Distribution maps - basic help needed

Doug Yanega dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU
Fri Oct 27 16:01:21 CDT 1995

>From: Julian Humphries <jmh3 at CORNELL.EDU>
>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.

This somewhat rehashes some aspects of another recent discussion here (the
thread was "Re: latitude and longitude designation and collection data"),
and many good points on this general problem were covered then. However,
the "point and click" idea is one that was not fully explored, though it
comes close to what I had then suggested would be an "ideal" system. The
problem still remains that gazetteers (which is essentially what your
proposed list of state/county values would be) cannot extrapolate for
locality records at specific spots which are not themselves listed in the
gazetteer. For example "KANSAS: Neosha River at I-335" would be meaningless
to a gazetteer (and given the structure you suggest, its lack of a county
name would be troublesome), but if one had a fine-scale on-screen map, it
would be simplicity itself to point and click to get *exact* lat/long
coordinates. This would transform what is now the laborious process of
sifting through map libraries, finding one with the right scale, and then
figuring out the lat/long coordinates manually, perhaps in conjunction with
a gazetteer - reducing the problem to one that can be handled on one's
desktop, so instead of taking a half hour per locality look-up, it would
only take a few minutes at most.
        The end results would also be potentially more accurate, as well,
in those cases where the precise locality can be unambiguously located on a
computer map with a fine enough scale (possibly even more accurate than a
GPS unit readout taken at that location; and from personal experience, GPS
units need satellites to work, and in some times and places - like northern
Mexico between 11AM and 1PM - there aren't enough satellites). I would
consider such a point-n-click system to be the next best thing to the
perfect tool, and certainly hope that future software WILL have a visual
interface of this sort. Yes, there are plenty of records out there without
sufficent detail to give an unambiguous point in space, but no reason not
to design a system that CAN allow for such precision. If I had a system
like this at my fingertips now, with satellite maps, I could probably get
lat/long data for every collecting locality I've been to in the last 10
years in a day or two, rather than weeks. I yearn for the day...

Doug Yanega       Illinois Natural History Survey, 607 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA      phone (217) 244-6817, fax (217) 333-4949
 affiliate, Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Entomology
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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