latitude and longitude designation and collection data

Konstantin Savov kps at FLORIN.MSK.SU
Tue Oct 3 03:08:39 CDT 1995

On Sep 29, 18:55, Library wrote:
k> Subject: latitude and longitude designation and collection data
k>           The California Academy of Sciences has recently acquired
k>           GIS software.  It is of great interest to us to use this
k>           software in conjunction with our existing collection's data.
k>           However, much of our existing data is without latitudinal
k>           and longitudinal designations.  Has anyone already
k>           undertaken the huge job of retrospectively assigning
k>           latitude and longitude to their collections data.  If so,
k>           what was done to maximize the speed and accuracy of the job?
k>           Karen Cebra
k>           Collections Manager
k>           Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy
k>           California Academy of Sciences
k>           kcebra at
k>-- End of excerpt from Library

I've had similar problems with asian specimens of Tiliaceae (China,
Malesia) and collections from central part of Russia.  Currently I have
got a software designed for such purposes.  It integrates database to
store data on collections (herbarium labels, localities, etc.) and
GIS-like interface to prepare and produce maps based on herbarium
collections.  I save a lot of time using it.

You usually have several problems working with coordinates of collected

1.  You always should find a proper sources to get coordinates of
localities (gazeteers, maps, etc.).  For example, ten years ago I had a
lot of problems with collections even from central part of Russia
(proper maps was not available here, anybody had to get special
permission to work with true maps).  When I received good maps, it
became much easier to make labels for my own collections and find
coordinates for old herbarium.

It's very useful to get a digital map with settlements, rivers, etc.
But it is more important to have good maps and gazeteers in any form,
from my point of view.  In any case, you should spent a lot of time
searching for a point needed on a map or checking gazeteers - it is very
hard to automate the process.

>From the other side, if you want to have rather detailed digital maps
managed by your GIS software, you will need huge amount of disk space
and other hardware resources.  Detailed digital map (1:1000000) I'm
using for South-East Asia occupies several megabytes of disk space with
coast lines, administrative boundaries and main rivers only.  The same
map of the world needs more than 10 MB.  If you try to add small rivers
and settlements there, you will need much more disk space and some
tricks to accelerate drawing that map on the screen (or you should get
more powerful hardware and software than ordinary Intel machines with
DOS/Windows :-).

So, I often prefer to use detailed maps (1:1000000 and 1:100000 for
detailed work) in paper form and rather simple digital map (1:1000000 in
slightly reduced form) loaded in my GIS application.

2.  If you have collections with localities indicated as 'Borneo',
'Caucasus' or 'Moscow province' (I've seen a lot of such stuff!), you
get very difficult problem in any case.  You would need a lot of time
examining some additional information in order to localize that
collections.  In some cases you can use such material for analysis, but
your software should support areas, lines, sets of points as a spatial
representation of localities.  Localities of such kind will never have
coordinates.  However, you would draw those on a digital map.

3.  If you have problems with maps, or you have badly documented
collections, any software will not help you.  If you have good maps and
your collections are documented well enough, good software would help
you significantly.

Structure of your collection database and integration between database
and GIS are the most important things.  You should avoid any duplication
in your data.  For example, your software should support a situation,
when the same locality has several descriptions.  If you have
coordinates for locality, it's very useful to create points for all
specimens collected there automatically.  Your software should support
that feature.  If I can get coordinates of a point created on a digital
map and enter them in a label automatically, it's also very useful.  If
you want to keep coordinates written by a collector, you often should
keep in a database both coordinates entered from label and those of a
point created on a digital map.  It's not a good idea to replace
coordinates originally written on a label by new ones - you would lost
useful data.  There are a lot of other things we'd discuss here.  If you
have any questions, please, contact me directly.

All features mentioned above are not related to GIS or collection
database only.  So, integration between GIS and database is very
important.  Unfortunately, I've seen many systems with powerful GIS
(fine maps and pictures, etc.) and too simple database.  You can get
just additional problems in this case.  A collection database is not
simple, if it is properly designed.


Konstantin Savov

|        Konstantin Savov        |     DataX/FLORIN, Inc.    Moscow, Russia    |
|                                |       Advanced Data Management Systems      |
|   E-mail:  kps at   |   Voice: (095)158-9520  Fax: (095)158-5700  |

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