distribution maps

Bob Mesibov mesibov at SOUTHCOM.COM.AU
Wed Apr 12 20:49:29 CDT 2000


Yet another GIS fan here. Once you get a GIS program to talk to your
printer without hiccups, you can design, plot and print your
distribution maps at remarkable speed. I was asked recently if I could
produce a set of 50-odd beetle distribution maps, one per species, for a
booklet. The two hard steps for the authors will be to design the base
map (background features, symbols, line widths, etc) and (in this
particular case) to make up a spreadsheet or text file which is a
species-by-locality matrix. Once I'm given the design and the file, I
can turn out the 50-odd maps using ArcView in less than an hour, either
as hard copies or vector or raster images. The single ArcView file which
holds the locality data matrix can be easily edited, if required, so
that last-minute additions and corrections to individual maps can be
made without tears. It wasn't that long ago that I was pasting transfer
graphics (Letraset dots) on a carefully drawn or photocopied base map to
show (for publication) where things lived, because the available digital
plotting programs gave such visually crude results. Nowadays, GIS
programs like ArcView produce 'art-quality' maps as a matter of course.
Less powerful programs might be good enough for basic distribution
mapping, but GIS allows you to relate taxon localities quickly and
accurately to a vast range of other spatial data. I sometimes wonder
what brilliant biogeographers like Wallace and Croizat would have done
if they'd had GIS in their times. Probably complained about the paucity
and fine-scale unreliability of locality data. Still a problem!

Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 6437 1195; international 61 3 6437 1195

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