Coastal margins are of enormous economic, environmental, and societal value. However, coastal margin growth, land-use practices, and deleterious anthropogenic and natural processes impact overall coastal margin health. Events such as storms, accidental oil spills, and harmful algal blooms lead to increased water column particle suspension and ecological degradation. An anthropogenic oil spill stresses the biological species present, as the petroleum contamination can travel as slicks and continue as contaminant sources over time. Several state and federal programs address contaminant effect on estuarine health; however, the data monitoring systems currently available are collecting basic trends on sparse datasets and cannot reflect the overall environmental condition of the coastal margin. The desired support system should incorporate scientific, industrial, and other stakeholder needs by utilizing a network of real-time, synthesized sensor data, as no single parameter can accurately relate the overall conditions.
To better understand conditions in the coastal margin, “smart sampling” should be invoked. This combines remote and continuous monitoring with detailed discrete studies during episodic events, such as oil spills. To measure real-time in situ data from the water column, fixed platforms in Corpus Christi Bay include sensors to measure salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen, petroleum concentrations, current and wave profiles, and others. The development of sophisticated cyber infrastructure is needed to provide integrated datasets to end users such as research scientists, policy makers, educators, and the general public. This paper presents details on the needed cyber infrastructure, which includes provisions for in situ real-time data acquisition, the capability of transferring very high frequency of data, desired operation and maintenance with minimal human intervention, and highly-flexible, customizable, modular in-house-built software. Expected results focus on integrated information that can be used by coastal region stake holders with confidence in making public policy decisions. Real time data visualization would make it possible to track chemical and oil spills, to detect harmful algal blooms, to monitor ship channels, water level changes, intra-coastal waterways, freshwater diversion, and other human activities.