Information about the project team and partners, as well as research about coastal web atlases.

The Wisconsin Coastal Atlas is a technology platform that enables people to explore and analyze coastal issues, share
coastal data, and inform decision-making about sustainable use of the Great Lakes. It is intended for use by coastal
resource managers, planners, researchers, educators and citizen scientists. The atlas is organized into four
modules: maps, catalog, tools, and learn. A gallery of interactive maps provides customized perspectives related to
specific coastal issues in Wisconsin. Users can search for geospatial data through interfaces that connect to catalogs
maintained by other coastal data custodians. The atlas serves as a gateway to spatial decision support tools relevant to
Great Lakes management and provides access to educational resources about coastal issues in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Coastal Atlas and ICAN: Joining a Global Network, Story Map

Wisconsin Sea Grant, representing the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas, has been an active member of the International Coastal Atlas Network. This story map journal shares the growth and accomplishments of ICAN and how Wisconsin has collaborated to build an interoperable coastal web atlas.

Wisconsin Sea Grant

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The International Coastal Atlas Network: Linking Coastal Web Atlases Across the Globe, Story Map

The long-term strategic goal of the International Coastal Atlas Network is to encourage and help facilitate the development of digital atlases of the global coast based on the principle of distributed, high-quality data and information. This story map shares the growth and accomplishments of ICAN since its inception in 2006 and includes an interactive map of ICAN members with links to their coastal atlases.

ICAN and Wisconsin Sea Grant

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Project Team

The project team for the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas includes staff from the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, the Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility, the Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office, the Robinson Map Library, the UW Cartography Lab, the Space Science and Engineering Center and the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at UW-Madison. Design of the atlas is based on the Oregon Coastal Atlas and advanced through collaboration with the Oregon Coastal Management Program, Oregon State University and the International Coastal Atlas Network. Development of the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas began in February 2010 with funding from the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program.


Project partners include state and federal government agencies, non-profit organizations, as well as coastal regional planning commissions, counties, municipalities, and tribal governments. Partners see many benefits and applications of the atlas. At the federal level, the NOAA Office for Coastal Management sees the atlas as resource to help build their Digital Coast initiative. At the state level, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is interested in how the atlas will enable the analyses needed to implement the Wisconsin Great Lakes Strategy and the Great Lakes Compact. The Wisconsin State Geographic Information Officer sees the atlas as a template for state GIS initiatives both on and away from the coast. The Association of State Floodplain Managers views the atlas as a tool to help citizens make sound decisions regarding coastal development. Local governments benefit from improved data sharing opportunities.


The research associated with the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas project has many applications. The structured process used to design and evaluation the atlas served as a template for coastal web atlas projects in other states and around the world. Guidebooks for choosing the most appropriate web mapping technologies and incorporating sound cartographic design principles in web mapping interfaces were useful for atlas developers and the broader GIS community. Identifying the technical and institutional barriers to the development of interoperable spatial data catalogs advanced the development of domain spatial data infrastructures. Development of effective methods for archive of digital geospatial data shed light on a problem facing data custodians at many levels, especially the local government level where resources to address this issue are scarce. Application of ontology tools to promote semantic mediation of local government spatial data sets helped enable “just-in-time” spatial analyses of coastal issues at a regional scale. Application of social science methods improved the effectiveness of coastal decision support tools. Finally, participation in the International Coastal Atlas Network interoperability prototype demonstrated how the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas relates to other coastal web atlases and will be a first step in linking state and provincial atlases to form a networked Great Lakes Coastal Atlas.


Hart D. 2018. How Wisconsin Sea Grant Benefits From the NOAA Digital Coast. May 31, 2018. download

Hart D. 2018. Enabling Resilience to Great Lakes Coastal Hazards through the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas. Southeastern Wisconsin Coastal Resilience Project Blog. May 22, 2018. read

Hart D. 2017. Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Land Information Community. November 8, 2017. download

Hart D. 2014. The Wisconsin Coastal Atlas: Helping Build a Coastal Spatial Data Infrastructure. International Coastal Atlas Network Newsletter. March 2014. read

Sack C. 2013. User-Centered Design for Coastal Web Atlas Maps and Tools: A Process Manual. Wisconsin Coastal Atlas White Paper, August 2013. download

Sack C. 2013. “Tools and best practices for coastal web maps” In CoastGIS Conference 2013: Monitoring and Adapting to Change on the Coast. Eds. Devillers, R., Lee, C., Canessa, R. and A. Sherin. pp. 160-164.

Sack C. and T. Wallace. 2012. Tools and Best Practices for Coastal Web Maps. Wisconsin Coastal Atlas White Paper, October 2012. download

Bauer, J. 2012. Assessing the Robustness of Web Feature Services Necessary to Satisfy the Requirements of Coastal Management Applications. Master of Science Project, Oregon State University, Spring 2012. download

Hart, D. and E. Hamilton. 2012. “Spatial Decision Support Tools for Adaptive Management of Water Resources” in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Water Resources VII. AWRA’s 2012 Spring Specialty Conference. Edited by S. Fox. American Water Resources Association, Middleburg, Virginia, TPS-12-1, CD-ROM. download

Hart, D. 2010. “Towards a Wisconsin Coastal Atlas” in D. Wright, E. Dwyer, & V. Cummins (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Coastal Informatics: Web Atlas Design and Implementation. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. pp. 145-155. download

Nyerges, T., Belpaeme, K., Haddad, T., and D. Hart. 2010. “Creating a Usable Atlas” in D. Wright, E. Dwyer, & V. Cummins (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Coastal Informatics: Web Atlas Design and Implementation. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. pp 256-266. download

Kopke, K., Dwyer, N., Belpaeme, K., Berman, M., Taylor, K., Hart, D., and D. Wright. 2010. “Improving Participation of Users in Coastal Web Atlases” in Littoral 2010: Adapting to Global Change at the Coast. London. 21-23 September 2010. download