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Center for Spatial Information and Research

Development of an Interactive Web-based Geospatial Database for Mapping & Analyzing Volunteer Monitoring Data


Coastal managers need to incorporate socio-economic, cultural, and environmental factors, and their interactions, in a scientifically sound and timely manner (Burbridge, 1998; Westmacott, 2001). Resource managers and planners have increasingly used volunteer-based monitoring to augment data collection for a myriad of marine topics such as sediment transport and seasonal beach response (Bokuniewicz, 1981), seabird surveys (Harris et al., 2006), water quality assessment (e.g., Jackson, 2009), and assessing marine habitat diversity (Edgar and Stuart-Smith, 2009). Besides gathering valuable information for managers, participation in volunteer monitoring efforts is often intended to also increase public awareness of environmental conditions and processes (Bokuniewicz, 1981; Gouveia et al., 2004; Jackson, 2009). However, volunteer collected data is often dispersed and unstructured (Gouveia et al., 2004), as well as containing little spatial context, thereby limiting its utility. Information and communication technologies including GIS may be used to improve access and use of such data sets, while also facilitating data collection and analysis, as well as communication between stakeholders, thereby increasing public involvement and awareness (Gouveia et al., 2004).

A customized map viewer was developed to view the collected data in a geo-synchronized manner, including scale bars, coordinates, and zoom and pan functions. The map viewer enables the user to easily navigate and compare data from up to four different years in four separate map panels; navigational changes in one map panel are reflected in all the panels. Each map panel also includes access through a table of contents to view and compare all available years of data, allowing one to ‘customize’ the data type, position and years visible in the map frame. In addition, the map viewer allows access to other geospatial data sets that could be used to help interpret ecological and geomorphic distributions and trends, including recent aerial photography and other geospatial datasets such as drift cell and shore protection information, geology and substrate, shoreline type, land use available through government agencies such as the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The web-based map portfolio also allows access to nearshore profile data collected through the monitoring program. These profiles are accessible through links to each sample site, and allow users to create customizable graphs to view and compare profiles for all available years of data for each site, providing a means to visualize seasonal and annual trends.