Loading a First Dataset into Tuva

Graph of sea surface temperature change in Boothbay HarborGood tools make it simpler for students to explore data visually.  One good tool is a data manipulation and graphing package called “Tuva” that is available from Tuva Labs.  An alternative to Tuva called CODAP (Common Online Data Analysis Platform), created by the Concord Consortium. CSI-Maine teachers will want to use one of these tools so that students can easily use graphs to explore questions about what is going on with climate, crabs, and clams.  In this post, we show you how to get started with Tuva. 

With Tuva, Tuva Labs has pulled together a large set of curated data sets that are designed to support different kinds of science, social studies, mathematics, and other learning activities, together with lessons focused on developing data literacy. Access to this complete set of tools and materials requires a subscription.  However, Tuva also makes their basic graphing tool available for free.  This free version provides teachers and students with a powerful data manipulation and graphing tool that they can use to explore their own datasets. In this post, we will show you how to sign up and begin to use this free version. Some of the schools in the CSI-Maine program are also using the full, for-fee version.  Teachers in these schools probably do not need help signing into Tuva. These teachers might want to jump to the last part of this post where we upload and begin looking at a set of sea surface temperature data from Boothbay Bay.

Creating a Tuva Account

Go to the Tuva Labs website. Scroll down until you see the blue circle labeled K-12 Schools and Districts.  Click there, and you will come to another screen with a button that says “Sign Up.”  Clicking on that will bring up a popup that asks if you are a teacher or a student. If the popup does not appear that is probably because your browser is set to not allow javascript. If you are using the Mac Safari browser, you can change that by going to the Safari->Preferences->Security menu and clicking the box before “Enable Javascript.”

Tuva will then ask for your title, first and last name, email address, username, and password. Once you agree to their terms of service, you click Sign Up and you are in business. Here is a brief video to walk you through the process.

Uploading a First Dataset: Boothbay Harbor Sea Surface Temperature

Once you have your Tuva account you are ready to begin work with data.  One good option for beginning work with Tuva and with your students is to take a look at the way that water temperatures at the sea surface, called “sea surface temperature” or SST, for short, has changed over time.  The Gulf of Maine is warming more quickly than all of the other areas of the ocean on the entire planet.  If you looked at the CSI-Maine information on green crabs, you might remember that the warmer waters are a primary cause of the increases in the green crab population and the related pressure on the clam population. You might also remember that the information we shared about the green crab lifecycle was from research done nearly 40 years ago, in 1979 and 1980 in Boothbay Harbor.

It so happens that there is a remarkably complete record of daily SST in Boothbay Harbor that dates all the way back to 1905. You can find the complete record, up-to-date as of last month. at the Boothbay Harbor Environmental Data site maintained by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.  This dataset is a valuable resource that students can use to develop a better understanding of seasonal patterns that drive clam and crab lifecycles and of how those patterns are changing over time.

However, the complete daily records from March 1, 1905, through August 30, 2018 (the most recent version of the file as we write this post) contains 41,422 daily temperature entries.  That much data takes a long time to load and process using online tools such as Tuva and CODAP and, when you do finally produce a graph, the points are so close together that is difficult to make sense of them. So, we have crunched the data down to a more manageable size in two ways:

  • First, we computed monthly averages so that we could look at every month rather than every day. Because some graphing tools expect “date” data to include not only a month and year, but also a day, we assign a date of the fifteenth of the month for each average. So, the average monthly SST for September 1969 appears as “9/15/68.”
  • Second, we created a subset of the full dataset that looks only at the last fifty years, running from September of 1968 through August of 2018. Here is a link to that reduced dataset, shared as a Google Sheet.

You will want your own copy of this dataset since we will be using it in our first lessons where we work with Tuva.  If you use Google drive, you should make a copy to your own drive by clicking on the link, above, and then, when the Google Sheet opens, select the “Add to My Drive” option on the file menu, as shown below.

Make a copy to your own dirve

Alternatively, if you do not use Google Drive, you can select the “Download as” menu option (see the picture above) to save a copy on your own computer.  Save the file either as an Excel (.xlsx) file or as a “Comma-Separated Value” (.csv) file.  Tuva can work from either of these file types as well as from Google Sheets.

Now we are ready to return to Tuva, upload the Boothbay Harbor SST data, and see what the data look like.  Here is a video that walks you through that process.

We need to add one clarification to this video: the five dataset limit applies only to the free accounts that Tuva offers. Premium accounts can store as many uploaded datasets as you need as you work with students on different research problems.

OK.  Now we have some data in Tuva to work with. You might drag and drop different things on your own to see what Tuva can do.  Try out different kinds of graphs.  In the next post we will take a closer look at the mechanics of using Tuva.  We will also begin to explore ways that students might use the Boothbay Harbor data to get familiar with using Tuva while also beginning to think a bit about how sea surface temperatures along the Maine coast have changed over the past 50 years.

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  1. Pingback: Making Tuva Files Available to Students | CSI-Maine

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