SPC Geoscience Division

Home GSD Programmes Technical Support Services

Technical Support Services

E-mail Print PDF

The five technical support services that cross cut the work of the three technical work programmes of the SOPAC Division are: natural resource economics; GIS and remote sensing; technical equipment and services; data management; and publications and library.

Natural Resource Economics

Natural resource economics is a relatively new work area in the Division, arising in response to Members demand for information to improve policy planning and convince donors of the value of supporting new initiatives. Accordingly, economic analysis is becoming increasingly critical to underpin project design and delivery, develop grant proposals and achieve advocacy. The work of the natural resource economics staff thus includes input to natural resource policy development and the economic analysis of actions through cost benefit analyses and resource use, especially mineral resource assessments. The outputs are used to underpin advocacy, awareness and effective policy development.

GIS and Remote Sensing

GIS and remote sensing are used to provide state of the art assessment and monitoring of resource status and use. Expectations have increased with improved technologies and data access over time, opening new doors to analyse and respond to resource use challenges. GIS/remote sensing services are delivered using modern technologies such as satellite imagery and global positioning systems, underpinning mapping and modelling of natural resource systems. The work includes not only technical support, but also technical training and capacity building to Pacific island stakeholders to enable Pacific Island Countries and Territories to develop and maintain their applications and data service. Methods and procedures will also be developed to adapt applications that run well in Europe, to meet Pacific needs and conditions.

Technical Equipment and Services

Technical equipment and services deliver an essential support function both in the field and in the laboratory to marine geoscientific and oceanographic surveys as well as land-based geological, geophysical and hydrological surveying.

Geophysical, oceanographic and geological survey equipment include instrumentation packages; echo-sounders; magnetometer; multi-beam echo-sounders; side-scan processing and data recording equipment; sub-bottom profiler systems; current metres, acoustic Doppler profilers, tide and wave gauges, temperature loggers, conductivity temperature depth profilers, winches and cable counters, seabed sampling tools, drilling equipment, real-time high end GPS positioning and geodetic survey systems, electrical resistivity and electromagnetic prospecting systems.

The technical equipment and services built up by SOPAC "the Commission" is, and will continue to be, a long standing facility, highly recognised in the region for its specialised expertise supported by a team of trained and experienced engineers:  geological technicians who assist with installation, set up, calibration and data acquisition providing support for the three technical programmes in their service delivery. It is the intention of SPC, through SOPAC "the Division", to further develop and strengthen this facility.

Data Management

Technical support will involve diverse and integrated services across the work programme to ensure that essential data management systems are operational and that the necessary support is available to underpin the delivery of the technical work programmes. The demand for data management technical services is continually increasing with the need for increasingly large databases to monitor and respond to natural resource use challenges. Demand for data management services also responds to the need to ensure effective information and knowledge transfer across the region. Accordingly, data management work will include development of systems and software to underpin information sharing and links across Pacific Island Countries and Territories and other key stakeholders, as well as technical advice to programmes, such as on the procurement of data management equipment.

Publications and Library

Publications and Library services will be maintained by the Division to publish and provide access to corporate, work programme and promotional reports and publications. The service also maintains a special geoscientific library for the Pacific Island Countries and Territories and staff containing a vast and unique collection of reports, charts, maps, seismic sections, research cruise tracks, cores and other data records from geoscientific surveys. As such it is the most frequently used entry point for enquiries regarding access to products and services, and is greatly facilitated through a user-friendly web portal.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 January 2011 09:34  


New technologies will change the way people live in Pacific Island countries. This is according to Dr Wolf Forstreuter, GIS and Remote Sensing Unit specialist at SOPAC, the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

Dr Forstreuter said recent work to detect and analyse changes in vegetation on the Kiribati Islands of Aranuka and Maiana had important implications for all Pacific Islands.

“By overlaying recent satellite imagery on maps that were drawn from aerial photographs taken in 1969 of the Kiribati islands of Aranuka and Maiana, it is possible to detect any changes that have occurred,” he said.

“Not only can we assess the impact of people on the environment, we can assess whether this has been positive or negative. One of the surprises of this study was to discover that new mangrove areas are visible on the coast of both islands.”

Dr Forstreuter said this could be because of the 1969 photography-taking place during high tide, followed by misinterpretation by mapmakers in Britain.

“But the very real possibility is that the mangroves are increasing because they have been protected by the island’s inhabitants,” he said.

The comparison between the older maps overlaid with recent satellite images also shows the spread of settlements and changes to bodies of water.

“This information becomes a useful planning tool for the future. Where should settlements develop? What water is available for such development? Where and what types of farming should be planned to support these settlements?” he said.