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Presentation In Baja California Sur, May 25, 2011

Buenas Dias. This presentation is motivated by my personal life journey of working with scientists that gather and manage data and the enjoyment I've experienced in exploring that data through visual presentation techniques. A life of investigating data, visualizing it virtually, and then using that process to motivate exploration of one's own day-to-day interactions with the natural world (and hypothesis creation and testing on one's own) has provided immense pleasure.

This presentation follows an outline to tell a story somewhat chronologically.

I first got involved with The Ocean Foundation through 2.5 years of half-time work as the technical director of The Ocean Project. There I was able to gain a perspective of ocean awareness and personal action I had been looking for to make sense of my own personal experiences with aquatic exhibits at zoos, aquariums, and museums. The cornerstone of that awareness came from investigating the data associated with public opinion surveys of the general public and their perspectives before and after visiting a place that features aquatic exhibits.

The finding that the word watershed was not resonating with the general public seemed problematic to me. We all felt the connection of water passing through communities towards the ocean a key component of ocean awareness since the population lived within and interacted with their local watershed on a moment-by-moment basis. That was not the case with the ocean which often was interacted with during special moments in one's life.

A Watershed-to-Ocean Initiative was born to help people visualize the paths to the sea from all locations on Earth. We began with North American watersheds and progressed to other continents. Some stream networks we use are highly resolute while others are quite coarse. But, we see the development of the world visualization a bit of an art piece that can be contributed by people who find the streams, geolocate them in global coordinates, and can add them to the dataset over time.

Virtual globes that are available online permit the user to navigate to any point on the surface of the globe and vary the altitude of the virtual camera to gain a perspective of scale. We use the NASA World Wind virtual globe because it is more attuned to the natural view of the world without needing special attention to provide it. Google and Microsoft's products are very powerful and perform the same basic perspectives we want to offer. They just tend to provide political boundaries by default instead of natural ones.

Watersheds are a natural way to define community around the human concern of water quality. As watersheds are fractal in nature, we can find our eco-address and expand or contract the scope of watershed in which that address is contained.

The first step is to help people find their local watershed so they can begin to gain a watershed-centric perspective of their local community.

Then we introduce services that help the community build a shared awareness and vocabulary for becoming socially active with a sense of stewardship for the land and water contained within. We also help a community of developers help the community of online participants with tools and documentation.

Everyone deserves the right to develop their own cognition regarding their personal stake in the watershed. As a result, we are developing various workbooks that can be downloaded by Internet browsing on computer or phone and printed out and sent if necessary to off-line members of the community. Some of the initial topics for interactive reflection are shown here.

The workbooks are written to promote self-discovery out with nature and to build personal connections with others in the community. Hopefully, within the online user community, strong skills of moderating online content are developed so that the content helps drive a community-wide awareness and plans and executions of productive action.

By providing access to all the watersheds of the world from one common starting point, communities can compare and contrast not only the differences in watershed characteristics, but also differences in how communities thrive in the act of communal stewardship and education. Hopefully, best ideas and practices would iterate the process as we move towards more pleasurable, mindful, and meaningful interactions in the real world spurred on by a new-found visual literacy for cognating about the natural world at varying geographic and temporal scale.

With those skills in hand, we citizens can be more useful to our local scientists that are overwhelmed at times figuring out better answers to some very complex questions. We can participate in citizen science efforts like the two seen here that Watersheds Project staff are helping coordinate: The Save the Bay citizen science trawl and seal watch programs in Narragansett Bay in the northeast of The United States and the SoundCitizen water quality monitoring kit program in the Puget Sound area of the northwest United States.

Thank you for listening. I am happy to entertain any questions via e-mail. Our website is being redone with help from interns this summer and we will begin posting workbooks as we feel we have tested them thoroughly enough before making an important first impression with those we want to contribute to the mission - our shared mission that will continue to be negotiable based on what emerges as best practices on behalf of watershed quality and the quality of water flow contribution to the world ocean.