Hold - NavOps Ocean Monitoring

We developed a new geospatial application for the City of San Diego Public Utilities that uses ArcGIS technology. This application enables researchers to easily plan and conduct surveys of the water, sediments, and marine life off the coast of San Diego, California. NavOps provides vital location-related information to scientists and researchers monitoring the health of the oceans and aquatic life, including visualizing the location of the survey stations where data needs to be sampled and recording where water, fish, and sediment samples have been taken. As part of its Ocean Monitoring Program, the department sends out the Oceanus and Monitor III vessels to study the effects of the region’s wastewater treatment processes on the local marine environment. Two outfalls are monitored: the Point Loma Ocean Outfall, which handles wastewater discharged from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and is one of the longest and deepest outfalls in the world, and the South Bay Ocean Outfall, which discharges effluent originating from the South Bay Water Reclamation Plant, the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the international boundary. The area covered by these two monitoring programs extends 340 square miles along a 10-mile stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline.

The department’s monitoring program started 30 years ago and is one of the country's most sophisticated and comprehensive programs. Marine biologists use specialized instrumentation and dive surveys to collect data on the quality of aquatic life (e.g. fish and bottom-dwelling animals); silt, sand, and mud; and water pH, clarity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. Using the new NavOps application, the marine biologists aboard Oceanus and Monitor III can plan where to conduct surveys, see where surveys have been taken, and determine where to do surveys in the future. The survey stations offshore are symbolized and labeled on the NavOps map based on whether they are planned for sampling, are currently being sampled, or were already sampled. The times and locations where different aspects of the sampling procedures occur are also symbolized and labeled on the map, including where a piece of equipment used for sampling starts being lowered or touches the ocean floor.

Designing a Geospatial Solution

NavOps replaced legacy software no longer compatible with Microsoft Windows 10, the City standard. Quartic’s custom solution simplified the user interface, added a geospatial component, and supported the workflows introduced by the field instrumentation. Because there's often no internet connectivity aboard the vessels, a solution is needed to support offline data retrieval and storage. The marine biologists use NavOps on laptops to process the data streaming in from the ocean monitoring devices, then transfer the data to portable storage devices for further mapping and analysis in the office. To simplify the user interface, a tabbed design was created to replace the complex system of windows that the biologists used to conduct their surveys. Obsolete functions were stripped away, and secondary functions were tucked away until needed. The program setup, weather settings, survey station, and collected data are now neatly organized, and a single display contains the map, table of contents, and forms.

Using ArcGIS, the City, and Quartic created a custom base map connected to a file geodatabase. The file geodatabase stores the map layers the monitoring crew uses to plan their surveys. This includes the locations of ocean monitoring survey stations, the buffered area that the vessel must be within to collect data for each station, locations of ocean outfalls, and other spatial reference points. The attributes associated with these features, separate data tables, domains, and subtypes all work together to supply the application with important information each survey uses. For example, station attributes populate drop-down menus, helping the crew set up a daily survey plan. Data is combined in the background according to the crew's needs, and smart menus only present the options relevant to the current workflow. NavOps supports collecting the same data as the old system but with fewer clicks and more automation.

Vessel instrumentation was simulated during development to build the application as if operating on the boat. GPS and National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) simulators were set up to mimic vessel travel, including heading and speed, wind speed and direction, water temperature, and the distance from the target survey station. Whenever the crew needs to collect data at certain steps along the survey course, instrumentation data is automatically retrieved from the simulators and saved. One example of how ArcGIS greatly facilitates the collection of data is with its GPS tools. These tools allow the application to track and display the vessel's position in real-time and provide visual feedback. The crew can easily determine how close they're to the target survey station because the symbol on the map changes color based on distance.

ArcGIS synchronizes the map with the data displayed in the survey forms; this allows the crew to plan their survey by selecting the stations they want to sample directly from the map. Additionally, the stations displayed on the map can be filtered to show only those that meet the requirements set by the crew in the form. Station symbology can be updated through various steps along the survey course, and new points can be dropped and labeled on the map based on data collected from the forms. The ArcGIS built-in components also give the crew a lot of functionality that is straight out of the box. They can toggle GPS and GPS trail visibility, identify features on the map, search for features based on attributes, create measurements and bookmarks, add outside data to the map, and more.

Making a Difference

NavOps's data is used to identify potential risks, document changes over time and space, measure recreational water quality, and maintain compliance with state and federal regulations. The staff collects fish and other marine life using rig fishing and trawling methods and performs sediment grabs, water column testing, and kelp bed surveys. Geospatial applications, such as NavOps, play an important role in helping scientists analyze the data collected by environmental monitoring programs, leading to a better understanding of the effects of human impacts, like wastewater discharge, and oceanographic events, like El Niño, on our oceans. Building a relationship between existing Business Systems and GIS can be complex. We have worked with various products, including SAP, Cityworks, Hanson, and Cartegraph, and created custom applications. Your options and best solutions will vary depending on your IT infrastructure, data sources, and operational environment. Quartic can assist you in defining a sound architecture that will add spatial intelligence to your business systems.

Ready for Action?

Mapping and spatial analysis provide insight to a great variety of industries and markets. Quartic will empower your business by harnessing the intelligence of spatial technology.
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