CZ-Tip - Tips on How to Use the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System or MORIS

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

In 2012, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) released the new Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS)—an online mapping tool for searching data related to the coastal zone and creating maps displaying the data. Produced by CZM and the MassGIS office within the Information Technology Division in Administration and Finance, MORIS enables users to interactively combine sets of coastal data into new maps to analyze patterns, seek relationships, and monitor trends. The upgrades make using MORIS faster, easier, and more effective. Enhanced MORIS features include:

  • Increased speed on both the front-end (the web interface) and the back-end (the software that builds and renders the image displayed in the browser).
  • More basemaps, including Google, Bing, and OpenStreetMaps.
  • Ability to easily search available data layers.
  • Access to select federal and other external data directly from the agency of origin.
  • Symbology that can modified by the user.
  • Code that can be readily shared and modified because it is 100% open source.
  • Easy printing and sharing of maps with new print/save tool.
  • Modernized look and feel.

Maximize MORIS with these tips...

Explore Hundreds of Data Layers - From the super specific "Anadromous Fish by Man-Made Barriers" to the more general "Public Beaches," the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (MORIS to his friends) has a whopping 693 "data layers" that are accessible to anyone with a computer. Best of all, the information (and open-source coding) is free, not subject to copywriting, and can be saved, shared, copied, and modified. Want to see where all the boat mooring fields are in Massachusetts waters? Find the locations of lighthouses? See how many artificial reefs exist off the shore? Well, you are just a hop, click, and a mouse away from learning what lies below and above Massachusetts coastal waters.

Basemaps and Display Options - Did you know that MORIS has a variety of basemaps that can be used as different backdrops when viewing the available data layers? MORIS offers satellite, road, and topographic basemaps provided by Bing, Google, and OpenStreetMap so that you can easily customize your map. Want to plan a trip to the coast? Use a road basemap with the Public Beaches data layer to help map your excursion. Or maybe you'd like to see how steep a hike awaits you on a recreational trail? Select a topographic basemap to use with the Protected and Recreational Open Space data layer. To change the basemap in MORIS, click the "Basemaps" button located on the right side of the lower toolbar to view a menu and select one of the listed options. You can also change the transparency of the basemap using the opacity slider found at the bottom of this basemap menu. Slide the arrow toward 0% to dim the basemap and toward 100% to make it darker. See the MORIS website to start exploring the various basemap options.

Where in the World Is... - Find just about any place with MORIS, thanks to its use of the powerful Bing Geocode Service. MORIS's "search for a location" tool (located right in the center of the MORIS top tool bar) uses this flexible service to zoom in to just about any place you type in this box. It accepts addresses in a variety of formats, so there's no fumbling over abbreviations. If you don't have an address to search by, try an interesting landmark or place name (e.g., "Fenway Park" or "Battery Wharf"), name of a waterbody (e.g., "Fort Point Channel" or "Salem Harbor"), or maybe a well known neighborhood (e.g., "North End"). You can even use geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude, such as "42 22 01, -71 03 02") from your GPS unit. Try it! You'll never lose your way again. Visit the MORIS website to explore the endless opportunities to find your way.

The Power of the Data Behind the Map - At first glance, MORIS may appear to be simply a map-making tool. While map making is a crucial component of MORIS, and maps by themselves can convey great amounts of information, there is more going on behind the scenes that you may wish to explore. Using MORIS's Dredged Areas data as an example, a user may easily make a map showing the actual footprint of each dredging project. The resulting map does not tell the whole story—leaving unanswered questions such as when the dredging last occurred and the name and URL of associated technical reports. To access this information, use the "Identify" tool to select the features you want to learn more about, and then click on the layer name in the results window to see the attributes. You can sort them alphanumerically, hide columns that aren't of interest, change the order they appear in, or select a subset of the features to see them highlighted on the map itself. If you get stuck, check the illustrated help by clicking the blue question mark in the top toolbar. Use your data to the fullest!

Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan Data - All of the spatial data provided in the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan are packaged separately on a MORIS: Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan Data page.

Share and Bookmark Your Maps - Sharing and bookmarking maps is easy with MORIS. Let's say you have put together a map of boating access sites, marinas, and mooring fields in your town and you want to send the map to your colleagues. To do this, click the "Make a permalink" tool (the yellow star icon located on the right side of the top toolbar). Right-click the blue "permalink" in the pop-up window and use your browser menu options to copy the link. This link can then be shared with others in an email to launch a map with the same active data layers, map extent, and basemap. You may also save this link as a bookmark in your browser so you can view the same map later.

Ultra-Customize with Google Earth - Do you use Google Earth? Have you ever considered viewing MORIS data in Google Earth? It's easy and very powerful. First, make sure you have Google Earth installed on your computer. Then, create a map in MORIS (zoom to your area of interest and add your datalayers of choice). Click "Launch the data export wizard" (the button with the yellow arrow to the left of the "Help" question mark in the right-hand corner of the top tool bar). When you get to the fourth step of the wizard, select the "Google Earth file (.kml)" button, give the download a name, and click "Finish." Once downloaded and unzipped (double-click on zip file), each data layer will have its own folder. Simply double click the .kml file in each folder to display the data in Google Earth. After the loading the first .kml file, additional layers will be added to the same Google Earth map. With the MORIS data now displayed in Google Earth, you can have fun creating ultra-custom maps with data from Google's prodigious holdings that range from historic maps to user-submitted locations of great greasy-spoon diners. With MORIS data in Google Earth, you'll have the world's geographic data at your fingertips as you make your custom map of the Massachusetts coastline.

Build a Map for Your Next Report, Email, or Web Page - With almost 700 data layers at your disposal, MORIS lets you build custom maps. Then, with just a click of the print/save button on the top toolbar, you can create three separate images in your web browser—a map, legend, and title. These images can be saved or copied with a right click of the mouse and then can be pasted into an email, website, or Word document. For example, a shoreline change map, complete with north arrow and scale bar, can be copied and pasted into a report about barrier islands. Or maps of marine invasive species monitoring results can be saved as PNG files and uploaded to a wiki dedicated to tracking the spread of invasive colonial tunicates. Visit the MORIS website and use your creativity as you explore the world with maps.

Search Available Data Layers - Did you know that you can search the 693 data layers available in MORIS—the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System—to quickly locate layers of interest? For example, if you're interested in viewing seafloor data from Boston Harbor, type "Boston Harbor" in the "Search data layers" box (in the upper right-hand corner at the top of the "Available Data Layers" window). MORIS searches the data layer names and lists all the layers with "Boston Harbor" in their titles, such as "Bathymetry: Boston Harbor and Approaches" and "Boston Harbor Water Taxi Stops." Click any layer and it will be drawn on the map and become the first listing in the "Active Data Layers" window. When you click on it, the layer will open in its folder. For example, if you click on "Bathymetry: Boston Harbor and Approaches," the "Seafloor" folder will open and you can scroll through the available seafloor datasets and to find other layers of interest. Visit the MORIS website to begin searching and discovering the various data layers available in CZM's online mapping tool.

Uncover More of MORIS on a Small Screen - When using MORIS —the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System—on a laptop or a computer with a small screen, it's possible that you may not be seeing all of the top menu toolbar. To find out, look to the far right of the toolbar (which is located along the top of the map window) for the "Help" icon (a question mark). If it's there, no adjustment is necessary. If you don't see it, accessing the hidden part of the toolbar is easy. First, maximize your browser window by clicking the "Maximize" button (the one with a rectangle in the upper right corner of your browser, positioned between the " " and the "X" buttons). If that doesn't bring the hidden icons into view, place your cursor on the vertical divider between the map and the "Available Data Layers" column. (You are in the right spot when the cursor looks this <-||->.) Drag the divider to the right until all of obscured icons come into view to put all of MORIS at your disposal. (Dragging the divider to the left creates more room for viewing the Data Layers and Legend.)

Details on the Data LayersUsing Metadata in MORIS - Have you ever wondered who developed the "Modeled Wind Speed at 30 meters" data layer available in MORIS (the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System web-based coastal mapping too), and just how they did it? When the "Mooring Fields" data layer was published and if it's being maintained? The answers are always just a click away. CZM and project partners provide complete text documentation for each MORIS data layer in what are called metadata records. These standardized, detailed records can be accessed within MORIS by right-clicking on a data layer name in one of two places: the "Available Data Layers" panel or the "Active Data Layers" panel—both on the right side of the MORIS window. Select "View metadata" from the right-click menu that appears. The record for your data layer of interest will open in a new window. Additionally, metadata records are included with each GIS shapefile data download in XML and/or HTML formats, which can be read by most text viewers and web browsers.

Customize Data Layer Symbology - With almost 700 data layers and 11 basemap options available in MORIS (the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System), there are hundreds of possible combinations for viewing. With all these images being layered over each other, you may occasionally find that the symbology (the symbols that show the data onscreen) doesn't quite work. For example, the default symbology of a data layer may stand out when viewed over the Google Roadmap, but tend to blend into the background when using the Bing Aerial basemap. If this happens, you can adjust the symbology of most data layers to make the map easier to read. To change the symbology, right-click a data layer's name in the "Active Data Layers" window, move the cursor over "Choose a color" to view a menu of color options, and select one of the colors. The data layer will be redrawn with the chosen color. To change back to the original symbology, right-click the data layer's name in the "Active Data Layers" window and click "Revert to original symbology." If you are viewing overlapping data layers, you can adjust the transparency of an active data layer. Simply right-click a data layer's name in the "Active Data Layers" window and use the opacity slider. Slide the button toward 0% to make the layer more transparent and toward 100% to make it more opaque.