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App of the Month: Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide

The October App of the Month helps communities and government planners around Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem better understand the underwater world. Often, what lies beneath the water can be out of sight out of mind, but this map brings together diverse knowledge systems, including Indigenous, local and Western science, into a holistic and integrated tool.

The Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide’s online interactive map helps support the holistic understanding of Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem's aquatic ecology, biophysical environment, administrative boundaries and human uses for various community stakeholders and rightsholders. By visualizing how different data layers overlap in aquatic spaces, this interactive decision-support tool can be used to reduce user conflict, inform marine spatial planning and maximize community and ecosystem benefits.

Knowledge is Power

Developed using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Web AppBuilder, the Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide makes accessing information about the area easy. This integrated tool expands beyond classic interactive maps to include spatial and non-spatial data layers associated with the Sound, including ecological, human use, municipal infrastructure, physical, and restoration and monitoring information. With over 400 spatial data layers and 300 reports, the map pulls together extensive information about the Sound’s ocean and freshwater that was previously held separately by governments, organizations and individuals.

Making it User Friendly

Users can be overwhelmed if there is too much data and no clear way to utilize it. That’s why the Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide contains a simple user guide including a video tutorial. Showing users how to interact with your maps encourages exploration and understanding.

Planning and education case studies are also available for users and are bookmarked for easy access. Case study views include the default view, docks and eelgrass, zoning, log storage and shoreline protection planning. These case studies can be used to inform regional decision-making. Users can also create their own bookmarks to easily access views they reference frequently.

Screenshot of the bookmark feature in the Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide

Users have the ability to select from over 400 spatial data layers to see the data that is relevant to them. Data layers are sorted by operational layers to navigate efficiently.

Screenshot of data layers options in the Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide

In addition to detailed data layers, user-friendly widgets allow users to draw on, measure and print the map for their reference.

Screenshot of the widgets in the Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide

Bridget John, a research assistant with Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide, says they chose ArcGIS because “we wanted our map to be as user friendly as possible so people who don’t have any experience with mapping can access and understand the information easily. Esri technology greatly facilitates both of these objectives. We also chose Esri technology as it was compatible with other platforms and products that we frequently interact with, including GIS platforms used by government planners and maps created by NGOs who we partner with.”

The Impact

The Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide was developed through a community-driven approach to mapping, which led to the inclusion of high-resolution data as well as local and traditional knowledge about the ocean and the community.

“What's really exciting about the Marine Reference Guide is what started off as a mapping project turned into much more than that. It became a way for people to engage in a collaborative approach to how we share information. It became a project that grew into other opportunities for research and for bringing the community together,” says Ruth Simons from newly designated Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound Biosphere Region.

By centralizing and facilitating access to this diverse place-based information, the Guide allows decision-makers and communities to protect important socio-economic, cultural and ecological values from pressures such as pollution, development and climate change.

“The Guide provides an opportunity for people to access knowledge before making an application that impacts our waters. All parties have access to the information upfront, which encourages informed discussion and helps avoid potential conflict and energy spent towards something that may be controversial or not permitted, such as building a dock on top of an eelgrass bed,” says Adam Taylor from the Underwater Council of British Columbia.

Check out the Howe Sound/Átl’ḵa7tsem Marine Reference Guide.

Interested in creating your own web app? Explore ArcGIS Web AppBuilder

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.