow for the proper analysis of “less than” data in the overall record. This workshop is designed to give participants a good understanding of the WRTDS method and the overall structure of EGRET and the types of analyses and products it can produce.

Robert Hirsch, USGS

Panel Discussion
Protecting Water Resources, Conserving Aquatic Species, and Educating People through Testing and Implementing Monitoring of Forestry Best Management Practices
11:00 am – 12:30 pm

This panel discussion will bring together experts in a short presentation format to discuss fundamental forestry concepts, the relationship between BMP effectiveness research, state BMP monitoring, education and outreach programs, and the role of forest certification to protect water resources and aquatic species. Increasingly, state and federal agencies are coming to understand the importance of maintaining working forests where management activities that implement BMPs represents a clear, actionable, and scientifically sound approach for protecting water quality and conserving at-risk aquatic species.

Jim Vose, US Forest Service
Mike Aust, Virginia Tech
AJ Lang, NC Forest Service
Erik Schilling, NCASI

NMC Transform Your Hidden Racial Bias Workshop
11:00 am – 12:30 pm / 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
*Registration is required as is full attendance at both sessions on Monday and the 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm session on Friday.

Science shows we all have implicit or unconscious biases, which is part of being human. Certain implicit biases, such as racial, gender or age do cause harm and perpetuate systems that oppress, exclude, and divide us. Divisions keep us from attracting and retaining top talent, drawing out the best in each other, creating and cultivating effective teams, organizations and a culture of inclusion and race equity. Unaddressed, it is like missing a leg on a stool that we need to stand on to succeed. As leaders we have a responsibility to learn how to improve our knowledge, skills, and competencies to increase our collective impact and better support our colleagues, organizations, and constituents.

The path to systems and a culture that are predominantly inclusive and equitable is an iterative journey from unaware to advocate. Every system and organization is made up of individuals so this course focuses on the individual and compliments any organizational training. There is no one way to travel on the path. This course provides information, actions, a process, and resources combined with your intention, attention and commitment reduce the impact of implicit bias.

This course is for you if you:

  • Are aware you have a role and are educating yourself how to move forward
  • Want to do no harm
  • Want to liberate yourself
  • Don’t know what to do or where to start
  • Are afraid to say or do the wrong thing
  • Want to build the skill set to take meaningful action
  • Want to be an Aly and build powerful partnerships


  • Learn Four Technologies in your toolbox for this work.
  • Define “implicit racial bias”, how it works, examples
  • 5 Steps You can take to Stop Implicit Racial Bias
  • Provide resources, support and next steps

Registration is required as is full attendance at both workshops. A pre-package will be sent to participants that includes preparation, more detail, and resources. Content for the course has been curated from many sources and include How to be an Inclusive LeaderJennifer Brown, Courses from Racial Justice from the HeartDr. Amanda KempSo You Want To Talk About RaceIjeoma Oluo and White FragilityRobin Diangelo. Content adapts the “5 Steps to Stop Implicit Racial Bias” from Dr. Amanda Kemp for this venue and audience and is a mix of assessment tools, videos, direct teaching, facilitated break out groups and a small amount of homework.

NADA2: A Full Suite of Data Analysis Methods for Nondetects
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

NADA2 is an R package that performs computations of summary statistics, hypothesis tests, regression modeling and trend analysis, all without substituting numbers for nondetects. It goes far beyond the methods found in my 2011 textbook Statistics for Censored Environmental Data using Minitab and R. The methods primarily adapt those developed for right-censored “greater than” data in medical studies (survival analysis) to left-censored “less than” concentration data. They have been used in my Nondetects And Data Analysis course over the past years and are now being implemented in water quality and other environmental studies, risk analysis, astronomy, occupational hygiene / human health, and other disciplines. This workshop will demonstrate:

  1. why not to substitute fractions of the detection limit for nondetects, and
  2. the ease of using the NADA2 package for R software to correctly plot and perform statistical analysis of water quality data with nondetects.

Methods demonstrated will include calculation of summary statistics including confidence intervals, boxplots, scatterplots and QQ plots, hypothesis tests, regression modeling and trend analysis, all for data with nondetects at one or multiple detection limits.

Dennis Helsel, Practical Stats LLC

JEDI Lightning Round Session
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
We seek to highlight and facilitate discussions on how to empower the voices of underserved and minoritized communities on environmental and water-quality-based issues, in part through an extended session featuring a series of lightning talks from the NMC community. Lightning round presenters speak up to 10 minutes, sharing their experiences and ideas during this extended session focused on JEDI issues.
New capabilities of the EGRET R-package, for analysis of surface water quality data using WRTDS
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

This session describes a number of recent enhancements of the EGRET R software (EGRET is Exploration and Graphics for RivEr Trends). These include the EGRETci package which estimates confidence intervals around trend estimates calculated by EGRET. It also includes a set of enhancements introduced in 2018. These include the ability to explore the combined impacts of changing streamflow conditions (possibly caused by changing climate or water management) with changes in water quality arising from land and waste management practices. Using these tools one can establish if the streamflow trends may be amplifying the trends produced by land and waste management or whether the two trend-drivers may be canceling each other out to some extent. In addition, the enhancements broaden the application of the WRTDS method so that it can properly model sudden water quality changes due to actions such as major enhancements of wastewater treatment facilities or changes in water storage (new reservoirs or the removal of reservoirs) and it can also be used to explore the long-term impacts of major hydrologic events. In addition, EGRET now has an implementation of WRTDS_K, which uses an autoregressive estimation method to provide more accurate estimates of daily concentrations and fluxes. This additional method provides more accurate estimates of the concentrations and fluxes on individual days, months, or years. It is different. This workshop should increase the knowledge of those familiar with EGRET to be able to make use of the new more flexible approaches to trend analysis and to the evaluation of the uncertainty of trend results. The workshop will be most useful to those who take the earlier EGRET workshop at this conference or at previous conferences or who already have a working knowledge of the package.

Robert Hirsch, USGS

Panel Discussion
Performing Clean Water Act Assessments More Efficiently Using Sharable Code
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

The US Environmental Protection Agency/EPA in partnership with the US Geological Survey (USGS) provides mechanisms for state, tribal, and federal agencies to submit (i.e., Water Quality Exchange/WQX), and retrieve (i.e., Water Quality Portal/WQP) water quality monitoring data but does not currently provide a tool to help agencies perform their Clean Water Act assessments. While the WQP is the nation’s largest source for water quality data, sharing over 380 million water quality data records from over 900 federal, state, tribal and other partners; without a national tool for analyzing large WQP datasets, agencies do not use WQP data or may struggle to perform their assessments quickly and/or efficiently. Moreover, agencies that use local databases may be missing readily available data or may not be fully informed by all the data the WQP can provide. On the other hand, some states and tribes have already individually developed methods to quickly and efficiently analyze water quality data (i.e., from the WQP and/or local databases) using sharable R code. In this panel discussion, representatives from two state agencies (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control) and one tribe (Penobscot Nation, Maine) will share success stories on how they have improved their Clean Water Act assessments and decision-making using R. Representatives from EPA will then discuss the national perspective, including common assessment threads across agencies, and their plan to release a national WQP Data Assessment Tool in 2021. Finally, EPA will hold a listening session to gain insights from agencies on their assessment needs and to hear feedback on the national WQP Data Assessment Tool (in development). The goal of this panel discussion is to improve access to and analysis of data from the WQP and to better enable science-based water resource decisions by sharing information that may help agencies improve their water quality data assessments.

Cristina A. Mullin, US Environmental Protection Agency, Water Data Integration Branch
Laura Shumway, US Environmental Protection Agency, Water Data Integration Branch
Jason Jones, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Bryan Rabon, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
Angie Reed, Penobscot Nation, Maine


Friday, April 23, 2021

Water Quality eXchange & Water Quality Portal Training
11:00 am – 12:30 pm

EPA and USGS will be hosting a half day remote Water Quality eXchange (WQX) and Water Quality Portal (WQP) training. Participants will get hands-on experience using the WQX format, learn how to publish data using WQX web, and how to retrieve data from the WQP. Participants will be provided example datasets but are encouraged to bring all organization specific questions for discussion.

Session Outcomes

  • Understand and learn how water quality data is published using WQX Web
  • Understand and learn how to download data from the Water Quality Portal

Laura Shumway, USEPA

Panel Discussion
Coordinated Monitoring Partnerships in the Greater New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary—An expanded look at shared goals and outcomes
11:00 am – 12:30 pm

This extended workshop will provide a forum for discussing the methods and strategies for developing greater coordination in an open platform centered on the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Four topics will be highlighted for panelist and audience participation: data compilation and usability, expanding science and monitoring goals collaboratively, enhancing and expanding community and stakeholder outreach; and coordinating and leveraging funding. The session will also involve ways collaboration and coordination of environmental monitoring can leverage Urban Waters Federal Partnership activities and sponsorship.

Rosana Da Silva, Hudson River Foundation & New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program
Shawn Fisher, US Geological Survey, New York Water Science Center
Shawn Rodier, Greeley and Hansen
Jessica Bonamusa, Interstate Environmental Commission
Siddhartha Hayes, Hudson River Park

JEDI Networking Block
11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Want to promote a more inclusive environment? The National Water Quality Monitoring Council created the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) committee and is supporting the convening of this informal but moderated session. We welcome people of all backgrounds and desire to foster a culture where all participate freely. We are committed to actively improving JEDI throughout Council activities and acknowledge that our JEDI initiatives are a work in progress. We will solicit topics for this session daily through the platform’s community board and daily JEDI prompts provided throughout the conference. Join us on April 23 and let’s help each other move forward!
Interpretation and communication techniques for monitoring data
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Objective 1: As a result of attending this session, participants will gain information and knowledge about science communication best practices.

Objective 2: Participants will learn new ways to analyze their data.

Objective 3: Participants will learn how to use data visualizations to communicate their research to multiple audiences.

Water quality monitoring data are collected for a myriad of purposes. Whether it is for determining changes in water quality, evaluating climate change effects, protecting human health, establishing baseline conditions, measuring results of restoration activities, or modeling future conditions, synthesizing, and communicating results is an essential part of using the data. Too often, monitoring datasets are not used to their full potential for managing, restoring, and protecting water resources. This extended session will provide a clear set of steps to take for data interpretation, synthesis, and communication. A checklist, PowerPoint presentations, and a PDF manual of best science communication practices will be provided to participants. The virtual session will be interactive by using Mentimeter surveys and free online graphic design websites that focus on using data visualizations to communicate research to multiple audiences. Participants will walk away with new tools, techniques, and visualizations to apply to their monitoring data and program goals.

E. Caroline Donovan, UMCES Integration and Application Network
Nathan Miller, UMCES Integration and Application Network

Panel Discussion
Evaluating potential biological effects of chemicals detected in multiple environmental media using ToxCast high-throughput screening results
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

There are thousands of anthropogenic chemicals that have been detected in different environmental compartments as contaminants. Monitoring for tens or hundreds of these contaminants in environmental samples simultaneously is becoming more and more common. This includes monitoring a variety of environmental media such as surface water, groundwater, drinking water, sediment, soil, and biological tissues. For practical use in environmental assessment and management efforts, an important challenge beyond quantification is to identify and prioritize chemicals with the greatest potential for adverse biological effects. A large proportion of the chemicals detected in these types of studies lack established benchmark concentrations or concentrations of concern for the relevant exposure matrix. The United States Environmental Protection Agency Toxicity Forecaster program (ToxCast) uses in vitro bioassay techniques, referred to as “high-throughput screening”, to define bioactivity for thousands of chemicals, including many that are quantified in environmental matrices. Chemical potency values from ToxCast have been integrated into tools such as the toxEval and ToxMixtures R-packages to produce risk-based prioritization of observed chemicals and chemical mixtures that includes an expanded list of chemicals beyond those with established benchmarks.

This panel discussion will include short presentations on case studies that highlight techniques used to evaluate and prioritize chemicals in several environmental media using toxEval, ToxMixtures, and potency information from ToxCast followed by a panel discussion. Presentation topics and panel members will include:

  1. Water samples, passive samplers, and chemical mixtures (Luke Loken, US Geological Survey)
  2. Pore water sediment screening using passive samplers (Milo De Baat, University of Amsterdam and KWR Water Research Institute)
  3. Tissues in aquatic organisms (Ruth Sofield, Western Washington University)
  4. Drinking water (Paul Bradley, US Geological Survey)
  5. Interpretation of potential bioeffects (Daniel Villeneuve, US Environmental Protection Agency)
Chiques Creek Watershed Report Card – Case Study for a data-driven approach to project prioritization
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

The Chiques Creek Watershed has been a focal point for water quality improvements within the Susquehanna River drainage basin and Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Chiques Creek Watershed, located within Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a hot spot for nutrient and sediment loadings into local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Federally mandated pollutant reduction goals for cleaning up the Bay have put even more pressure on these local cleanup efforts.

Over the past several years, collective efforts from local, county and state governments, and private, public, and nonprofit sectors, have identified almost 800 projects and restoration approaches through various studies, reports, etc. With all of this data and information came an apparent need for an effort to synthesize the information into a data driven approach to prioritize implementation efforts and subsequent quantifiable improvements. This Chiques Creek Watershed Report Card was developed as the data driven approach to synthesize, balance and consolidate all of the previous assessment and data collection efforts with watershed-based goals and objectives into an easy-to-use format. This proposed workshop would use the Chiques Creek Watershed Report Card as a case study to demonstrate how this data-driven approach for project prioritization translates data into something useful. It will draw from the report and associated maps to give real-life examples and show how such data is visually communicated, and it will put into context the importance of data-driven decision making as it relates to local and regional resource management – i.e., national Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts. The Report Card tool is one that can be replicated and customized to any watershed.

The Report Card provides a snapshot of current conditions in waterbodies along with measurable thresholds of indicators of optimal conditions. As a quantified reference tool, it serves as the catalyst to help streamline the decision-making processes, expose regional, multi-beneficial (e.g., P3, etc.) opportunities, and set the foundation to allow the stakeholders and communities of the watershed to fund and implement actual efforts with tangible, quantifiable results. The Report Card is an evaluation tool where information and data is continuously synthesized and will synchronize independent considerations into a singular and efficient hierarchy where these considerations complement each other.

The data collection relies heavily on GIS mapping and existing data to develop a baseline understanding of the watershed, identify data gaps, and clarify repetitive information. This information provides the base of existing conditions and also informs us how the land is being used and how it has been altered over time. Data from previous plans, repositories, and studies were reviewed to get a baseline understanding of the information already available and where there is a need for more data collection. A strategic plan of action was developed to streamline the process and avoid duplication of efforts.

Establishing the criteria for prioritization requires: Data Collection, Sub-Watershed Analysis and Site-Specific Assessment. The synthesis occurs when this information is filtered through the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs take into consideration the ultimate goals that are important to this particular watershed including improved flooding, economic development, pollution reduction and improved bio-diversity. Any project that helps to achieve at least one and ideally all of these goals is prioritized.

The Report Card provides the platform to capture numerous bits of data and information and reflect the data and information in a simple and visual manner. It is a dynamic document and is intended to be updated periodically (e.g., every five years) to assist with the evaluation step in the iterative process for decision-making. Further, the Report Card tool is one that can be replicated and customized for any watershed.

Workshop Objectives

  • Use the Chiques Creek Watershed Report Card as a case study for the development of the data-driven tool that can be replicated in any watershed
  • Demonstrate how to synthesize existing data to: 1) capture current watershed conditions; and 2) identify priority projects
  • Demonstrate how this data-driven tool can help guide decision-makers at different levels and across various sectors
  • Demonstrate how the data can be represented and communicated in an easy-to-read format
  • Demonstrate how this approach fits within the context of greater regional water quality improvement efforts

Workshop attendees will gain an understanding of:

  • How to translate data into something useful
  • How to organize and collaborate across sectors for regional strategic planning
  • How to identify needs and goals of individual watersheds
  • How to assess and present current conditions in an easy-to-use format

Mike LaSala, LandStudies, Inc.

Panel Discussion
dataRetrieval: Success Stories and Future Enhancements
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
The dataRetrieval package, a R-package developed by the USGS, allows users to discover, access, retrieve, and parse water data from Water Quality Portal (WQP) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Information System (NWIS). The ability to retrieve multi-agency water-quality data through this package enables users to access decades of valuable baseline data, allowing time and resources to be dedicated to data analysis instead of data processing and compilation. This session brings together scientists from federal, state, and regional agencies to discuss success stories of using dataRetrieval; each panelist will briefly present results of their use cases. Panelists will also discuss opportunities and challenges of working with dataRetrieval, complementary R-packages that are useful for data analysis, and challenges of working with dataRetrieval. Panelists will also discuss planned enhancements to the package, and (if possible), will open the floor to the audience to propose desired enhancements.
Panel Discussion
DNA Data Acceptability Criteria for Biological Condition Assessments
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

DNA metabarcoding and other nucleic acid-based measurements of community composition provide new and powerful data to inform ecological condition assessments. However, acceptance and integration of DNA methods into biological assessments is hindered by a lack of agreed upon methodological and data quality standards. Development of prescribed methods is not likely to be useful because molecular technologies and associated bioinformatic approaches are diverse and rapidly changing. The best platforms for future assessments of biological communities may be based on next generation sequencing, microfluidic high-density qPCR arrays, or new technologies not yet on the market. Therefore, development of minimum quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) standards that accommodate different technologies will be needed. In this session, we will explore perspectives from multiple agencies and institutions on minimum QA/QC standards required for (1) field sampling and preservation; (2) DNA/RNA extraction and amplification; (3) analysis and quantification of target DNAs (e.g., sequencing or genotyping); (4) informatic processing, taxonomic classification, and enumeration; and (5) assessment models/metrics. Note that that this effort is aimed at developing standards for biological community analysis, not eDNA assays aimed at single-species detection and enumeration.

Sharing of perspectives on minimum QA/QC is a necessary first step in developing multi-agency, multi-institutional, and multinational standards for acceptance of DNA data in biological assessments. Representatives of several organizations have agreed to share perspectives and move towards consensus, including USFS, USFWS, SCWRRP, USEPA, USGS, DFO Canada, Environment Canada, and DNAquaNet (European Union). Agreement on these standards will facilitate better sharing of samples and data and aid in combining datasets from diverse institutions. By the end of this session, we hope to achieve

  1. A shared understanding of data quality requirements for DNA data used in different bioassessment programs
  2. Agreement on a mechanism for continued engagement on developing universal QA/QC standards for DNA bioassessment/biomonitoring data