25 Jul 2006

Launch of the Marine Irish Digital Atlas (MIDA) at University College Cork (UCC)

Access to a wealth of information on the marine and coastal environment is now available online in a new digital atlas, officially launched today (25 July 2006) by Professor Gerard T. Wrixon, President, UCC. The Marine Irish Digital Atlas (MIDA), which has taken over four years to develop, has been produced and is maintained by UCC's Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC).  The atlas provides an insight into topics of general interest such as information on water-based tourism, natural coastal features, special habitats and a range of species, including seals, whales and dolphins.

For students or coastal practitioners with more specific information requirements, the interactive atlas hosts over 115 maps, displaying the locations of features such as ship wrecks, marinas, ports and conservation areas.  According to project manager Liz O'Dea, thanks to data agreements with over 30 data providers, some data can also be downloaded directly.

The MIDA initiative, originally funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), has helped UCC's CMRC to build capacity in marine geomatics by attracting researchers from across Europe and the United States to work on the project.  The MIDA engine (i.e. the technology upon which it functions) is based on state of the art open source software, which has been customised by GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and computer science specialists working within the Centre.  This effort was complimented by contributions from researchers in UCC and other institutions with expert knowledge of the coastal and marine environment, leading to an interdisciplinary approach to the implementation of the project.

The launch of MIDA places Ireland in the unique position of being one of a limited number of countries with access to an integrated marine data and information resource at the national level.  Other national or state level atlases are available in Australia, Belgium and the state of Oregon.  As a result, the MIDA launch has been organised to coincide with a transatlantic workshop, hosted in UCC this week, involving marine scientists from the US, Belgium, the UK, Canada and Ireland as well as the European Environment Agency. These scientists aim to identify the future challenges for managing coastal data and information, including the next generation of supporting GIS technologies.  They will also work to produce guidelines for other countries with an interest in developing their own coastal atlases.

Another unique feature of MIDA is the all island nature of the resource. North-South collaboration between UCC and the University of Ulster in Coleraine has ensured that matching datasets could be acquired for the coastline of Northern Ireland, thanks to the vision and support of Joe Breen, Environment and Heritage Service, Northern Ireland.

Valerie Cummins, MIDA co-ordinator and CMRC manager, said:  "The teamwork involved in getting MIDA to this stage represents a huge effort from the researchers and the many Leonardo da Vinci interns who assisted over the last few years. MIDA has been identified as a strategic flagship project for the CMRC, and as such, it will continue to be maintained and enhanced to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource for the people of Ireland.  It is envisaged that future development will focus on the addition of more data layers, and on producing new tools for specific users such as secondary schools and marine eco-tourism operators."

The Atlas can be accessed online at http://mida.ucc.ie


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