In this blog, we have reviewed many international, national, regional, and local data portals over the past 5 years, those that are useful and those that still need “some work.” One of the oldest USA state data portals is from Utah’s Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC). I remember as a young US Census Bureau geographer, working with the AGRC on building the TIGER system back in the late 1980s, and they were thinking about data distribution even back then. As GIS has evolved, so has the AGRC, and they remain one of the organizations I respect most in GIS. Besides the wide variety of raster and vector data sets they offer for download, the AGRC also provides geocoding and point-in-polygon map queries via their own APIs, from api.mapserv.utah.gov. In addition, the AGRC provides access to Utah’s TURN high resolution GPS base station network.
Utah has also established an open data site with a wide variety of data sets, in a multitude of formats, with extensive metadata, for download and also in GeoJSON and GeoService formats. In short, the Utah portal is everything a geodata portal should be, modern and responsive, with links to web based GIS services, designed with the data user in mind. I am not surprised by this, as I have long had a high regard for the way that those in academia, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, private companies, and even primary and secondary schools work closely together in the Utah GIS community, as I document in this video on one of my trips there.
This Utah story map created by my colleague at Esri shows how some of these data sources can be used to tell the story of demographic change and the natural resources of Utah. Scroll down to the links at the end of the map to explore the data sources behind the map. I encourage you to give the Utah AGRC data portal a try.
Today’s guest blog essay comes from Linda Zellmer, Government Information & Data Services Librarian, Western Illinois University. Linda can be contacted at LR-Zellmer @ wiu.edu.
Several years ago, I worked with a class in our Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration department. The students in the class were getting their first exposure to GIS, and used it to analyze the populations served by a park to develop a plan for managing and expanding its services. At the time, students had to obtain geospatial data on park locations and boundaries from local or state government agencies or download Federal lands data from the National Atlas of the United States. Then they combined the park boundary data with data from the Census Bureau to learn about the population characteristics of the people in the area. Finally, they visited the park of interest to get information on park usage and amenities. A new data set, the Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) will make this class and related research much easier, because it provides data on all types of protected areas for either the entire United States, a U.S. Region, by landscape region, or by US State or Territory. PAD-US data is available for downloading, viewing and as a web map service from the PAD-US website.
The PAD-US data was developed as part of the Gap Analysis Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. The Gap program collects data on land cover, species distribution and stewardship to determine whether a given species’ habitat is protected, so that plans for further protection (if needed) can be developed. According to the PAD-US Standards and Methods Manual for Data Stewards, the data set contains geospatial data on “marine and terrestrial protected areas” that are “dedicated to the preservation of biological diversity and to other natural, recreation and cultural uses.” The data set contains geospatial data showing the extent and location of Federal, State, Local and private lands set aside for recreation and conservation. It also provides information on the owner name and type, whether the site is publicly accessible, and information on whether the site is being managed for conservation.
The position of spatial data librarian is not commonplace at universities, but it is growing. I have met at least 10 new librarians in this position over the past several years. The small but expert and energetic group of spatial data librarians has been making headway in several key innovative projects germane to the themes of this blog and our book. These include the creation of useful data portals, moving the digital humanities field forward, and coordinating data production, dissemination, and use–not only between departments on their own campuses, but between universities, government agencies, industry, and nonprofit organizations. A group of these spatial data librarians recently met at a “Geo4Lib” camp, for example, and among other topics, explored a solution called GeoBlacklight to host geospatial data.
One group from Colorado is considering the use of GeoBlacklight tools to host a statewide Colorado GIS data portal. Colorado is sorely in need of such a portal as Colorado has no curated and supported statewide data organization or portal as exists in Texas with TNRIS or Montana with NRIS, for example. To see GeoBlacklight in action, see Stanford University’s instance of it here, led by my colleague Stace Maples.
Try the Stanford University instance of GeoBlacklight. What are your reactions to its usefulness, as a geospatial data professional? Do you have a geospatial data librarian at your local or regional university? What can the GIS community do to advocate that universities hire such staffpersons in the library?