UCSB Marine Science Institute project scientist Will McClintock is currently completing SeaSketch, a new version of the free web-based marine mapping and spatial planning program, MarineMap.

The program was relatively limited in scope and had only a trickle of funding, but in 2011 McClintock was introduced to Jack Dangermond — the president and founder of Esri, a software company specializing in geographic information systems (GIS)— by UCSB geography professor Michael Goodchild.

Following a $500,000 contribution from Dangermond, McClintock and his team of researchers and programmers were able to expand on the project.

In 2009, MarineMap proved itself an essential tool for fishermen and other stakeholders along the California coastline. By gathering and allowing data to be viewed with trends and sections, MarineMap allowed stakeholders to help plan out and protect fishing zones along the California coast.

Dangermond immediately understood the MarineMap program and expressed interest in seeing it taken further, Chad Burt, lead programmer on the SeaSketch project, said.

“He had a really good sense of what we were trying to do and thought it was important that we continue that work, and so he funded us to develop a new tool, using some of his company’s technology as well,” Burt said.

The half a million dollars Dangermond gave to McClintock’s team for the SeaSketch program helped to add notation, data marking and networking features to the program. SeaSketch now goes beyond MarineMap’s focus on the California coastline.

Burt explained that the old program was a tool for geospatial analyses and looking at data layers in easy-to-use web-based software.

Before MarineMap, geospatial planning was difficult, but the program allowed ease of planning and data alignment. SeaSketch is accessible to those with little experience with using GIS applications and will allows users to design marine life protection projects.

SeaSketch has global applications, and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand has already expressed an interest in the program.

Burt said that he believes the program will have a big impact, proving very useful for any planning process where many people are involved.

“This provides them with the best available science and good analytical reporting on the ideas that they’re coming up with,” Burt said.

A user-friendly, thorough and well-constructed geospatial planning program such as SeaSketch can make zoning areas of the ocean for things such as fishing, protected zones or oil drilling much easier and can help create solutions to the complex problems that exist today, bringing the data together to prevent conflicts.

Burt added that the program could even be extended to terrestrial uses, seeing a possible version of the program that could be used for city zoning or protected rainforest.