Mapping software

Gary Noonan carabid at MPM1.MPM.EDU
Tue Jan 30 10:18:02 CST 1996

        I've used Atlas GIS for several years beginning with the DOS version
and moving on to the present Windows version. I wrote a lengthy review of
the DOS version which was published in the June 1995 issue of Systematic
         If you want or if there is a desire by other Taxacom readers, I can
post the draft of the manuscript. The manuscript differs in minor
grammatical points from the published review.
         I've found Atlas GIS to be excellent for making maps and also for
conducting powerful analyses of geographic relationships. It's easy to learn
how to use its mapping features, somewhat more time consuming to learn its
analysis features.
         Atlas GIS comes with a very basic map of North America. You will
probably have to obtain additional electronic maps for whatever program you
purchase. I've had electronic maps extracted from the Digital Chart of the
World for North America and Eurasia and have posted the North American map
on a FTP site.
         An important point to be aware of is the difference between mapping
programs and full fledged GIS software such as Atlas GIS and MAPINFO. The
GIS programs can make excellent maps and ALSO can do detailed analyses of
geographic relationships. Unless you are ABSOLUTELY ABSOLUTELY ABSOLUTELY
TOTALLY certain that you will never want to analyze geographic
relationships, I recommend purchasing a full fledged GIS program. If your
initial interest is just making maps, you can learn only the map making
features. Later when you want to do geographic analyses, you will have the
software and will already have some familiarity with it.
        Below please find a listing of some of the things that can be done
with a GIS program as regards analyses.

        Some of the things I've found GIS software helpful in performing are
listed below.
   1. Making maps.
          A. GIS software can make simple maps with just one species per map
          B. Can use different symbols for representing several species on a
single map.
          C. Can use different symbols to represent character state
              variation in characters.
   2. Analyzing centers of species concentration.
          A. There are  several approaches to doing this.
          B. For my own work I have the program generate a grid
             composed of equal sized cells and have the program
             calculate the number of species per cell. GIS software
             then allows many choices for
             constructing maps  that use different colors or
             patterns to identify cells with various numbers
             of species.
          C. GIS software can easily calculate the areas of species
concentration in square kilometers.
          D.  Workers can examine the possible age of centers of species
concentration by examining things such as the percent of
          such areas that were formerly occupied by glaciers or permafrost
          or other unsuitable habitat. (I've digitized into Atlas GIS
          maps with past glacial distributions.) Researchers also
          study the association of centers of species concentration with
          various climactic and other habitat data. Again, I've digitized
          into Atlas GIS maps showing current climactic factors.
          E.  It can be interesting to examine such centers relative to
              elevation. The electronic maps I use include
              elevation regions.
   3.   Examining the association of geographic distributions
        with various environmental factors such as soil types
        or major habitat zones. (Available electronic maps already contain
some         information about habitat zones and soil type.)
    4.   Examining the geographic relationships of sister taxa or of
         any group of taxa.
           A. GIS software can easily determine the area
             (in units such as square kilometers) of the distribution
             of a species or group of species.
           B. Its easy to have programs such as Atlas GIS calculate
              the percent overlap between taxa.
           C.  Its also easy to calculate an index of sympatry that
               is 1 when species ranges are completely sympatric.
      5.   Examining presumed former changes in geographic ranges.
             A. As noted above its possible to digitize former glaciers &
                 permafrost. Once this is done, the researcher can
                 have GIS software calculate the percent of current
                 ranges that were formerly covered by ice or glaciers.
                 Calculations can be for a single species or for a group
                 of species such as a genus, subgenus, cladistic group etc.
      6. GIS software can allow quantifying the sizes of geographic
         ranges and easily comparing such sizes between various
         types of organisms.
      7.   Collecting patterns.
              A. GIS programs can analyze collecting by year.
              B.  Its easy to analyze numbers of specimens taken
                  per unit area and to compare such unit areas.

At 09:55 AM 1/29/96 -0500, Andrew P Nelson wrote:
>We are looking for pc and/or macintosh compatible software with which to
>prepare local, regional, and global distribution maps based on collection
>data.  I have noted Hillary Hayden's similar request of 16 Jan., but have
>seen no replies.  Does anyone have comments on "MapMaker"  or other
>suitable software?
>Andrew Nelson
>Rice Creek Field Station
>SUNY Oswego
>Oswego, New York 13126

  * Gary Noonan, Curator of Insects, Milwaukee Public Museum  *
  * 800 W. Wells,  Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233 USA             *
  * and Adjunct Associate Professor of Zoology, University of *
  * Wisconsin-Milwaukee carabid at                  *
  * voice (414) 278-2762  fax (414) 223-1396                  *

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