Designing for Our Oceans

Will McClintock of the University of California, Santa Barbara presents SeaSketch, a collaborative geodesign application for ocean planning.

Feb 16th, 2012

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00:01Thank you very much. It's great to be here.

00:03I think it's safe to say that we all love the oceans.

00:07We love them because they give us food, energy, oxygen, medium for transportation, all kinds of good things, right?

00:15In fact, we love and use the ocean more than ever.

00:21The sheer number of human activities is increasing in the ocean.

00:23But more importantly, the impact that these activities have on the ocean spans the entire globe.

00:30And this is leading to some conflict about how we use ocean space.

00:35Here's a great example, the Galapagos. It's an icon of natural diversity, right?

00:40But in response to increased tourism and fishing pressures in the region…

00:44…the Galapagos Marine Reserve was established in 1998 which restricted fishing activities.

00:51Right after that, a group of 20 scientists and some giant tortoises were taken hostage…

00:56…by fishermen who saw their livelihoods threatened by that management plan.

01:01This kind of thing is happening really all over the world.

01:03Sometimes it has to do with fishing; sometimes it has to do with the placement of renewable energy technology.

01:09But the point is, there's a lot of conflict about how we use ocean space.

01:14This is what it looks like off the coast of my hometown in Santa Barbara, that we've got marine reserves…

01:21…commercial and recreational fishing activities, offshore oil and gas facilities, major shipping lanes and ports…

01:27…all kinds of stuff, and these activities overlap in space.

01:31So I often think about the fact that we really need better means for managing these potentially conflicting activities…

01:38…and finding ways to really use our resources sustainably.

01:43And traditionally, this kind of problem is solved like this.

01:50Scientists and agency…government agency folks get together and they create a plan.

01:54That plan tells us what we can do in the ocean and where.

01:58And then they reveal that plan to the public.

02:01The problem with this traditional approach is it generally leaves the general public out of the decision-making process…

02:07…which only leads to more conflict, sometimes decades-long conflict.

02:13Think about all the various people and industries affected by these decisions.

02:17When these stakeholders are not sufficiently engaged in the decision-making process, they get upset.

02:23And without their support and buy-in, plans are met with resistance and they often fail.

02:28This is exactly what happened recently in California.

02:31In '99, a law was passed that mandated the State of California to put together a network of marine protected areas.

02:37These are areas that essentially restrict fishing activities.

02:41So, the state put together a group of really smart scientists.

02:46Those scientists came up with several very, very good plans for where marine protected areas should go.

02:51And they revealed those plans to the public. And what happened?

02:55People freaked out.

02:56Fishermen felt like they were losing their most important fishing grounds, and…

03:01…conservationists felt as though too few of the important habitats were being protected.

03:06And without their support, the plans simply failed.

03:10There's a reason why the general public is…is often excluded from the decision-making process…

03:15…and part of that reason is because we use cutting-edge science and technology, right?

03:19We all know this. We use spatial models to predict the distribution of important habitats or important fishing grounds…

03:25…and we use GIS to analyze those models and make predictions about the potential consequences of management plans.

03:32Scientists and resource managers spend a long time mastering this kind of technology and information…

03:37…and so traditionally they've been the decision makers.

03:40It's also been difficult for us to wrap our minds around the idea that…

03:44…just about anybody can be involved in the decision-making process…

03:48…and make these decisions as long as they have the right tools and information.

03:53So I was thinking about this in 2006 when I was sitting in this tiny little cabin up in northern California with my buddy…

03:58…Matt Merryfield with The Nature Conservancy, and we found ourselves saying to each other…

04:03…really, there's got to be a better way.

04:06Average citizens should be able to propose their own solutions for where marine protected areas should go…

04:13…very well supported solutions, and be ultimately responsible for how this beautiful ocean space is managed.

04:21So we assembled a group of really talented developers led by Chad Burt, who's here today…

04:26…and we developed a web-based application called MarineMap.

04:30Now a year later, ordinary Californians without any technical training whatsoever started using MarineMap…

04:39…to author, sketch, marine protected area designs…

04:43…and received automated feedback on how well those designs met science and policy guidelines…

04:48…for ecosystem protection and minimizing economic impacts to fisheries.

04:55This was really incredible.

04:56Stakeholders drew over 30,000 marine protected area designs, and each one of those was automatically evaluated…

05:04…based on objective, science-based criteria.

05:08And over time, stakeholders whittled those down into a handful of proposals that were signed into law.

05:14So now, over 16 percent of California's oceans are protected.

05:19That's up from 1 percent in 2004, and that's serious progress.

05:23It's progress that ordinary Californians can take ownership of.

05:29So why was MarineMap helpful to stakeholders in the design of marine-protected areas?

05:34I was thinking about this problem last year when Jack Dangermond walked into my office and took a look at MarineMap and said…

05:40…well, that's geodesign.

05:42I hadn't heard this term before, which is slightly embarrassing, talking to all of you…

05:46…but, I was operating in the marine realm, sort of where the rubber meets the ocean, so to speak…

05:53…and, I think geodesign has primarily been applied in the terrestrial realm. That's my excuse, anyway.

05:58But the point is, that geodesign enables stakeholders to sketch and freely explore any potential design…

06:07…and learn as they went how those designs would affect the world and its people…

06:12…in terms of ecosystem protection and economic impacts.

06:16So, now that I've seen how geodesign has transformed ocean planning in California…

06:22…I would like to take this kind of technology to the rest of the world.

06:26So, my lab is developing an application called SeaSketch, based on Esri technology and the JavaScript API.

06:33You can think of SeaSketch as sort of the next-generation collaborative geodesign application for ocean planning.

06:39Like, we think of it as MarineMap on steroids.

06:43In SeaSketch, anybody, because it is dead simple to use, will be able to log into a website and automatically…

06:50…immediately begin participating in marine protected area planning, renewable energy siting…

06:57…aquaculture siting, all kinds…all of the major decisions that we have to make about how we use ocean space…

07:04…using the best science data and analytical methods available.

07:09How? Well basically, when they log in, they'll see authoritative datasets drawn from sources all over the world…

07:17…and they'll use these maps, that show the distribution of habitats and infrastructure, and so on…

07:23…to simply sketch management plans.

07:26But to be clear, stakeholders are simply going to be expressing opinions.

07:32I think a marine protected area should go here, or ask questions, what happens if I put a wind farm over here?

07:39And then those opinions and questions are automatically evaluated based on objective science-based criteria.

07:46Then, in a…in a chat forum that's dynamically tied to a map…

07:52…they'll be able to share those plans and those designs with other users…

07:57…and build support for those plans based on scientific merit.

08:01I think this is going to be truly revolutionary.

08:04Where are we going to bring this first? New Zealand.

08:07The Hauraki Gulf is an incredible place of biodiversity.

08:11It's got every imaginable ocean user competing for space.

08:16There are recreational boaters and fishers and aquaculturalists and mining companies, all kinds of things are happening here.

08:22This place needs good spatial management fast.

08:26So as marine spatial planning takes off in the Hauraki Gulf and throughout New Zealand…

08:31…we're going to use SeaSketch to engage stakeholders and place them squarely in the driver's seat.

08:36Stakeholders will decide where to put marine protected areas or where to allow energy extraction, that sort of thing.

08:44We really have reached a point, I think, in history where the tools required for sound decision making…

08:50…about how we use ocean resources are no longer restricted to people with specialized knowledge.

08:56You can do this. Everybody can do this.

08:59And everybody should have the ability to express their opinions about how ocean space is used…

09:06…and then measure those opinions against good science.

09:09So this summer when we launch SeaSketch, I'm inviting everybody to the table.

09:15Everybody with an Internet connection and a web browser will be able to log in to SeaSketch…

09:19…and participate in the decisions affecting our oceans.

09:22And together, we'll build plans for sustainable fisheries, conservation, and energy extraction using collaborative geodesign.

09:31Thank you very much.

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