Volume 2 2013

Erin Hamilton

Education News

Dashboard Repair
UW Sea Grant Student Restores Online Hydrologic Tool

Six years ago, David Hart, geographic information systems outreach specialist for Wisconsin Sea Grant, hired several graduate students to create an online hydrologic dashboard that let users view spatial, geophysical and temporal storm data in the Green Bay watershed.

Hart was inspired to develop the dashboard by a big storm event that hit Duluth in October 2005, sending plumes of red clay sediment blooming out into Lake Superior. “I wanted to know the story of what happened,” said Hart. “Where and how did the storm hit?”

Before the dashboard, motivated users could find the hydrologic data that told the story, but not in one place.

It was a great idea. Trouble was, the dashboard was programmed using Flash, a closed-source platform/plugin that’s largely fallen out of use. A few years after the students created it, the original dashboard was both broken and challenging to update.

End of story? Not quite. Enter Erin Hamilton, a 26-year-old graduate student with the UW-Madison’s department of geography. Hamilton spent much of the last year recreating the dashboard in Javascript, an open-source code that can be updated easily on multiple platforms, especially mobile platforms. Thanks to Hamilton’s efforts, the dashboard’s now back to full functionality—and you can view it here: maps.aqua.wisc.edu/fwhd/hydrologic.html.

“The main idea of the dashboard is to give users the opportunity to view a storm event from start to finish,” explained Hamilton. ”We wanted to let people see what kinds of effects the storm has on streams as the water moves through the watershed.”

Hart and Hamilton are hoping to add more features to the dashboard, including the ability to animate storm events—currently, users can click individual icons to view a static radar image of the total precipitation from a storm.

“What we want the dashboard to show is how a storm affects Green Bay once the storm gets through the watershed and out into the bay itself. How does it change the water there?” said Hamilton.

The dashboard’s target audience is water resource managers, who could potentially use it as a tool to help them make better decisions on planning and allocating resources to prepare for future storm events. Hart sees it as a key part of a much more expansive toolbox.

“When you put this in touch with other geotools we’re developing, we’re really building a narrative in Green Bay,” said Hart. “It could become part of a solution that would allow people to be much more engaged in stewardship of the Great Lakes.”

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents