Category Archives: Information Science and Management

The Florida Fire Data Set

By Jennylyn Redner

Comprehensive, spatially explicit fire occurrence data is a critical need across Florida and the southeast. Many species and ecosystems throughout the state are reliant on fires and have specific requirements in frequency and seasonal timing to thrive as a species and function properly as a natural system. The availability of spatially and temporally accurate fire data is imperative to the successful management of natural resources in the state of Florida.

The Florida Fire data set is a comprehensive, spatially explicit map of wild and prescribed fire occurrences across the state. This data set was developed by Tall Timbers Research Station for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and relies on USGS Burned Area products which combines change detection algorithms, spectral indices, and reference areas with LANDSAT Imagery. The resulting product delineates burned areas at a 30 m pixel resolution for fires which occurred between 2006 – 2018 and includes fire regime metrics. Number of times burned, year last burned, and time since previous fire metrics are included in the data set. This is a living data set, updated annually as new USGS Burned Area products and LANDSAT imagery are released. Future efforts will include delineating historic fires for years dating back to 1984.

The fine scale resolution coupled with the spatial and temporal extent make this a unique and invaluable asset previously unavailable to natural resource managers, researchers and biologists. Developing a map-centric tool for the Conservation Planning Atlas (CPA) was a logical choice for disseminating this information to conservation partners.

This fire data is available through a web application that also contains land cover, management areas and potential habitat for threatened and endangered species in Florida which rely on pyrogenic communities. The fire web app tool on the CPA includes many standard GIS features and functions which will be familiar to GIS users, including adding custom data sets, the ability to filter, query and view attributes, and create maps.

Development continues on the web application to improve functionality and user experience. Due to the size, state extent, and complexity of the participating data sets, configuration of the web application and published feature services remains under development. Drawing properties, vector tiles, and scale displays are modified to improve functionality as user feedback is received.

The Florida Fire data set can be viewed and explored without ArcGIS software using the Fire Map Viewer: The data set can also be downloaded on the FWC GIS data page,

Additionally, to improve user experience and support, a user guide was developed to cover the functionality of the fire web application. This user guide provides an over view of the data and serve as a basic tutorial. Users are encouraged to provide feedback and report errors.

To obtain the full project report including detailed methods, results and project deliverables (45MB) email

Coral Disease Data Management and Response

By Nick Alcaraz

During the fall of 2014, over 20 species of stony corals near Key Biscayne in Miami-Dade County, Florida developed cases of disease-related tissue loss. The disease continued for multiple years along a large portion of the Florida Reef Tract (FRT). As of fall 2018, the outbreak had moved as far north as Martin County and south into the lower Florida Keys. Although yearly disease events occur regularly, this outbreak was uncommon due to the high number of affected species, the rapid mortality rate of colonies, and extended duration of the event.

A comprehensive data management implementation plan was necessary to deliver appropriate and timely information for coral disease response efforts. As part of the Data Management Team (DMT), staff from FWRI’s Center for Spatial Analysis (CSA) in St. Petersburg, FL are addressing data access, storage, analytics and visualization. The effort has generated synthesized data products to guide response actions such as field coordination and resource management decision support.

One aspect of the project consisted of collaboration with FWC’s Coral Reef Research Program. Reconnaissance and rescue of corals in the Lower Keys is currently taking place. Researchers needed resources to determine priority rescue locations, document the progression of the disease margin, and track corals in-lab after rescue. Solutions were developed using ESRI’s ArcGIS Online products, specifically the Operations Dashboard and Web-Mapping Applications. These tools synthesize Excel datasheets and provide an easy-to-use exploratory interface for field staff, research staff, managers, and the public.

The results of this project will be incorporated into an on-going coral disease response effort which seeks to: improve understanding about the scale and severity of the Florida Reef Tract coral disease outbreak, identify primary and secondary causes, identify management actions to remediate disease impacts, and ultimately restore affected resources.

Conservation Actions Tracker

By Sarah Sharkey

The Conservation Actions Tracker (CAT) is a new tool that provides a visual representation of past, current, and impending conservation work around the state and includes detailed information about each listed conservation action.  The tool provides a map interface, project details and the ability to filter search results.  In addition to viewing other conservation actions around the state, the CAT will allow partners to add their conservation action projects to the CAT. The tool was developed in response to requests by the Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative’s (PFLCC) Steering Committee.  They requested a tool that would allow them to easily find information about each other’s conservation projects.  The tool has the potential to assist partners as they pinpoint areas to focus their conservation efforts by providing a complete picture of the current and past conservation action projects in the state. With a complete picture, organizations can coordinate conservation actions to represent shared priorities across the state. The actions of each partner project are most effective as a cumulative effort towards landscape level conservation. Partners will be able to see the broader impact of their conservation actions through the CAT.

We recognized that it is challenging to stay up to date with the many conservation projects around the state. As partner organizations begin to use the Conservation Action Tracker, it will become easier to stay up to date; however, the tool will only be as good as the data entered and it is up to partners (including FWC) to take the time and add their project information.  If you would like to learn more about the CAT or would like an individual or group tutorial, contact Sarah Sharkey (  The CAT is on the PFLCC Conservation Planning Atlas page

If you are interested in using the Conservation Action Tracker, then please head over to the Conservation Planning Atlas.

MetaRep – FWC’s New Internal Metadata Tool

By Adrienne Ruga

The key to any good dataset or project is comprehensive metadata; information about the data itself.  Metadata addresses the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ the data was generated.  Over the years, FWRI utilized a variety of tools to create metadata.  The most recent tool was NOAA’s MERMAid (Metadata Enterprise Resource Management Aid) application which served as FWRI’s online metadata repository. Several years ago, NOAA decided to shelve this project. While there were other online metadata tools available, FWRI decided to develop its own.

FWRI-IS&M staff built a tool for FWC’s biological and geospatial** metadata needs, called MetaRep (Metadata Repository), but it’s much more than a repository. It allows you to:

  • Create new project and dataset metadata records
  • Search, filter, and edit existing records
  • Self-manage your information in the contact database
  • Export a FGDC XML* document for grant deliverables
  • Draw geographic study areas with a Mapping tool
  • Associate project with dataset records
  • A Help document explains how to use the tool

MetaRep was designed for ease of use and with an awareness of users’ time constraints. The only required fields are on the first tab of the record entry view. However, the more details the better, so we provided tabs for you to fill out additional information such as habitat, species, data information, geographic details, and to draw study areas on a map.

FWC’s metadata records are used for several purposes, the most important of which are to archive information about data for future research, for data discovery so other researchers will know what research has been conducted and in which geographic areas, and to show granting agencies the value of our research.

Federally-funded projects normally require researchers to submit metadata with their deliverables. MetaRep allows you to easily export your metadata record as an XML or a Word document to include with your final documents. Even if your project doesn’t mandate a metadata record, it’s strongly encouraged that you create metadata for datasets and projects.

We worked to make this tool useful and simple to use. We hope that once you start using it, you’ll appreciate the value of metadata and how it supports our mission.

The FWC-RIC’s Metadata page provides a link to training materials and to the metadata application. It also contains a Suggestion Log link for you to help us improve the next iteration of MetaRep.

For more details, please feel free to contact 727-502-4774.

*Federal Geospatial Data Committee’s standard for metadata (FGDC-CSDGM)

** To record complete geospatial datasets (with Entities and Attributes) consider using ArcCatalog and/or the EPA Metadata Editor (EME) version 3.2.1, which can be used with or without ArcCatalog.  

Here’s the link to the EME:  Download the “”, which has a .msi file to install. Do not use the newer version of the EME as that is for the ISO standard.

Hurricane Michael Displaced Vessel Response

By Jonathan Veach and Timyn Rice

With Hurricane Irma still fresh in the minds of many Floridians, Hurricane Michael made a ferocious landfall as a high-end category 4 storm near Mexico Beach on Oct. 10t, 2018. Michael was the strongest storm on record to strike the Florida Panhandle and was the strongest hurricane in terms of maximum sustained wind speed to strike the contiguous United States since Andrew in 1992. At least 60 deaths were attributed to the storm.

On Oct. 18t, FWC and the U.S. Coast Guard received a FEMA mission assignment under ESF-10 (hazardous materials) to remove the pollution threat caused by displaced vessels within state waters, similar to the response after Hurricane Irma. The total mission assignment funding is $18,600,000 and ends February 16, 2019. 1,363 displaced vessels were identified by aerial imagery and field assessments. The mission is nearly complete, with 543 targets closed out of the 544 vessels deemed as requiring action. To date, 24,381 gallons of pollutants have been recovered.

A vessel being removed from a sensitive site.

FWC Law Enforcement staffed the Incident Command Post and provided uniformed officers and patrol vessels at all recovery operations. FWRI led the Environmental Unit (EU) which identified 341 targets in environmentally sensitive areas such as salt marshes, seagrass beds, aquatic preserves, historical sites and other critical habitats. Responders used ESRI Collector and Survey 123 applications to track and document progress throughout all phases of the response. The EU established a set of Best Management Practices and provided training to the vessel response teams to protect wildlife and minimize the impacts during recovery and removal operations. Hurricanes are a reality of Florida and FWC takes these operations with the respect they deserve.

Florida Coastal Mapping Program

By Rene Baumstark

The Florida Coastal Mapping Program (FCMaP) was initiated in 2017 as a coordinating body of Florida State and Federal partners who have a goal of achieving consistent, state-wide, high resolution seafloor data for Florida’s coastal zone in the next decade. These data will provide critical baseline information to support a range of applications including coastal security, resource management, fisheries, storm surge modeling, boating safety, and tourism, as well as future uses, such as renewable energy and offshore aquaculture.

An inventory of existing high-resolution seafloor mapping data collected on Florida’s shelf was undertaken by a technical team comprised of FCMaP partners. The footprints and metadata for 345 datasets were compiled and assessed on whether they met certain criteria such as age, spatial coverage, and resolution.  For the inventory, gap analysis, and prioritization process, the Florida peninsula was separated into six regions based on geomorphological characteristics: Panhandle, Big Bend, West Peninsula, Keys, Southeast, and Northeast. In consideration of differing sensor and survey design requirements, results in each region were further divided into two depth ranges: nearshore (shoreline out to 20 meters) and shelf (20 meters to the continental shelf break).

The gap analysis revealed that less than 20% of Florida’s coastal waters have been mapped using modern bathymetric methods (multibeam sonar or aerial lidar). The overall lack of high-resolution seafloor mapping for Florida is surprising given that Florida’s coastal areas generate more than $30 billion dollars a year in revenue, which is the 2nd highest in the nation. The region with the least amount of high resolution data is the Big Bend nearshore where less than 3% has been mapped with modern technologies. Where any data do exist, they are often lead-line measurements from the late 1800s, with one data point per 100 m2.  The data disparity between regions is large and by comparison, the best-mapped region, Southeast, FL, has modern bathymetry for 86% of its area. The reason for the discrepancy is two-fold; Southeast FL is very densely populated, and the shelf is extremely narrow in comparison with the Big Bend.

High resolution mapping gap assessment results for inshore and deeper waters for six subregions around Florida. The best mapped area are shallow waters of the SE Florida region where 39% of the seafloor has been mapped.

FCMaP is presently soliciting input from managers, planners, and decision-makers to prioritize coastal and seafloor mapping needs. A mapping prioritization tool developed by NOAA (Kendall et al., 2018; Battistia, et al., 2017) was adapted to be a FL-specific application and is being rolled out region by region via a series of stakeholder workshops. Representatives from multiple federal, state, academic, and private entities are introduced to FCMaP and discuss the relevance of high resolution seafloor maps to their regions science and management needs. A single representative from each agency is then tasked with populating the tool with input from their colleagues Analytics are then run on to generate a cumulative prioritization for the region that can be displayed as a map product, and the associated justifications for the mapping need statistically evaluated.

To demonstrate the value of a coordinated approach, FCMaP partners have also engaged in a demonstration seafloor mapping effort in the Big Bend Region. High resolution bathymetry will be collected for select key management areas. These data will be some of the first modern bathymetry collected in this region and the map products will contribute to management efforts such as fisheries stock assessments, seagrass distribution, and oyster reef occurrences. In addition, outcomes from the demonstration will be used used to investigate the influence of the variable geologic framework on coastal response and evolution, providing both enhanced management capacity and science for improved understanding of coastal behavior in this little-understood region of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.



Battista, T., Buja, K., Christensen, J., Hennessey, J., and Lassiter, K. 2017. Prioritizing Seafloor Mapping for Washington’s Pacific Coast: Sensors, 17(4).

Kendall, M.S., K. Buja, and C. Menza. 2018. Priorities for Lakebed Mapping in the Proposed Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 246. Silver Spring, MD. 24 pp.

Changes in Seagrass Within Indian River Lagoon System

By Renee Duffy

Modern methods of remote acquisition, image data processing and modeling have presented new opportunities to research and better understand the complexities of seagrass ecology. The high spatial and spectral resolution information provided by modern airborne sensors such as satellite imagery presents opportunities to monitor subtle yet ecologically important changes in seagrass abundance.

In 2016, FWRI’s Center for Spatial Analysis received funds from FDEP’s Coastal Management Program to quantify long term changes in seagrass cover within the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) system. The demand for improved mapping and monitoring submerged resources in the IRL was driven, in part, by unprecedented losses in seagrass resulting from several algal ‘super bloom’ events starting in 2011.

The study employed a supervised classification method to map seagrass percent cover by relating spectral values in the satellite image to percent cover observations collected at fixed station transects by the St. John’s River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and the Ecological Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Worldview-2 satellite imagery and seagrass percent cover observations along a fixed station transect routinely monitored by the SJRWMD.

Results indicated considerable declines in percent cover between 2010 and 2016. The extent of seagrass loss, however, was spatially and temporally variable throughout the lagoon system. Throughout the study area, seagrass cover was highest in 2010 and 2011 just prior to the 2011 super bloom and then declined considerably in 2012. In several areas, there were signs of recovery with increased percent cover in 2013, however, seagrass declined in 2015 and was nearly absent in most areas by 2016.

Declines in seagrass percent cover were highest in the southern portion of the Indian River Lagoon and throughout the Banana River with as much as 100% loss of the densest seagrass (75-100% cover). While complete loss of seagrass was observed by 2015 and 2016 in some areas, there was a general pattern of “thinning” in seagrass percent cover throughout the study area. This pattern is characterized by replacement of dense seagrass (>50% cover) with sparse, low density seagrass (<25% cover). The extent of this variation was not detectable from small scale in situ transect monitoring nor from temporally limited aerial photography. Results of the study emphasized the need for evaluating landscape-scale variability in seagrass percent cover using a variety of remote sensing technologies.

FWRI Researchers Catalog the José Torres Collection

By Jonny Veach

In response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, USF Professor Emeritus Dr. José J. Torres spearheaded a study to assess the oil spill’s effect on deeper, mesopelagic and midwater species that were migrating vertically through oil plumes – “RAPID Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Impact of sub-surface oil plumes on mesopelagic fauna”.

The “RAPID Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” study obtained a wide array of mesopelagic fauna, including the deep sea hatchetfish, as seen above. Specifically, the Deepwater study sought to document the effects of the oil spill on the highly diverse and vertically mobile fish and crustacean species of the water column, since most species reside at depths below 600 meters during the day, but migrate into the upper 250 meters at night. Because of this migration, a large portion of the mid-water community would be migrating through oil plumes. Because of a very deep well-head and extensive use of dispersants, the chances that these organisms would encounter petroleum hydrocarbons was very high. The data collected in this project provides a stable isotope baseline allowing for evaluation of present and future subsurface oil impact.

Various specimens being identified by FWRI researchers.

Researchers at the FWRI are currently in the process of determining exactly what species are present in the Torres collection. Some of the groups represented in the samples are diverse species of fishes, shrimp, jellyfish, amphipods, pyrosomes, salps and more. Many of these species have bioluminescent organs or other adaptations for living in the dark. One of our FWRI interns, Vang Thach, is working through the invertebrates to definitively identify which species are present.

There is currently no active research involving these specimens, but by cataloging and inventorying the collection, they will be made available for research purposes. FWRI received the collection from Dr. Torres in April 2013. The Torres collection is particularly noteworthy because the FWC doesn’t normally collect at these depths for usual monitoring programs. These deeper water specimens are very valuable in part because of the expense of physically collecting these specimens. The Torres collection is here to stay as a permanent collection item for the FWRI, to serve as an important looking-glass into mesopelagic gulf species for the future.

Meet FWC’s Climate Adaptation Core Team

By Lily Swanbrow Becker

This fall will mark ten years since FWC officially began its work on climate change adaptation by hosting a statewide summit.  Since then, we’ve traveled down a long and winding path.  Our team has gained and lost talented staff along the way but the journey has been a productive one and today we find ourselves with a dedicated, cross-divisional team and a long list of accomplishments.  Previous iterations of the Climate Adaptation Core Team have worked with internal staff and partners to complete climate vulnerability assessments, integrate adaptation into our State Wildlife Action Plan, host training and scenario planning workshops and publish a comprehensive guide to Florida natural resource adaptation, accessible to anyone here, to name a few examples.  These days, our small team is looking to the future and setting a course of priority goals and actions for the next five years.

In the beginning, we focused on laying the groundwork by pursuing critical science to better understand the projected impacts of climate change on Florida fish and wildlife and identifying key vulnerabilities.  We’re now in a great position to continue building on this knowledge and technical capacity by helping to coordinate and strengthen research and monitoring programs, leveraging funding opportunities and developing a data sharing platform to support and coordinate the important research FWC staff and partners are doing.  However, as we set our sights on the end goal of integrating climate adaptation throughout the agency and implementing meaningful on-the-ground adaptations actions, we are increasingly focusing on the importance of communicating effectively and building internal capacity and community.

One of the first steps in that process is the very intent of this brief update: we’d like to let you know we’re here!  Our team recently began an internship program based out of Tallahassee and our new climate adaptation interns have done an excellent job launching a monthly newsletter.  If you’d like to stay updated on climate-related funding opportunities, events, resources, publications and more, please send a brief email to Lily, mentioning that you’d like to subscribe.  As we continue moving toward finalizing our five-year goals and work plan this spring, we’ll be adding more content to our team SharePoint site, which you’re always welcome to explore.  And finally, if you’re already working on a climate-related topic and you’re not connected with our team, we’d love to hear from you.  We’ll have many opportunities for collaboration in the days ahead and we hope to make as many connections throughout FWRI as possible, as we carry forward working on this pressing issue.

Current Climate Adaptation Core Team Members: René Baumstark (FWRI), Brian Branciforte (HSC), Terry Doonan (HSC), Bob Glazer (FWRI), Beth Stys (FWRI), Lily Swanbrow Becker (HSC/FWRI)

Living Shoreline Suitability Model for Tampa Bay: A GIS Approach

By Chris Boland

Because of the threat of shoreline erosion from strong storm action and sea level rise affecting waterfront property values, considerable attention has been focused on shoreline protection.  In the recent past, shorelines have been “stabilized with hardened structures, such as bulkheads, revetments, and concrete seawalls.  Ironically, these structures often increase the rate of coastal erosion, remove the ability of the shoreline to carry out natural processes, and provide little habitat for estuarine species.”[1]  Alternatively, government agencies responsible for resource protection have proposed more natural bank stabilization and erosion control called “living shorelines,” which NOAA defines as: “… a range of shoreline stabilization techniques along estuarine coasts, bays, sheltered coastlines, and tributaries… [that]… incorporates [natural] vegetation or other living, natural ‘soft’ elements alone or in combination with some type of harder shoreline structure (e.g. oyster reefs or rock sills) for added stability… [to] maintain continuity of the natural land-water interface and reduce erosion while providing habitat value and enhancing coastal resilience.”[2]

Figure 1

FWRI’s Center for Spatial Analysis (CSA) has taken an interest in living shorelines in the Tampa Bay region and, as a state partner in the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), became aware of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s (VIMS) Living Shoreline Suitability Model (LSSM)[3] and its application in Mobile Bay, Alabama.[4]  VIMS developed the LSSM in ESRI’s ArcGIS Model Builder based on a decision tree that can assist in identifying appropriate living shoreline treatments to an area (Figure 1).  Because of the LSSM’s success in identifying locations where a living shoreline restoration project may be effective, CSA’s Kathleen O’Keife and Chris Boland received grant funding from GOMA’s Habitat Resources Team (HRT) to apply the LSSM to the Tampa Bay region.

The LSSM requires information about existing environmental conditions to correctly apply the decision tree, such as existing habitat, slope of coastal waters, environmental conditions (e.g. fetch, current speed, and sunlight shading), and potential construction barriers (e.g. nearby road or permanent structures).  The recently updated (June 2016) environmental sensitivity index (ESI) dataset, originally collected for oil spill response purposes, answered many of these required criteria and so became CSA’s base input dataset to the model.  CSA staff spent approximately four months of full-time work to manually review each of the 5,162 shoreline segments, which ranged in length from about 100 feet to about 500 feet and classified the remaining required data fields appropriately.

Once completed, the LSSM model was run based upon the derived input dataset and completed in less than an hour.  The model outputs resulted in additional fields that provide property owners and management entities with suggested Upland Best Management Practices (BMP) and Shoreline BMPs. [5]  The results are displayed in Figures 2 and 3.  Overall, the modified LSSM recommended the installation of a living shoreline to approximately 33% of the shoreline, protection from a “harder” landscape protection method to about 11% of the shoreline, and was unable to recommend a BMP to the rest (56%) Tampa Bay area’s shoreline, typically because the installation of a living shoreline would be obstructed by an existing shoreline condition.

Figure 2

Figure 3

The model results can be reviewed in CSA’s educational materials that were developed as grant deliverables.  The ArcGIS Online story map ( was developed to inform the general public of the use of living shorelines as a shoreline protection alternative, and the Web Mapping Application ( was intended to assisting managers in identifying potential preservation and mitigation areas.

[1] (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d.)

[2] (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2015)

[3] (College of William and Mary: Virginia Institute Of Marine Science: Center for Coastal Resource Management, 2018)

[4] (Woodrey, 2016)

[5] (VIMS: Center for Coastal Resource Management Program, 2015)