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Report on Coastal Mapping and Informatics Trans-Atlantic Workshop 2: Coastal Atlas Interoperability

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  • From July 16 to 20, 2007, international partners in a trans- Atlantic workshop series on coastal mapping and informatics, held a workshop on the campus of Oregon State University entitled “Coastal Atlas Interoperability.” The workshop engaged 27 participants from 6 countries, representing 17 organizations and multiple areas of scientific and technicial expertise. This meeting was a follow-up to a successful first workshop entitled “Potentials and Limitations of Coastal Web Atlases,” hosted by the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC) at University College Cork in Ireland in July 2006 (O’Dea et al., 2007). While that first workshop examined state-of-the-art developments in coastal web atlases (CWAs) from the Europe and the U.S., shared several case studies and lessons learned, and established key issues and recommendations related to the design, data requirements, technology and institutional capacity needed for these atlases, the purpose of the second workshop was to examine best practices for achieving interoperability between CWAs. Given that no CWA functions alone as an island, and is often part of a larger universe of resources that is needed for effective marine spatial planning, resource management, and emergency planning, CWAs must build a common approach toward managing and disseminating the coastal data, maps and information that they contain. Workshop participants examined the issue of semantic interoperability (where concepts, terminology, even abbreviations that are shared between two or more individuals, systems, or organizations are understood by all to mean the same thing) and found this to be an important prerequisite for the integrated approach needed when working with a broader network of CWAs. For example, the terminology used to describe similar data can vary between specialties or regions, which can complicate data searches and integration. Use of the word “seabed” in Europe versus use of the word “seafloor” to describe the same feature in North America is a good example of this scenario, as is the interchangeable use of “coastline” versus “shoreline” in both regions. Agreements on content/semantic interoperability can help to eliminate such problems, making searches between disparate, but mutually beneficial, projects feasible. Ontologies provide the mechanism for enabling this, and workshop participants gained hands-on experience with some of the effective tools and approaches for creating ontologies and organizing them in catalogs, as presented by representatives of the Marine Metadata Interoperability (MMI) project. Presenters provided examples from use cases and ontologies based on recent research and the outcomes of the 2005 MMI Advancing Domain Vocabularies workshop (Graybeal et al., 2006). During the workshop a project was outlined to develop a demonstration prototype as a proof-of-concept to inter-relate metadata and other information between two initial CWAs (the Marine Irish Digital Atlas or MIDA, <http://mida.ucc.ie,> and the Oregon Coastal Atlas or OCA, <http://www.coastalatlas.net).> The prototype is in the form of a catalogue services for the Web (CSW), where web map services (WMS) will be registered. It may not be immediately obvious how Oregon and Ireland may need to be interoperable, but these two mature atlas efforts can be used as a testbed for interoperability. Both provide interactive access to spatial data and metadata via web GIS, use similar technologies (open source Minnesota MapServer running on Apache web services), and contain metadata meeting national/international standards (i.e., FGDC and ISO). This proof-of-concept may then be used to make connections within regional partnerships (e.g., the OCA can use lessons learned in developing a regional network of CWAs with Washington and California, while the MIDA can do the same for building and strengthening atlas networks with the UK, Belgium, and other parts of Europe). The prototype is therefore envisioned as a seed application, a template of sorts that can be used by many others and develop further from there.
  • KEYWORDS: coastal informatics, coastal atlas, web GIS, data access, geospatial data and information management, metadata, coastal zone management, marine resource management, online mapping, software solutions, system design, coastal planning, decision-making, semantic interoperability, cyberinfrastructure
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  • Wright, D.J., Watson, S., Bermudez, L., Cummins, V., Dwyer, N., O’Dea, L., Nyerges, T., Benoit, G., Berman, M., Helly J., and Uhel, R. (2007). Report on Coastal Mapping and Informatics Trans-Atlantic Workshop 2: Coastal Atlas Interoperability. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA.
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  • National Science Foundation, Marine Institute of Ireland, National Development Program of Ireland
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