September 8, 2011 — As part of the upcoming 2012 Sarasota Bay Watershed Symposium, to be held at New College of Florida February 15-17, New College is boosting the utility and performance of the Sarasota Water Atlas to help better integrate coastal watershed science, policy and education for Sarasota Bay.
The Sarasota Water Atlas was developed by the University of South Florida to provide an online, accessible and comprehensive resource to help scientists, policymakers, educators and interested citizens alike make informed decisions about our vital water resources. The Atlas is a real-time, up-to-date, partner-funded resource, covering watersheds along the Gulf Coast from St. Joseph Sound to Estero Bay. Sarasota County Government has long recognized the importance of this resource to its environmental mission and is a core partner.
“Until the Atlas came along there was no place for citizens to get access to the latest studies and data for their communities,” said John Ryan, a senior Water Resource Scientist in Sarasota County Government. “It was available if requested, but now it’s automatically posted online along with an explanation of what it means.”
New College, through funding from the State University System’s New Florida Initiative, is spearheading the development of new components for the Atlas to enable researchers, educators and the public to search available resources through a new geographic map-based interface. The interface enables users to quickly access data, reports, news and events for bays, inlets and tributaries of interest.
“College students can’t remember a time when computers and cell phones didn’t exist – they are digital natives,” remarked Julie Morris, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at New College. “Educators and governments need to keep pace by getting information online in a useful structure.”
As part of this effort, the Sarasota Bay research database will be geo-referenced and made available for download through the Atlas. A Southwest Florida coastal watershed Wiki will be developed for regional watershed professionals to share data and insights with a virtual community of managers, educators and interested members of the public. In addition, increased user-friendly social media components, including RSS, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, will be added to the Atlas to improve community engagement and interaction with resources available on the Atlas.