Distribution maps - basic help needed

Fri Oct 27 09:07:23 CDT 1995


We have a big project underway which will require publication-
quality distribution maps for nearly 1500 plant taxa.  I have
seen references here to software - Quikmap, GIS/ARC and Atlas
GIS, etc. - that can be used to generate maps from database
files.  However, my questions are more basic (primitive?) than
these address.

The data from which our map points are drawn are not
"computerized" in any way.  All are U.S. distributions, ranging
from local endemics to widespread "weedy" taxa.  We will be
working from "draft maps" on which errors have just been
scratched through, and several taxa (up to four) appear on a
single map indicated by different colored dots.  Also the draft
base maps are regional, with many taxa now spread across two or
more maps.  We visualize the finished maps as: 1) perhaps several
taxa per map, but each taxon on only one map, 2) map should
indicate distribution at least to county by "dots" (various
symbols to represent different taxa on a map), 3) showing the
entire U.S. on the map for widespread species, but smaller areas
for more localized taxa.

I have talked with our GIS coordinator about digitizing the
points from the "draft" maps, but apparently it would take about
30 minutes per taxon or more than 700 hours of time to digitize
them all.  I have talked with our building's computer lab
coordinator about some kind of point-and-click method directly on
a map onscreen to create TIFF or EPS output files - in which case
I'm told we would need an "object-oriented" map file of the U.S.
that includes counties.

How can we best/most efficiently tackle this project?  Should we
do these "by hand", working with a symbols template on a "paper"
base map?  If we can find an "object-oriented" map file, would
that be the best way to go?  Should we digitize the data, even
though we don't foresee a future use for these files?  Can we
"scan in" the drafts, clean them up, and piece them together to
create usable maps?

Thanks in advance for any help received!
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Deborah Q. Lewis, Curator            E-mail: dlewis at iastate.edu
Ada Hayden Herbarium (ISC)               Phone [1] 515/294-9499
Department of Botany                       FAX [1] 515/294-1337
Iowa State University
Ames, IA  50011-1020, U.S.A.
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