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Using Anonymous Cell Phone Data to Characterize Visitor Use Patterns in the Middle Peninsula, Virginia

This project began in May 2022 and is projected to be completed in May 2023.
Taskinas Creek, a small tributary of the York River (Virginia).

Taskinas Creek, a small tributary of the York River (Virginia). Credit: NOAA.

Understanding who visits coastal and marine areas and why is crucial for natural resource managers. However, this information is often unavailable and expensive to collect. This project will use technological advances in smartphone technology to estimate visitor use trends within the Middle Peninsula in Virginia. Information will be used by managers to understand human pressures on reserve sites and potential barriers to access for underserved communities.

Why We Care
People visit coastal and marine areas for a variety of reasons. However, it is often difficult to quantify the use of these areas as both observational counts and traditional surveys can be time consuming and expensive. Therefore, information on the amount of types of people who visit coastal and marine areas is often unavailable to managers for planning purposes.

What We Are Doing
Data sets that allow researchers to track human movement patterns more precisely have become available with the proliferation of smartphones with embedded GPS. Multiple data providers and data aggregation techniques exist, as well as research questions around how representative the data is of target populations and of data accuracy. This effort will explore the feasibility of using anonymous cell phone data to estimate human use trends within the Middle Peninsula in Virginia. Key partners for this effort include the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve – Virginia and the Middle Peninsula Habitat Focus Area.

 

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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