The Application of WebGIS Tools for Visualizing Coastal Flooding Vulnerability and Planning for Resiliency: The New Jersey Experience

isprsISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 2014, 3(2), 408-429

By Richard Lathrop, Lisa Auermuller, James Trimble and John Bognar

“While sea level rise is a world-wide phenomenon, mitigating its impacts is a local decision-making challenge that is going to require site-specific remedies. Faced with a variety of conflicting mandates and uncertainty as to appropriate responses, local land use planners and managers need place-based decision support tools. With the increasing availability of high-resolution digital elevation models and the advancing speed and sophistication of web-based mapping, a number of web geographic information systems (GIS) tools have been developed to map and visualize what areas of a coastal landscape will potentially be flooded under different scenarios of sea level rise.

Example of unimpeded vs. impeded horizontal tidal marsh retreat zones in the NJFloodMapper viewer under six feet of projected sea level rise.

Example of unimpeded vs. impeded horizontal tidal marsh retreat zones in the NJFloodMapper viewer under six feet of projected sea level rise.

“This paper presents a case study of one such WebGIS application, NJFloodMapper (, with a focus on the user-centered design process employed to help our target audience of coastal decision-makers in the state of New Jersey, USA, access and understand relevant geographic information concerning sea level rise and exposure to coastal inundation, as well as assess the vulnerability of key infrastructure, populations and natural resources within their communities. We discuss the success of this approach amidst the broader context of the application of WebGIS tools in this arena. Due to its flexible design and user-friendly interface, NJFloodMapper has been widely adopted by government and non-governmental agencies in the state to assess coastal flooding exposure and vulnerability in the aftermath of a recent destructive coastal storm. However, additional decision support tools are needed to help coastal decision-makers translate the place-based information into concrete action plans aimed at promoting more resilient coastal land use decisions.”

Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Sessions and Special Exhibit at the 2014 Esri User Conference

Esri logoGroup on Earth Observations (GEO) Special Exhibit

Come learn about the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Comprised of 90 member nations, the European Commission and 77 Participating Organizations who are working together to unleash the power of open Earth observation data.

Designed to improve the quality of life of people everywhere, GEO focuses putting sound science to work across nine essential areas: agriculture, biodiversity, climate, disasters, ecosystems, energy, health, water and weather.

GEO’s mandate is to drive the interoperability of many thousands of space-based, airborne, and in situ Earth observations around the globe.

Esri in cooperation with Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IIA) have team together to make it easy for the Esri user community to benefit from and to contribute to GEO. Esri has also supported the work of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) in their contributions to the work of GEO.

Come see the GEO Data Access Broker of CNR-IIA Florentine Division and Esri Community Portal for GEO to see how you can participate; and to learn about the good work of GEO.

GEO Sessions

“Introduction to GEO”
Tuesday: 3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Room 29 A/B (SDCC)

  • Hear from the Director of GEO-Dr. Barb Ryan
  • Panel of GEO activist
  • See Demonstration of Esri Community Portal for GEO

“Esri Community Portal for GEO”
Thursday: 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m., Room 3 (SDCC)

  • Tech Workshop
  • Learn about GEO Appathon

Mapping the Potential for Biofuel Production on Marginal Lands: Differences in Definitions, Data and Models across Scales

isprsISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 2014, 3(2), 430-459

By Sarah Lewis and Maggi Kelly

“As energy policies mandate increases in bioenergy production, new research supports growing bioenergy feedstocks on marginal lands. Subsequently there has been an increase in published work that uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the availability of marginal land as a proxy for bioenergy crop potential. However, despite the similarity in stated intent among these works a number of inconsistencies remain across studies that make comparisons and standardization difficult. We reviewed a collection of recent literature that mapped bioenergy potential on marginal lands at varying scales, and found that there is no common working definition of marginal land across all of these works. Specifically, we found considerable differences in mapped results that are driven by dissimilarities in definitions, model framework, data inputs, scale and treatment of uncertainty. Most papers reviewed here employed relatively simple GIS overlays of input criteria, distinct thresholds identifying marginal land, and few details describing accuracy and uncertainty. These differences are likely to be major impediments to integration of studies mapping marginal lands for bioenergy production. We suggest that there is future need for spatial modeling of bioenergy, yet further scholarship is needed to compare across countries and scales to understand the global potential for bioenergy crops.  ”

A Dynamic GIS as an Efficient Tool for Integrated Coastal Zone Management

isprsISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information 2014, 3(2), 391-407

By Françoise Gourmelon, Damien Le Guyader, and Guy Fontenelle

“This contribution addresses both the role of geographical information in participatory research of coastal zones, and its potential to bridge the gap between research and coastal zone management. Over a one year period, heterogeneous data (spatial, temporal, qualitative and quantitative) were obtained which included the process of interviews, storing in a spatio-temporal database.

Activity zones for supervised maritime activities in the Bay of Brest (A) and boats density

Activity zones for supervised maritime activities in the Bay of Brest.

“The GIS (Geographic Information System) produced temporal snapshots of daily human activity patterns allowing it to map, identify and quantify potential space-time conflicts between activities. It was furthermore used to facilitate the exchange of ideas and knowledge at various levels: by mapping, simulation, GIS analysis and data collection. Results indicated that both captured data and the participatory workshop added real value to management and therefore it was deemed well managed by stakeholders. To incorporate a dynamic GIS would enhance pro-active integrated management by opening the path for better discussions whilst permitting management simulated scenarios. ”

New Book, “Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions,” Coming in 2015

Esri logoEdited by Dawn Wright, Esri Chief Scientist
Foreword by David Gallo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

On a planet where water covers 71 percent of the surface, our economy, our energy, and our lives depend on the ocean. In recent months we’ve seen the critical role of the ocean in the latest warnings from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the launch of the White House Climate Data Initiative, and the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370. At this critical juncture in history we find the ocean in a state of crisis because of a host of human-made issues. And if the ocean is in crisis, the Earth is in crisis. Our society needs solutions underpinned by good, digestible science: for protecting the ocean while ensuring our own safety, for managing and mitigating conflict among multiple simultaneous uses of the ocean, for geodesigning it, and for discovering and exploring a part of the planet still less well known than the Moon, Mars, or Venus.

Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions is about use-inspired science and realistic solutions for the ocean and thus the Earth. The book presents the best science from the inaugural Esri Ocean GIS Forum for an audience of government decision makers and ocean/coastal science researchers, state and local coastal zone managers, ocean/coastal GIS practitioners, and students in higher education. To encourage GIS best practice, the book features an extensive digital supplement including datasets with accompanying digital object identifiers (DOIs), geoprocessing workflows, GIS tools packaged as desktop extensions or web services, mobile apps, Python scripts, story maps, and more. All chapters went through standard academic peer review.



Chapter titles include:

  • Cloudy with a chance of fish: ArcServer and cloud-based fisheries oceanography applications
  • Good practices in the use of Marxan for systematic conservation and marine spatial planning
  • Artificial reefs, beach restoration and sea turtles nesting in Martin County, Florida
  • Tools for implementing the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard
  • How does climate change affect our oceans?
  • A pollutant exposure index for the Southern California Bight: Spatial integration of multiple pollutants and sources
  • Whale mAPP: Citizen scientists contribute and map marine mammal sightings
  • Pushing the limits of the Esri Geoportal to support the West Coast Data Network
  • Land-sea characterization of the East End Marine Park, St. Croix
  • Successfully developing a collaborative Essential Fish Habitat Proposal
  • More than maps: Connecting aquarium guests to global stories
  • Uncovering the oceans through seascape visualization
  • Managing the visual landscape of Oregon’s territorial sea
  • Visualizing time-series ocean observing data

This book will serve as a cornerstone of science-based strategies and solutions for anyone involved in working for a sustainable future for the ocean and our planet.

GIS skill level of intended reader: Intermediate to advanced.

Projecting Invasion Risk of Non-Native Watersnakes (Nerodia fasciata and Nerodia sipedon) in the Western United States

PLOS_ONEPLOS ONE, Published Online 25 June 2014

“Species distribution models (SDMs) are increasingly used to project the potential distribution of introduced species outside their native range. Such studies rarely explicitly evaluate potential conflicts with native species should the range of introduced species expand. Two snake species native to eastern North America, Nerodia fasciata and Nerodia sipedon, have been introduced to California where they represent a new stressor to declining native amphibians, fish, and reptiles. To project the potential distributions of these non-native watersnakes in western North America, we built ensemble SDMs using MaxEnt, Boosted Regression Trees, and Random Forests and habitat and climatic variables. We then compared the overlap between the projected distribution of invasive watersnakes and the distributions of imperiled native amphibians, fish, and reptiles that can serve as prey or competitors for the invaders, to estimate the risk to native species posed by non-native watersnakes. Large areas of western North America were projected to be climatically suitable for both species of Nerodia according to our ensemble SDMs, including much of central California.

Projection of the potential distribution of the Common Watersnake, Nerodia sipedon.  Suitability from an ensemble model representing the average output from a MaxEnt, Boosted Regression Tree, and Random Forests model.

Projection of the potential distribution of the Common Watersnake, Nerodia sipedon. Suitability from an ensemble model representing the average output from a MaxEnt, Boosted Regression Tree, and Random Forests model.

“The potential distributions of both N. fasciata and N. sipedon overlap extensively with the federally threatened Giant Gartersnake, Thamnophis gigas, which inhabits a similar ecological niche. N. fasciata also poses risk to the federally threatened California Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma californiense, whereas N. sipedon poses risk to some amphibians of conservation concern, including the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog, Rana boylii. We conclude that non-native watersnakes in California can likely inhabit ranges of several native species of conservation concern that are expected to suffer as prey or competing species for these invaders. Action should be taken now to eradicate or control these invasions before detrimental impacts on native species are widespread. Our methods can be applied broadly to quantify the risk posed by incipient invasions to native biodiversity.”

Esri Mapping Platform Secured for Federal Agency’s Use

Esri logoArcGIS Online Achieves Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Authorization and Accreditation

The Esri ArcGIS Online platform is now authorized and accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a secure platform for delivering cloud-based geospatial services. Following a rigorous assessment, the agency has granted ArcGIS Online a Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) low Authority to Operate (ATO). Esri, the GIS industry leader, now provides secure online GIS services to the USDA, giving the agency assurance that its data and applications are protected.

ArcGIS Online empowers users to create interactive web maps to share with whomever they choose, whether it is a specific group, an organization, or the public. The US government will use ArcGIS Online to host scalable tile services for broad public dissemination while leveraging its own agency accredited infrastructure feature services for hosting more sensitive information. Catalog services will enable public and federal government users to discover and mash up geospatial information hosted by thousands of participating organizations, including Esri basemaps, templates, applications, and developer tools.

ArcGIS Online will extend and strengthen the government’s GIS platform through greater compliance with open data requirements and by making information and analysis widely available to the public. ArcGIS Online will support analysis, policy making, and planning across the agency, as well as foster valuable collaboration between federal government organizations. It will increase the productivity of government workers and, by exploiting cloud technology, better enable government agencies to surges in requirements and deliver cost savings.

Esri will maintain the ArcGIS Online FISMA ATO by monitoring and strengthening ArcGIS Online operations under USDA auspices, including annual third-party audits, vulnerability assessments, security reviews, and verification of policies and procedures. Most federal agencies use Esri’s ArcGIS platform but have yet to accredit their cloud-based geospatial services to FISMA standards. Esri welcomes the opportunity to work with agencies, the public, and private sector organizations desiring FISMA standards alignment, to implement secure geospatial services for them, building on the USDA accreditation.

For more information about ArcGIS Online, visit

[Source: Esri press release]

What Do Maps Reveal in the Fight to Eradicate Polio?

Esri logoThe World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will share their stories at the 2014 Esri User Conference.

Dr. Bruce Aylward from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Dr. Vincent Seaman from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will share their stories with an audience of more than 16,000 attendees at the Opening Session of the 2014 Esri User Conference (Esri UC) on Monday, July 14. As experts in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, they will describe the challenges and opportunities involved in bringing fundamental healthcare to impoverished regions. They’ll also talk about the importance maps have in pinpointing where help is needed most around the world.

“Polio, a terrible disease, is almost completely eradicated, but ‘almost’ isn’t good enough with a disease slated for complete eradication,” said Aylward.

Most of the world hardly remembers polio, which has been reduced by over 99 percent in the past generation by vaccination. However, the disease survives in parts of just a few countries, and has repeatedly spread back from these places to polio-free areas worldwide. The urgency of preventing such spread and protecting the polio-free world led the WHO Director-General to declare a public health emergency of international concern on May 5, 2014.

“The polio eradication program is an international effort to reach the most vulnerable people in the world, irrespective of geography, poverty, culture, and conflict,” said Aylward.

The Esri UC, to be held July 14–18, will bring together thousands of people from more than 90 countries, all unified by their use of Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) technology. Of particular interest to Esri UC attendees will be the use of GIS in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Aylward will explain how the people working at WHO identify where there are new outbreaks in the world, how the disease spreads, and where it has been eradicated. Seaman will share how the polio program uses GIS-based maps and analyses in high-risk areas to plan vaccination campaigns targeting every child under the age of five and to provide better tools to assess the effectiveness of these efforts.

BrAUOaCCYAIXTyY.jpg large

“At the Esri UC Plenary Session, we like to feature innovative people doing important work around the world,” said Esri president Jack Dangermond. “Dr. Aylward and Dr. Seaman certainly qualify. We are honored to welcome them and excited that GIS can help fulfill the mission of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as the teams of humanitarians use maps to understand and solve problems.”

About the Esri UC Plenary Keynote Speakers

Dr. Bruce Aylward is a Canadian physician and epidemiologist and the assistant director-general for the WHO’s Polio and Emergencies cluster. He began his career with the WHO in 1992 as a medical officer with the Expanded Program on Immunization. Aylward worked in national immunization programs in developing countries, primarily those focusing on polio, and took assignments in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq, and Myanmar. After six years in the field, Aylward returned to the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997 to lead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Dr. Vincent Seaman is an American health scientist, educator, and a senior program officer for the Polio Country Support Team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Before that, Seaman was a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention secondee to the WHO in Nigeria for nearly 3 years, where he provided technical support to the Expanded Program on Immunization and worked on the polio eradication effort. He began his career at CDC as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2006, and continued on as an epidemiologist in the areas of environmental public health and vaccine-preventable diseases. In addition to leading health investigations at various Superfund sites in the U.S., Dr. Seaman supported the HIV/AIDS program in Mozambique in 2009, and was a STOP Polio volunteer in Liberia in 2010.

For more information about the Esri UC, visit

[Source: Esri press release]

“Our Oceans Challenge” – Driving Sustainability through Industry Leadership and Innovation

World Ocean CouncilBusiness Plan Competition Seeks Entrepreneurs and Solutions for Advancing Responsible Ocean Industry Operations

The World Ocean Council (WOC) is part of a growing coalition of maritime leadership companies, industry organizations and knowledge institutes that has launched “Our Oceans Challenge” – a competition for innovation and solutions to address key issues affecting responsible ocean industry operations.

One of the newest WOC members, Heerema Marine Contractors, has catalyzed Our Oceans Challenge (OOC) – a business idea competition to solicit ideas from entrepreneurs, offshore experts, scientists and others. WOC is working with the OOC alliance to provide a global platform for outreach to ocean industry stakeholders and entrepreneurs around the world.

The deadline for submitting initial ideas in the first OOC phase is 18 July 2014. Ideas are submitted to the online platform at

A jury of OOC experts will select the most promising concepts for further development in the competition. OOC will connect entrepreneurs and start-ups with corporations, expertise and investors. By the end of 2015, the entrepreneurs behind the first round of selected ideas will present their business plans to a panel of investors.

The initial themes of “Our Oceans Challenge” include key ocean industry issues and opportunities:

  • Addressing the need for port reception facilities.
  • Optimizing the use of vessels and structures for collecting ocean data.
  • Avoiding or minimizing the impact of marine sound from construction and industry operations.
  • Avoiding or minimizing the impact of sedimentation from seabed disturbance due to construction, dredging or mining.

Ocean industry stakeholders are invited to submit ideas to the challenge competition and to circulate information on OOC. Interested parties are encouraged to register the at the OOC online platform at and consider participating as experts and commentators on the solution ideas that are posted.

[Source: World Ocean Council  press release]

Spatial Analysis of Cattle and Shoat Population in Ethiopia: Growth Trend, Distribution and Market Access

SPSpringerPlus, 2014, 3:310

By Samson Leta and Frehiwot Mesele

“The livestock subsector has an enormous contribution to Ethiopia’s national economy and livelihoods of many Ethiopians. The subsector contributes about 16.5% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 35.6% of the agricultural GDP. It also contributes 15% of export earnings and 30% of agricultural employment. The livestock subsector currently support and sustain livelihoods for 80% of all rural population. The GDP of livestock related activities valued at 59 billion birr. Ethiopian livestock population trends, distribution and marketing vary considerably across space and time due to a variety of reasons. This study was aimed to assess cattle and shoat population growth trend, distribution and their access to market. Regression analysis was used to assess the cattle and shoat population growth trend and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques were used to determine the spatial distribution of cattle and shoats, and their relative access to market.

Proximity to major livestock market center and all weather roads.

Proximity to major livestock market center and all weather roads.

“The data sets used are agricultural census (2001/02) and annual CSA agricultural sample survey (1995/96 to 2012/13). In the past eighteen years, the livestock population namely cattle, sheep and goat grew from 54.5 million to over 103.5 million with average annual increment of 3.4 million. The current average national cattle, sheep and goat population per km2 are estimated to be 71, 33 and 29 respectively (excluding Addis Ababa, Afar and Somali regions). From the total livestock population the country owns about 46% cattle, 43% sheep and 40% goats are reared within 10 km radius from major livestock market centres and all-weather roads. On the other hand, three fourth of the country’s land mass which comprises 15% of the cattle, 20% of the sheep and 21% of goat population is not accessible to market (greater than 30 km from major livestock market centres). It is found that the central highland regions account for the largest share of livestock population and also more accessible to market. Defining the spatial and temporal variations of livestock population is crucial in order to develop a sound and geographically targeted livestock development policy.”