- Workshop Proceedings:
- Governments, industry sectors, academic institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations
(NGOs) have a tremendous stake in the development and management of geospatial data
resources. Coastal mapping plays an important role in informing decision makers on issues
such as national sovereignty, resource management, maritime safety and hazard assessment.
Efforts to improve data accessibility are driven by legislation on topics such as
Environmental management, open access of public sector information and data standards
and harmonisation. The development of Geographic Information System (GIS) based web
mapping products has improved the usability of GISs by non-specialists. This, combined
with community needs, has resulted in the growth of a niche group of interactive coastal
web atlases (CWAs) around the world, developed to address the needs of the coastal and
marine community. The 2006 Green Paper on Future Maritime Policy in the European
Union stated: “a veritable Atlas of EU coastal waters… could serve as an instrument for
spatial planning” (European Commission 2006, p. 35), illustrating the increasing recognition
of the potential of CWAs, even at an international level.
Funding was obtained through the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Marine
RTDI programme in Ireland to organize two trans-Atlantic workshops on coastal mapping
and informatics. The first workshop, entitled “Potentials and Limitations of Coastal Web
Atlases,” was hosted by the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC) at University
College Cork in Ireland in July 2006. This workshop brought together key experts from
Europe and North America to examine state-of-the-art CWA developments, share lessons
learned, determine future needs in mapping and informatics for the coastal practitioner
community and identify potential opportunities for collaboration.
A coastal web atlas is a collection of digital maps and datasets with supplementary tables,
illustrations and information that systematically illustrate the coast, oftentimes with
cartographic and decision-support tools, and all of which are accessible via the Internet.
Access to the various components can be provided in different ways. The typical CWA
contains a number of general features, including: geospatial data and metadata; a map area
for data display; a legend and/or layer list; tools to interact with the map and data; data
attribute tables; topical information; powerful server and software technologies; and a wellrounded
atlas design to meet atlas and user needs.
As part of the workshop, a number of representative coastal web atlas case studies from
both sides of the Atlantic were presented by developers. This report provides an overview
of the case studies, which highlight key aspects of CWA development and operations such
as atlas purpose, institutional support, technology and functionality. Those included as case
studies are: The UK Coastal and Marine Resource Atlas; De Kustatlas Online, Belgium; The
Marine Irish Digital Atlas; The Oregon Coastal Atlas; North Coast Explorer, Oregon; and
Mapping Tools for Coastal Management, Virginia.
During the workshop, four working groups were established to identify issues related to
atlas design, data, technology and institutional capacity. Each working group focussed its
discussion by carrying out a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)
Analysis. Examination of the various points which were raised by the four working groups
led to the identification of a number of cross-cutting issues.
The design and usability of an atlas are keys to its success. An atlas should clearly
communicate its purpose, be visually appealing, be kept as simple as possible, use efficient
technology and management systems and have a flexible design to enable growth and
change over time. Ultimately its success relies on the atlas users, so efforts should be made
regularly to ensure that it meets the needs of those users. An output of the workshop was a
list of considerations for atlas design and implementation on topics such as data content
and display, metadata, atlas interface, atlas tools, technology, user feedback and support for
maintenance and future developments.
- O’Dea, L., Cummins, V., Wright, D., Dwyer, N. and Ameztoy, I. (2007). Report on Coastal Mapping and Informatics Trans-Atlantic Workshop 1: Potentials and Limitations of Coastal Web Atlases. University College Cork, Ireland, Coastal & Marine Resources Centre.