Researchers and fishermen alike use ShoreZone's online map to explore Alaska's coast online.
ShoreZone is project that provides photo and video footage of the coast of Alaska. They passed a benchmark last month—imagery of more than 90% of Alaska’s coast is publicly available online. It’s like Google Street View for the coast.
The project began in British Columbia in the 1970s. It came to Alaska in 2001. Kelly Ingram is the ShoreZone Partnership Coordinator for the Nature Conservancy.
“You’re able to fly and see images from the coastline and then see a ton of other data about the habitat, the substrate, the wave exposure, erosion potential, lots and lots of other data,” Ingram says.
In order to map the coast, a team flies in a helicopter along the coast at low tide. They fly 300 feet off the ground and 300 feet from the shore at 80 miles per hour. A photographer takes photos every 3 seconds, and another crew member takes video.
There are a variety of uses for such imagery.
“First off, it provides a baseline inventory of the coastline. This really provides really detailed information about the geology and the species that are there along the coastline so that it can be used for oil spill response planning, can be used for looking at climate change and how things are being affected along our coast,” says Ingram. “It can be used to look at fish habitat areas, or it can be used to plan your kayaking trip or if you’re going out on your boat fishing or something like that.”
The remaining 8% of Alaska’s coast that ShoreZone has yet to map is going to be difficult terrain, Ingram admits, but teams are at work on it right now.
David Ward is a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Alaska Science Center in Anchorage. He uses ShoreZone in his research in Southwest Alaska. He mapped the distribution and abundance of eelgrass in the Yukon Delta, Togiak, Izembek, and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuges. Their primary means of mapping was by Landsat imagery and field surveys, and ShoreZone helped.
“It helped us to supplement some areas where we’ve lacked…data for mapping or just further helped us to refine our mapping of eelgrass in those areas,” says Ward.
ShoreZone photographs, video footage, and data are free and available online at ShoreZone.org