Environmental Baseline Survey on the Orinoco Delta Continental Shelf

  • A simple data loading process, in a structured way through MS Excel files, assured the delivery of only relevant data to the project in standardized units, from a multidisciplinary work team of researchers.
  • A database designed to allow to: store, browse and display field data, from 57 station, in two campaigns (dry and rainy season).
  • The GIS tool facilitates the visualization and supports in the integration process and data analysis.
Project Description

GIS Objectives:
One of the main objectives of the project were to measure the current conditions ( physical, chemical and biological properties ) of water and marine sediments on the continental shelf of the Orinoco Delta and determine the prevailing oceanographic and meteorological characteristics in the marine environment from direct and indirect influence of hydrocarbon development on the continental shelf of the Orinoco Delta. GIS support this project by:

  • Design a simple database to store, browse and display field data.
  • Support the data analysis by generating descriptive statistics and summarized information.
  • Interpolate field data (points) to generate a continuous surface (grid) to visualize the variable behavior.
  • Generate maps for each parameters in each variable to support the data analysis and documentation.
  • Data acquisition: The study area includes the Gulf of Paria and the coastal zone and ocean northeast of the Orinoco Delta to a depth of 1000 m. Samples were taken in the physical environment by measuring air quality, water (at different depths) and sediment sampling and measuring biological environment composition, abundance and distribution of phytoplankton, zooplankton, ichthyoplankton, megabenthos, macrobenthos, meiobenthos, in a total of 57 preset stations. Two field campaigns were done, one in the rainy season and another in the dry season. Information about fish, reptiles, birds and mammals was also investigated for the study area. Field data collected was stored on Excel tables. Each table corresponds to a single variable or theme. In this, each column represents a measured parameter and each row corresponds to a sampling station values. The structure of each Excel table was defined previous to the field campaigns, guarantying the delivery of only relevant data to the project in standardized units.

  • Data loading and validation: Those responsible for each variable generated tables in Excel. This files were transformed to ascii files, and loaded to ArcView as tables. Sampling station coordinates were added to each data (row) in the tables. Point shapefiles were generated. Range value in each numeric field were checked. Fields with scientific names of each species was also checked with online databases.
  • Interpolation: To visualize and help understand the behavior of the point data, a continuous surface was interpolated for each parameter requested.
  • Data Analysis: To support the analysis, descriptive statistics and summarized data was generated according to each researchers request.
  • Maps generation: Not all the researchers had access to GIS software, so many requested maps for the data analysis, reports, presentations and project documentation.
Results (Examples):


  • All field information captured during the campaign 1 and 2 are loaded and stored in a GIS, through a simple and flexible data structure. Which serves as reference for future projects or baseline environmental monitoring. This data structure is independent of the GIS tool used, so it can be implemented in different software because of its simplicity. Also you can easily expand your design to include other environmental variables.
  • The data load processes were simple, because of the availability of every specialists to deliver their data in a structured way through files in MS Excel. The definition of a data structure with Excel for every variable, helped to specify the parameters to deliver and their units. Also prevented the delivery of data
    that are not relevant to the project or in unsuitable units.
  • The GIS tool facilitates the visualization, query information and supports in the integration process and data analysis.
    • For each variable, researchers could query by sampling stations, transects, sectors, subsectors (defined by depth), petroleum exploration block or all the study area.
    • GIS reported descriptive statistics (sum, average, maximum, minimum, standard deviation, etc.) or summarized information from any type of query, helping in the analysis process.
    • Comparation of data between the two campaigns (rainy and dry season) or the behavior of differents variables could be done.
  • 256 maps were produced for the documentation of the project and many more for the researcher analysis.
  • As part of the data integration process, a biodiversity file was generated (more than a 1000 species) with all the species identified by the researchers.
Congress Presentation:
  • Martín, A., Malavé, L., Sánchez, D., Aparicio, R., Arocha, F., Bone, D., Bolaños, J.A., Bolaños-Jiménez, J., Castañeda, J., Cardenas, J.J., Carbonini, A.K., Diaz, Y.J., Guadal, H.J., Klein, E., Lazo, R., Lemus, A., Lentino, M., Lira, C., Lodeiros, C., López, R., Marín, B., Martínez, G., Márquez, B., Márquez, A., Molinet, R., Morales, F., Posada, J., Prieto, A., Riera, A., Rodríguez, C.T., Ramírez, A., Senior, W., Solana, P., Severeyn, H., Spiniello, P., Valera, E., Yanes, C., Zoppi, E. Línea base ambiental plataforma deltana: Un nuevo enfoque para el desarrollo de gas costa afuera en Venezuela. XIV SIEBM: Simposio Ibérico de Estudios de Biología Marina, September 2006, Barcelona, España.
  • Martín, A., L. Malavé, D. Sánchez, R. Aparicio, F. Arocha, D. Bone, J.A. Bolaños, J. Bolaños-Jiménez, J. Castañeda, J.J. Cárdenas, A.K. Carbonini, Y.J. Díaz, H.J. Guada, E. Klein, R. Lazo, A. Lemus, M. Lentino, C. Lira, C. Lodeiros, R. López, B. Marín, G. Martínez, B. Márquez, A. Márquez, R. Molinet, F. Morales, J. Posada, A. Prieto, A. Riera, C.T. Rodríguez, A. Ramírez, W. Senior, P. Solana, H. Severeyn, P. Spiniello, E. Valera, C. Yanes y E. Zoppi. 2007. Environmental Baseline Study in the Delta Platform. A. Martín y D. Bone (ed.). Petróleos de Venezuela, S. A. – Universidad Simón Bolívar. Caracas, Venezuela. 176p.

Project employer:
Employer: INTECMAR (Institute of Marine Science and Technology, Simón Bolívar University)
Responsibility: GIS Leader and GIS Spatial Analyst
GIS work team: Rodrigo Lazo
Status: Finished 2007