For More Information

CanVis - A Basic Visualization Tool

CanVis Workshops and Presentations

Digital Coast

NOAA Coastal Services Center


Using CanVis to Illustrate Coastal Changes

Simulated visual images can be much more effective than charts and graphs in drawing attention to the potential impacts of coastal development and policy changes. But until recently, many coastal resource managers lacked the skills, resources, and time to create effective visualizations with the software they had available.

Charleston, SC

Coastal professionals can use CanVis to demonstrate the scenic impact of anticipated sea level rise on prized community landmarks. The Battery in Charleston, South Carolina, is a landmark of great historical, aesthetic, and economic importance in this tourism-driven region. Mouse over the image to see the original image and the image created using CanVis.

In response to requests for easy-to-use and inexpensive visualization tools, the NOAA Coastal Services Center has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agroforestry Center to provide CanVis—agroforestry’s free software visualization tool—in a form suited to the needs of coastal professionals. CanVis, which is part of the Digital Coast suite of tools, enables users with minimal computer skills to create realistic simulations using their own photographs and a digital library that features coast-appropriate visual objects.

“The response has been excellent,” says Hansje Gold-Krueck, a specialist with the Center’s Human Dimensions program. “We’ve handled more than 350 CanVis software requests from 36 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico, as well as from Australia, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada, and seven European nations. We’ve also held CanVis workshops across the country, and our course on Coastal Community Planning and Development includes a CanVis tutorial,” she adds.

Philadelphia, PA

The historic port area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, affords picturesque views of the Delaware River, so when high rise condominiums started appearing on the port's finger piers, issues arose about the effects on scenic vistas. Using CanVis, the NOAA Coastal Services Center helped Pennsylvania's Coastal Resource Management Program demonstrate the potential aesthetic consequences of building additional high rise structures along this coastal river waterfront. Mouse over the image to see the original image and the image created using CanVis.

In addition, the Center now conducts virtual CanVis workshops via WebEx. “Those who take CanVis training through WebEx can build their program capacity and interact with other online students, but without the burden of travel costs,” notes Gold-Krueck.

The uses of CanVis for coastal settings are wide-ranging. For instance, in Massachusetts, coastal zone managers have used CanVis to illustrate how potential dock and pier “build-out” would alter the aesthetics of a valued community waterway. In Washington State, coastal professionals have used CanVis to illustrate projected sea level rise and the visual impact of hypothetical sea walls.

In the coming months, CanVis’s coastal object library will expand to feature more visualizations needed by resource managers—wind turbines, paved and unpaved parking surfaces, mixed-use development, natural and artificial buffers for storm management, and other illustrations.