Geotools to Promote Spatial Literacy and and Stewardship of the Great Lakes

Janet Silbernagle and Robbie Green from the University of Wisconsin present "Geotools to Promote Spatial Literacy and Stewardship of the Great Lakes" at the 2011 GeoDesign Summit. 

Jan 7th, 2011

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00:01We also both have a couple of projects that we're involved with with the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute... collaboration with David Hart.

00:08And we're excited to tell you about those today.

00:11We want to give you a glimpse of these two projects that we believe help to advance geodesign...

00:19...through innovative learning and decision-making tools.

00:21How? Well, our take on it is that as designers, as many of us are, with some level of spatial thinking, as most of us have...

00:31...we can create innovative tools that connect people to place and connect science to stewardship...

00:40...and thereby improve as well the design of physical places.

00:46So, both of these projects are supported by the NOAA Sea Grant program which broadly has the goals of education...

00:52...outreach, and stewardship for coastal areas.

00:57And these goals, we believe, can be enhanced with tools for geospatial thinking.

01:03Our first project is going to take us to this far west corner of Lake Superior.

01:11And it's called Stressor Gradients and Spatial Narratives for the St. Louis River Estuary.

01:16It's a Wisconsin-Minnesota partnership designed to connect science to the community and to stewardship... get people immersed in place and really understanding deeply the estuary and that place...

01:30...while complementing the goals of the Lake Superior National Estuarian Research Reserve.

01:36What is that?

01:39It is a very newly designated reserve just this past October.

01:45The twenty-eighth national estuarian research reserve but only the second in the Great Lakes.

01:51Because it's a freshwater estuary, a reserve of 17,000 acres where the St. Louis River flows north into Lake Superior...

02:06...and at the mouth of the river is the very busy Duluth Superior Shipping Port and Harbor.

02:15And the NERRs, as we call them for short, are intended to be living laboratories to, protected for long-term research...

02:26...water quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship.

02:31So, again, we have these goals of education, stewardship, monitoring...

02:37...and both of the projects that we present intend to kind of get at these.

02:42Our first project has a couple of parts to do that...

02:45...and the spatial science part is being accomplished through a stressor gradient study by our partners... University of Minnesota, Duluth, George Host and others.

02:56And so my very brief explanation of it is that they have created a model linking Arc Hydro with some land-use criteria...

03:07...and that allows them to estimate and map gradients of stress throughout and around the estuary.

03:16And they are now going to these hot pink sampling points to collect data on water quality, temperature, aquatic vegetation...

03:26...and vertebrates as a way of validating and refining their model and also contributing to this long-term monitoring goal.

03:40Now our focus, our role, is in the spatial literacy component...

03:45...drawing on the science of our partners and getting at the outreach and education.

03:54So spatial literacy is, to me, about the ability to read and interpret geography, space, and place.

04:02How do you get literate?

04:04You have good narratives.

04:05You have good stories to read.

04:08And so we're working on the concept of constructing what we call spatial narratives.

04:14Spatial narratives can be conceived of as spatially explicit storylines that bring together what we traditionally understand... the objective, environmental, geographic data of space with the experiential knowledge of place.

04:34The more eclectic, holistic set of local knowledge, the cultural knowledge that's been talked about here earlier today.

04:42So, for example, in the estuary, we started by identifying a bunch of key places and issues around the watershed, around the estuary...

04:53...that drew out of the community, the community is interested and concerned about.

04:59Identified those places as a starting point, went out to those places, collected various forms of site data, imagery, panoramas...

05:08...historical maps and then supplemented that with a bunch of interviews, going and talking with local informants...

05:17...people that are commercial fishermen, representatives of the shipping industry, wild-rice harvesters...

05:26...conservationists concerned about invasive species in the wetland, and just longtime residents.

05:32And we asked them about their understanding of the wetland, of the estuary...

05:38...and how they understand events that have happened, the fish kill of 1972, the heavy metal leak...

05:48...the development proposal for Clough Island.

05:52And we take those and we compile those stories together, captured through audio recordings and notes...

05:58...and we put it together with the spatial data and the scientific data to compile vignettes of each of these places.

06:08And then, we plugged those vignettes into place-based games and challenges.

06:15And so we have these storylines built from the spatial narratives that you could take out on a handheld, navigate to a site...

06:22...and have that story unfold.

06:24But we also are taking it another step further and embedding a problem or a challenge into it.

06:29So you have to uncover the mystery of why the fish died at two of the inlets and not all of them.

06:36You have to deal with the different stakeholders, take on the role of a stakeholder over the development proposal.

06:44And we put those into the hands of decision makers and youth and launch them with these challenges...

06:52...either from a web portal, which will contain our spatial narrative content, or from a kiosk that they might... from the web portal, they might come to a place where it says they've explored around...

07:05...would you like to download this app and head out to the estuary and tackle this problem?

07:12Or, perhaps Tom is bringing up some students from Minneapolis, and they're going to visit the Great Lakes Aquarium...

07:20...and they're wondering what to do next.

07:22Before they leave, they hit a kiosk that offers them the chance to grab a portable device and go explore and take on different roles.

07:31And our third way is for...we have a captive audience very often.

07:35Educators take policy makers out on ship-based tours, and so why not give those folks on the boat a challenge to solve...

07:44...while they're there and learning about the estuary at the same time.

07:50So it's a concept, the concept of geocaching where you navigate to a place...

07:55...but rather than just finding the cache and checking it off...'re getting immersed in that story and enriching your understanding.

08:03And our partners here, Jim Mathews and Mark Wagler, who are making this part happen...

08:08...are affiliated with the Learning Games Network.

08:13So in a sense, this part can be thought of as an augmented reality.

08:17It's about enhancing or enriching our understanding of place by throwing people into it...

08:24...and that that fosters special literacy and thus informs stewardship and ultimately more informed geodesign.

08:33Our next step is to take this model and move it from a challenge into a citizen science application.

08:40So now you would take your handheld, navigate to a site, and instead of diving into a challenge.. will collect and contribute data and stories to our knowledge bank about these coastal systems.

08:55And Robbie's going to go into that a little bit more.

09:03Okay. So I think we have about a minute, so I'm going to go through this really quick.

09:08I only have a few slides.

09:10So the second geotool we designed was the Wisconsin Coastal Web Atlas, and basically what a web atlas is...

09:17...well, on the left, that's sort of one of the first attempts at a formal universal definition of a web atlas.

09:24It's a little bit of a mouthful, but basically the idea is to take all the traditional elements of a print atlas...

09:31...and then enhance those elements by making them interactive and also available to a distributed audience via the web.

09:40And so basically, I have a very simple diagram of the coastal web atlas design here.

09:46It's divided into four interrelated components.

09:49The first is search.

09:50That basically serves as a catalog for geospatial data.

09:54It can be searched through keywords, spatial and temporal parameters, or through a basic mapping interface.

10:00There's a learning component, and that's a very crucial educational component, links back in with the spatial narrative portion.

10:07There is a mapping component, and we've developed several different mapping interfaces...

10:12...through both open source and commercial programs.

10:16And those basically serve a number of different functions.

10:20They link in with the different audiences we're trying to reach out to.

10:24And so there's a coastal hazards mapping interface.

10:27There's more of a mapping interface geared toward the public which has recreation and coastal access.

10:33And then the tools portion, it's organized similar to the learning portion up there...

10:39...and the tools are organized around various coastal issues, and they serve in more of a functional environment.

10:46They've been developed by a lot of our partners.

10:49So, for example, one of the tools helped developed by NOAA is the Coastal Inundation Visualization tool.

10:57And so perhaps a, you know, property owner is looking to develop on a site that's in a low-lying area.

11:04They might use that tool to help see how vulnerable their site is.

11:08They could also go into the learning component and take a look at what mitigation techniques they have to counter storm surge.

11:16They could look at different shoreline protective structures.

11:18And then after utilizing these components in conjunction...

11:21...they could go in and go into the catalog with an idea of what kind of data they'd need.

11:26They could download bluff lines or perhaps shoreline topology...

11:30...and then eventually go back into the map component and actually load these layers in and perform some basic analysis.

11:38And so, I'm just trying to tie it up here real quick.

11:42Basically, we're trying to integrate these two different tools, the coastal atlas and spatial narratives...

11:47...and there are a number of different conceptual parallels between the two projects...

11:51...but I think what's most important, especially significant in advancing geodesign, is this idea of civic engagement...

11:57...and community collaboration.

11:59So, we have these various games.

12:02A citizen could go into the atlas and learn about beach health or water quality in their community...

12:08...find out through the mapping interface that it's very poor...

12:10...and then go in through the learning portal and take place in one of these citizen science games or geochallenges...

12:18...and actually download and take water quality samples in their neighborhood or the community.

12:24And so I think the big picture here is basically that for good design, which is inherent in geodesign...

12:35...we have to really engage the community and without a really good idea of people and place...

12:41...designers really can't get into a good design and so basically we're trying to design these geotools to help benefit that.

12:50And, that's about it.

12:53I thank NOAA, University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota Sea Grant Institutes, David Hart...

12:59...our colleague at the University of Wisconsin, NOAA, and that's about it.

13:04We'll take questions later. Thanks.

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