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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mapping in hopes of a healthy ocean

Today's post comes from guest blogger, Karin Bodtker, Living Ocean's Marine Analyst.

Tuesday – We call it “Take Action Tuesday” around here and there's no shortage of issues to speak out about these days as the federal government pushes its agenda to dismantle environmental laws and streamline major project reviews at the expense of the environment and our health. You can take action right now - send a message from our website or call your MP and let her know that you do not support the budget implementation bill, Bill C-38. There's too much at stake. Read all the reasons here.

What's really bugging me, worse than that proverbial mosquito that keeps buzzing at my ear but somehow remains out of reach, are the cuts to environmental science programs. Today, apparently, our Conservative 'leaders' don't even have it straight when it comes to what these scientists really do and what services they are actually chopping. Is this the Canada we want? One that depends upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor industrial emissions? Really?

I was dumbfounded when we got word in May that all the environmental monitoring scientists were cut in our national parks and that staff and scientists at Parks Canada in the Pacific Region working on marine issues, including potential new protected areas, had been 'surplussed'. Now that's a creative euphemism. I'm a scientist; I have friends and colleagues who are now 'surplus' in the government's eyes.

There is a fine line between hope and despair. Most days I squeak in on the side of hope; I use the positive energy of the people around me to keep me on the right side of that line. Sometimes I fake it.

Today, in the week leading up to Oceans Day, I am determined to remain hopeful. At Living Oceans Society we have a vision of healthy oceans that feed and support healthy communities. My role here, as a scientist and marine analyst, is partly an interpreter. I try to present scientific findings and evidence in a way that most people can relate to. We often present issues by using maps. Like the time we took six scientific papers about sea lice on juvenile salmon and mapped all the data collections sites and findings alongside fish farms. We won first place in the science category of an international conservation mapping contest for that one.

More recently we've been working on interactive maps, the kind where you can navigate through waterways and click around to get more information on what interests you. Our Oil and Water map is a rich resource for locating and learning about the many amazing natural features and human activities along proposed oil tanker routes to and from Kitimat, British Columbia. Our intent is to document what we have in these waters and what the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline risks destroying. These waterways, rich with marine life and sustainable human activity, are nobody's supertanker superhighway.

Hot on the heels of the popularity of our Oil and Water map, the folks at Google Outreach asked us to work with them on a new mapping technology called Maps Engine. It lets you put data in 'the Google cloud' and then permit different circles of friends or colleagues to play with or edit maps using these data. It makes it easy for people without GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software to publish maps and make them widely available. It's actually pretty cool. We tested it, uploaded some data collections and built some maps and then Google Outreach sent a video team to interview us about our work.

We were pretty excited to be singled out by Google to help out with their launch of this product. And, to be honest, we are proud of our work. Mostly we do it for you – so if you've got ideas to help improve what we do, please contact us and share your ideas. We value your input and we need your support. Please consider a donation to Living Oceans Society to help us continue with our mapping and analysis work and to support our vision of healthy oceans and healthy communities.

Here's to working on the hopeful side of the line.

This week is Oceans Week! Be a SeaHugger! Show your love for the oceans simply by supporting Living Oceans Society's work – Donate today!

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