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An Interactive Data Visualization Tool for Exploring the Causes and Extent of Streamflow Alteration across the Lower Mississippi and Gulf Coast Region
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2019 Authors: Walker J.D., Knight R., Letcher B.
The U.S. Geological Survey Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are performing a comprehensive assessment of streams that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The goal of this assessment is to assist resource managers in identifying and prioritizing opportunities for flow restoration and thereby protect and replenish valuable coastal water resources. This assessment will generate numerous large and complex datasets including geospatial basin characteristics and streamflow statistics that reflect the magnitude, timing, trend, and degree of alteration for freshwater delivery to the Gulf. To make these datasets accessible to decision makers and other researchers, we developed a web-based data visualization tool called the Interactive Catchment Explorer for the Lower Mississippi Gulf (ICE-LMG). ICE-LMG was built using the ICE framework, which is a generalized web application platform developed as part of the Spatial Hydro-Ecological Decision System (SHEDS) and is designed for exploring large environmental datasets and model outputs. ICE utilizes modern web technologies and numerous free and open source software (FOSS) libraries to provide an engaging user experience through a high degree of interactivity and responsiveness. The ICE framework has been applied to projects across the country including stream temperature and trout occupancy model predictions for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. and a climate vulnerability assessment of endangered fish species in the northern Rocky Mountains. The ICE-LMG web application will provide a map-based interface for viewing spatial patterns of basin characteristics, streamflow statistics, and various metrics of flow alteration across the Gulf Coast region. The base map will be coupled to interactive histograms that show the distributions of selected variables and can be used to filter the dataset by applying single- or multi-variate criteria through a technique called cross filtering. Using this technique, users can interactively explore spatial and temporal patterns of each variable, as well as understand the correlations between the variables. This presentation will describe the motivation and approach to developing the general ICE framework and its application to the Lower Mississippi-Gulf region. We will then demonstrate how ICE-LMG can be used to explore datasets and develop a better understanding of the causes and extents of streamflow alteration across this region. By making the results of this study available to local and state decision makers through an engaging user interface, it is our hope that ICE-LMG will serve as a valuable decision support tool for facilitating flow restoration efforts and stimulating further research.