Azores Travel Blog: Dr. McClintock Leads Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in MSP

I spent the first week of May, 2017, in Ponta Delgada on the Island of São Miguel in the Azores. These Portuguese islands begin 850 miles off the mainland in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and are – to visitors and residents alike – among the most beautiful places on earth.  The 16 students in the Erasmus Mundus cohort, from Italy, Brazil, Lebanon, Greece, Trinidad and Tobago, Yemen, Philippines, United States, Ethiopia, Ghana, Costa Rica and Bangladesh, represent the most diverse group I’ve ever worked or studied with. With educational and professional backgrounds ranging from marine biology and oceanography, architecture, planning, geography, these students are completing their first year of a two-year master's program in maritime spatial planning. Helena Colado & Catarina Fonseca led the course, and invited myself, Jacek Zaucha, and Kira Gee as guest lecturers for this segment.

After receiving lectures on lessons learned from MSP in Poland, Germany and the Caribbean, including issues pertaining to stakeholder engagement, incorporating culture values, students spent the majority of the week developing a maritime spatial plan for the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria. The class was divided into 4 groups of 4-5 students, each with their own SeaSketch project. With an introduction to the survey tools, administrative interface, geodesign and discussion forum features in SeaSketch, students were encouraged to configure their SeaSketch projects to reflect the needs of their specific plan. As the goals and objectives of each plan was fleshed out, students added data from existing map services they discovered from a variety of sources, and created new map services from data derived from shapefiles and rasters. One group devised a survey tool for gathering fishing values data from fishermen.

From the technical perspective, students quickly learned that SeaSketch shines as an easy-to-use method of gathering information from stakeholders, as a collaborative design tool and as a discussion tool during the development of the process itself. Looking through their discussion forums, for example, I could see some groups made good use of the forums as a means of sharing map data and views, and coordinating their efforts to gather information. Several students also discovered that it is not (as some may have assumed) a replacement for a desktop GIS.  As future planners, their understanding of geospatial data formats, projections, analysis and cartography will be essential as a technical foundation.

I will be interested to see who takes up SeaSketch to facilitate their work after graduation next year. One student expressed an interest in translating the user interface into Arabic this summer. That gives me hope that SeaSketch will begin to see more use throughout the Middle East.

How to Support the West Coast Regional Planning Body with SeaSketch

On October 26 & 27, 2016, the West Coast Regional Planning Body (WCRPB) met to discuss how it might support and harmonize sub-regional marine spatial planning efforts. Interestingly, the WCRPB will not be planning in the traditional sense (i.e., drawing lines on maps). Rather, they will work to support sub-regional planning efforts to ensure that they use the best-available science, understand the tradeoffs and consequences of options as they are developed, and that they are transparent and properly facilitated. 

John Hansen, marine planning coordinator, addresses attendees at the west coast regional planning body meeting, Portland, OR. The WCRPB is seated behind him. 

Along those lines, Andy Lanier, Steve Steinbeck and Allison Bailey reviewed the West Coast Ocean Data Portal, a platform for discovering geospatial information relevant to West Coast planning efforts. The WCRPB members agreed that sub-regional planning groups could use the data exposed in the Data Portal (and other sources) to develop new models and analyze the value and consequences of prospective pans. 

As a first step, I'd like to see sub-regions use SeaSketch to visualize data from the portal and use the discussion forums to generate ideas on what datasets are useful, which need improvement and where there are data gaps. For example, as marine spatial planning begins to take shape in San Diego, planners can import data found in the West Coast Ocean Data Portal, and stakeholders can inspect them and talk about whether they are appropriate for planning purposes. 

Discussing a data layer (marine protected areas) in a demonstration project for San Diego marine spatial planning (sandiego.seasketch.org). 

Discussing a data layer (marine protected areas) in a demonstration project for San Diego marine spatial planning (sandiego.seasketch.org). 

Each sub-region will have different planning goals and objectives. Some areas may focus on aquaculture development, commercial shipping and military uses, while others may focus on renewable energy, conservation and fishing. The specific goals and objectives will determine how plans will be evaluated by sub-regional planning bodies. 

If SeaSketch is used to sketch evaluate proposed marine spatial plans, we could use tradeoff models in combination with geodesign principles that allow users to sketch any prospective plan (e.g., aquaculture sites, renewable energy sites, fishing zones) and evaluate its relative value. 

Evaluating tradeoffs for marine spatial plans for Montserrat (montserrat.seasketch.org). 

Evaluating tradeoffs for marine spatial plans for Montserrat (montserrat.seasketch.org). 

As sub-regional planning moves forward independently throughout the West Coast, the WCRPB might consider evaluating sub-regional plans within the regional context and provide sub-regional planning bodies with useful feedback before plans are submitted to the National Ocean Council for approval. That is, the WCRPB may not be developing plans per se, but they could use SeaSketch to evaluate the sub-regional plans using, say, a cumulative impact analysis. 

A regional cumulative impact model has already been created by Halpern et al (2009) though perhaps it could be updated. That's easy enough. Once the models are freshened up, they can be imported into SeaSketch. The WCRPB members could then accept any plans developed by sub-regions and calculate how they may increase or decrease impacts to ecosystems in the California Current. 

We have already provided WWF-Canada for this kind of tool to be used when stakeholders develop plans in British Columbia.

Evaluating cumulative effects of human activities in British Columbia (cebc.seasketch.org). 

So, what needs to happen? Our vision is for the WCRPB to make SeaSketch available to any sub-region within the West Coast planning region. Then, the WCRPB will support the science to update the California Current Cumulative Impact models and the implementation the above described sketching and evaluation tools for the West Coast. 

Will McClintock

Dr. Will McClintock is a Project Scientist at the University of California Santa Barbara and former Director of the MarineMap Consortium. He received a B.A. in Biology from Earlham College, M.S. in Behavioral Ecology from the University of Cincinnati, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology from the University of California Santa Barbara. He has participated in over a dozen marine spatial planning initiatives around the world.

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