Sea-Floor Mapping
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Sea-Floor Mapping

Message from the Editor

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week we feature a story on sea-floor mapping in developing countries. Another story entitled “Where is GIS when we need it?” is about a New Mexico community whose residents have lost thousands of dollars in flood taxes that they didn't need to be paying-as a result of outdated survey information.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, Awards, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web, and Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at Email Contact

Best wishes, Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Sea-Floor Mapping

In developing nations, environmental management institutions are challenged to find a software solution to develop a low cost, reliable sea-floor monitoring system. Mapping and monitoring marine environments is an important requirement for coral reef preservation programs, deep-sea research, salvage, marine archaeology, aquaculture and other exploration and environmental management purposes. Marine scientists from the University of Oslo settled on Windmill data collection software, which would allow a GPS and sonar to be plugged into a laptop computer.

According to Trond Kvernevik, Research Fellow - Marine Spatial Ecology, Marine Biology and Limnology Section, Department of Biology at the University of Oslo, Windmill Software is a great alternative for simple mapping for conservation purposes. “Since conservation goes hand-in-hand with basic scientific research, the fact that Windmill can log lots of additional data besides the basic seafloor data is its greatest advantage.” Kvernevik said there are dozens of solutions around today that can automatically log GPS and sonar data (Garmin's hand-held GPSMAP76s, for example, can receive sonar data and log XYZ data on a tiny removable memory card). And there are lots of software around that can log similar data. ”The reason Windmill was chosen was that (1) it was free of charge, (2) it was user friendly (3) it has capacity for receiving loads of *other* types of data than the XYZ data, via additional COM ports and (4) Windmill provided excellent user support even for the free-of-charge software. That still costs more than basic sonar + GPS with Windmill, and doesn't let you log other interesting data.

“Together with Malaysian Marine Park authorities we've mapped three marine parks in Malaysia (Payar, Perhentian and Redang Marine Parks) using Windmill for data acquisition. We've been using the free-of-charge version. Costs are thus restricted to hardware, boat usage and so forth. The cost of even the commercial version of Windmill software (about GBP 50 or so last time I checked) is small compared to alternative software because most alternatives come along with data acquisition boards, i.e. are bundled with hardware, which tends to be expensive.”

Although the scientists chose Windmill for a very specific task, the software soon proved that it was capable of doing more. The system can be expanded by adding more COM ports and peripheral instruments such as thermometers, salinometers and current meters. Using such setups, 3D-images of the sea-floor with superimposed maps of water conditions can be produced very quickly, using instruments already available at most institutions. Using simple synchronization techniques, video camera evidence can also be incorporated.

“The GPS gives positioning for the boat, where the antenna is mounted. GPS positions can not be measured directly under water. However, the location of the bottom soundings, made by sonar, is straight below the boat for a vertical-mounted single-beam sonar. Hence, the GPS gives X and Y coordinates in the horizontal plane and the sonar a Z coordinate (depth). And XYZ data (= 3 dimensions) is all that's needed to map a surface such as the seafloor,” said Kvernevik.

“Windmill is used in shallow coastal environments. The acoustic beam is still reasonably narrow by the time it reaches the seafloor, and it is located directly below the boat even if the boat has a bit of roll/pitch/heave due to waves. In deep water, the cross-section of the acoustic signal from a cheap sonar will be very wide. Thus in deep water the actual whereabouts of the depth reading relative to the GPS antenna on the surface is NOT exactly known. You will get data and could make some sort of map, but it'll be full of errors. The position offset per depth sounding could be tens of meters, and if the seafloor has complex topography at that place, the depth measurements itself could vary substantially depending on the boat's rolling movements. Thus, to be clear about this, fairly precise mapping with a basic sonar + GPS using Windmill (or any other equivalent software) is restricted to water of say, shallower than 30 meters and under calm conditions. The precision constraint is however not Windmill - it is the mapping hardware!! To get up and running with high-standard mapping for the purpose of hydrographic chart production, etc, you'll be looking at an investment of about GBP150-200,000.”

As a GIS tool, Windmill is a powerful data acquisition tool that can be adapted for multivariable environmental survey, and can be used for ground truthing for remote sensing data derived from satellite images, aerial photos etc. Once Windmill acquires the data it can be imported into any major mapping software on the market. Mapping sessions of small areas have been completed in less than 20 minutes. Useful mapping speeds are generally within the range of 5-15 knots.

The marine biologists at University of Oslo concentrate on developing replicable and reliable fieldwork and analysis procedures. Acquiring the data is one thing, but procedures by which automatically acquired data can be related to GIS information are essential and come under the heading of data processing, quality control, relational database building, interdisciplinary analyses, etc. The mapping becomes more than measurements of positions and depths, but rather encompasses mathematical modeling of local tides, error analyses, multiple consistency tests of seabed classification accuracy among independent groups of video reviewers, testing and revisions of simple and detailed classification schemes.

Their Malaysian counterparts have now successfully adopted high-quality and cost-effective marine survey methods for management and conservation. EcoScience Consultants who were involved in the process has the capacity to work with local government agencies using largely existing official manpower to implement large-scale and very cost saving projects in integrated coastal zone planning, and is able to assist both research groups and governments in implementation of research and conservation projects.

The usage of Windmill for scientific applications within marine surveys is explained in the paper:
Kvernevik, T.I., Mohd Akhir, M.Z, & Studholme, J. (2002). "A low-cost procedure for automatic seafloor mapping, with particular reference to coral reef conservation in developing nations." Hydrobiologia vol 474
(2002) pp 67-69.

Perhentian Marine Park, east coast Peninsular Malaysia was mapped in a joint effort by the University of Oslo, EcoScience Consultants Malaysia ( Email Contact) and Marine Parks of Terengganu, courtesy Head of Marine Parks in Terengganu, Ab Rahim Gor Yaman ( Email Contact), who provided manpower, boats and other field logistics. For information contact Trond Kvernevik, Email Contact
This image with classifications of coral types is based on video recordings and painstaking review and bottom classifications by Trond Kvernevik and Mohd Zambri Mohd Akhir of EcoScience Consultants Malaysia ( Email Contact) in May 2001. That image shows just three broad categories of sites with a very clear dominance by branching, massive or tabulate coral. (end of caption)

EcoScience Consultants Malaysia's dataset, and, soon, the posters on display at the new Visitor's Centre in Perhentian Marine Park, comprises tens of thousands of manual seabed evaluations based on video recordings, which are posted on the maps. About a dozen staff of the Marine Parks of Malaysia has done a tremendous job of video recording and classifying the reefs of Perhentian and those of two additional marine parks (Redang, also in Terengganu, and Payar, in Kedah) over the course of a two-year collaboration. Thus, to add the fourth dimension, namely ecological information about the seafloor to drape over the seafloor model, ecologists still have to do some work!

For more information see or contact:

A guide to setting up Windmill for seafloor mapping is at

EcoScience Consultants
Att: Mr Zambri (Project manager)
Gambier Heights
Persiaran Bukit Gambier 1
11700 Gelugor, Penang
Tel +60 4 657 3130
Mobile +60 12 55 13 130
Email:, Email Contact

Marine Parks of Terengganu
Att: Mr Ab Rahim Gor Yaman (Director)
Marine Parks Office
Department of Fisheries
Kuala Terengganu
Terengganu, Malaysia
Tel + 60 9 617 3352
Mobile + 60 19 9348 505
Email: Email Contact

Trond-Inge Kvernevik
Marine Biology and Limnology Section
Department of Biology
University of Oslo
PO Box 1064 Blindern
N 0316 Oslo
Email: Email Contact

Where is GIS When We Need It?

Federal funds have been set aside for a survey of the Rio Grande's floodplain in Española, New Mexico. The reason for the two-year study, funded by a federal grant through FEMA, is that the boundaries of the floodplain are in dispute. Landowners have been paying thousands of dollars in flood insurance as a result of surveys based on outdated data dating from a 1927 USGS survey of the region. New Flood Insurance Rate Maps indicate 60 percent of the 3,500 homes previously in the flood plain could be removed from that designation, according to City Planner Marvin Vigil. Some people whose properties were not previously in the flood plain may be after the study is done.

FEMA uses the term “100-year flood” to refer to a base flood that has a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in a given year. According to FEMA, flood insurance is available to any property owner located in a community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). All areas are susceptible to flooding, although to varying degrees, in fact, 25% of all flood claims occur in the low-to-moderate risk areas. Flooding can be caused by heavy rains, melting snow, by inadequate drainage systems, failed protective devices such as levees and dams, as well as by tropical storms and hurricanes.

The new surveys will be conducted by Watershed Concepts of North Carolina, a FEMA subcontractor. They implement GPS, and field surveys to create precise maps including data on soil which will also help owners know what the best use of their land will be.


Calgary-based GAIA Consultants Inc. has joined the Golder group of companies according to Golder Associates. The addition of GAIA Consultants Inc. to the GeoGraphic Information Services (GGIS) group of Golder Associates in Calgary brings the total number of employees to forty four full-time. The group provides consulting and general services involving Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, Computer Assisted Drafting/Design (CAD), Internet GIS as well as application and Database Management System (DBMS) development.

EarthData Holdings announced the purchase of ISTAR Americas, Incorporated. The U.S. subsidiary of ISTAR SA of France, ISTAR Americas, developed in the U.S. the unique mapping process that rapidly generates from airborne digital imagery a robust digital surface model (DSM), and orthorectified images of the ground and features (“true ortho images”). The high resolution and metric accuracy of these digital orthophotos makes them an ideal geographic information system (GIS) base map for counties and cities, especially in highly urbanized areas where the ISTAR process eliminates building lean and allows for precise 2D and 3D feature extraction, line of site analysis, counter terrorism planning, and emergency response.

RADARSAT International (RSI), North America's top QuickBird distributor, signed an agreement with Jeppesen of Englewood, Colo. to provide a QuickBird-derived geographic information database of nearly 300 airports around the world. The initial airport database will serve to enhance flight crew situational awareness and to help eliminate runway incursion accidents. The five-year contract calls for RSI to provide Jeppesen, a leading supplier of flight information, with GIS-ready, QuickBird-derived image sets of all 289 airports within the next 12 months.

GlobeXplorer LLC, a subsidiary of Stewart Information Services Corp. (NYSE-STC), and ESRI have developed a key application for the critical sharing of information between federal, state, local and private agencies. By combining online geographic information system technology from ESRI's standards-based and interoperable ArcIMS software with the highly scaleable online image delivery system created by GlobeXplorer, OpenGIS Consortium (OGC) members and others in the industry are able to demonstrate more robust applications, such as Homeland Security, in rapid fashion.

To gain access to GlobeXplorer's 300 terabyte, nationwide library of map-corrected aerial and satellite imagery, users simply type the URL of the web service, and any application is instantly connected to the proper image and map information. An example using ESRI's free ArcExplorer viewing software, fully compliant with OGC's Open Web Service specification, is shown here.

Fact: One terabyte of imagery is equivalent to four million printed books.


Autodesk MapGuide, a web mapping and design solution, is being used by governments and agencies to improve response times to the public's questions about zoning, maintenance, and other local government services. Many San Francisco Bay Area cities rely on the product to provide access to critical information to employees, citizens and prospective businesses. The City of Fremont, in particular, has used MapGuide to integrate data from multiple sources into a single map display. Oakland, Santa Rosa and Foster City also use the product.

“Before MapGuide, we had to rely on maps spread out in multiple rooms and multiple drawers to answer people's question about zoning or land use,” said Christine Frost, Fremont's GIS manager. “It was very inefficient. We would have to start the process with a street address, then pull out another map to convert the address to a parcel number, then pull out yet more maps to correlate the parcel to the correct information.”

upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. announces the first book to be released for the new AutoCAD 2004 software from Autodesk. Tailoring AutoCAD 2004 is the updated and expanded e-book for new and experienced AutoCAD users. The 204-page e-book contains step-by-step tutorials for learning how to customize the popular CAD software.

You can learn more about Tailoring AutoCAD 2004 at .

Haestad Methods invites water professionals throughout the world to participate in the 2003 Online Water Management Symposium on May 5-6. This unique event offers attendees a rare opportunity to interact with some of the foremost experts in water systems management via the Internet. For more information on the 2003 Water Management Symposium:


Laser-Scan's conference has been re-shaped for 2003,to offer a platform for Laser-Scan's partners and users to come together to debate the key issues facing today's geospatial community and to explore Laser-Scan's new product range.

Held July 17-18 in Cambridge, UK, the Conference will take place at the Moller Centre, in the heart of the historic city of Cambridge, UK. Delegates can enjoy an open-top bus sightseeing tour of the city followed by the conference dinner at an exclusive river-side restaurant.

Delegates who register to attend the conference before the 31st May will receive a 10% discount on the registration fee.

Laser-Scan is also working in conjunction with National mapping agency, Ordnance Survey, to host a free seminar for transport industry professionals and system integrators and independent consultants working in the transport sector. The seminar will take place on Friday May 16th at the Ordnance Survey Business Centre in Southampton, UK.

To register to attend this FREE event please visit:

Vexcel Corporation announced the immediate availability of accurate 3D models for virtually any city in the world. This includes all locations where traditional mapping products are either outdated or not available for reasons such as restrictions imposed by local governments. Such locations include South America, Africa, India, China and many Asian nations.

Vexcel has developed new software that allows its proprietary 3D modeling tools to support imagery collected by the DigitalGlobe(tm) QuickBird(tm) satellite. The result is the efficient, rapid production of urban 3D models for any area captured by QuickBird, at resolutions significantly better than what has previously been available.

Industry leaders are looking for workers in jobs so new that training programs to fill them have not yet been fully developed. In response to that challenge, Emily Stover DeRocco, head of the U.S. Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration, has called the first Geospatial Technology Industry Executive Forum in Colorado Springs on April 10.

Running from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the forum coincides with the 19th National Space Symposium at the Broadmoor Hotel, and is co-sponsored by The Space Foundation.

Rolta has been awarded a data services contract to integrate the British Columbia TELUS data into the Intergraph FRAMME based IMAGE format that TELUS uses in its Alberta and National service territories. TELUS Communications is a Canadian provider of data, Internet Protocol (IP), fixed line and wireless voice communications services. TELUS provides fixed line services to approximately four and a half million subscribers in Alberta and British Columbia.

In the British Columbia service territory, TELUS currently has approximately 80% of its outside plant records mechanized in the Integrated Computer Graphics System (ICGS) application. The remaining 20% of their records are maintained in a manual environment.

Rolta will be converting the manual outside plant records using its proprietary MicroStation & Oracle based data conversion system. The converted data will be directly imported into the FRAMME dataset for delivery. Rolta will migrate the ICGS data into the conversion system. Corrections and additions will be made, and the data will be thoroughly checked using automated and visual methods before it is migrated to the IMAGE delivery format.

DigitalGlobe announced its high-resolution QuickBird(tm) satellite imagery is being used to support a significant wildlife observation study in Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea, Alaska. The imagery, purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Marine Mammals Management Office, is being used for tracking the populations of the Pacific walrus - a widely distributed species that spends winters in the Bering Sea's pack ice and spring in the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska.

According to Douglas Burn, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Satellite imagery has the potential to dramatically change our ability to track these populations. While testing the accuracy of the imagery against traditional data collection methods, we began understanding how we could apply this technology and perhaps save both time and money. DigitalGlobe's QuickBird imagery provides the highest resolution satellite images to date, and may allow us to assess population changes with greater consistency and accuracy than in the past."

Awards GeoDecisions, a software-independent information technology company that specializes in geographic information systems (GIS), was recently presented with the New Technology Product of the Year award at the 11th annual Technology Awards Gala. The event, sponsored by the Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania, was held at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. GeoDecisions received the award for its Intelligent Road/Rail Information Server (IRRIS) application. IRRIS was developed to support the Military Traffic Management Command Transportation Engineering Agency's mission to aid in the global deployment of U.S. armed forces. IRRIS can document the movement of cargo by land, air, and sea on a global basis.

New Products

ESRI announced that Job Tracking for ArcGIS (JTX) is now shipping. Job Tracking for ArcGIS is a solution-based extension to ArcGIS that provides an integration framework for ArcGIS multiuser geodatabase environments. This enterprise workflow management application simplifies and automates many aspects of job management and tracking and streamlines the workflow, resulting in improved efficiency and significant time saving for any enterprise GIS project (e.g., data maintenance and commercial mapping).

DMTI Spatial released CanMap® Water V1.0, a nationwide mapping dataset for Canada that has complete naming for major water features. Consumers and recreational GPS users, travel and tourism web applications, wildlife and environmental studies are just a few of the areas where this product can be used.

Visual Learning Systems (VLS) announced the release of Feature Analyst for ERDAS IMAGINE. The new extension is available for version 8.x of ERDAS IMAGINE and works seamlessly within the IMAGINE environment. Feature Analyst for ERDAS IMAGINE is available in both Standard as well as Professional versions and is available for shipping immediately.

CORDA Technologies, Inc., a Lindon, Utah based developer of interactive data visualization solutions, has created a Web page using the company's OptiMap(TM) and PopChart(TM) technology with an up-to-date map displaying the worldwide occurrences and deaths due to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). CORDA furnishes the map with data gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. The public can access the map free of charge from CORDA's website at

In addition to the SARS data, CORDA is providing as a public service a map called Troop Tracker that gives interested parties an up-to-date view of the Coalition troops currently based in Iraq. Troop Tracker is located at

Haestad Methods announced its latest version release of WaterCAD® V6.1 for AutoCAD, which offers civil engineers all the groundbreaking enhancements of WaterCAD 6.1 integrated with Autodesk's new release of AutoCAD 2004. With this release, Haestad Methods has further cultivated water resources modeling and continues to be the leading choice among the world's top civil design firms and water utilities.

Around the Web

On the Ground in Iraq, the Best Compass is in the Sky By Seth Schiesel, NY Times April 17, 2003

Internet via the Power Grid: New Interest in Obvious Idea NY Times, April 11, 2003, by John Markoff and Mark Richtel

Six more Moons spotted orbiting Jupiter CNN News, April 14, 2003

Articles in print...

“High Tech Arabic for Jarheads,” Newsweek, April 14, 2003 - A computer chip that recognizes English and can convert it to Arabic is one of the latest military technology tools on the market. About the size of a Palm PDA, the Phraselator is a device that can store up to 30,000 phrases such as “stop or I'll shoot!” “Can you show me this on the map?” “Where is the command bunker?” In the experimental stages, the device only works one way right now, but the Pentagon is working on two-way communication.

Going on in April

2nd SCAR International Antarctic GIS Workshop
Date: April 7 - 11, 2003
Place: Freiburg, Germany
Following the first International Antarctic GIS workshop in Wuhan, China in 2000 the Geospatial Information Group within the Geoscience Standing Scientific Group of SCAR plans on holding a second GI Technical Experts Meeting of SCAR.

Date: April 7 - 10, 2003
Place: Coeur d'Alene Resort Coeur d'Alene, ID USA

9th Annual California GIS Conference 2003 Date: April 9 - 11, 2003
Place: Palm Springs Convention Center, Palm Springs, CA USA
"The Evolving State of GIS" hosted by So Cal URISA and BAAMA (Bay Area Mapping Association)

Avenza Systems Training
Date: April 10 - 11, 2003
Place: Toronto, Canada
MAPublisher training using MAPublisher 5.0 on Adobe Illustrator 10 on Windows. Given by Avenza technical and training staff.

GIS in Action Date: April 21 - 23, 2003
Place: Portland, OR USA
For the past eleven years, the Oregon chapter of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) and the Columbia River Region of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) have held a conference dealing with current issues on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from a regional perspective. A full day of workshops will lead off this year's conference followed by two days of plenary and concurrent educational sessions.

Avenza Systems Training
Date: April 24 - 25, 2003
Place: Washington D.C, USA
MAPublisher training using MAPublisher 5.0 on Adobe Illustrator 10 on Windows. Given by Avenza technical and training staff.

13th Annual Nevada State GIS Conference
Date: April 28 - 30, 2003
Nevada State GIS Conference, Reno, Nevada. This thirteenth annual conference, attracting GIS professionals from throughout the state and eastern California, exhibits the latest GIS technology and features introductory and advanced education sessions. For general information contact the conference committee chair; Sally Kleiner, phone: 775-954-4629, e-mail Email Contact

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