Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA): From Portsmouth Response to NOAA’s GeoPlatform Gulf Response

Kurt Schwehr
Research Assistant Professor


Friday, Sep. 24, 2010, 3:00pm
Chase 130

In 2007, a small UNH team put together a prototype emergency response web application using open source tools on a Mac Desktop and later a Mac Mini.  That system, called Portsmouth Response, was designed to assist in the first hours of an environmental incident by providing easy access to basic GIS layers without requiring GIS experts.  This system generalized and renamed to ERMA, begin deployed as prototypes in the Caribbean and participating in the Spill Of National Significance (SONS) drill in New England during March 2010.  Before the team could evaluate the performance during the SONS drill, the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010.  Four days later, the ERMA team was called in for 24x7 support of NOAA and USCG operations to handle the incident.  ERMA went from prototype system to being the system providing the Common Operational Picture (COP) is just a few weeks.  In early June, NOAA setup a system to mirror the unrestricted datasets for the public on the GeoPlatform system.   Kurt will describe how ERMA is designed and how it was used during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.


Schwehr received his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he studied marine geology and geophysics, and received a B.S. in Geology from Stanford University. Before joining CCOM, he worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), NASA Ames (ARC), the Field Robotics Center (FRC) within the Robotics Institute (RI) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park.

His research includes components of computer science, geology, and geophysics. He looks to apply robotics, computer graphics, and real-time systems to solve problems in marine and space exploration environments. He has been on the mission control teams for the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Polar Lander, Mars Exploration Rovers and the Phoenix Mars Lander. He has designed computer vision, 3D visualization, and on-board driving software for NASA's Mars exploration program. Fieldwork has taken him from Yellowstone National Park to Antarctica.

He is currently working on a range of projects including the Chart-of-the-Future (CotF), the maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS), visualization techniques for underwater and space applications, marine geology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Mars spacecraft. During 2011-2012, Schwehr will be working at Google with the Oceans team and at NASA JPL with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)/Curiosity rover. Schwehr has been a member of the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM) SC121 working group: Expanded Use of AIS Within VTS. He leads the Right whale AIS Project (RAP) which transmits messages to ships in the Boston Approaches with the aim of reducing the risk of ships striking right whales in the traffic lanes by using the Cornell/WHOI listening network.

Schwehr publishes a number of Open Source software libraries and is a committer to the Fink software packaging project. He enjoys using Emacs org-mode and Python in his research.

Kurt Schwehr's home page: http://schwehr.org