geoViewing data from the NBN Gateway in Scottish Natural Heritage
In March 2007 Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) completed a three year series of projects of work under the umbrella of the Natural Heritage Data Management and Delivery (NHDMD) programme. NHDMD included, amongst other things, the adoption of Oracle Spatial for geographical data management and the development of a web-based GIS interface to replace the ArcView LGF application that was being retired.
The old LGF application was a great success in SNH. It was loved by more people than hated it (which is quite a boast for a GIS application) and a large contingent of its ‘super users’ were reluctant to see it go. But, in order to allow for the storage of single datasets that are available on an organisational-wide basis, go it had to.
The Systems and Data Team within SNH’s GI group took on the task of developing a replacement tool that could run in a browser and access the centrally managed data. Having used ESRI products for in excess of 10 years (command-line ArcView anyone?), it was not difficult to settle on ESRI’s ArcIMS as the development platform of choice. Whilst the new application was being built tested and rolled out, other GI officers were busy converting SNH’s holdings of species, habitats, designated site and context information from the file based formats into the new Oracle Spatial configuration. geoView, as the application is known, has been live in SNH for over a year now. The GI officers have been busy running training programmes and working to understand the requirements for extra functionality from across the organisation.
In early 2007, SNH officers responsible for Marine issues made enquiries about using data from the NBN Gateway within geoView. Within a few weeks, the requirement was confirmed and the developers started work on plumbing the NBN Gateway data pipes, in the form of web services, into geoView. The first phase of development is now complete. New functionality has been built into geoView to allow users to display the location and available information for species records held on the Gateway for a given area. This means that SNH officers can see Gateway-based data along side SNH specific species records, next to habitat layers and designated site boundaries over OS mapping or hydrograhic charts at an appropriate scale. It means that SNH staff do not have to do part of the work in geoView and then search the NBN Gateway website for any additional relevant information
This is one of the first examples of Gateway-based data being made available through an operational system. SNH staff have already commented positively about being able to get at species records without having to use the Gateway website whilst others have noted that this application has provided the first opportunity for them to use data from the Gateway in any form. Its use has not been limited to marine officers either. Advisory officers from the terrestrial side of the strand line have been encouraged to see what the functionality can do for them.
The development effort is being complemented by an ongoing data acquisition and mobilisation programme being managed by Jennifer Ryles in the Information Unit. Data from the RSPB, Highland Biological Recording Group and the Scottish Ornithologists Club is being loaded onto the Gateway so it is available to the general public and geoView users alike. We still have some work to do to allow SNH staff to be able to view restricted access records, but progress has been good and we look forward to the functionality and ease of use improving.