Over the years government agencies, and industry for that matter, amass a huge amount of survey information in the process of completing individual projects. It is information that invariably never sees the light of day again.
But one project team working with the Department of Transport (DoT), Fremantle has brought together an extraordinary online picture of how the Western Australian coastline has changed over the last 140 years.
The Managing Coastal Vulnerability Project (MCV) project manager Ralph Talbot-Smith and his team have spent the last 18 months organizing some of the Department’s maritime spatial information into coherent and cohesive datasets that work for researchers, managers and the general public.
“What we’re finding is everything is related to everything,” Mr Talbot-Smith said. “The coastline changes a huge amount over a short period of time. Although some records date back to 1875, the majority start from the 1940s and even from then you can still see changes in the undulating coastline, some places a lot greater than others.
“The coastline changes but probably the habitat changes as well. So a change in seagrass beds may be related to coastline changes but unless we have this in data available we can’t make those comparisons. The Department of Transport has opened up this door and people are starting see the importance and the potential.
“The biggest dataset was the Hydrographic Bathymetric data which took six months to convert 1000 DoT surveys to a standard horizontal datum. Then we converted all surveys from individual chart datum’s to AHD and retained survey metadata before loading it into the Bathymetric Information System (BIS), which is software supplied by ESRI,” Mr Talbot-Smith said.
There are seven data sets that have been compiled over the last 18 months. Now the MCV project team is moving on to do the same job at the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife.
“We’ve tried to future proof the data so that if systems change, the transfer of information is going to be easy,” Mr Talbot-Smith said. “We have also provided detailed documentation and training to the data custodians on the procedures to update and maintain the datasets.”
Ralph Talbot-Smith is now advocating for a central information hub for Coastal & Marine habitats to be established at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre where agencies can have:
- Individual datasets that can be updated as sampling is expanded;
- Access to other participants’ data and linked to video and photos in the same hub;
- Stored data collected by Lidar or multibeam with reflectance and backscatter information;
- The ability to eventually consolidate combined habitat determinations.
“It’s an idea that, in this resource poor economic climate, makes a lot of sense,” Mr Talbot-Smith said. “It also follows along the Blueprint for Marine Science 2050 direction for a central knowledge hub. I believe it could advance the amount of habitat information and provide 10-times what we have now for Western Australia.”