Habitat Mapping and Characterization

Maps that depict and characterize the physical features and arrangement of seafloor habitats are the foundation for
coastal management and decision-making. NCCOS habitat mapping provides cutting-edge spatial data and models
on seafloor geology, habitats, and associated marine life in support of place-based management. To accomplish
this goal, we conduct multi-purpose, customer-driven mapping and research missions, optimize sensors to extract the
maximum data, and produce interactive models and data visualizations for managers to make informed decisions.

Areas of Focus


Habitat Mapping Team Strategic Plan 2021-2026

This document describes ambitious goals, investments, and practices the Habitat Mapping Team (HMT) intends to embrace over the next five years in order to affect and position us for the future. Our success towards meeting the mission of NOAA and our partners is predicated on our ability to remain agile in the rapidly evolving coastal intelligence community. Technological capabilities and coastal resource management issues continue to develop at increasingly shorter temporal scales therefore HMT must adopt strategic approaches to forecast, influence, and adapt to changing conditions so as to continue as effective leaders and geospatial pioneers of innovative applied science. HMT has self-identified to provide the role of serving the inter-niche. In order to do so effectively, HMT must frequently evaluate its focal areas, workforce, competencies, partnerships, and commitments to continue to adapt itself so as to remain poised to best anticipate, lead and fulfill the coastal management challenges of the present and future.

NCCOS Mapping: Inter-Niche Leading to Better Possibilities

Inter-niche is the concept of “filling and connecting” the gaps created by niches to provide integrated scientific solutions. NCCOS's habitat mapping inter-niche provides end-to-end coastal, geospatial, applied science solutions to resource managers enhanced by technology and application development.

Renewable Offshore Energy and Mineral Planning

We fill the space between charted seabeds and decision making to minimize conflict and impacts to natural resources. NCCOS provides characterization through maps and visualization showing the geology and biological communities on the seabed.

Read more

Conservation of Coral Communities

Our maps are used to define shallow and mesophotic corals as sensitive habitats to protect or focus restoration and detect change in impacted communities.

Read more

Managing Special Places

Our maps help managers better understand the condition and types of resources in protected areas to manage and conserve those resources. Our efforts also help identify, evaluate, and justify potential new areas for protection or management.

Read more

Where We're Going

There is a growing need to monitor and detect change in ocean habitats and the ecosystems they support, especially in the midst of rapidly growing coastal populations and ocean uses. As technology progresses, NCCOS mapping will continue to develop tools through research and development and transition those tools to operations to support NCCOS and NOAA mapping goals. We will continue to advance these strategies by expanding our partnerships with academic institutions, industries, and other government agencies.


Ensuring precision to detect changes in habitats


Transition R&D to operational mapping and characterization


Collaborative testing and training


Expanding partnerships and geographies

Featured Stories

From Around the Field