American Rivers

American Rivers is a website all about educating and influencing policy to protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers, and conserve clean water for people and nature. They provide updates in science as well as social updates related to their mission.  They include have a sustainable approach by approaching this with the triple bottom line. They discuss how rivers connect to environmental justice, how they are economic engines, and the new policy in Colorado that is a win for healthier rivers.

They go into a lot of depth on each one of their goals and the science behind what they do. For example, in their restoring damaged rivers section, they start by explaining key figures like how many dams have been removed since 1912 as well as a spatial analysis of this by providing a map.

Then they talk about all the different ways to restore rivers like restoring flood plains, replacing culverts, and river restoration resource centers.

They acknowledge a systems thinking approach by including information about energy development. Hydropower, mining, and fracking all contribute to river health. For all of their claims and steps forward, they provide external links and scientific research to support their information.

Coastal Change Hazards

The Coastal Change Hazards (CCH) site developed by the USGS features a plethora of information to equip anyone, average citizen or researcher alike, living near or simply concerned about any coastal area within the US. The CCH features information on a variety of natural phenomena that impact coastal communities including tides, waves, and weather – namely the hazards presented by severe storms, equipped with the Coastal-Marine Hazards and Resources Program (CMHRP). This information is acquired from Research, delivered to the Stakeholder Engagement and Communication (SEC) sector, and is applied in the Technical Capabilities and Applications (TCA) sector of the CCH program. Secondary pages within the CCH site include the Coastal and Marine Hazards Resource Program (CMHRP) -which includes a USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Data Catalog, a decadal strategic plan, and newsletter – Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, and “science stories” about coastlines around the nation.

While coastal counties (with the exclusion of Alaska) account for only 10% of the landmass of the US, 40% of the nation’s total population occupies them!

World Meteorological Organization: Climate Indicators

This website provides a trustworthy source for climate data. The data presented is assessed, catalogued and verified by an International Expert Group on Climate Data Modernization (IEG-GDM) assembled by the World Meteorological Organization from various disciplines. This section of the website contains a list of seven (7) main indicators scientists use to evaluate the state of the climate. These indicators are: surface temperature, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, ocean heat content, sea level, ocean acidification, sea ice, ice sheet extent, glacier mass balance, precipitation, and extreme indices for temperature and precipitation. These statistics all provide up to date information, most of the graphs showing data from 1950 forward to 2020. Additionally each of the 7 indicators feature data visualizations from a variety of sources. Pros of the website are that it is easy to navigate and the information is visually presented in a readable and straightforward format. Since there isn’t an overwhelming number of graphs for most of the indicators, I think it would be better however, to include a small description of the information being presented for each graph rather than requiring the user to open a link to another page for more information.

USGS’s Waterwatch

The U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterWatch displays data relating to hydrological events throughout the country in real time.  Interactive graphs, maps, and tables show streamflow, flood areas and drought areas. Maps and data can be viewed on both national and state scales.  Past streamflow data can be easily accessed. Annual summaries of streamflow data are also kept on this website. All this data can be displayed in a surprising number of ways.  WaterWatch’s toolkit section features 21 different graphs, charts, tables, and maps displaying and comparing streamflow data. My personal favorite is the customizable Streamflow Map Animation that shows streamflow data on a map over a period of time:

The USGS stores enough water data to drown any student or professional researcher.  Such data is collected by over 3,000 USGS stream gauges throughout the country. Streamflow data is important to measure on such large scales because rivers and streams connect surface runoff to to large water bodies and groundwater.  Streamflow for all streams is therefore vital to the water cycle.

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) showcases a wide variety of NASA programs using striking images, animations, videos, and other visuals. By synthesizing complex scientific research and data with visual elements, the Scientific Visualization Studio creates a largely accessible platform to promote education and a broader scientific understanding of earth and space processes. The website has curated various galleries tied to specific NASA projects. These collections range from Air Quality to Astrophysics to Carbon and Climate projects. One of the featured collections is of ICESat-2, or the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2, which launched on September 15th, 2018. ICESat-2 is NASA’s most advanced laser satellite instrument (ATLAS) and will be used to monitor changes in height, depth, and mass of ice sheets and glaciers with extreme levels of precision to better understand and predict sea-level rise. ICESat-2 will also provide essential information about forest vegetation, ocean surfaces, and urbanization, among other applications. To explain what the ICESat-2 project is hoping to accomplish and how they have gotten to this point, the SVS with Goddard Media Studios has produced many videos that explore the importance of ice sheets, how the laster altimeter technology works, and even documenting the 470-mile research expedition in Antarctica that accompanied this project. This website, with its galleries of scientific information and mapping related to climate change, glacial melt and sea level rise, hurricane and storm impacts, stratospheric ozone depletion, and forest fire intensity and prevalence are all topics we have discussed in our class. Additionally, projects like ICESat-2 demonstrate how different remote sensing technologies are being implemented for environmental and geographic research purposes.


This website tracks present lightning strikes and includes a database of past lightning, using colored dots on a world map to show the locations of strikes. The map on the homepage updates almost in real-time, with a delay of only a second or two, allowing you to see lightning as it strikes in Europe, Oceania, or North America. You can also use the website to see past lightning strikes in each of the regions, and you can view this information either as still images or in animations that show the lightning throughout a given day. In addition to documenting the lightning strikes themselves, the website also keeps track of the density of strikes, or how many strikes are occurring in close proximity to each other, and information on the the number of strikes that have occurred within any month in 2011 or later and for each full year in 2011 or later is also available.

The content of this website relates to our course in that it allows for a visual representation of storm systems through the electrical charges they produce. For example, when I looked at the real-time animation, the enormous number of lightning strikes occurring in the Gulf of Mexico indicated there was probably a large storm or storm system in the Gulf at that time. Similar evidence suggested to me there probably was a storm occurring in far Southeastern Australia. This website, examined over a period of time, would allow for an increased understanding of the trends affecting the development of storms likely to produce lightning. Such storms may be from larger systems, such as midlatitude cyclones, or they could be the result of isolated convection patterns in areas such as beaches, cities, and cropland. Nevertheless, the representation of lightning overlaid on a map allows for an understanding of where lightning-producing events tend to occur, and in which locations larger storm systems are likely to cause lightning and in which locations it is more likely that an isolated event is the cause. Additionally, the graphs available on lightning patterns over a period of months or years provide the opportunity to observe any trends in lightning strikes that may take place over time and to determine in which parts of the year lightning tends to strike the most.

NASA – State of the Ocean

NASA has created an online tool called “State of the Ocean”. This tool displays an interactive map of the world’s oceans populated with data collected from satellites. Users can select which data is being presented on the map to learn about variables like temperature, currents, and salinity. For variables with years of data collection, users can select specific date ranges to view change in one variable in a particular time frame. For example, if I wanted to observe changes in surface temperature off the coast of Vietnam between 2012 and 2014, I could easily do so and even create an animation so the map will visually change. This tool is useful for oceanographers who use this data and it’s fun to use.

Save the Sound

Save the Sound is a website dedicated to the waters of the Long Island Sound in New York and Connecticut. The Sound is an estuary ecosystem with a watershed that extends more that 16,800 square miles into Canada. However, the waters of the Sound face constant pressures from human activity throughout New England and Eastern New York. Save the Sound has been dedicated to the restoration, protection and preservation of the sound for over 40 years. The organization have programs dedicated to stopping pollution, restoring fisheries and habitats, defending drinking water and protecting the climate and air. Every year they have coastal cleanups that engage thousands of citizens to clean up marine debris. Save the Sound is a huge promoter of citizen scientists to monitor water quality and help them with their clean up efforts. Save the Sound encourages individuals who live around the Sound to become members or volunteer to the organization. They also work with schools and other organizations to create fundraisers and organize beach cleanups and educate people about how to help restore the Long Island Sound. Currently, they are working on a project to conserve Plum Island, an island that is the largest site for sea-gulls in New York and a habitat for 220 different bird species. In a 2009 act of Congress the Federal Government decided to put Plum Island up for auction. Save the Sound has gathered over 100 organizations to file a federal lawsuit and stop the sale of the island. Save the Sound is an organization that encourages people who leave near the Sound and use its resources on a daily basis to fight for their land and help restore it. Check out their website to learn about all of the initiatives they have in place to restore and save the Long Island Sound!

Image by Save the Sound

The Ocean Cleanup – The Largest Cleanup in History

The Ocean Cleanup is an environmental engineering organization that has been designing cutting edge technology for cleaning up the planet’s oceans. Led by 24-year old CEO Boyan Slat, the company has ambitiously focused its efforts on cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic and garbage covering 1.6 million km between Hawaii and California. It is the largest collection of ocean garbage in the world. The Ocean Cleanup is in the process of scaling up their prototype system in the North Sea to prepare it for use in the Pacific Ocean. Once perfected, the system will have the ability to collect trash from the ocean surface and a few feet under water, where garbage ships can come along and pick it up (check out the system in the picture below). At full capacity, the system will be able to remove 50% of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years. The website contains information and videos that are extremely helpful in understanding the technological development process and current stage that the company is at in getting the system fully operational. The cool thing about the website is that with the technology it displays being so revolutionary, the site truly allows you to see history unfolding before your eyes! You become a spectator of how an innovative group of people is making an impact in restoring our planet’s oceans closer to their natural state.

NOAA Interactive Natural Hazards Map

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has an interactive map called the Natural Hazards Viewer. This map contains data on both recent and historic significant natural disasters. The dataset includes tsunami events, tsunami observations, significant earthquakes, significant volcanic eruptions, volcanoes, Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) Deployments, plate boundaries, tsunami times, and selected significant tsunami events. When browsing the user can select which type of hazard they would like to see information on, and then the user can select different data points detailing these events.  There is a wide range of information available between points, some simply contain the date, location, and type of event, while others contain information on the fatalities, social and economic impacts, and information on the individual witnesses, and the events leading up to the natural disaster.

NOAA’s Natural Hazards Viewer compiles a large quantity of information natural disasters onto an easy to navigate and interactive interface. They get their data from the National Geophysical Data Center, which records data on earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, in order to support research, planning, and mitigation efforts.  I thought this was a really interesting use of GIS in order to create a map that not only compiles all the spatial data, but contains all the social and economic data as well. I would definitely recommend everyone play around with this website at some point, it is a really fascinating, freely available resource!