Mapping Seabeds to Support Responsible Development

Lidarmap before NSCC

Information available for Little Harbour and Melmerby Beach from the Canadian Hydrographic Service prior to the use of typo-bathymetric lidar.

Mapping Canada’s vast coastal zones has been a challenge for years. But thanks to new technology, research scientists like Tim Webster with the Nova Scotia Community College’s Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) are starting to fill in significant information gaps.

Known as topo-bathymetric lidar, the technology uses aircraft-mounted laser-ranging systems to survey the topography of land both above and below the water surface. An infrared laser maps the water surface while a green laser maps the seabed.

A more complete  illustration showing the  continuous elevation of the land and seabed for the same area derived using the lidar sensor.

A more complete illustration showing the continuous elevation of the land and seabed for the same area derived using the lidar sensor.

According to Dr. Webster, the topo-bathymetric lidar and the resulting research have the potential to enhance environmental monitoring of this critical ecosystem.  The ability to map and monitor the seabed will ensure impacts of future development are minimized and the ecosystem’s integrity protected.

“The ability for our team to support responsible development in the waters off our province is exciting and the possibilities are abundant,” says Dr. Webster.

Colin MacDonald, Director of Geographic Information Services with Service Nova Scotia agrees, adding that partnering with NSCC provides the province with topographic information from an area traditionally difficult to map.

“These detailed maps of our seafloor near the coast allow for a wide range of possible uses, such as storm surge modelling, vulnerability assessments, and better understanding our coastal habitats.”

Dr. Webster and his colleagues spent late September in the field gathering data throughout the region for various stakeholder projects. The research was made possible with an investment of $1.6 million, equally shared by Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust and Canada Foundation for Innovation.

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