SilverStripe Ltd worked together with NIWA (National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research) on setting up the Ocean Survey 20/20 portal. The website displays results and data from the OS 20/20 programme. The OS 20/20 programme is a government initiative, which aims to provide a better knowledge of New Zealand's ocean territory and to make this knowledge available to the public.
The website and its data currently gets used by environmentalists, conservationists, scientists, commercial & recreational fishers and recreational divers. The site displays environmental data in a user friendly way via mapping applications.
A couple of weeks ago, Rainer Spittel, Head of Development at SilverStripe, worked with Brent Wood, consultant at NIWA, to extend the current website and add a few new features. This offered a good time to have a chat with the two of them and find out what it's all about.
What are the changes we made on the Ocean Survey 20/20 Portal?
Rainer: “We added the results of other OS 20/20 surveys to the existing projects and published the data in a reusable way. We also implemented two new projects, the Chatham Challenger and the New Zealand IPY-CAML project. We added a data map to the Chatham Challenger project in which we included a tool to query species observations and modelled distribution. The website user is now able to choose different styles, such as icons and colours for the map, which gives the website user the ability to change the default appearance of data on the map.
The map data is also linked to search tools which enables the user to query additional data sources, relevant to the information shown on the map. This way, the website user can search for reports, or raw data directly by using the query tools via the map.”
The mapping function in all the projects looks quite advanced. Is that a SilverStripe application?
Rainer: “SilverStripe developed a component for the CMS that, once it is installed, allows you to add mapping capability to the website without the need of any development skills. The SilverStripe CMS supports various web service standards and formats which allow the content editor of the site to add new datasets easily without any need to redeploy the site or do code changes.
The map data is provided by open source back end services, which can be consumed by the CMS and presented to users.”
What data are the maps shown on the OS 20/20 website based on?
Rainer: “NIWA performs surveys around New Zealand and creates large datasets. This site publishes the dataset of the Ocean Survey 20/20. The maps present selected data-sets of those surveys. Detailed reports or other data sources have been made available for direct download via a catalogue service, which is part of the OS 20/20 portal website.
The map data used for the OS 20/20 portal are processed data-sets of observations and surveyed data-sets, such as bathymetry datasets or species observations.”
What are your favourite new site features and why?
Rainer: “Being able to query data and show the results on the map directly is a great add-on. This functionality allows the website user to search a great amount of data. Each record shown on the map provides a ‘drill-down’ feature to retrieve more information about individual species.
The drill down feature allows users to look up more data that is linked to the map, such as photos and reports. An image server provides photos from the seabed taken with the NIWA underwater camera set DTIS. Linking the different datasets and presenting them in a user friendly way is a challenge, but the result is exciting.”
The application allows users to choose the style for different species and stations. How does that help when using the map?
Rainer: “As a website user, you have the capability to change the styling of the layers on the map. This gives the user the flexibility to choose styles as they desire. Some project maps do provide a large number of species data which challenges the design aspect of the map. Giving the map user options to style the map will help the user to create a map which presents the data in an even better way.”
You also added the New Zealand IPY-CAML project to the site. What is that project about?
Rainer: “This project publishes the data and reports of a biological survey of the Ross Sea. The data has been made available via reports and raw data-sheets. As a website user, I have the ability to view all reports and download datasets for further processing.”
What were the biggest challenges that you faced while working on these website improvements?
Rainer: “The entire portal is built on open standards and all key data services and back end systems have been integrated via standardised APIs, such as OGC (Open GeoSpatial Consortium) standards.
The species picker created a few challenges as the underlying data needed to be linked to different data sources that all had to be OGC compliant.
The species picker, that was originally created for the Chatham/Challenger project map, queries data-feeds from an OGC Web Feature Service and links the data to additional map data, such as the modelled distribution maps. All those data-feeds need to perform well and fast which creates specific challenges regarding caching and aggregating those feeds.
We built all the enhancements in a reusable way, the logic and relationship of those datasets can be managed in the CMS and we can also reuse the features for new projects and different datasets.
A similar feature will also be part of the SilverStripe open source geospatial module.”
Why is SilverStripe a good partner to work with on this website?
Brent: “Silverstripe has staff with a good understanding of spatial data issues and web mapping technologies, as well as metadata catalogue systems. They also have an open source CMS, enabling redeployment of the site for other purposes with no licence issues. They are a stable and successful company that we expect to be able to maintain a long term relationship with."
What is coming up next for os2020.org.nz?
Brent: “The site is being rebranded as a NIWA rather than OS 20/20 site, and is having its scope expanded to deliver data from non-OS 20/20 coasts & oceans projects as well as OS 20/20 ones.”
Thank you very much for this conversation. We are looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.
Post your comment
Comments for this post are now closed.