CZ-Tip - There's a Map for That on Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System

Find ways to get to, protect, and enjoy the coast with tips from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

In January of 2012, the culmination of a year and a half of mapping, coding, verifying, and usability testing resulted in the official release of an improved, updated, on-line mapping program, MORIS. (Full name: Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System.) This road-tested, user-friendly mapping tool is the result of a public-private partnership between Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS), SeaPlan, and Applied Science Associates. MORIS has hundreds of unique data layers from state, federal, and local sources (693 data layers as of January 2014, with more being added all the time)—providing users with one-stop data shopping and countless coastal mapping combinations. MORIS also allows users to share their creations by printing, emailing, or downloading (which also allows for later map modification). And it's all free, even the program code, which techies can use to create their own version of MORIS.


Although Massachusetts coastal management professionals have made up the bulk of MORIS users in the past, the updated version has a lot to offer to anyone with a personal or professional interest in the state's ocean boundaries, waterways, infrastructure, and what lies above and beneath the surface. To open MORIS, start by clicking "yes" after reading the introduction page. When MORIS opens up, a map of the state will appear. Users can keep the default map or choose a basemap from another provider (such as Google, Bing, or OpenStreetMaps), each offering a unique cartographic view of the Commonwealth. Using the zoom and pan tools, you can focus on the specific area that interests you. You can also browse a listing of available data layers or search by key words. Here are some examples of data layers MORIS has to offer:

  • Anglers, Boaters, and Divers - Choose your route/area of interest and activate any of these data layers to plan your next seafaring adventure: Marinas, Mooring Fields, Shipping Lanes, Nautical Charts, Recreational Boating Routes, Recreational Fishing Areas, Recreational Dive Sites, Submerged Wrecks, Artificial Reefs, Seagrass, U.S. Coast Guard Bases, Humpback Whale Core Habitat, and dozens of others.
  • Beachgoers, Sightseers, and Tourists - Map out Ferry Routes, Boston Harbor Water Taxi Stops, Public Beaches, Lighthouses, Protected and Recreational Open Space, and Coastal Hiking Trails.
  • Birdwatchers - Find important habitat areas for specific species, including Roseate Terns, Long-tailed Ducks, and Colonial Nesting Waterbirds, as well as the locations of the state's Areas of Environmental Concern, many of which contain some of the best birding sites around.
  • Homeowners, Potential Buyers, Builders, and Developers - Use a combination of layers to scope the soundness of real estate investments, such as Shoreline Change (which shows erosion rates from 1844-2009) and Public Beach Points (which can help you find a neighborhood with nearby beaches), or to get an idea of areas that are considered to be sensitive, unique, or legally protected (such as Barrier Beaches, Designated Port Areas, and Outstanding Resource Waters).
  • Students - If you need first source raw data (i.e., something original) or are looking for an idea for a paper or project involving coastal geology, invasive species in coastal waters, environmentally sensitive areas (land and water), hurricane tracking, population demographics, and much, much more—dive in.
  • Trivia Buffs, the Curious, and Seekers of Esoteric Facts - Curious about how many hurricanes were tracked vs. how many actually touched down in Massachusetts from 1851-2008? Ever wondered how many environmental monitoring buoys there are in New England? Want to see how many barrier beaches there are in the Bay State? Or maybe you have always wondered where the active disposal sites sit off the coast….Knowledge seekers beware—if you go looking for any of this information, you may end up distracting yourself with any one of the 693 layers.

Not Limited to the Coast

MORIS is the brother of OLIVER—MassGIS's on-line mapping tool that covers the whole state. And these siblings share much of the same information. So, you can travel inland with MORIS to find things like: Historic Districts, Legislative Districts, Median Gross Rent for different counties, and locations of Police Stations, Acute Care Hospitals, Railroads, Fire Stations, and Schools.

On-Line Help and In-Person Training

Finding exactly what you might be interested in may take some digging—so much information, all in one place! To help you find your way, MORIS has an extensive on-line user guide (click on the question-mark icon in the upper-right corner to open) with detailed information on how to use every aspect of MORIS, all written in plain English. For organizations who want to learn what MORIS can specifically do for them, CZM data management staff are available to train your team. Such trainings have been provided to employees of the Massachusetts Water Resource Agency and the South Shore Harbormasters, among others. If you would like to schedule training for your group, email CZM's Dan Sampson at