Not knowing what your natural resources are is a risk for any country, and not all resources can be found on land. 96% of all New Zealand territory is under water, and only 13% of that is mapped. The Ocean Survey 20/20 (OS 20/20) programme is a whole of Government initiative, which aims to provide New Zealand with better knowledge of its ocean territory, including our exclusive economic zone, Continental Shelf and the Ross Sea Region.
SilverStripe Ltd were contracted by NIWA to build a web-portal to help everyone be able to access the data that’s being gathered. The web portal allows end users to get full access to a vast array of information stored in distributed databases. This information is presented in an easy to understand way, based primarily on a powerful mapping application that puts data into a geographical context.
From there, users can filter out the type of information they're looking for, learn more about the processes involved in gathering the different types of data or access extremely high resolution images of the sea floor (and whatever treasures it might contain!).
The web interface is not only intuitive, it's also built to allow later enhancement so that future projects (which the portal already supports) can add in additional elements which may be needed. Data is presented using layers on maps that can be individually enabled or disabled, allowing the viewer to define the context themselves, eliminating or enabling datasets at will.
The data isn't just a couple of lists. There are a whopping four terabytes of data involved because datasets include:
- bacterial biomass and activity
- benthic and attached algae
- meiofauna, macro-fauna and epifauna
- benthic and demersal fish rocky reef assemblages
- sediment accumulation rates (coring, forensics, sources and analysis)
- physical oceanography data (tidal and wind driven changes in sea level, salinity measures to determine the timing of freshwater inputs, variability of Bay of Island currents)
- water quality data (eg chlorophyll a, salinity, oxygen, metals, pollutants, suspended sediment, etc)
- opportunistic data (wild life such as seabirds, cetaceans, cartilaginous (e.g. white sharks), breeding colonies, marine mammal sighting or aggregation areas, biogenic reefs etc)
- 20,000 seabed and specimen photographs.
There were a number of other challenges for us in building the site beyond just the sheer size of the data. Content includes images, geospatial station data, PDFs, and zip files. The integration of HD video is possible. The map has multiple layers, and to complicate matters even further, some datasets crosses the dateline.
The web mapping client within the portal was developed specifically for the portal, integrating OpenLayers with the SilverStripe CMS as a web mapping module, and will be available as a standard module. What's particularly exciting about the mapping is that you can view it at nearly any size - the map is not constrained by anything other than the user's browser; it can be extremely large if the user desires it - something most mapping applications completely fail at. Atlas, an image server to deliver high quality photography and videos and ESRI ArcServer, licenced to NIWA, are the two proprietary applications used. The portal uses other open source solutions to provide storage and web-service capabilities, supporting Open-Geospatial Consortium standards. Most of the Open Source components are supported by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation.
Alongside with the mapping component, NIWA and SilverStripe Ltd have developed an catalogue service, enabling the website user to search for the raw data, reports or download datasets directly. It provides access to data, reports, maps, photographs & presentations thus providing both data as well as interpretations and information from experts explaining the data. The portal also enables website users to stream the data into other applications via the OGC web-services which are discoverable via the catalogue.
Ocean Survey 20/20 is a finalist in the government category of the New Zealand Open Source Awards. We're really thrilled to have been involved in such groundbreaking work, and we look forward to what is yet to be discovered lurking under the water.
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