Map Once, Use Many Times
Mapping Coordination Lifecycle

U.S. Mapping Coordination

Coordinated mapping and survey planning is a critical element of IOCM best practices, in order to eliminate redundant efforts and acquire more data that everyone can use. Good planning requires an awareness of the full data pipeline from collection through to archive and public dissemination. It also involves an awareness of agency priorities to make the most of each survey mile.

Plan and Prioritize New Data Needs
Image of the U.S. Mapping Coordination website.

Planning and prioritizing new data needs is an iterative -- but essential! -- process. The Integrated Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM) and the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) are demonstrating one way to work together on coordinated mapping requirements and acquisition plans of Federal and state agencies around the country through the U.S. Mapping Coordination site. This site, open to all, is a geospatial platform to share outlines of mapping priorities and annual planned projects of collaborating partners. Mapping types include, but are not limited to:

  • topographic, bathymetric, and topobathy lidar;
  • acoustic surveys (hydrography, bathymetry, and water column, etc.); and
  • digital imagery (airborne and satellite).

In addition to participating in the U.S. Mapping Coordination site, planning can also take place through agency-specific requests for information. IWG-OCM members are encouraged to share their mapping requirements and plans, and solicit any information on partner priorities and previously collected data in the area of interest.

Making sure to conduct a review for existing data is important, to know where new data is needed, or to justify a re-collect. Re-mapping areas is often necessary in the very dynamic coastal zone, especially after a hurricane or other event that shifts coastlines and sea bottoms. But it is good to be able to explain why an agency might repeat an area, or pull it from the project because existing data is adequate.

To further help guide planning efforts, the IWG-OCM began an agency priorities-gathering exercise in 2019. This exercise looks at agency needs for ocean and coastal mapping data on a time scale, prioritizing areas geospatially as High, Medium, and Low based on when new data is needed. This study is currently ongoing, and the results will be shared with external stakeholders to validate broader needs once complete. Results will be available at

High-level representatives and speakers, including John Kerry and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, met in a discussion of how an ambitious initiative to map, explore, and characterize US waters will advance ocean-based climate solutions and tie into international programs like the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project. The event included a live Q&A with a summary coming soon. Download the recorded event.

Collect and Verify Data

This section will provide more guidance as outlined in the Standard Ocean Mapping Protocol (in-work).

Process Data and Produce Derived Products

Any data collected must be processed according to established procedures that are fit-for-purpose, such as procedures documented to support hydrographic surveying and other applications. Following appropriate processing, many data move directly into integrated products, such as nautical charts or habitat maps. IOCM provides a sample of possible integrated products on the Data Sharing page. To fulfill the IOCM mapping coordination lifecycle, these data must also be migrated over to official repositories and archives for broader awareness of the data collected as well as to enable others to develop derived products.

Inventory and Prepare Data for Archive

Working with data managers at central repositories and archives, such as those listed under Data Repositories of the Data Sharing page, enables broad awareness and access to your data, which is a critical element of IOCM Coordination. Depending on the type of data, there are various steps involved in preparing the data for archive. While not inclusive of every conceivable data type, the following guidance is focused on the basic categories captured in the U.S. Mapping Coordination website:

Topographic, Bathymetric, and Topobathymetric LIDAR
OCM’s Digital Coast is the central repository for topobathymetric and bathymetric LIDAR data. Processed data files in LAZ format with supporting documentation, including projection, datum, and GEOID model are most desirable for IOCM purposes.

Acoustic/Sonar (hydrography, bathymetry, water column, etc.)
NCEI is the central repository for this type of data in U.S. waters as well as internationally. The following guidance is detailed at

    Multibeam Bathymetry: Raw (as collected) data in the instrument’s vendor-specific format (e.g., .all, .s7k, .xse) are most desirable for IOCM purposes. However, other supplemental data (sound speed profiles, tides, vessel offsets, cruise reports, etc.) and/or processed versions or products of the multibeam data are also useful IOCM data contributions. A list of publicly- accessible data formats may be found here.
    Subbottom Profiler Data: Processed data files in SEGY format are most desirable for IOCM purposes.
    Water Column Sonar Data (WCSD): Raw (as collected) data in the instrument’s vendor-specific format (e.g., .raw, .wcd) with position data included are most desirable for IOCM purposes. However, other supplemental data (sound speed profiles, tides, vessel offsets, biological data, cruise reports, etc.) are also useful IOCM data contributions.
    Singlebeam Bathymetry: Raw (as collected) data with associated navigation in M77T format or in GeoJSON, GeoCSV, or ASCII CSV/Tab-delimited format with format documentation are most desirable for IOCM purposes.
    Side-scan Sonar: Raw (as collected) and processed data in JSF or HSX format (format number 132, 133, 182, or 183 as documented by MB-System) with associated navigation are most desirable for IOCM purposes. Supplementary navigation is desired as GeoJSON, GeoCSV, or ASCII CSV/Tab-Delimited (with format documentation) format.

Digital Imagery (airborne/satellite)

    Airborne Imagery: If not hosted elsewhere, OCM’s Digital Coast is a repository for airborne imagery focused on the shoreline areas of the U.S. One meter resolution imagery in a common lossless remote sensing format, such as GeoTIFF, with FGDC compliant metadata are most desirable for IOCM purposes. Imagery must be orthorectified and the horizontal accuracy should be documented in the metadata.

Archive and Publish Data for Additional Uses

Once a dataset is added to a central repository is then typically available to many users through various inventories, such as those listed under Data Inventories and Registries section on the Data Sharing page.