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New StoryMap shows drama of local waters

Townsville’s Cleveland Bay is a dynamic and dramatic place for water.

Rain comes in massive peaks and troughs, cyclones tear across the ocean, and winds and currents stir the coast into a swirling mix of salt, sand, and sediment.

Today our Partnership releases a learning experience that shows the many influences at play on the water in our bay — from mountainous topography to the constructed weirs and breakwalls of our town.

The Hydrology and Hydrodynamics of Cleveland Bay’ is a StoryMap that takes readers for a ride with our local waters on their journey to the sea.

The psychology of water

“Hydrology and hydrodynamics explain the psychology of water,” says our Executive Officer, Kara-Mae Coulter-Atkins: “Why it behaves the way it does, where it really goes, the pressures it is under, and the conditions that steer its direction and momentum.

“Greater understanding of how water moves through our landscapes empowers our community, waterway managers, developers, and scientists to better support the health of our waters.”

Behind the creation of a StoryMap

An ArcGIS StoryMap is a web-based application provided by Geographic Information System (GIS) software company Esri. It allows users to combine maps, multimedia content, and narrative text to create engaging and informative web stories.

Technical Officer Adam Shand has been busy this year wielding the powers of the coding language ‘R’ to render maps of our local mountains, bays, and coastal landforms for the new Hydrology and Hydrodynamics StoryMap.

Why use R for topographic mapping? 

“Building visualisations with code means that any section of the landscape can be interrogated at scale, and easily reproduced,” Adam says. “Instead of focusing on the topography around Magnetic Island, for example, we can set coordinates to Palm Island and look at the topography there without needing to start again from scratch.”

“Visualisations like this help our community understand how their waterways behave, and why our stewardship of water as it moves through the landscape is so important.”

Our technical team also uses the open-source R to generate the epic Technical Report behind our annual Waterways Report Card, leveraging the language’s powers of statistical analysis.

“There is so much we can do with R that we are only just starting to apply to waterways reporting,” Adam says.

The new StoryMap is a project sponsored by partners of the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters and was developed thanks to the special expertise of Adam Shand, and an advisory team of Alana Obrien, Alana Lorimer, Dr Judith Wake, Dr Stephen Lewis, and Sharon King.

The ‘Hydrology and Hydrodynamics of Cleveland Bay’ is an entrant in the 2023 @ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition.