Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is ShoreZone and how is the data collected?

    A:

    ShoreZone is a standardized coastal habitat mapping system which covers the supratidal, intertidal, and some subtidal areas of the coast. A biologist and geologist fly at low elevation along the shoreline at summer’s lowest tides to collect geo-referenced video and still photos while simultaneously providing commentary about what they are seeing. Digital mappers then take imagery and commentary and classify the physical and biological features in the imagery in a digital, spatial database. 

    The mapping system provides information to support coastal management, community planning, facilities citing, conservation planning, research and fisheries management, emergency planning and response, search and rescue, education, habitat modeling, etc.

  2. How do I access ShoreZone imagery and data?

    A:

    We are currently working on merging all the ShoreZone data collected in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska over the last few decades into one ShoreZone database

    The database also includes ShoreZone imagery from Alaska and will soon include imagery from Washington. A different database holds Oregon ShoreZone imagery. ShoreZone imagery from British Columbia is currently unavailable to the public online.

  3. How do I credit ShoreZone?

    A:

    ShoreZone images are available for public use which means you can share and adapt the images as long as you give appropriate credit and indicate if changes were made. ShoreZone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
  4. How do I download a ShoreZone image?

    A:

    Watch The Basics, a 6-minute YouTube video, where you will learn how to use the ShoreZone database and how to download an image.
  5. How do I get training?

    A:

    Four online tutorials have been recorded. You may also contact us to inquire about setting up an in-person or remote training.

  6. How do I learn about what the ShoreZone data and attributes mean?

    A:

    Use the data dictionary or read the protocol reports

  7. How does an advanced GIS analyst gain access to the entire ShoreZone geospatial database?

    A:

    The entire geospatial databases for Alaska , Oregon and Washington are available for download online. Please note that they are very large files.
  8. How often do you plan to update the imagery along the coast?

    A:

    There are no current plans to collect region-wide updated imagery of the coast on a regular basis. ShoreZone is meant to establish a baseline inventory of coastal resources. However, the imagery and data gathered in this project have helped people prioritize the collection of additional imagery for more specific purposes, and we occasionally re-fly or re-map sections of the coast based on user need.
  9. What is the purpose of taking photos if seasonal changes in habitat types, such as sand spits or coastal bluffs, and intertidal biota, such as kelp beds and eelgrass beds, may occur?

    A:

    The purpose of the imagery and digital data is to establish a baseline inventory of habitat types and identify locations where intertidal biota could potentially inhabit. Sand spits and eroding bluffs may change dramatically over time, but the habitat types remain the same.
  10. What's the difference between ShoreZone and the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI)?

    A:

    The two systems are complementary. ESI maps provide a nationally standardized, color-coded index of sensitivity of the shoreline to oil spill response. The ESI system uses wave exposure, substrate type, and biological productivity to assign a shoreline ranking (1-10) that reflects the relative degree of sensitivity to oil spills. ShoreZone includes these ESI index ratings and a second index, the Oil Residence Index, used to describe the self-cleaning ability of the coast based on a combination of wave exposure and substrate type (Bartlett & Smith 2001; Harney 2008). 
    Both ESI and ShoreZone techniques document biological resources, but they do so in distinct yet complementary ways. For example, ESI maps include locations of seal haul-outs and bird colonies, which ShoreZone does not. ShoreZone biological data relates to the presence and relative abundance of supratidal, intertidal, and nearshore flora and fauna such as salt marsh vegetation, eelgrass, algae, and kelps. ShoreZone provides detailed biologic and geomorphologic attributes in a spatial database; downloadable GIS layers; collection and public web-posting of high-resolution aerial imagery; ability to download that imagery; and a query engine to create your own data layers and models.
  11. Where can I find reports, literature, and metadata regarding the use of ShoreZone data?

    A:

    Learn to Use ShoreZone has all these resources and more.

  12. Where has ShoreZone been done?

    A:

    Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and most of Alaska. Refer to ShoreZone Coverage for more information and maps.

  13. Who are the organizations behind ShoreZone?

    A:

     A wide variety of ShoreZone partners has contributed to the success of ShoreZone. They include U.S. federal agencies, state agencies, Canadian Provincial government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Our About Us page has additional information.

  14. Why can't we rely on Google Earth or satellite imagery for taking an inventory of the intertidal zone?

    A:

    There are several challenges regarding satellite imagery which prevent us from relying on this technology. Satellite images are taken when the lighting is best, usually around the noon hour. This timing rarely coincides with extreme low tides. Satellite imagery is sometimes taken during winter months when ice cover would prevent us from interpreting the shoreline attributes, and cloud cover is often a major problem in the imagery. 

    ShoreZone methods ensure that imagery is taken during extreme low tide events during the summer months when the intertidal flora is in bloom. Satellite imagery does not yet have the capability of capturing the details that high resolution photography can capture. However, it is useful and complementary to couple satellite imagery together with ShoreZone imagery and data.