Norma Serra

Geography Department
University of Victoria
Victoria, B.C., V8W 3P5, Canada

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In 2001, I completed my BSc in Marine Biology, after which I worked as a fisheries observer in Alaska for almost 5 years.  In 2005, I enrolled in a one-year GIS advance program in my home country, Spain.   

A previous contact with Dr Rosaline Canessa inspired me to move to Victoria, B.C., to do a 3 month practicum in her lab, which was a necessary requirement to fulfill the GIS program in Spain.  That is how I started working with oil pollution data gathered by Transport Canada.  My main tasks were the visualization and exploratory analysis of observed oil spills and surveillance flights performed in the west coast of Canada.

Once completed my program in Spain I came back to Victoria to work as a research assistant for 6 month to continue my research on chronic oil pollution from vessel operations.  This research captivated my interest to the point that in January 2008 I decided to enroll at UVic to pursue my MSc in the Geography Department, with Dr. Rosaline Canessa and Dr. Patrick O’Hara (CWS-EC) as supervisors.  I completed my MSc in July 2010. 

From 2010 to 2012 I worked for Environment Canada as a GIS Specialist and Project Manager for the Oil in Canadian Waters project.  This project was funded by Transport Canada and Environment Canada and focuses on the analysis of oil spill observations and surveillance effort information extracted from the MSS6000 system, a new equipment installed in NASP aircrafts across Canada. It aslo involved the analysis of shipping traffic patterns in the Altantic, Pacific and Arctic.  Four universities are involved in this project: University of Victoria, Mount Allison University, Dalhousie University and University of Calgary.    

To this date I continue affiliated with the CORAL research group. Currently I am helping Dr. Rosaline Canessa in the organization of the conference CoastGIS in 2013. Currently, I work as program manager and Marxan trainer for the Pacific Analysis and Research Association.   


My research interests include spatial analysis and visualization for marine pollution monitoring and risk assessment, specifically oil pollution from anthropologic marine activities.   My background is in GIS and marine biology.

Publication and Presentation Highlights


Serra-Sogas, N., O'Hara, P.D., Canessa, R., Keller, P.C., Pelot, P. (2008). Visualization of spatial patterns and temporal trends for aerial surveillance of illegal oil discharges in western Canadian marine waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 56 (5), 825-833


This paper examines the use of exploratory spatial analysis for identifying hotspots of shipping-based oil pollution in the Pacific Region of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It makes use of data collected from fiscal years 1997/1998 to 2005/2006 by the National Aerial Surveillance Program, the primary tool for monitoring and enforcing the provisions imposed by MARPOL 73/78. First, we present oil spill data as points in a “dot map” relative to coastlines, harbors and the aerial surveillance distribution. Then, we explore the intensity of oil spill events using the Quadrat Count method, and the Kernel Density Estimation methods with both fixed and adaptive bandwidths. We found that oil spill hotspots where more clearly defined using Kernel Density Estimation with an adaptive bandwidth, probably because of the “clustered” distribution of oil spill occurrences. Finally, we discuss the importance of standardizing oil spill data by controlling for surveillance effort to provide a better understanding of the distribution of illegal oil spills, and how these results can ultimately benefit a monitoring program.

Serra-Sogas, N., O'Hara, P.D., Canessa, R., Bertazzon, S., Gavrilova, M. (2008). Exploratory spatial analysis of illegal oil discharges detected off Canada's Pacific Coast. In O. Gervasi, B. Murgante, A. Lagana, D. Taniar, Y. Mun, M.L. Gavrilova (Eds.), Computational Sciences and Its Applications - ICCSA 2008, Lecture Notes in Computer Sciences (pp. 81-95). International Conference, Perugia, Italy.


In order to identify a model that best predicts spatial patterns it is necessary to first explore the spatial properties of the data that will be included in a predictive model. Exploratory analyses help determine whether or not important statistical assumptions are met, and potentially lead to the definition of spatial patterns that might exist in the data. Here, we present results from exploratory analyses based on detected illegal oil spills by the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) in Canada’s Pacific Region, and marine vessel traffic, the possible source of these oil discharges. We identify and describe spatial properties of the oil spills, surveillance flights and marine traffic, to ultimately identify to most suitable predictive model to map areas where these events are more likely to occur.



Serra-Sogas, N., Canessa, R., O'Hara, P. (2009). Modelling risk of small-scale oil discharges from vessel operations off Canada's Pacific Coast. CoastGIS '09.  Universidade do Vale do Itajaí, Itajaí, Brazil. (oral presentation)

Serra-Sogas, N. (2009). Coastal Security and Risk Management using GIS and Spatial Analysis. 11th GEOIDE Annual Conference, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. (oral presentation)

Serra-Sogas, N., O'Hara, P., Canessa, R., Bertazzone, S. (2009). Exploring the Potential Deterrent Effect of Marine Pollution Monitoring in Canada's Pacific Region. Spatial Knowledge and Information Conference. February 20-21, Fernie, B.C., Canada. (oral presentation)

Serra-Sogas, N. (2008). Spatial Modeling of Oil Spill Risk. Assessing and addressing small scale maritime oil pollution and ecosystem impacts in British Columbia. Workshop hosted by Canadian Wildlife Service and Pacific Environmental Sciences Centre. December 4-5, Vancouver, Canada. (oral presentation)

Serra-Sogas, N., O'Hara, P., Canessa, R., Bertazzone, S., Gavrilova, M. (2008). Spatial statistical analysis of detected illegal vessel-source oil discharges in Canada's Pacific Region. Spatial Knowledge and Information Conference. February 15-17, Fernie, B.C., Canada. (oral presentation)

Serra-Sogas, N., Canessa, R., O'Hara, P., Nelson, T. (2008). Hierarchical clustering analysis of chronic oil pollution and shipping traffic in the Canadian Pacific region. GEOIDE 2008 Annual Scientific Conference. May 28-30, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. (poster presentation)

Serra-Sogas, N., Canessa, R., Keller, P., O'Hara, P.D., Marven, C. (2007). Visualization and spatial analysis of oil spill risk in Canada's west coast. GEOIDE 2007 Annual Scientific Conference. June 6-8, Halifax, N.S., Canada. (poster presentation)