Ecoinformatics Conference Service, Environmental Information Management 2008

Environmental Data Upload and Visualization Tools

Shira Bezalel

Last modified: 2008-08-21


Easy access to reliable data is a primary objective of any environmental information management system. Providing high quality, scientific information allows for the formulation of technically sound policies and the ability to address specific management questions. Tools can assist with the flow of information thorough the various data management steps of data collection, uploading, and review, and facilitate the retrieval, exchange, and visualization of results. This poster highlights tool development from two projects managed by the San Francisco Estuary Institute. The Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality is the primary source of long-term contaminant monitoring data for the San Francisco Estuary and annually collects water, sediment, and tissue samples. The South Bay Mercury Project is a collaborative, three-year project that characterizes mercury in the sediment, water, and biota ("sentinel" species) indicative of different landscape management endpoints in the San Francisco Estuary's South Baylands.

Field data collection entry forms have been developed in Access for both of these projects and enables data to be easily uploaded to the main database. These entry forms have saved in both staff time and costs required for entering standardized information into project databases. Constraints within the form prevent entry of erroneous data by forcing users to select from pre-defined code lists, such as analyte and device names.

The South Bay Mercury Project uses Google Earth as part of its visualization tool for reporting mercury results at specific sample sites. Concentrations are differentiated through a range of colors and symbol heights. This tool provides scientists with an essential aerial perspective in which to evaluate the results.

The Regional Monitoring Program makes its 14-year dataset available online through a user-defined query tool, from which results can be downloaded into an Excel file in two formats: cross-tabulated, making it easier for reviewing data across stations and time, and flat-file, for importing data into statistical programs. The development team is currently involved in two major enhancements to the query tool: the ability to download data from other projects collecting data in the Estuary and the availability of a visualization tool for dynamic mapping of concentrations. These enhancements will facilitate the mapping of results to show the spatial distribution across the entire Estuary.

Tools assist with the uploading and standardizing of data and increase the options for reporting data to the scientific community and general public in a more meaningful way that address specific management and research questions.