Archive for July, 2011

The Manatee Awareness and Protection Resource

The Manatee Awareness and Protection Resource

A particularly contentious management issue in the state of Florida involves balancing protection of the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) with public access to, and use of, coastal waters. Public debate surrounding the issue is acrimonious, often pitting environmental interests against those of boating and fishing.

Resource managers, policy makers, and the public need a clear vision of the decision process and the information considered when developing protection measures. To that end, Florida Sea Grant developed a web-based educational resource to raise manatee awareness and protection.

The site, Manatee Awareness and Protection Resource, contains an interactive map that integrates geographic information and educational modules in a format that presents human use, regulations, and environmental factors that help guide manatee protection in Florida.

The NOAA Coastal Services Center funded the project and one of the project’s unique aspects was collaboration with group of very talented and creative digital design and media students from the University of Florida’s School of Art and Art History.


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Prof. Tim Nyerges at the University of Washington offers perhaps the only college course focused on Coastal Geographic Information Systems (GEOG 462/562). The course focuses on the Puget Sound region and makes use of a coastal data model to study the interaction of the terrestrial and marine environments of coastal areas. The last GIS lab assignment and final project for the course offered in the Autumn 2010 quarter addressed the flow of contaminants over land and through water. A scenario was set up where a gasoline tanker truck has an accident. The resulting spill is analyzed as it passes over land, through streams, and into Puget Sound. The lecture notes and lab exercises will be interesting to advanced GIS users.

Prof. Dawn Wright at Oregon State University is one of the leading international experts on coastal and marine GIS. Her Geographic Information Systems and Science course (GEO 465/565) combines an overview of the general principles of GIS with a theoretical treatment of the nature and analytical use of spatial information. The most recent offering in the Winter 2011 quarter provides links to annotated bibliographies on diverse topics completed by students. Two students completed a more challenging project developing original mapping mashups for “The Columbia River Basin” and “Oregon Dive Conditions“. The lecture presentations/notes and lab exercises are useful resources. “Deepsea Dawn” also maintains “Davy Jones’ Locker” – a comprehensive compilation of GIS links, and actively shares her discoveries on Twitter.

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The NOAA Coastal Services Center is a great resource for spatial data, tools, and training. One of its newest offerings is a webinar series that introduces Digital Coast tools and data through demonstrations, case studies, and opportunities to engage with field experts and colleagues. Webinars are offered monthly from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (eastern) and, if you miss one, they can be viewed after the fact.

Upcoming webinars include Engaging Stakeholders in Coastal Management through Participatory Mapping on July 27th, Using Benthic Habitat Data for Ecosystem-Based Management on August 3rd, and Community Resilience, Part 1: Assessing Vulnerabilities Using the Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk on September 7th.

Previous webinars included using ENOW Data to Help Monitor Economic Health in Coastal Counties and Using Geospatial Techniques to Plan for Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Habitats.

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After looking at many animations of sea level rise and flood inundation, I found one that serves as an excellent example of a spatial decision support tool for adaptive management related to climate change and coastal hazards. The “Lakes Entrance Visualisation” tool (http://sahultime.monash.edu.au/LakesEntrance/) was developed by Peter Wheeler, Matthew Coller, Joshphar Kunapo, Jim Peterson, and Michael McMahon at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.


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A photo of Charles "Bud" Ehler

Charles Ehler

The July 13 post provided some great resources to learn about Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning. I want to point to one other resource: a webinar by Charles “Bud” Ehler, one of the world’s leading experts in marine spatial planning (and former Director, International Program Office, National Ocean Service, NOAA). The webinar was broadcast by the Florida Sea Grant Boating and Waterway Planning Program during his visit to the University of Florida in March 2011. One nice thing about the webinar is that, after his ~30 minute presentation titled “What is Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning?,” he answers numerous questions posed by the 60-70 people who attended.

During his presentation, he analyzed how marine spatial planning can assist with balancing the many uses and activities associated with our coastal and ocean resources. He also reviewed how marine spatial planning has been practiced successfully in other countries like Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, and Norway for over a decade. Ehler also examined the U.S. approach from an international perspective, and identified management challenges that will have to be overcome if marine spatial planning in the U.S. is to be effective, efficient, and equitable.

Watch the Webinar (Run time 55 min) (Note: You may be asked to open and run a Java file. Afterward, wait a moment and  playback will begin shortly.)

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Bathymetry displayed in Google Earth

Bathymetry in Google Earth

The other day I was working on a project to determine feasible locations in Florida’s coastal waters to site mooring fields for recreational boaters. I had the need to “see” water depths…and fairly quickly. I was pleasantly surprised to come across bathymetric data sets for selected U.S. estuaries produced by NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Even better, the data sets are available as Google Earth Visualization Files. Thus, if you have Google Earth (GE) installed, all you have to do is click the link for your estuary of interest and the data will open in GE, color-coded to represent different depths.

These data are available in 30 meter (and 3 arc second) resolution and, as stated by NOAA, are not to be used for navigation. But they do add great value to other information that you can display in GE, such as the locations of marinas, communities, and more. If you have specific uses in mind for this data, make sure to read the information posted by NOAA to ensure that it is appropriate for your needs.

For more instructions on how to get bathymetry data for your estuary… (more…)

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The National Sea Grant Law Center has developed a short video titled “What is Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning?”  It provides a brief overview of the concepts behind CMSP for an unfamiliar audience.

A presentation that tracks the content of the video is also available as a pdf file at http://nsglc.olemiss.edu/Ecocystem.html

To Learn More About Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning

National Ocean Council’s Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Website:

NOAA’s Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Website:

Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan:

UNESCO Marine Spatial Planning Initiative:

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