Combining Geographic Information Systems and Ethnography to Better Understand and Plan Ocean Space Use

Applied Geography, January 2015

By C. M. Sullivan, F. D. L. Conway, C. Pomeroy, M. Hall-Arber, D. J. Wright

“Agencies in the US with oversight for marine renewable energy development have idealistically sought space where this new use might proceed unhindered by other uses. Despite experiential evidence of spatial overlap among existing ocean uses, a lack of documentation makes the identification of potential space-use conflicts, communication among existing and potential ocean users, and the design of mitigation exceedingly challenging.We conducted a study in select communities along the US Atlantic and Pacific coasts to gather and document available spatial information on existing use through a compilation and organization of geographic information system (GIS) data. Stakeholder group meetings were used to vet the collected spatial data and ethnographic interviews were conducted to gather additional knowledge and cultural perspectives.

Relative density of ocean space use in Oregon. Values range from 1 to 17, indicating the number of overlapping categories of ocean space use present in each cell.

Relative density of ocean space use in Oregon. Values range from 1 to 17, indicating the number of overlapping categories of ocean space use present in each cell.

“Results show extensive overlap of existing ocean space uses and provide a visualization of the social and cultural landscape of the ocean that managers can use to determine which stakeholders to engage when considering the development of alternative uses. Marine space use is dynamic and multi-dimensional and there are important linkages within and across fisheries and other uses, communities and interests, as well as across the land-sea interface. The research reported here demonstrates the feasibility and necessity of (1) integrating ethnographic and geospatial data collection and analysis; (2) engaging stakeholders throughout the process; and (3) recognizing the unique qualities of each geographic location and user group to support sound decision-making.”

 

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