Web portal could help manage ecosystems

HumanDimensions.gov will help natural resource managers better understand the relationship between people and the environment.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are leading an effort to develop an interagency Web portal to help the country’s natural resource managers and others better understand the relationship between people and the environment.Along with the U.S. Forest Service, NOAA’s Coastal Services Center is spearheading development of HumanDimensions.gov (HD.gov). The center is based in Charleston, S.C., and provides technology-based work, training and information to coastal resource managers.The portal is intended to provide government agencies, universities and nonprofit groups with case studies, policy and legislative materials, methodologies, and other information that will focus on the application of social science to natural resource management.“There are a number of different places you can go to the Internet for information related to this, but what we felt in talking with other people was that there was no credible one-stop shop,” said Tom Fish, a human dimensions specialist at the Coastal Services Center.Human dimensions is a broad and multifaceted term that has come into vogue in the last several years, Fish said.Natural resource managers will try to understand and consider human dimensions, which include people’s needs and actions, cultural attitudes, social patterns, and economic and political aspects, to improve the stewardship of coasts, fisheries, forests, wildlife, cultural and historic resources and parks and recreation areas. Natural resource managers must not only understand their ecosystems but also monitor and control human access to those resources, Fish said.“It is not a simple term,” he said.The portal will not duplicate efforts because it will try to direct people to existing resources, Fish said. However, some original material may be developed for the site, too, he added.The initiative is still in the formative stages. Officials are developing a memorandum of understanding to formalize partnerships and spell out how agencies, organizations and universities can participate. Officials will also form a steering committee with representatives from other organizations and subcommittees that may supervise content and Web development.About 20 federal agencies and dozens of state agencies, nonprofit groups and universities are actively participating in the portal’s development or have expressed an interest to help.According to a recently posted notice on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, the Coastal Services Center is seeking a sole-source contract from Kapow Technologies to provide software and training for the portal’s development. The company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has developed software that can mash up pages, services and other information to create new applications and data sources, according to its Web site. According to the FedBizOpps notice, the software must extract and integrate content in multiple formats from various participating agencies and groups into the HD.gov portal.Fish said officials are planning meetings in mid-February to discuss development of HD.gov, which is anticipated to be unveiled in June at the 13th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management in Park City, Utah.