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Some of the most useful tools I’ve been introduced to by a host of experienced scientists ~


GIS, mapping, & satellite images for general use

QGIS – open-source GIS platform

Sentinel Hub Playground – recent satellite images from around the world; can filter based on cloud cover. (Hint: apply the atmospheric correction under the Effects tab)

Digital Globe – outline areas and search for available satellite images


Science illustration & graphics

Inkscape – free open-source application

ColorBrewer – interactive color palettes

cbrewer – ColorBrewer palettes for use directly in Matlab

cmocean – more great Matlab color maps, geared toward Oceanography applications


Resources for working with point cloud data

Cloud Compare – application for viewing/cleaning xyz data

MB System – command-line application hosted by MBARI for gridding multibeam data (for example). Have had success using with Homebrew – see their installation instructions.

XQuartz – plugin needed for MB System (and some other useful applications)


Cross-platform resources

VirtualBox – for running Windows on Mac (need a properly licensed install copy of Windows). Have had success running instruments through serial with VirtualBox, after setting up the com ports correctly.


Ocean-specific resources

GeoMapApp – a bathymetric mapping application and repository for some federally funded datasets

OpenCPN – open source software for ship-board vessel tracking (pair with GPS)



CyberDuck – server/cloud browser (e.g., for ssh and ftp connections)

BBEdit – advanced text editor (the successor to Text Wrangler) – for Mac

Notepad++ – advanced text editor for Windows


Data hubs

USGS Science Base – repository for some great datasets – for example, data from the Elwha River dam removal, including georeferenced orthoimages and time series of suspended sediment concentrations during the deconstruction.

Pangaea – data repository

NC OneMap GeoSpatial Portal – GIS data hub for North Carolina