As Sylvia Earle, pioneering marine biologist and
the keynote speaker at this year's user conference observed during
her address, "All marine ecosystems and marine problems are geospatial,
and so are the solutions we must craft." All types of work related
to the oceans--from marine conservation to gas and oil exploration
to nautical charting--can benefit from the application of GIS.
At Esri, several people with hydrographic and ocean-related
backgrounds make up a virtual team that works to develop applications
and ocean-related projects. This virtual team is located in the Professional
Services and Marketing departments. Esri has extensive experience
supporting government agencies and private companies with a variety
of ocean-related applications.
In 1989 Esri designed and developed the prototype of an ArcInfo-based solution for recording the movement of marine spills. This application, eventually moved to ArcView GIS, became the Marine Spill Analysis System (MSAS). A number of government agencies and consulting firms have adopted MSAS.
In the early 1990s Esri helped develop the Digital Nautical Chart (DNC) for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). DNC evolved from the Digital Chart of the World, a worldwide basemap that includes features such as coastlines, international boundaries, cities, airports, elevations, roads, railroads, water features, and cultural landmarks. DNC effectively replaced traditional paper charts used for navigation. More than 2,800 nautical charts have been completed.
Esri also completed the Navigation Ship's System project for NIMA. This system produces Notice to Mariner publications that advise mariners of important matters affecting navigational safety and offers corrective information for charts and other publications. Esri provided an ArcView GIS/Spatial Database Engine (SDE) solution that allows the user to extract information from the database and edit features before the Notice to Mariner is issued.
More recently, Esri supported the development of a hydrographic information system (HIS) for the Maritime Administrations of Finland and Sweden. The HIS gives the two agencies a comprehensive database of all surface navigation features needed to support nautical charting.
The National Ocean Service (NOS) MapFinder, a MapObjects application created for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides direct Internet access to spatial data from NOS. Completed last year, this data includes NOS imagery and data holdings of coastal survey maps, photography, nautical charts, environmental sensitivity index maps, historical maps, and other associated products.
As undersea oil and gas activity increases, the need for environmental data to assess potential impacts grows. Esri is currently working on a data model for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and is developing data formats, standards, and GIS software that will work with MMS's legacy GIS.
Recent developments in Esri software have caused great improvements in the ability of GIS technology to describe and analyze dynamic and complex ocean systems.ArcView 3D Analyst, ArcView Tracking Analyst, and ArcView Spatial Analyst have helped marine researchers, geologists, and others model temporal and spatial elements in the marine environment. ArcInfo 8 introduces a new object-oriented data model that can be used to create intelligent geodatabases that combine object properties and behaviors. This robust model is ideally suited for complex ocean applications because it can capture the real-world behaviors of features.
As Simon Evans, Esri hydrographic consultant and project manager, states, "The hydrographic community is becoming more and more aware of the potential benefits GIS has to offer. I think it's only a matter of time until GIS use is as common in the oceans as it is on land."