Volunteer Uses ArcGIS Technology to Create Hub Site and Dashboard for the Surfrider Foundation
By: Mallory Stermon
The Surfrider Foundation, based in San Clemente, California, is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves, and beaches for all people, through a powerful activist network. The foundation's irreplaceable national network of chapter volunteers serves as the first responders to local threats in coastal communities across the US. The Surfrider Foundation is working directly with the Unified Command, US Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and local government agencies to ensure complete and comprehensive cleanup of the recent oil spill off the coast of Southern California.
The goal of this project was to launch a hub site, created using ArcGIS Hub, that leverages Surfrider's network to identify locations for the cleanup effort and engages the public over the coming weeks and months as oil continues to wash ashore. The Surfrider Foundation wanted to use the ArcGIS Online crowdsource manager, ArcGIS Survey123, and ArcGIS Dashboards or ArcGIS to best display the collected data. Mallory Stermon, a GISCorps volunteer in Phoenix, Arizona, was selected for this project.
Surfrider had set up a basic hub site prior to the start of this project and needed assistance with building up the site. Several components were added, which included a project accessible to the public, directions (including examples) for submitting data, a map to display the results, a verification tool, and some general statistics. The hub site's home page was divided into sections to help with organizing the website to include the following separate pages: Home, About, Volunteer, and Progress. Stermon's work was mostly focused on developing the Volunteer and Progress pages and the verification tool.
The Volunteer page contains information available to the public on how to submit useful data. ArcGIS QuickCapture was first used for data collection, but after some users expressed difficulty with downloading the app, a form using Survey123 was added. Users can choose which app to use. The first portion of the Volunteer page includes a link to download QuickCapture and add the Surfrider project, as well as a link to a web form using Survey123. On the second part of the page, a StoryMaps story was added to provide tips for taking photos that would be especially useful to the organization. It is recommended to take multiple pictures to show the location on the beach, plus a close-up of the contamination as well as photos with an object for scale to show the relative size of the contamination.
Once a photo gets submitted, it has to be verified before it can appear on the website. ArcGIS Online has a crowdsource manager that is available but difficult to tailor for specific needs. So an app was created with ArcGIS Instant Apps and built as an editor for checking photos as they are submitted. Through the app, data can be filtered by status and edited to be accepted or denied. Accepted photos automatically get published on the hub site, while denied photos are not included in the dataset. After the project was started, an attribute was added to track the cleanup status for the location of each submission. This attribute can now also be edited using the editor.
The last piece for the website was to display the published data. An interactive dashboard was created using ArcGIS Dashboards to show the location of all published photos and some basic statistics as well as a timeline of when data was submitted. Users can click on individual data points to view the submitted photos. This dashboard was put onto the Progress page of the hub site.
State and federal agencies (CFWD and US Coast Guard) create oil spill contingency plans for each area. These plans recognize the role that nongovernmental organizations play as stakeholders, which are critical to the success of an oil spill cleanup effort. With a network of activists, Surfrider could see the shortcomings with the public tip line/in-box that the state had set up. Through its volunteers, Surfrider provided more complete, higher-quality data to the agencies responsible for the actual cleanup; Surfrider's efforts included matching the location of public observations with the official shoreline segment designations used by state and federal agencies. The agencies requested that each picture get coded with their coastline IDs and that they receive a daily email with new data. To accomplish this, an API was created to put the data into an HTML table, which was then automatically sent via email.
Overall, the project has been a success. Surfrider was able to deliver the gathered data to government stakeholders in large volumes on a consistent schedule. The organization now sees the advantages of incorporating geographic information system (GIS) principles and ArcGIS tools and is considering using them for future projects.