Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at MBARI

ArcNav point data from the Monterey Bay plotted over a Digital Elevation Model

Main Uses 3.x or ArcGIS 8.x GIS Contacts

Main Uses of GIS at MBARI

I. MBARI's Seafloor Mapping Program

In 1998, the MBARI Mapping Program conducted multibeam mapping surveys in several areas. To learn more about these surveys, see the mapping page

II. ArcNav

  • ArcNav is an extension for ArcView 3.x developed within MBARI that incorporates oceanographic data as it is collected (in real-time) and imports the data into the ArcView display.
  • ArcNav continuously requests updated data from the vehicle's navigation files in order to show the updated  position and orientation of scaled graphic objects indicating the true position and heading of vehicles.
  • Vehicles and their location in geographically registered oceanographic data sets are represented as icons on data layers.

III. Research

GIS is an important research tool for many of MBARI's scientist. The relative low cost of data layer combination allows the researcher to test multiple scenarios, or to investigate data relationships using an interactive approach to refine their methods which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. GIS uses include: measuring volume, depth, and distance of sub-surface features; navigating to research sites; planning dive tracks; manipulating data using 3D visualization; plotting data derived in MBSystems; and for many other aspects of marine research.

MBARI GIS Mailing list:

MBARI supports a local email discussion list to facilitate sharing of GIS related information among ourselves. This list is intended to be the first stop to ask technical questions, announce meetings data availability and other important issues. You can subscribe to the list here.




ArcView 3.x or ArcGIS 8.x -- A Comparison

What we like about ArcGIS

Overall Features:

  • User Interface
  • Common Interface across flavors (components)
  • VBA Customization


  • Easier switching from layout to view mode
  • Georeferencing accuracy reporting
  • Geoprocessing wizard more accessible
  • Ability to export data to PDF file built in
  • Table Link directly to MS Access


  • Projection Wizard
  • Extensive import & export wizards
  • File Management
  • Thumbnail views
  • Metadata tool (create, edit, save, export)

What we don’t like about ArcGIS

Overall Features:

  • ArcView scripts no longer work no translator available
  • Speed--Slow at times


  • Importing ArcView 3.x projects not seamless
  • Creating new files must be done in ArcCatalog
  • Table editing is cumbersome, can't reorder/rename fields easily
  • Labeling is problematic


MBARI GIS Contacts

For information about GIS at MBARI, data availability, seafloor mapping systems or sharing data with outside institutions please contact:

Brian Schlining phone extension 1855
Specialties: Data sources, plot layout and design, ArcNav, general GIS