your new lat/long system

Gary R Noonan carabid at CSD4.CSD.UWM.EDU
Thu Sep 8 12:04:02 CDT 1994

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>From: Alan Kabat <MNHIV044 at SIVM.SI.EDU>
>Subject:      your new lat/long system
>To: "G. Noonan" <carabid at>
>Dear Dr. Noonan,
>It was interesting to read about your new latitude/longitude (etc.) GIS
>program for USA localities. Congratulations on all the effort that was
>put into it...
>However, I wonder how does your program differ from the US Geological
>Survey database for the USA? This database has many more records, and
>can be accessed through Yale Peabody Museum (about half the USGS
>records) or through a CD-ROM purchased from USGS (about 2.2 million
>records). I have only used the former, but am quite impressed with what
>is available.
>If one can retrieve the full locality info + lat/long from the USGS
>records, then what does your program provide? Please advise...
>Thank you. --Alan Kabat (Mollusks, USNM, Smithsonian)
        You certainly are correct that the USGS CD-ROM database is
excellent. I have used it myself for localities (such as mountains, schools,
camp grounds etc.) that are not in the places database of populated places.
However when one looks up a locality from the CD-ROM database, one has to
copy down the latitude and longitude and then insert these values into their
own research database. For populated places in the U.S. the RESEARCH
INTERFACE program does this automatically and more. For example, if you
enter the geographical data of State: Washington and Referenced Point:
Seattle and enter that you have 13 males and 23 females and ask the program
to check the record, the following happens. The program inserts the latitude
and longitude into the record and notes that the county hasn't been entered
and adds King to the appropriate field. At the same time the program
calculates the total number of specimens and inserts that value into the
field for total number of specimens. If you accidentally type a space before
a geographical name such as Seattle, the program automatically removes this
space. (A leading space before Seattle would prevent searching for a record
by entering Seattle into a search dialog box. ) If you forget to capitalize
Seattle and enter seattle, the program will automatically capitalize it for
        If I can obtain funds for further development of the program, there
will be a series of CD-ROM disks covering not only the United States but
other countries also. Using such disks with the program will allow for
automatic insertion of latitude and longitude based on the geographical data
entered. In other words, this automatic insertion of degree data will save
time. The current degree data in the CD-ROM you refer to is not in the
decimal form needed by most GIS software. The program automatically converts
degree data into decimal form.
        The current version of the program also provides databases which
users can create for storing geographical data about their specimens as well
as character state data for individual specimens or populations. The
resulting files can be exported into GIS software. The latter software can
be used to make distribution maps. The maps can use different symbols for
specimens with different character states or of course different symbols for
different species. Use of GIS software greatly speeds map production and
allows biogeographic analysis not currently easily done. For example, in
Atlas GIS which I use one can calculate the percentage overlap of the
geographical distribution of 2 sister species. One can also calculate the
percent of a species current distribution that was formerly covered by ice
during the last glaciation.
        Future program versions will include the ability to generate or
export files for specimens from a given museum and to interact with bar
codes. This means that the information you acquire about specimens during
your research can be sent back to museums which lent you specimens. Curators
can then decide if they want to add all or part of the data sent them to
their collections database. The databases built by the current program can
be distributed for access by other users. For example, I am completing a
monograph on a Holarctic group of beetles found in wetlands and have a
database of geographic, character state and ecological data. Environmental
biologists might be interested in being able to search the database for
distribution of these  wetlands organisms and for ecological data.
        The program also provides various features for speeding the handling
of research data. It can scan the database and assemble a text file
containing a list of specimens examined. You can import this file into a
word processor and into your research documents. The program can provide a
list of specimen totals: for each month the males, females and unsexed
specimens collected along with the sex ratio of collected specimens--these
totals are listed by month for each species in the database. The total
report also lists these figures for specimens with no data for month and
provides a grand total of these items for each species (all month) and for
all specimens in the database. Another menu choice provides statistics about
the sharing of collecting sites by species, number and percent of sites with
just one species, same statistics for all sites with 2 or more species, same
statistics for sites with exactly two species, same statistics for sites
with exactly 3 species etc.
        The program thus is not just a means of looking up latitude and
longitude. I wrote the program to speed up work by grant assistants and then
added features for speeding my own analysis of data. My basic philosophy is
that systematists need tools to speed the routine tasks such as looking up
latitude and longitude, making distribution maps, making lists of specimens
examined, generating reports giving specimen totals or sharing of sites etc.
I'll greatly appreciate any further comments from colleagues. If colleagues
like the program and want enhancement and additional features, I'll try to
add them. If there is support for the assembly of a set of CD-ROM disks with
world wide latitude and longitude and other data, I'll work toward that
end--such a goal is helped by the fact that the large library of the
American Geographical Society is located near my museum.
        Many thanks for your question. If my response isn't clear about any
matters, please let me know.

        *  Gary Noonan                     *
        *  Curator of Insects              *
        *  Milwaukee Public Museum         *
        *  800  West Wells Street          *
        *  Milwaukee Wisconsin 53233  USA  *
        *  carabid at        *
        *  (414) 278-2762                  *

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