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Stay tuned for more info from the Esri team on new workflows to produce local, higher-resolution 3D meshes and ultimately EMUs from NOAA data or your own data. Watch this space and the Esri Ocean GIS Forum recaps for more! We also have a growing list of exciting use cases of the EMUs for a range of scientific and resource management applications (NOAA Animal Telemetry Network, the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Orange County Sanitation District, the University of South Florida and Woods Hole as part of GEO’s Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, SCCWRP, and more).

Our Esri Applications Prototype Lab has been experimenting with use of EMU data in their 3D Fences/Curtain tool. See some neat results on YouTube.  For more information on 3D Fences and to download the free tool, see And note that a new version of this tool that works with both Arcmap and ArcGIS Pro is now available.


New EMU Story Map

Posted by DWright-esristaff Employee May 21, 2017

See our new Esri Ecological Marine Units story map with material from our many talks introducing the project, as well as from our peer-reviewed journal article in Oceanography. Thanks to Keith VanGraafeiland for creating this great resource!


Visit the story map at or click on the image below. 


Wednesday, May 17, 2 pm US EDT/11 am US PDT/6 pm UTC

Ecological Marine Units: A 3-D Mapping of the Ocean Based on NOAA’s World Ocean Atlas (Tools Included) by Dawn Wright of Esri. This webinar reports progress on the Ecological Marine Units (EMU) project, a new undertaking commissioned by the Group on Earth Observations, to develop a standardized and practical global ecosystems classification and map for the oceans. The EMU is comprised of a global point mesh framework, created from 52,487,233 points from the NOAA World Ocean Atlas. Each point has x, y, z, as well as six attributes of chemical and physical oceanographic structure (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, silicate, phosphate) that are likely drivers of many ecosystem responses. We identify and map 37 environmentally distinct 3D regions (candidate ‘ecosystems’) within the water column. These units can be attributed according to their productivity, direction and velocity of currents, species abundance, global seafloor geomorphology, and more. A series of data products for open access will share the 3D point mesh and EMU clusters at the surface, bottom, and within the water column, as well as 2D and 3D web apps for exploration of the EMUs and the original World Ocean Atlas data. This webinar will provide an overview of the EMU project and cover recent developments and future plans for the EMUs. Webinar co-sponsored by the EBM Tools Network (co-coordinated by NatureServe and and MEAM. 


Presented today to 140 attendees, over 300 total registrants. The (Coastal-Marine) Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network is co-coordinated by NatureServe and OpenChannels.


The recording is posted at, which includes slides and notes.

As one of the largest geographic conferences in the world, the 2017 AAG Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Boston hosted as many as 9,500 geographers, GIS specialists, and environmental scientists from around the world.


Special Session 2411: A New Map of Global Ecological Marine Units (EMUs) - An Environmental Stratification Approach
Thursday, April 6, 1:20 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., AAG Annual Meeting, Boston
Room: 200, Hynes, Second Level

Roger Sayre (USGS), Dawn Wright (Esri), Charlie Frye (Esri)


And this special publication (technical report) was given to every conference attendee requesting a conference bag 

A New Map of Global Ecological Marine Units – An Environmental Stratification Approach

Download the free color pdf 

GEOHAB (Marine Geological and Biological Habitat Mapping) is an international association of marine scientists studying biophysical (i.e. geologic and oceanographic) indicators of benthic habitats and ecosystems as proxies for biological communities and species diversity.


The GeoHab 2017 annual conference will be held for the first time in Nova Scotia, Canada at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Waterfront Campus from Monday May 1 to Friday May 5 2017


Please find attached the program for the 2017 GeoHab workshop. The workshop this year is focused on Ocean Mapping technologies - and will take place on Monday 1st may at the NSCC Waterfront Campus. 


Among the sessions will be "Analysis, Visualization and Sharing of 3D Ecological Marine Data," taught by Esri's Kevin Butler and Drew Stephens.


The goal of the workshop is to offer delegates an opportunity to see first hand the latest and greatest innovations in ocean mapping tools (hardware and software) from a variety of ocean technology vendors. This will include hands-on trials of the latest software tools, classroom sessions on technology developments, and field demos of hardware. There will be a plenary session to discuss the technologies and identify future R&D activities associated with ocean floor mapping.


Registration is open through the GeoHab website ( Please note that delegates are welcome to register for the workshop without registering for the main GeoHab conference.

Hot off the presses: Sayre, Wright, Breyer, Butler, Van Graafeiland, et al., 2017. A Three-Dimensional Mapping of the Ocean Based on Environmental Data, Oceanography 30(1):90–103.


Also finally here! The Ecological Marine Units (EMU) Explorer mobile app, downloadable from iTunes or GooglePlay  |

I recently took to ArcGIS Pro to visualize and analyze the EMU clusters. Having spent most of my Desktop analysis experience in ArcMap, I was both surprised and quite pleased with what I discovered. Here are a few handy tricks I learned which can greatly aid in understanding this vast dataset a little better!


As you probably already know, the EMU points are a multidimensional dataset that can be sliced in many ways, each of them offering a unique and valuable perspective on the data. One such way - and probably the most obvious - is to slice the data by depth, looking at all the EMUs that occupy the world's oceans between two depth intervals. If we do this iteratively, we can give ourselves 100 different views of the data. Doing so allows us to visualize how the prevalence of each EMU grows or shrinks as we descend deeper into the water column!


ArcGIS Pro has a neat capability which allows exactly this. It's called the range slider.

The range slider acts in a way that's very similar to a definition query. The main distinction? It allows its users to sidestep the multiple button clicks required to do an incremental step up or down in the result returned by the query.


To enable a range for a particular dataset, first, double click on a layer from the Contents pane to expand its layer properties. Once there, click 'Range' to go to the respective pane and specify the field on which you want to enable the capability.

(Note: the range slider only works on numeric fields, so if you're working with categorical data and wish to try ranges out on it, you'll first have to create a new field as assign numeric values to them.)


Now, when you click on your layer which is range-enabled, the following tab appears on the ribbon interface. This allows you to further customize properties such as how many steps within the range to visualize at once, how quickly you'd like to step through the range span, and whether you'd like to view it on repeat or switch directions. 


Alternatively, you can also use the vertical range slider that will appear on the right side of the map pane to achieve the same effect. Once you have this all set up, simply click the 'Play All Steps' button to animate to your heart's content! 


For more on the range slider and its full capabilities, see the help topic here:

Get started with the range slider—ArcGIS Pro | ArcGIS Desktop 


To get started working with the full suite of EMU data yourself, check out the EMU open data portal here: 


And, finally, I wouldn't leave you without first sharing a simple visualization of what I've just described. Enjoy!

The animation above shows the range slider and EMU data in full action and was created by using a third party application for capturing GIFs. Beginning at surface level (0m), the animation illustrates 100 distinct variations in the EMUs as they change with depth, all the way down to 5500m below the surface.

Unpack your project:
Unpacking Project
Unpacking your project can take anywhere from 30 to 45 mins; be prepared for this…. Get lunch or a cup of coffee. Don’t worry, you only need to unpack once. After you save the project you should not need to unpack again!

ArcGIS Pro – Once you have the project open in Pro you should open to a screen that looks similar to this:
ArcGIS Pro Global EMU - Opening Screen
Exploring the Pro Project:
Now, I can see the Ecological Marine Unit data, displayed as cylindrical shapes in a 3D Scene. I have the ability to interact with the Ecological Marine Unit’s (EMU’s) by clicking on the cylinders in the map and looking at the associated pop-ups.
The Scene is comprised of 3D and 2D Layers.

  • 3D Layers
    • Ecological Marine Units (Local) – 3,574,396 records. this is the data that is represented as cylinders in the project. This is an optimized version of the 52-million-point mesh where volumes of contiguous water masses with the same characteristics or attributes have been merged together.
  • 2D Layers
    • World Ocean Reference (Online) - annotation for features on the World Ocean Base map, this reference layer includes marine water body names, undersea feature names, and derived depth values in meters. Land features include administrative boundaries, cities, and inland water names.
    • World Ecological Land Units Map 2015 (Online) – Ecological Land Units (ELUs) are areas of distinct bioclimate, landform, lithology, and land cover that form the basic components of terrestrial ecosystem structure.
    • World Ocean Base (Online) - The basemap focuses on bathymetry. It also includes inland waters and roads, overlaid on land cover and shaded relief imagery.

Of the four listed data sources, the only source lives locally on the hard-drive is the Ecological Marine Unit data. The remainder of the datasets are provided as online services through Esri’s Living Atlas of the World.


Elevation Data:
The scene’s elevation is controlled in the map properties. From here you can control the vertical exaggeration and elevation source(s).
Elevation Settings
By default, the current scene is configured with a 5x vertical exaggeration and is utilizing the TopoBathy service that is available online through the Living Atlas of the World.


The ArcGIS Pro project package comes with 18 pre-configured bookmarks of fascinating places in the world’s oceans. Bookmarks can be accessed through a drop down interface where you can also create new bookmarks or manage your existing ones.
Bookmarks in Pro
Navigate to the Falkland Plateau using the associated bookmark. Notice an immediate difference in the colors and variation in the EMU columns? The water column characteristics are represented different here than in the previous location of the Galapagos Islands.


I hope this orientation to the Ecological Marine Unit's in ArcGIS Pro was helpful.  Please reach out to me with any questions or suggestions that you might have by commenting on this blog.

In the Ecological Marine Unit ArcGIS Online Group, you have access to the EMU data to download and use to explore and visualize in ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro).  The data are broken up by oceanic regions if you are interested in a particular subset or area of interest, or you can download the entire package.


Important: When you access the ArcGIS Online Group – Make Sure the “Show ArcGIS Desktop Content” box is checked (Left-hand side).


Checkbox to Show Desktop Content


EMU Global Ocean – the item description page for the Map Package that can be downloaded or used in ArcMap.  This file is 3.9GB.


EMU Global Ocean (Pro) –the item description page for the ArcGIS Pro Package that can be downloaded and used in ArcGIS Pro.  This file is 3.9GB.


When the download is complete, the files can be double clicked and they will launch in the respective application. 

ArcMap Packages – “Map Package” (.mpk).

ArcGIS Pro Packages – “Project Packages” (.ppkx).


The ArcMap Map Package takes about 15 minutes to unzip and open.  The ArcGIS Pro Project Package takes about 30 mins to unzip and open.  Once open you can spend some time orienting yourself with the data, etc.


emuocean gisesri ocean