Madrona evolved from MarineMap, a tool originally developed to support the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative in California. The MarineMap consortium was formed to develop the tool and was comprised of scientists and technologists at the University of California Santa Barbara, Ecotrust, and The Nature Conservancy.


California Marine Life Protection Act

The Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 mandated the state of California to implement a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) based on the best readily available science. After the act passed, the State struggled to implement MPAs precisely due to inadequate stakeholder involvement. In response to this, the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) of 2004 began convening groups of stakeholders and scientists to design MPAs on a regional basis. Legislative bodies now understood that the successful design and implementation of MPAs must involve the individuals that are directly impacted by the state of our oceans such as fishermen, divers, kayakers, surfers, teachers, scientists, and conservationists.


The MarineMap decision support tool was developed in response to the specific needs of average, non-technical stakeholders as they collaboratively designed MPAs, allowing them to:

  • visualize geospatial data layers
  • draw prospective MPA boundaries with attributed information
  • assemble prospective MPA boundaries into arrays
  • share MPA boundaries and arrays with other users
  • generate graphs and statistics to evaluate MPAs based on science-based guidelines

In 2008, MLPAI stakeholders started using MarineMap to explore alternative MPA designs in California and the feedback received was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, MarineMap was considered by many to be the most comprehensive, user-friendly, web-based MPA design application at the time.

Broader Applicability

MarineMap went through significant refactoring from version 1.0 to version 3.0. To make it more broadly applicable to marine planning processes a conscious decision was made to separate MPA design from the core marineMap library. It was the modules developed on top of it that tailored it for a specific planning process. This allowed Ecotrust to quickly develop new tools such as Oregon MarineMap, which addressed new objectives including renewable energy planning as part of Oregon's Territorial Sea Planning Process.

Learn more about the MarineMap 3.0 design


Beginning in 2011 Ecotrust began using the MarineMap code base to develop tools outside of the marine sector at a variety of geographic scales for forestry, watershed prioritization and regional planning. New features and core improvements were beginning to come out of these projects at a rapid pace and Ecotrust began envisioning a broader framework for spatial planning, one that incorporated the best innovations across sectors and projects while still supporting the uniqueness of each. Thus the idea for Madrona was born, a framework for decision support and spatial planning at any scale.