Google recently announced that Google Earth has been downloaded one billion times. While some news reports mistakenly equate this to it being downloaded by one billion people (I’m probably responsible for at least 100 downloads), it is certainly the closest thing to a ubiquitous resource in the geospatial community.

Virtual globes like Google Earth provide an intuitive way to learn about earth system processes. Michael Goodchild, a leading geographic information scientist at the University of California-Santa Barbara, once advanced a “ten-ten rule” when speaking of virtual globes – it takes a ten-year old about ten minutes to master the workings of virtual globe software.

In order to celebrate passing the one billion mark in just six years, Google created a website titled One World. Many Stories. It includes an interactive timeline that shows how Google Earth is used for the following topics

  • Cartography for All (exploring the world in a new way)
  • Community Stories (protecting resources, traditions, citizens, and the environment through mapping)
  • Armchair Archeology (combining traditional archeological methods with the power of technology)
  • Teach the World (expanding knowledge through geography)
  • Protect the Earth (driving awareness of environmental issues)
  • Mapping for Good (aiding humanitarian relief and disaster response)
  • Virtual Travel (seeing the world from the comfort of home), and
  • Off the Map (developing unique perspectives of the world)

The stories include a date, geo-coordinates, a link to a KML file.

My favorite story is about GoogleLitTrips – a web site that features Google Earth applications that provide a different perspective on great works of literature. The site was established by Jerome Burg when he was teaching English at a high school in California. I met Jerome at the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association’s 2009 Spring Conference in Madison. Check out the Google Lit Trips for Paddle-to-the-Sea and The Big Two-Hearted River that I developed with the help of my children.


The Fifth International Symposium on GIS/Spatial Analyses in Fishery and Aquatic Sciences was held in Wellington, New Zealand  on August 22 to 26, 2011. Though it was a small conference (about 47 attendees), many applications of interest to Sea Grant and NOAA types were presented. Below are a few.

Robert O’Conner, a Fishery Information Specialist with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, presented AquaMap, an experimental benthic mapping tool that “links sonar hand-sets to surface-based GPS measurements, allowing divers to map underwater with the ease and accuracy of a GPS unit.” The development of this tool resulted from the NOAA HPCC IT Incubator Program.

Dale Keifer, a Professor of Biology  at the University of Southern California, demonstrated the Pelagic Habitat Analysis Module (PHAM), a set of software tools “designed to assist fishery managers, scientists, and researchers examine and predict the habitat for pelagic ocean biota utilising presence/absence or abundance data for the biota combined with environmental datasets such as satellite imagery, bathymetry, survey cruises, and ocean circulation models.” PHAM is a component of the Environmental Analysis System (EASy) GIS that was developed specifically for marine applications.

Suzanne Rizor of Blue Leaf Environmental showed how her company used GIS to evaluate the approach and passage behavior of salmonid smolts at a hydroelectric project on the Mid-Columbia River in Washington. The aim is to design better bypass structures to increase fish passage survival.

Michael Hinton, senior scientist with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, talked about the use of GIS for habitat mapping of tuna species from satellite imagery to improve management. He also is collaborating on Fishscape, a geospatial model of the international fishery targeting tropcial tunas in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Be sure to be on the lookout for the Sixth International Symposium. The event serves to highlight and promote GIS and spatial analysis in fishery and aquatic science, which have lagged behind those in terrestrial sciences.

Several coastal web atlases were profiled on the first day of the Fifth International Coastal Atlas Network meeting in Oostende, Belgium. These include the Washington Coastal Atlas, the Belgian Coastal Atlas, the African Marine Atlas, the Carribean Marine Atlas, Scotland’s Marine Atlas, and the Atlas of the Venice Lagoon.

Of interest to those on the west coast, the new release of the Washington Coastal Atlas has been designed with particular users in mind, for example local government officials or educators. Featured on the front page are ways to find public beaches and beach closures, explore flood maps, and examine oblique photos of the shoreline.

The members of ICAN from the United States include:

Also on the first day of the ICAN5 program were briefings on recent events and initiatives featuring coastal atlases (including the ICAN-Great Lakes meeting held in Madison in September 2010), presentations on how atlases can support coastal and marine spatial planning, and a reception to commemorate the new release of the Belgian Coastal Atlas.

For another perspective on the ICAN5 meeting, Tanya Haddad of the Oregon Coastal Management Program is tweeting on the activites of the meeting.

GIS User Conferences

ESRI User Conference

ESRI User Conference

The 2011 ESRI User Conference was held from July 11-15 in San Diego. Over 15,000 attended. You can view videos of plenary sessions and search abstracts and papers in the proceedings. Of particular interest is Jacqueline McGlade’s keynote on climate change titled “One Degree Matters“. Dr. McGlade is head of the European Environment Agency.



The 2011 FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial) annual international gathering will be in Denver from September 12-16. This is the first North American event since 2007. The program includes several practical workshops, tutorials, and an introduction to geospatial open source. I imagine there will be lots of updated software releases in anticipation of this meeting.

Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps You know how when presenting in a webinar, you can use the pen tool to scribble on top of your slides to help make your point. Scribble Maps works like that, only you draw on top of a map. The real strengths of Scribble Maps are in data creation and sharing. The ability to freehand draw makes the creation process much easier for simple maps. It is very easy to place new points, lines, shapes, text and images on the map and use the search tool to discover and add new features. The resulting maps can be exported and shared in several ways, including by email and Facebook, and as images, Google Earth KML files, and GPX files for GPS devices. Here is a quick Scribble Map to show the location of six panorama photos for the Great Lakes coasts of Wisconsin.

Here is a Scribble Maps tutorial that Wisconsin Sea Grant put together for a Great Lakes Observing System mapping workshop. Scribble Maps also has a Pro version — here is a more detailed review of Scribble Maps Pro by Eva Dodsworth at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

State of the Coast

The State of the Coast

NOAA’s National Ocean Service recently launched an excellent web tool – known as the State of the Coast – allowing users to explore a variety of connections among coastal communities.

Susan Holmes, with the Special Projects Division at NOAA National Ocean Service, provided the following description of the State of the Coast tool:

“Within that narrow strip of land and water we call our coast, there is a nationally-significant story to tell. Our well-being as a nation depends on a suite of benefits that flow from healthy coasts: food, clean water, jobs, recreation, and protection from hurricanes. To help tell that story and encourage the need to better understand, manage, and protect our natural resources, NOAA has developed this State of the Coast (SOTC) Web site: a clear, simple, and engaging Web destination that will foster an increased awareness of the crucial importance of healthy coastal ecosystems to a robust U.S. economy, a safe population, and a sustainable quality of life for coastal residents.

The SOTC Website first offers quick facts and more detailed statistics through interactive indicator visualization maps that provide highlights of what we know about coastal communities, coastal ecosystems, and the coastal economy and about how climate change might impact the coast.  Secondly, the SOTC Web site offers case studies and management success stories that highlight often complex connections across the four State of the Coast themes: coastal communities; coastal ecosystems; coastal economy; and the climate.

Explore this site to gain a deeper appreciation of the connections among healthy coastal ecosystems, a robust U.S. economy, a safe population, and a sustainable quality of life for coastal residents…and the consequent need to better understand, manage, and protect our nation’s coastal resources.”

For any questions, please contact:

Susan Holmes
NOAA National Ocean Service, Special Projects Division
301-713-3000 x158

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.