Module 2 – Ocean Data for People and the Economy

This module contextualizes data within the ocean sector, focusing on people and the economy.

In our previous module we asked you to:

Consider the ways that data can inform research questions, and the opposite, how research can inform the kind of data you collect.


All ocean data is geospatial data! It must record geographic aspects.

In our previous module we emphasized that data is defined contextually. This is the context for ocean data: all ocean data includes the geographic element of having a location associated with it, such as latitude and longitude, and where the observation was taken in the water column, or the ocean depth (at the surface, on the bottom or somewhere inbetween). Important for ocean data is often also the date that the observation was made (year, month, day, time of day). Ocean data that are not specific to one precise geographic area, are affected by geography, as well as temporally. For example, the standard average ocean temperature is going to change based on the geography of the ocean, including where it is on Earth (the latitude and longitude) and the time of day, month and year.

Understanding and keeping this in mind will help inform your data work with the ocean and will help with best practices. Geography can help you tell if the data you have collected is within standard deviations, and help you Quality Control your data. If you’re finding that recorded temperatures are too cold for the season (because it’s summer) and the location (it’s in a tropical area) then you know that there are issues with the recorded temperatures.

Thinking about ocean data like this will keep it in the proper context while it is being used to help the various ocean sectors.

The Ocean Sectors

The main ocean sectors are industry, Indigenous, academia, government, non-governmental organization (NGO), polar and recreational. Ocean data can help the economy, businesses and the people who live there, and for those reasons it is important that the data be organized, interoperable and accurate, to help the most amount of people possible.

There are many ways the ocean could be used to help better the future. Let’s imagine these unique futures together!

First let’s talk about some examples of what ocean data can be used for:

  • Understand fish migration patterns and how the geographic formations of an area can affect it
  • Tidal erosion and climate change, and the way the coastline changes shape over the years
  • Understand water loss and use geography to determine where  and how water moves.
  • Understanding coastline changes can help people understand climate change, and make decisions about where to live and how safe it might be. Businesses can understand whether it is smart to invest and build near coastlines or not, and new entrepreneurs can see where would be the best place to try out their new ideas and inventions that are affected by the ocean. This is where an understanding of LIDAR and other tools that we discussed earlier would come in handy.
  • Understanding water loss can help government and businesses prepare for areas that may face drought and thus people migrating away. This can be used for city planning, industry and business.
  • Another example is right whales. The Canadian government uses data from gliders to sense the presence of right whales (which are endangered) and make changes such as limiting fishing, reducing allowed speed in shipping lanes, etc. These are all things that affect the people and economy!

These are just a few ways that geospatial data is used in an ocean context.

How can each of these things help people and the economy?

Please review a very specific example, with a fun and educational video:

In this video you can see that the river is a known migration spot and chokepoint for the Great Lakes, and using the electricity helps prevent carp, an invasive species from becoming a problem. This use of geography has created an entire station that needs to be run, thereby leading to jobs that will always be needed, and includes work from biologists, electrical engineers, government officials and so many more! The geospatial understanding of migration patterns, geography and the effect they have on local fish life means there is innovation and jobs created.

Before you go! Please consider for the next module:

Can you think of any other unique ways ocean data can be used? Are there business capabilities that haven’t even been considered yet?