Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a technology that enables the science of geography to be employed by our marine researchers. Geography is the science of the world and the study of place and GIS provides the framework to view, explore, model, analyze, and store geographic data.
GIS is an excellent resource for marine researches because it allows us to explore marine phenomena spatially. One example of how we are using GIS in our work is with our right whale research team. We have the ability to analyze right whale locations acquired over the past two and a half decades from shipboard or aerial surveys to explore the environmental data associated with each sighting, such as sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a concentrations, and depth of the sea floor. From these comparisons we can develop predictions of habitat use patterns. We can also use these locations to explore and model the potential for conflicts with fishing gear locations and shipping lanes. This type of information can help managers and scientists develop strategies to protect and encourage the recovery of this endangered species and conserve our marine environment.
GIS uses thematic layers to model the real world.