Seattle-based startup creates interactive map of Puget Sound


By Julia Ornedo

A waterway mapping project led by a man aboard a kayak made its way to the South Puget Sound shoreline as part of an offer to help conserve and restore the estuary in that region.

Brian Footen, president of Seattle-based startup EarthViews, traveled Puget Sound with the goal of using several mobile mapping technologies attached to his kayak to map the 1,200 miles of coastline. He has been in the Olympia area this week.

Although there are different definitions of the boundaries of Puget Sound, the Washington State Legislature states that the estuary includes “all the salt waters of Washington State within the international boundary between Washington and the British Columbia, and located east of the junction of the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the rivers and streams that empty into Puget Strait.

State of Puget Sound

Critical estuary, Puget Sound is home to a complex ecosystem on which humans and animals depend for healthy food and clean water.

However, according to the 2021 State of the Sound report, which was funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Puget Sound is “not doing well” but showing signs of progress.

The report noted that there were only 74 whales in Puget Sound at the last count, which is only three-quarters of the 2020 target of 95 whales. Threatened Puget Sound Chinook Salmon also remain at “historic lows.”

Polychlorinated biphenyls, which are industrial or chemical products, also continue to pose a threat to Puget Sound and the fish that live there.

Among seabird species, marbled murres are in decline while rhinoceros mackerel and pigeon murres have maintained their population abundance.

Map the shoreline like Google Street View

Aiming to help conserve and restore areas like Puget Sound, EarthViews creates interactive maps that provide water level images and data. The startup’s partners include National Geographic, NASA and Esri, a geographic information system software provider.

“Street View style maps are a great way to engage people and show them places they will never be able to see on their own,” Footen said. the JOLT. “At EarthViews, we’ve developed a way to create these maps, but with a lot more care to map the inherent location data as well.”

Footen’s kayak is equipped not only with a camera that takes a 360 degree panoramic image every 10 seconds, but also a water quality meter that records water conditions every 10 seconds, and a recording device which geolocates its animal observations.

How EarthViews helps you

EarthViews maps can help scientists and even the public locate points of interest, educate through virtual tours, find areas for recreational activities, visualize waterway data, create a baseline of current waterway conditions and to improve emergency management and navigation on waterways.

Thanks to crowdfunding, Footen began his Puget Sound mapping campaign by kayaking 120 miles of the east coast from Seattle to Olympia. The next phase of the project is to map the Southern Strait.

“I hope these coastal maps can help scientists and conservationists in the important work they are doing to help recover the ecosystem,” Footen said.

“However, if in the end all that is accomplished is to add the Puget Sound Nearshore to [the] EarthViews Atlas which shows coastal conditions at the start of the 21st century, and that images and data are on file with the Washington State Historical Society, I think we will have provided an important service to this generation and generations to come.

More information on EarthViews’ work is available at their website.


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