Durham, US: Just as the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico ceased, accolades began flooding in for a GIS-based spill response tool, ERMA. It was developed by the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Research Computing Center.
ERMA incorporates data from the various agencies that worked together to tackle the spill. Round-the-clock work by UNH’s RCC, in particular by technical lead Robert St. Lawrence and information technologist Philip Collins, redeployed the Gulf of Mexico version of ERMA in several hours, within days after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill began. ERMA integrates the latest data on the oil spill’s trajectory, fishery closure areas, wildlife and place-based Gulf Coast resources — such as pinpointed locations of oiled shoreline and daily position of research and response vessels — into one customisable interactive map.
The Environmental Response Management Application, developed by RCC in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UNH/NOAA Costal Response Research Center, was recognised as one of the top 10 government websites by Government Computer News. In addition, ERMA’s NOAA collaborators received the 2010 NOAA Administrator’s and Technology Transfer Award.
“RCC’s hard work, integrity, creativity and ‘can do’ spirit helped launch the UNH/NOAA developed and trademarked ERMA to the national level during the recent Gulf crisis,” said Nancy Kinner, professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center. “UNH can be very proud of its unflagging dedication to the nation and the environment in cleaning up the worst oil spill in history.”
In June, after securing additional hardware capacity, NOAA launched a public version of ERMA created by UNH’s www.geoplatform.gov to facilitate communication and coordination among a variety of users, from federal, state and local responders to local community leaders and the public. Beyond NOAA data, it includes data from Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, the Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA, NASA, U.S. Geological Survey and the Gulf states. It is designed to be fast, user-friendly and constantly updated. Geoplatform.gov had 3.4 million hits on the first day of its release.
Meanwhile, NOAA has also awarded USD 35 million to the university to continue the work of its national ocean-mapping research centre. The money will be spread over five years and will be used by the university’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping.