Dive In – Explore Thousands of Coastal and Seafloor Images

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Thousands of photos and videos of the seafloor and coastline—most areas never seen before—are now available and easily accessible online. This is critical for coastal managers to make important decisions, ranging from protecting habitats to understanding hazards and managing land use.

Thousands of photos and videos of the seafloor and coastline—most areas never seen before—are now available and easily accessible online. This is critical for coastal managers to make important decisions, ranging from protecting habitats to understanding hazards and managing land use.

Imagery is available through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal.

This USGS portal is unique, due to the sheer quantity and quality of data presented. It is the largest database of its kind, providing detailed and fine-scale representations of the coast. The "geospatial context" is also unique, with maps displaying imagery in the exact location where it was recorded.

Prior to development of the data portal, retrieving this imagery required internal USGS access with specific hardware and software. It was difficult to manage and challenging to share such a large amount of information.

"The USGS has been dedicated to developing a system that allows for convenient communication internally as well as to outside collaborators and the public to access our abundance of coastal and seafloor imagery," said USGS geographer Nadine Golden, who is the Lead Principal Investigator for the USGS portal. "The portal makes it easy for users to discover, obtain and disseminate information."

This portal contains coverage of the seafloor off California and Massachusetts, and aerial imagery of the coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and mid-Atlantic coasts. Additional video and photographs will be added as they are collected, and archived imagery will also be incorporated soon. Areas of future focus include data sets for Washington State’s Puget Sound, Hawaii and the Arctic.

"As part of an ongoing seafloor mapping partnership, Massachusetts has worked with the USGS Woods Hole Science Center to map more than 850 square miles of marine waters and collect extensive video footage and photographs of the seafloor," said Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Director Bruce Carlisle. "The Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal is a great resource, providing direct and easy access to this imagery. It will support several key elements of the recently updated Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, including habitat characterization and the review of ocean development projects under the plan."

Information in this portal helps create coastal maps and representations of seafloor composition and habitats. It provides references for short- and long-term monitoring of changes to the coast, whether from anthropogenic modifications or natural occurrences. Hurricanes and extreme storms are of particular concern, and USGS imagery helps managers, emergency responders and researchers understand circumstances before, during and after such events. Other critical hazards include coastal flooding and sea-level rise, as well as assessments for earthquake and tsunami awareness.

Data also support coastal and marine spatial planning, including evaluation of sites for renewable ocean energy facilities as well as the development of communities and infrastructure. USGS science helps designate marine protected areas, define habitats, identify needs for ecosystem restoration, and inform regional sediment management decisions.

In total, approximately 100,000 photographs and have been collected as well as 1,000 hours of trackline video covering almost 2,000 miles of coastline. Imagery was taken by video and still cameras towed by boat or from aerial flights.

This effort supports the National Ocean Policy mandate to provide access to federal data resources.

How does it work? Start with the tutorial and then dive in!

In 2013, a successful video and photograph pilot interactive website was launched for the California Seafloor Mapping Program, and this helped build the newly released portal.

Also, check out a new crowdsourcing application called, "USGS iCoast – Did the Coast Change?" This application allows citizen scientists to identify changes to the coast by comparing aerial photographs taken before and after storms.

Learn more about USGS science by visiting the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program website.

screenshot: USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal
Screenshot from the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Video and Photograph Portal. Zooming into an area of interest reveals lines where continuous video footage was acquired and dots where still photographs were taken. Clicking on a segment launches the video in a pop-up window. Photographs appear beside the video, changing as the video passes each point where a photograph was taken.
Image: Seastars on Algae Covered Cobbles and Boulders
Digital still photograph from Massachusetts Bay near Cohasset, MA, showing seastars (Asterias sp.), blood stars (Henricia sanguinolenta), blood drop tunicates (Dendrodoa carnea), mussels, and barnacles on cobbles and boulders covered with bubblegum algae and red filamentous algae.  Water depth at this location is approximately 19.6 meters.
Public domain
Image: Kelp Greenling Among Seafloor Cover of Mixed Composition
Digital still photograph offshore of Half Moon Bay, California, showing a kelp greenling, encrusting sponges, red algae, cup coral, in mixed gravel, cobbles, and rugose rock outcrop with scattered shells at a depth of 9 meters.
Public domain