Distribution maps - basic help needed

Julian Humphries jmh3 at CORNELL.EDU
Fri Oct 27 11:28:35 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.
> 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?

Here is what I would do which is sort of a mix of stategies you listed
above.  I am going to presume that if you could get the distributions into
a database then existing GIS software already on hand could be used to make
the actual maps.  Overlaying data from different species on a single base
map should be a capability of virtually any GIS package (probably even
Excel from Microsoft). Most GIS packages can read 1-3 desktop database
formats, minimally DBF, but others too. The GIS package will have USA
base maps tied to at least county level and should be able to put a dot on
or color in a county.  Get advice on this from your GIS coordinator.

Although a more complicated data structure might serve more purposes, you
basic data is taxon name, state and county (if I understand). You proposed
clicking on an object oriented map, but in fact clicking on words
corresponding to state/county values should be just as easy.  I would
create a simple database in your favorite desktop system with just those
three fields.  The secret to rapid data entry, however, will be the design
of a data entry form with code attached for populating your database.  I
would have a field (or two) for the taxon and then both check boxes and
multi-select list boxes (with county names)for every state.  Where an
entire state is within the range clicking on the state check box should
create records for every county. Code would take the results of that data
entry form and fill out records corresponding to every taxon/state/county

I don't know how ragged or large most distributions are, but I would think
that a worse case would be 5 or so minutes per taxon for data entry
(keeping a copy of the working maps next to the data entry station).  Of
course, the database form will take a day or two to develop, but you will
have a much more useful product at the end.  The data can be updated as
needed and new maps generated for other purposes or revisions to your
project. Even real time access to the data thru the WWW is possible.  See
http://muse.bio.cornell.edu/forms/fish-search-map.html for a county level
map of fish records generated in real time.

Hope this helps,

Julian Humphries
Ecology and Systematics, The MUSE Project
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853
Phone: 607-257-8143    Fax: 607-257-8109

Facts are stubborn things.      - John Adams (1735-1826)
Facts are stupid things.        - Ronald Wilson Reagan (b.1911),
                                  1988 Republican convention

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