Technology: BIOMapper Opens Window to Decision-making for Coastal Managers

By Ken Buja, IT Project Manager
Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment,
National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Much of what we do at NCCOS’ Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) involves collecting data in the field and translating the data into user-friendly maps of the area. From the makeup of the sea floor to the depth in different parts, the maps we develop help coastal managers make important resource management decisions.

When we first started providing our benthic habitat data to the public back in 2000, we put everything on a CD and mailed them out to the appropriate groups. This put the burden on the user to have the right software to open and view the data. We also created PDF atlases to show the data for those who didn’t have the required software.

This blog is one in a variety of technology posts designed to provide readers with insight into the  technologies that are being developed and used for research by NCCOS scientist and their partners.  

Getting our data out to the public has changed quite drastically over the past decade. Technological advancements have allowed us to create mapping programs to help us better organize and use the data we receive from our field surveys. Geographic Information System (GIS) is one of the most important mapping technologies used in science today. Through the use of GIS we can map oceans, model systems, and understand urbanization on the environment, just to name a few.  As GIS technology has improved, the Biogeography Branch at CCMA has used it to provide interactive maps of our benthic mapping projects to allow easy access to our habitat maps and imagery, as well as videos and photography taken at various dive sites.

multicolor image of a screen shot of the BIOMapper tool

A screenshot of the BIOmapper tool available to the public via the NCCOS website. Credit:NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA

With the introduction of ESRI’s ArcIMS mapping services in the early 2000s (ESRI is one of the leading companies in GIS software and utility), we started putting our data on an interactive mapping website that didn’t require any specialized software.

With the recent introduction of ArcGIS Server, interactive maps have become more flexible, giving us the ability to make the maps into user friendly tools through the use of Flash technology. At CCMA, our main mapping product is called the BIOMapper, or Biogeography Integrated Online Mapper. This tool displays imagery (aerial photography, satellite imagery, or sonar data), benthic habitat maps, dive locations, remote operated vehicle (ROV) transects, as well as the photos and videos taken at the dive sites and along the ROV transects. All of this information is collected when our researchers head out to the field in the spring and summer months. They spend weeks at a time diving and launching ROVs to collect as much information about the environment as possible. Our goal is for the BIOMapper tool to help coastal managers and the public easily understand the environmental in a visual way.

For most projects we are part of, a BIOMapper is built. You can see this tool in use for some of our more recent work in the Buck Island National Reef Monument Virgin Islands, Jobos Bay Puerto Rico, Palmyra Atoll, St. John Virgin Islands, Vieques Puerto Rico, and Southwestern Puerto Rico. Also, look for BIOMapper for new research coming out of CCMA’s Biogeography Branch.

We were pleased that the BIOMapper was highlighted at the recent 2012 ESRI Federal User’s Conference, click on video 2 and go to the 62:10.  Entitled “Letters from the Road,” ESRI talked to 20 different federal programs about how they used ESRI products. To see the snippet about NOAA and CCMA’s use of technology, visit the ESRI conference page, click on video 2 and go to the 62:10.

The BIOMapper will continue to evolve and will integrate more information, including a wealth of biological monitoring data that we have been collecting for over a decade. We see it becoming a one-stop shop to view and download our data.

This entry was posted in Benthic Mapping, Biogeography Branch, Caribbean, Caribbean Research, Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, Coral, Marine Regional Planning, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA's National Ocean Service, Ocean Field Work, Ocean Research, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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