We're pleased to announce the release of the updated 2013 Ocean Health Index, a project commissioned by Conservation International and other environmental and ocean advocacy groups. The Ocean Health Index evaluates the condition of marine ecosystems according to 10 human goals, which represent the key ecological, social, and economic benefits that a healthy ocean provides. A healthy ocean is one that can sustainably deliver a range of benefits to people now and in the future. A goal scores highest when the maximum sustainable benefit is achieved through methods that do not compromise the ocean’s ability to deliver that benefit in the future. The Index score is the average of the 10 goal scores.
NiJeL updated the work of the talented GIS guru, Lee Altman, and the fantastic design team at Radical Media, mainly focusing on the updating the online maps like the one below:
Ocean Health Index Overall Index Score, 2013
The website and mapping interface show the goal score for each Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for each of the ten goals, and the main mapping interface allows you to switch between each of the goals to get a sense of regional trends. You can also mouse over any country to see all scores for that country's EEZ, or click on the country to see a page visualizing that country's data.
For a full synopsis of the project, please visit the news release from Conservation International. Many thanks to Laura March and the team at Radical Media!
Riverkeeper Releases New Water Quality Pages Developed by NiJeL
Today, Riverkeeper announced our work with mWater on their newly updated water quality testing locations section of their website. We produced a series of dynamic maps, tables and charts for all of their water quality testing locations along the Hudson River from New York Harbor to the confluence with the Mowhawk River north of Albany.
Riverkeeper's online database includes water quality measurements for enterococcus, a marker for fecal contamination, and other water chemistry variables, like pH and salinity, in some locations back to 2006. Our work allows visitors to view these data over time, and to view more detailed information on any single sampling location.
You can see the results of our collaboration with mWater and Riverkeeper here. Also, you can read Riverkeeper's press release on the new site here.
Tracy then demonstrated just how uneven implementation has been. She directed her screen to the DEC Sewage Discharge Reports page, the only place the DEC is disseminating sewage discharge reports. On that page are two links -- one to to their Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Wet Weather Advisory web page where one can get the locations of CSO outfalls, but not information on actual discharges, and the other to an Excel spreadsheet. That file contains sewage discharge reports from "publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and publicly owned sewer systems (POSSs)." One look at that file made us indignant.
First, it appeared to us that DEC compliance with the law to them meant pointing the public to a partially completed Excel file up on a webpage. We don't consider that adequate. How is the public notified that your spreadsheet has been updated? Next, the actual file is rife with spelling errors and missing data. The addresses inputed are often names of businesses without an address, or are altogether incomplete. How is the public supposed to use these data if they can't locate the discharge? Honestly, this dataset should be an embarrassment for the State of New York.
This experience got us thinking -- how could we make this situation better? It's unlikely that DEC is going to improve it's data dissemination practices, so we began thinking about how we could use these data build something the pubic might actually be able to use. Being a data visualization and mapping company, we decided to play to our strengths and build the NY Sewage map.
On this map you can view where sewage has been discharged, and get a quick idea of the volume of each discharge and how it was treated. Each discharge has an associated popup with other information from the DEC spreadsheet. In the upper right hand corner, visitors can also use the links to view data for the latest week or month of reports, or view all of the data since May 1, 2013, the day the law took effect. We also have links to the original Excel spreadsheet and a CSV that we created to populate the map.
If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of how we built this map, we'll be writing our process up shortly and posting to our blog, as well as posting the code up on GitHub. We'll share those links here in a future edit.
We would very much appreciate any feedback you may have, especially if you have ideas on how to integrate the CSO discharge data or other data that we maybe missing. We'd also like to hear from you if you're using the map and have ideas to make it better. Thanks!!
NiJeL Creates New Visualization Tools for Riverkeeper
We recently partnered with mWater, a leader in global mobile technology for water monitoring, on an exciting new environmental science and advocacy project for Riverkeeper. Riverkeeper is an organization dedicated "to protecting the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents." We produced a series of dynamic maps, tables, and charts highlighting water quality and its relationship to rainfall along the Hudson River. You can see the results of our work here.
The Riverkeeper team samples the Hudson for enterococcus, a marker for fecal contamination, and other water chemistry variables, like pH and salinity, and uploads their data into their WordPress site. We capture that data and display it on a map, table, and chart - so the public can see the latest entrococcus values for their favorite swimming and recreation spots. Visitors can see trends over time for all sites and get more detailed data and information on any specific location. Unsafe sampling values are marked clearly as red.
Our data visualizations highlight the connection between wet and dry weather and fecal contamination of the river. Wet weather (more than 0.25 inches of rain) in the days prior to sampling can mean a greater load of entrococcus coming from combined sewer overflow, or washing down from urbanized areas. Visitors can see which samples were taken in wet weather and how badly much enterococcus was measured.The data visualization tools can provide a quick view of a favorite swimming location, or more detailed data for a member of the public who wants to understand pollution patterns in-depth.
We hope that this site inspires more New Yorkers along the Hudson to get involved with Riverkeeper and help them advocate for clean water for drinking and recreating along the Hudson and all our rivers.
NiJeL will be at the International Network of Crisismapping conference in DC this Friday and over the weekend. Nancy Jones will be representing NiJeL and will be there to discuss NiJeL's role in addressing chronic crisis through technology. Nancy has been conducting research on the chronic crisis of home foreclosures and how this impacts the long-term resiliency of communities. She is working with the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at the Jacob France Institute, University of Baltimore. Come see her at the Friday Tech Fair where she will be discussing this and NiJeL's work in detail! Nancy's abstract and Ignite talk slides are below:
The Foreclosure Crisis as a threat to community resiliency
The Great Recession saw an increase in residential foreclosures that significantly impacted neighborhood stabilization. The resulting loss of residents and their investment left decayed portions of urban areas unable to snap back after the economy began to improve. As a result, new areas of blight put pressure on city resources while reducing property values and increasing crime. Meanwhile, children remain in these blighted neighborhoods, or are forced to move to other communities. These factors all threaten community resiliency to deal with future natural and economic crises. Communities that may have once had strong cultural institutions and resilient cores that would make them strong in the face of sudden crisis are now more vulnerable since they have been hollowed out by vacancy and blight. Support services such as police and fire may also no longer be available. While economists have deemed the recession technically over, the foreclosure crisis is continuing to destabilize communities and neighborhoods and will continue to erode resilience. Some of these communities may never recover and may not survive after a catastrophic sudden disaster.