Regional Ocean Planning Using Data Portals

With many ocean data sources and maps at our fingertips, it can be difficult to synthesize, study, and use the data and information to inform decisions. RPS has been working to address this challenge for more than 10 years.

Jenna Ducharme, GIS Specialist
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Northeast Ocean Data Portal: Success Story

By working closely with the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) and its many partners, we helped create the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, a public source of user-friendly access to expert-reviewed interactive maps and data on the ocean ecosystem, economy, and culture.

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Success in collaboration

The Portal is used for decision support by government agencies, businesses, non-government organizations, academic entities, and individuals. Users can view curated maps and data by theme, create custom maps in the data explorer, and download data for use in external applications.

The Portal was originally developed to support ocean use planning in the northeast region. And from 2012 to 2016, federal,  state, and tribal agencies used the Portal for the development of the Northeast Ocean Plan.  Today, the Portal is used to inform planning, permitting, and business decisions, including offshore wind leasing and project development, wildlife research planning, aquaculture, fisheries management alternatives, and proposed disposal sites.

In collaboration with NROC and other strong partnerships, RPS maintains the Portal, ensuring that data is current and relevant to emerging priorities, developing constant improvements of the site, and ensuring that the website is consistently tested and functional for users. Data providers are also critical to the success of the Portal and include state and federal agencies, scientists, ocean industries, non-government organizations, and other entities.

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Layers of Ocean Data Portal

  • Bathymetry dataset

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    Screenshot A Bathy.PNG
  • Bathymetry and AIS dataset

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    Screenshot B Bathy, AIS.PNG
  • Bathymetry, AIS, and lease area datasets

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    Screenshot C Bathy, AIS, Leases.PNG
  • Bathymetry, AIS, lease area, and traffic lanes datasets

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    Screenshot D Bathy, AIS, Leases, Traffic Lanes.PNG

Strong Partnerships

The success of the Portal can also be attributed to the core Portal team comprised of NROC, RPS, Waterview Consulting, and others. This team meets weekly to drive the main goal of the Portal, to provide its users easy, reliable access to ocean planning data for the Northeast region.

RPS is honored to collaborate with many groups on the Northeast Ocean Data Portal including NROC, NOAA Office for Coastal ManagementNortheastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS), The Nature Conservancy, and Waterview Consulting. In addition, RPS collaborates with stakeholders and data providers including state and federal agencies, scientists, ocean industries, non-government organizations, and other entities.

Reliable Data

Data is derived from only authoritative, reliable sources. It is vetted, reviewed, revised, and analyzed by experts and stakeholders that are direct users and/or creators of the data. All data is abundantly documented with metadata records describing exact creation details and use specifications. In addition to comprehensive metadata records, each of the more than 4,000 layers available contains a succinct paragraph of the most important information about that layer, for a quickly digestible description of what the data represent. We are constantly evaluating and revising the data the Portal offers, as needed.

Community Engagement

Regional data portals, such as the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, aim to work in conjunction with national and local data portals and resources to serve the regional community need. The Portal brings together thousands of disparate data sources into a single source, maintaining a geographical focus in the northeast region. When needed, regional context is used to enhance national-scale data sets.

In addition, much care is taken to work with stakeholders to ensure that data is presented in a way that provides the most value for users.

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Open Access

The portal is free and open to all. By democratizing regional ocean data, we have ensured that anyone with an interest in ocean use in the northeast region, regardless of technical background, is able to use the Northeast Ocean Data Portal. Users include the local and federal government, stakeholders, academia, and people with an interest in maps and the ocean.

Ongoing Improvements

The Northeast Ocean Data Portal is operated, maintained, and enhanced by a small working group.  This group meets weekly to address issues, discuss enhancements, and plan the implementation of improvements. The portal is actively monitored and regularly tested to ensure that data services are running and that data is accessible and available to users. The core Portal team also discusses and plans site and tool functionality, user experience, and presentation improvements regularly.

Smart teamwork

Behind the Northeast Data Portal is a team of people working across a range of specialties. This working group collaborates to evaluate data needs and identify the best sources of that data. If external services that meet our needs exist, they are often used directly in the Portal. If not, RPS uses provided data to create new data services, hosted on Portal servers. Special attention is given to ensuring only high-quality data is included in the Portal.

Before data is released, the team coordinates with stakeholders for review and comment. Depending on the dataset, this coordination can involve communication with large working groups, individuals, various agencies, etc. After each data release, news items are posted on the web and on Twitter. In addition, the Northeast Data Portal provides a quarterly newsletter to subscribers describing all updates and new data sources. User feedback is always encouraged.

RPS having members serve on the Northeast Ocean Data Portal team allows for seamless data transfer and great collaboration.

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Conclusion

Through teamwork and smart data, RPS is proud to collaborate with many different groups to produce a community portal that improves the information available surrounding the Blue Economy of the Northeast that benefits all those involved in ocean planning.

Collaborate with RPS

Contact us directly to set up an exploratory discussion with our ocean planning and data management experts and discover how to create collaborative data portals for your community. 

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