After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

New Chesapeake Bay Data Tool

(Posted by David Burke.)

Chesapeake Commons, a new web resource, now provides informative maps and data about nearly any type of information relevant to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Chesapeake Commons is made available through the sponsorship of the Chesapeake Bay Funder’s Network. CBFN’s new data tool is powered by Rhiza Labs’ Insight software that makes it easy for users to store, map and analyze whatever data is of interest to them.

It’s a great tool because users don’t need to be familiar with complicated GIS (geographic information system) software. Users can download data from the site and visualize it on Google earth or standard GIS formats. The information can be made locally relevant and at the scale and region of interest to the user. CBFN wanted to make finding and using the wealth of information developed by Bay analysts and researchers available to everyone in both visual and data formats. Intersecting one set of information with another can be easily done right on the website.

The web tool is currently in its “soft launch” phase, whereby users are encouraged to try it out and offer suggestions and insight regarding further refinements to the system. Several upgrades to the current version are planned over the coming months, so don’t expect perfection at this point.

The Chesapeake Commons platform is in essence a public participation geographic information system using volunteered data. Users can upload data from spreadsheets, ESRI Shapefiles, GeoTIFF raster imagery or KMLGPX (Google Earth) files. Uploaded data comes with a standardized explanation (meta data) of the information origin and interpretation. Below is an example of data that has been “visualized” or placed onto a map.

A second component of the Chesapeake Commons is a blog site called Chesapeake Forum. The blog provides a platform for preliminary research, publication, and discussion of Chesapeake Bay related data findings and leads users to the Chesapeake Commons site. John Dawes, the Chesapeake Commons Administrator, helps new users and periodically provides demonstrations to groups to help them understand the system.

Contact John Dawes for further information: jdawes@environmentalintegrity.org.

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