On October 3, 2019, around thirty WICDI Community of Practice (CoP) participants gathered among the fall leaves at Northland College in Ashland. Our goal: to discuss culvert mapping in northern Wisconsin as a case study for better data sharing and collaboration. We came away with several key issues identified and plenty of action items to work on.

The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute was the perfect size for our group. (Click on any photo to see it enlarged.)

Project leaders Howard, Hayden and myself (Melanie) gave brief overviews of WICDI’s background, its goals, and its structure.

Hayden Elza introduces participants to our Collaborative Support Environment.
State Cartographer Howard Veregin explains WICDI’s genesis.
Melanie Kohls goes more in-depth on culvert inventories.

Speakers from various agencies and areas of Wisconsin presented their work in the form of culvert inventories, risk analyses, culvert collection tools, and more. The humble culvert is important for so many reasons – from transportation to emergency management to fish passage.

Chris Ester (USFS) details his plan to map culverts in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Carmen Novak (Bayfield County) presents on the current state of Bayfield’s culvert inventories and her goals for the county.

After a delicious lunch from Ashland Baking Company, and a few more speakers, we wrapped up the day with an intense Next Steps discussion. Covering a large whiteboard front and back with ideas, we teased out the critical takeaways for establishing a coastal data-management infrastructure:

  • Culverts are just the beginning.

Culvert inventories are important, but equally important are all the culvert- and flooding-related data that don’t fall under the category of “inventory”. Looking at data standards, culvert collection methods, flood risk factors, schemas, and more will help the CoP assess what factors comprise a better, more complete culvert inventory standard.

  • We should start with what we already have.

Our first task as a CoP is to gather together all of the data and metadata, inventories, models, schemas, and the rest, owned or known by the community. Only then can we start the seemingly exhausting task of wrangling the data. Luckily…

  • We are stronger together.

Several CoP members volunteered to participate in, or lead, subteams dedicated to different areas of analysis for the WICDI project. Teams may be created to look at which risk factors are essential, for example, or to compare different culvert-collecting tools. And in a similar vein…

  • “Community of Practice” means everyone’s needs are heard.

From the people in the field gathering data to the people running GIS analysis tools on that data, to the people communicating information between departments, and beyond. Forming a CoP early on means that all perspectives are taken into account, with the end goal of delivering products and practices that work for all CoP participants.

Finally, tired after a long day but excited by all of the new ideas and possibilities, we disbanded and exited Northland (after wiping down the whiteboard). I’d like to thank all of our participants for being so enthusiastic about the project and offering so many insightful comments. If you weren’t able to make this workshop, don’t worry – our agenda is posted below, along with speaker presentations and a few more photos from the day.

As for future WICDI events, we’re planning a second workshop, likely after the holidays. Updates on that and other events will come through the CoP email list. Also, if you’re heading to Bayfield this week for the WLIA Fall Regional, catch WICDI’s presentation on Friday morning. Have a great week!

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