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The Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System (COMPS) is a real-time, web-based (http://comps.marine.usf.edu) coastal ocean observing and modeling system for the west coast of Florida. COMPS observations consist of coastal and offshore stations, each with in-situ ocean and air-sea interaction measurements. Some of these stations are maintained by the University of South Florida and others are maintained by various local, state and federal agencies. Our web-site imports and serves all available real-time data. The COMPS array also provides a backbone for process experimentation, inclusive of other non-realtime data sets, and it is supported by a numerical circulation modeling program for process experiment hindcasts and for nowcasts and forecasts. Through this coordinated program of in-situ measurements and models we are making headway in understanding material property distributions on the West Florida Shelf and how these impact shelf ecology. The COMPS in situ data and modeling program and some of its principal scientific findings are discussed. Based on these we provide recommendations on a basic set of measurements for future integrated sustained coastal ocean observing systems.