September 26, 2016
Anna Nakae

SpatialDev is excited to introduce our latest project, which is happening right here in Seattle! Earlier this month SpatialDev partnered with local ecologist and conservationist, Michelle Wainstein, PhD, and the Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) on their project Otter Spotter. Otter Spotter is a community science initiative where people can submit information about river otter sightings around Washington. The project was started by Dr. Wainstein and WPZ in an effort to start generating basic distribution information and to help locate otter scat, which can be used to monitor pollution levels and overall river health. This is especially important for waterways like the Lower Duwamish, a superfund site in south Seattle, where close observation of river health is crucial to the clean up process. Though the project is less than a year old, there have already been over 350 sightings submitted. In an effort to further enhance the project, Dr. Wainstein and SpatialDev, with funding from Washington Sea Grant, set out to hire an intern with the goals of improving the spatial component of the location data and better engaging the Otter Spotter participants.

Early in September, Holly Callahan, a recent graduate from Seattle University with a B.S in Marine and Conservation Biology, was hired and joined the SpatialDev team. She was a perfect Otter Spotter intern candidate as she has a passion for conservation science, a strong understanding of GIS as well as a crazy talent to learn new things quickly, efficiently and thoroughly. With guidance from Dr. Wainstein and technical help from SpatialDev, Holly is diving into the project head first. She already has researched many different models of online citizen science data collection and is currently in the process of redesigning the submissions page with elements like a web map. Her hope is that a web map will improve the geographic accuracy of otter sightings for research as well as increase the interactivity of the otter data for participants. As part of the process, Holly is exploring the geo-web-world with a variety of tools ranging from software like QGIS and PostGIS to languages like HTML and Javascript to even platforms like GitHub and OpenStreetMap.

OtterForm.jpg The Otter Spotter form is mobile friendly if you are filling it out on the go. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

At SpatialDev one of our goals is to strengthen our relationship with our community by helping with local projects, like the Phinney Ridge Garage Sale and Ballard Seafood Fest. The Otter Spotter project is a great opportunity for us at Spatial Dev to leverage our products and processes that we regularly use on larger scale projects to be reused for smaller, local projects. We are very fortunate to be able to collaborate with such great people as Dr. Wainstein, Holly, and the WPZ staff. We are looking forward to what comes next and we can’t wait to see what Holly creates!

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