Coastal GeoTools Reflections and Anticipation

Coastal GeoTools LogoThe Coastal GeoTools 2015 conference is coming right up (March 30 to April 2, 2015 in Charleston, SC), so I thought it might be a good time to review what I learned at the last conference and think about what interesting things this one might bring. Don’t forget, the registration price goes up on March 1, 2015 and the conference tends to sell out, so don’t wait too long.

5 Things I Learned at Coastal GeoTools 2011

Tools Showcase Is Better Than Posters

In 2011 we ditched the poster session (sorry poster people). In its place, we had a tools showcase where people were able to demo their non-commercial geospatially-oriented tools in an informal setting that allowed a lot of one-on-one conversation. This resulted in much more interaction than the poster session tends to generate, so expect an expanded version.

Data Services

Four years ago, map and data web services were still new to most people. The three hour special interest meeting on making them work for you was enlightening. It gave me a taste of what could be done and what might be coming in the future.


Maybe I didn’t really learn this last time, but I seem to always forget it. Meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends is always one of the most valuable parts of a conference. Sometimes you have to skip a few of the talks to make sure you catch the people you need to talk to. Giving a talk is also very useful for networking since it helps people realize they need to talk to you.

Lidar Remains Popular

There were a lot of lidar talks at the last conference. Or maybe I’m just biased to notice them. A lot of lidar territory was covered, from a special interest meeting on breaklines to data fusion with topo/bathy lidar and hyperspectral imagery. There was even a talk on the development of a nationwide elevation inventory – which is now available online.


I could barely spell PGIS (participatory GIS) before this conference, but I got a good introduction to what it’s about and the potential power it has to map things that are difficult or impossible to do with sensors. Human use of the coast and ocean is one of these. While it isn’t an easy thing to get the right people to sit down and tell you where they surf, fish, swim, dive, etc., it is way easier than trying to set up a remote sensing monitoring program to tell you those things.

5 Things I’m Looking Forward to at Coastal GeoTools 2015

New Host

Regular attendees of Coastal GeoTools will recognize that 2013 was the lost year. The conference was canceled shortly before it was to be held and there has been considerable re-evaluation of the roles government agencies can play in conferences. Fortunately, the Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM) has stepped up to the plate to host and organize the conference. NOAA is still engaged, but only in ways that are currently deemed appropriate. I’m looking forward to seeing ASFPM take over and I’m sure they’ll do a great job!

More Tools

The tools showcase should be bigger and better this year. Need I say more?


I’m hoping to do a better job of meeting people this year. Come and say hi if you see me there. In addition to meeting someone new, it’s always nice to know that someone is reading along.


Talking to the exhibitors is always a great way to find out the latest technologies available to help manage our coasts. If you take a look at the list of exhibitors on the Coastal GeoTools 2015 page, you see a lot of familiar names from GIS, remote sensing, engineering, and the web in general. Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing what their new elevation capabilities are, especially for bathymetry.

Plenary Lunch

And not just because I like to eat! The plenary is about lessons learned from Katrina to Sandy and I think there will be a lot of aspects about making data and information accessible to the people who need it, in ways that they can use it. Some of that will be technical and some of it won’t, but it’s clear we’ll have to pay attention to both aspects in the future if we want to be more effective.

What About You?

Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to or remember fondly from last time? In a concession to spam, we’ve turned off comments on the GeoZone, but you can let us know on twitter (@CoastalGeoTools or @NOAADigCoast) or facebook (