In the words of Sir Francis Drake; "great things have small beginnings" and the ACT Network's roots can be traced back to the evening of September 27th, 2005 in Alexandria, VA. During an ASMFC Atlantic Sturgeon Technical Committee meeting, it became apparent that several folks were starting to use acoustic telemetry for their studies and a call was made for someone to help lead a data sharing effort. After a long and uncomfortable silence, both Tom Savoy (CTDEP) and Dewayne Fox volunteered to help lead things. That evening, Tom and Dewayne met to talk it over and strangely enough one of the first things they kicked around was a name. Totally unbeknownst to them, our colleagues in FL were addressing the same issue and landed on a very similar name (FACT) which would cause numerous headaches for both Lori Brown and Joy Young.
At the start it was a simple spread sheet that Tom would send out once or twice a year with a focus on Atlantic Sturgeon. As word got out, the complexity and workload for Tom went through the roof. At around this point Tom and Dewayne decided that they could no longer handle things with a simple spreadsheet as too many changes were taking place and our communities needs were evolving . Facing these challenges, they reached out to John Manderson (OpenOcean Research- retired NOAA-NMFS) to solicit his input/advice on data sharing and management issues. About this time, they were successful in getting funding to support the development of the ACT Network through a NOAA-NMFS Section 6 award and Lori Brown was able to take over the official role of our network manager. With Lori's help, ACT continued to grow and they didn't realize how powerful it would become. It may not be the end all but it sure has provided benefits far beyond what they expected back in that hotel lobby in Alexandria, VA.
I was brought in to help standardize our datasharing - I was the cat herder. We started of with an Excel spreadsheet that was being updated by different researchers and we realized there were multiple versions and folks were missing information. I worked with Dewayne, John, and Tom to figure out what researchers would support. It was our goal to keep this grassroots and get the researchers to have ownership in the process. So, we moved from fixing the multiple version spreadsheet, to a shared document in Google Drive and then to an actual database to collect and standardize the information coming in. After that, we worked on guidelines to make sure every researcher realized and understood their responsibilities with regards to sharing and using data.
After a pause in the ACT Network management, I was brought on to take the lead in data management. I have spent time reconnecting members with the ACT Network and ensuring that all members have access to the most update information. In addition to catching up with ACT members, I have been updating the database with new and backlogged data and continue to work with current and new members on data collection, data integration, and data sharing.
In spring 2020, ACT Network management transitioned to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) with the assistance of a new ACT Network Steering Committee. SERC marine ecologist Matt Ogburn and I previously worked on making the MATOS database operational and managing that data with a few members of the ACT Network. Now, the the forces have joined! I will work on integrating the next generation ACT_MATOS database tool into the ACT community. I look forward to continuing to grow this community and advance the work that others have started!
Growing the network over time
The ACT Network has expanded extensively since it started in 2004. As you can see, what started with several small arrays has expanded to arrays covering large expanses along the Atlantic coast.
Not only have the number and extent of arrays increased, but the number of researchers involved in telemetry have increased from the start of ACT.