Pieces are slowly falling on...the map

The main outcome of the project is a smart map, which has kept the website developers at the University of Iceland busy. Rather than aiming to be an operational tool for oil spill response authorities, it aims to educate and raise awareness of the general public about risks related to Arctic oil spills and about Arctic issues in general. Several kind of challenges have been encountered in the making of the map already...


Victor and Samuel sketching the contents of the smart map

What is the NPA region, what is included in it? The NPA proegramme area has been precisely defined in the programme manual so that the potential partners know, whether they are eligible for NPA funding based on their geographical location. Maritime borders of the region, on the other hand, have not been given as much thought, since they are not as important from the programme's administrative point of view. But they do matter for our project in particular. This was one of the first tasks that the project partners had to address, as the planning of the smart map started. Where do we draw its lines? The NPA region has thousands of kilometers of shoreline, and naturally it would be important to include all of that in our map. But how far into the open seas do we venture out? Till we hit land (or ice) again?

Other geographical challenges have been addressed as well. For instance, most  of the Norwegian coastline is included in the NPA region, but that's not the case around Scotland or Baltic Sea. Most of the oil spill response equipment is located outside of the NPA region in Scotland, Finland and Sweden. In case of oil spill in the NPA area, the necessary response tools would have to be transported to the site from outside of the region. Therefore, it would not make sense to include only that oil spill response infrastructure, which is located within the NPA region. Other similar cases have emerged as well. Migrating seabirds, fish species and marine mammals do not recognize NPA borders either. The developers have had to exercise some flexibility when it comes to drawing the borders of the smart map.

Another big issue is naturally the contents of the smart map. What kind of information there should be on the map, what aspects of the Arctic and oil spill response are relevant and should be lifted on the map? Some answers are quite obvious - where are the oil and gas extraction sites, where are the shipping lines and where are the natural protection areas, etc.? There is a lot of smart maps out there already in the world wide web, which have served as an inspiration for us on how to portray things in map form, what can be done, etc. Some maps have also information, which is relevant for our map too, but using of this information requires permission from the owner of the map. This, however, might not be the big obstacle preventing its usage, it can turn out to be a technical one in the end. Extracting information from one map to another can be quite a simple task, if the maps share the same background map. If the information is in another form, more work is required and in some cases this can require too much effort for the gained good. And how do you turn the information from those excel or word reports to symbols on the map? Well that requires a lot of coding as well...

At the moment the map development has entered a stage, where the focus has shifted from setting up of the map platform into incorporating information on the various map layers of the smart map. As the autumn progresses and turns into winter, we hope to have our first version of the smart map launched. Maybe we will do that in the Arctic Frontiers in Tromso - perhaps we will see you there?