Building a Regional Monitoring System: The Coastal Stewardship Network’s Approach

Keep it simple and something you can build upon, suggests Lara Hoshizaki, former RMS coordinator. When it comes to developing a data management system for storing and accessing the monitoring data collected by Indigenous guardians, simplicity can go a long way.

With words like Posgres, posGIS plugins, QGIS and ODK, delving into data management systems can feel like you’ve landed in a foreign country.

“There are so many choices and options now. Each with different costs and pros and cons. Our experience with the Regional Monitoring System is that when it comes to developing tools for using your data, it is important to talk to the experts,” says Lara.

When the RMS was first developed, the Coastal Stewardship Network used a Drupal platform to develop an online content management system to store and access RMS data collected by Guardian Watchmen. It served its purpose in the beginning when the focus was on collecting and inputting data into the system. But as Nations began to think about how they wanted to use their data, the limitations of the data storage system became apparent and it was clear that a new system was needed.

“We pretty quickly moved to develop our own relational database,” says Lara. “We needed a system that could talk to other databases and systems and that would allow data to be directly accessed by GIS programs. With our new database, we can produce whatever data products that our Nations need, from maps of patrol routes and data, to heat maps that show intensity of patrolling effort.”

The RMS system has a relatively simple web portal interface with secure permission and sign in requirements. Users can see their patrol routes and sightings on maps and generate different data summaries they can use for reporting. Technical support is available to troubleshoot and meet the complex data products requested by member Nations.

When asked what tips she has for Indigenous Guardian programs developing their own data management system, Lara replied:

“I recommend establishing a volunteer IT committee with expertise in all aspects of data collection, storage and access, and analysis. For us, this committee has been extremely useful in helping us make decisions and evaluate our new database. It has also worked well for us to have programming expertise in-house so that we can respond quickly and nimbly to problems when they arise or requests for specialized data analysis. Finally, because security is of utmost concern with our member Nations, we made sure to house our database on a Canadian server.”