The NMS-COUNT Iterative Framework: Phase 3

Published: 21 April 2020
Last edited: 22 April 2020

In Phase 3, data from expert panel input are analyzed and gaps are identified. A methodology is designed specific to the sanctuary based on this analysis. This methodology is customized to each specific MPA setting, based upon data gathered through Phases 1 and 2, as well as feedback from managers and stakeholders to assess the confidence associated with specific sampling techniques.


Alliance and partnership development
Co-management building
Collection of baseline and monitoring data and knowledge
Communication, outreach and awareness building
Education, training and other capacity development activities
Evaluation, effectiveness measures and learning
Management planning
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution

Enabling factors

Similar to Phase 1, the greatest burden in Phase 3 is on the researcher. An appropriate methodology allows researchers to identify limits using existing data and illustrate gaps that hinder managers from fully understanding visitor use. A combination of expert judgment and feedback allows researchers to determine the utility of specific sampling techniques. Modeling of existing data sources within a framework that assigns confidence to each source helps create a starting point for visitation numbers that can be built upon in later iterations.

Lessons learned

In Phase 3, researchers compiled the data shared by all the various stakeholders. For Gray’s Reef, data were synthesized and evaluated to understand the correlation in the confidence in the data by stakeholders. Using a 10-point confidence scale, stakeholder perceptions of their confidence in the data were tabulated. The panel study revealed that data on visitor counts were being collected by multiple agencies (i.e., NOAA, U.S. Coast Guard, GADNR) and sources including satellite, boat radar, smart-buoy, on-site patrols, and underwater hydrophones. This breadth of data was only realized by following the NMS-COUNT process, as the data emerged during the second and third phases of the process. The NMS-COUNT process helped all of those involved in managing visitation to collaborate and understand the types of data being collected across multiple agencies. The process also facilitated the integration of multiple data sources to provide a more comprehensive understanding of visitation to the Sanctuary.