Posts Tagged ‘state’

A story map as a data and information one-stop shop

April 12, 2021 Leave a comment

A variety of land management, science, government, and other agencies combined to create this story map “GIS Day at the Capitol 2021”, which I believe provides an excellent model of how a story map can be effectively used to (1) showcase what these agencies do; (2) why they matter to the people living in the lands that these agencies manage (in this case, Oklahoma USA), and (3) how their data can be accessed. As the story map explains, this is a “a virtual tour of some of the innovative ways Oklahoma agencies are using Geographic Information Systems to further their missions.” At the time of this writing, 17 agencies are featured, including federal agencies with a presence in the state, cities, and state agencies. I salute each of the agencies and people here for the work they are doing each day to improve the land and improve the lives of the people living here.

Story maps, a tool that I frequently teach workshops about, can be effectively used to point people to data. As the above Oklahoma story map shows, REST services and data layers can be linked, and web maps and web mapping applications can be embedded, providing the user with a rich experience. An excellent example of embedding is the City of Ardmore’s web mapping application, about 1/5 of the way through the story map. Many dashboards are also included, including one on transportation, one on seismicity, another on environmental variables in each legislator’s district, and more, reflecting the rise of the popularity of dashboards over the past two years, particularly with COVID.

Furthermore, as we have discussed in this blog many times, such as here, using data is often not just a matter of accessing websites, streaming, and downloading: It means understanding the data, including reading the metadata, and often it means contacting the data providers. This site is a wonderful example of agencies being transparent about who provides the data, and very helpfully provides contact information for those data providers–even email addresses, photos of real people, and phone numbers!

Perhaps the most useful resource and starting point for data for the state is the state’s OK Maps, the Geographic Information Clearinghouse for Oklahoma. The site is embedded in the story map but can also be accessed in a separate web browser tab to more easily access the many data layers, including Lidar data, historical aerial photographs, and much more. One of my favorite segments of the story map is the new state GIS warehouse that uses ArcGIS Hub technology, pictured below and on this link.

Overall, the story map gives the distinct message that a great deal of effort is required to serve a diverse jurisdiction such as Oklahoma, that GIS serves as a “common language” upon which problems can be solved, and that dedicated people are the ones who are making these things happen.

As someone who has been actively involved in supporting and promoting GIS Day since 1999, I was also pleased to see that one of the central ways this story map is promoted is through these agencies’ annual “GIS Day at the State Capitol” And as someone who works with social studies educators, I was also pleased to see the legislative districts map included in this story map. As a geographer who works with citizen science programs, I was happy to see highlights of the Blue Thumb public education and outreach program from the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s Water Quality Division. And finally, as someone who gives many career-oriented presentations each year, I will use this story map to encourage students to investigate the different career paths that the people featured on this page have. For these reasons and many more, I encourage you to do your own exploration of this story map!

The State of Oklahoma’s GIS Data Warehouse, maps and data, sponsored by the Center for Spatial Analysis, University of Oklahoma.
One of the data portals in the GIS Day at the Capitol 2021 story map, that of OKMAPS – the Geographic Information Clearinghouse for the State of Oklahoma.

A review of the Arizona AZGeo Data Hub

August 24, 2020 1 comment

Recently, the Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) and the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) launched a new data portal named the AZGeo Data Hub. AZGeo Data Hub is a cloud-based platform built on Esri’s ArcGIS Online functionality.  We have written about other platforms based on ArcGIS Hub here and here. Together with the AZGeo Data Hub, these articles show that in a few short years, ArcGIS Hub has been adopted by many organizations as a viable, easy-to-configure way of serving their data and related resources.

The AZGeo Data Hub is designed to provide GIS users with links to online map services, FGDC compliant metadata, and geospatial data downloads. Data on AZGeo includes GIS layers for administrative boundaries, demographics, environmental factors, hydrology, imagery, indices, mining, natural features, transportation, and more. AZGeo is hosted by the Arizona State Land Department and staffed by the Arizona Land Resources Information System (ALRIS).

As we have documented in this blog, sharing data is more than just setting up and maintaining a website. Today’s modern web GIS architecture is very much tied to a vibrant community, of which AZGeo Data Hub is an excellent example. I have been a member of the Arizona GIS community since the mid-1990s and they have long been a wonderful source of technical assistance and are lifelong colleagues. Their schools have been among the USA’s most vibrant in terms of promoting geographic literacy, and their universities and community, technical, and tribal colleges have long been trailblazers in the use of GIS in GIScience, geography, and environmental science programs, and more recently in university libraries, schools of education, and in schools of business.

Anyone can view, search and download the data via the AZGeo Data page as a Public User with no login required for access. But in addition, AZGeo utilizes groups to help GIS professionals throughout the state streamline their work processes and share data layers that might be restricted from public access. People can join these groups and then take advantage of the data and applications shared within groups, as well as gain access to ArcGIS Online applications via an AZGeo Hub account. An AZGeo User account is required for this level of access. This is detailed in a helpful graphic, shown below.

Graphic showing ways to access and interact with the Arizona geospatial data and the community.

My test of the AZGeo Hub’s data page was fruitful. I was able to find a variety of data sets on hydrography, population, land use, and other themes, at a variety of scales. I intend to check back often to see additional data sets that get added over time, and I encourage you to do the same.

Perhaps more important than the data serving is that these Hubs help foster community amongst their users. Many have feedback loops and forums and other means by which the community can interact, strengthening the notion that GIS is not just a set of data and tools, but a system of engagement.

–Joseph Kerski

A review of the Oregon Geospatial Data Portal

November 12, 2018 3 comments

We as the authors of this blog have been honored to review many state, national, and international GIS data portals throughout the years.  The state portals have included Texas, Utah, Maryland, and Indiana, and ranking among these great portals is the one from Oregon.  Named “The Oregon Spatial Data Library, at the time of this writing, the library lists 908 data items–an impressive number, but even more impressive is its simple, modern interface with the ability to browse by collection, format, sources, topics, and keywords–all listed on the left side.   The data sources include downloadable zip files but also streaming data services which as we have pointed out here, are rapidly becoming the preferred option for many users and uses.

The library is also linked to another fabulous resource– The Oregon Explorer, with its own mapping interface and information about fascinating places to visit, but also information about natural hazards and other themes of concern to residents and visitors of the state.  Thus, it is a tool for the visitor and general public, but also a research tool.  Through the library, one can also access the Communities Reporter, a resource for community planners and researchers with access to extensive data and maps.

Interestingly, the Oregon Community Foundation is listed as a partner, an organization that creates charitable funds for worthy causes in the state.  To have a resource such as a geospatial data library be considered a worthy cause brings me great joy!

I highly recommend investigating the Oregon Spatial Data Library.  I congratulate and salute all those involved in setting it up and maintaining this excellent resource.


The Oregon Spatial Data Library, with investigation to discover land use land cover data. 

–Joseph Kerski


The Coastal Atlas from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

February 5, 2018 1 comment

The Maryland Coastal Atlas serves up ocean use and resource data, coastal hazard and shoreline data, and near-shore and estuarine data.  The purpose of the atlas is to make coastal related geospatial datasets available to agencies, researchers, and the general public for viewing and for performing basic overlays.  Tools are being added to make the atlas more versatile for users to do analysis and to help simplify or select data important for different users’ needs. The list of layers is extensive; at least 100 items are included.  But equally impressive is its ability to add dozens more layers from the MDiMapD database on such themes as agriculture, housing, demographics, hydrology, and much more.

The Atlas uses the Esri Web App Builder for its interactive map capabilities.  One of my favorite things about the atlas is the user’s ability to add data to the web interface from ArcGIS Online, a URL, or a file of the user’s own creation.  The site features unexpected helpful touches such as palette of drawing tools that makes the atlas a rich teaching tool, and transects that can be drawn in the map to analyze such things as erosion rates.

A few enhancements on the site could be done to make it more useful, such as an expansion of the fairly limited query tool and an explanation of how it can be used.  I was puzzled how to close the transect results once I had created one, but this and other user interface questions were small; overall, the interface was intuitive.  The Maryland Coastal Atlas provides an excellent addition to the other portals we have written about in this region, such as the Maryland iMap Data Catalog.  We wrote about the state of Maryland’s GIS portal in the past, and the selected other data portals for the Chesapeake Bay.

The atlas uses the map services available from the Maryland GIS Portal and the iMap Open Data Catalog that we reviewed above.  To obtain the data, go to the Maryland Data Catalog to download the data or get the API to use in an online mapping application.  All of the Maryland Coastal Hazard datasets on the atlas are available through the data catalog but not all are downloadable.  Here is an example of a dataset on the atlas shown in the iMap Data Catalog with the Download and API function available on the listing.  Every layer is a REST service hosted by Maryland iMap, managed by the Geographical Information Office (GIO) and the state IT group (DOIT).


The Coastal Atlas from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

IndianaMap: Data and Visualization for Indiana

June 4, 2017 4 comments

IndianaMap is a resource for visualizing and accessing spatial data for the US state of Indiana.   The data source contains elements that other provinces, regional, and state governments might wish to adopt because as I see it, they are incredibly useful to the data user.  In addition, I keep talking with people who state that such adoption has helped them build internal support for their organization’s mission, and recommend examining IndianaMap for that reason as well as a model for how it could work.

One of my favorite things about IndianaMap is that it contains a map viewer, a map gallery, and a layer gallery, linked right at the top of the user interface.   At least 75 layers exist in this resource at the time of this writing.  Two that I was particularly glad to see were the geology layers and the historical 1990s Digital Orthophotoquads.  New imagery at 1 foot spatial resolution is also available.  Yes, 1 foot!  Each of the layers can be examined in more detail, previewed, its metadata viewed, or downloaded for use in desktop GIS software. Layers as map services can also be examined in a web based client, or one can choose to add the layer to the interface’s own Map View. Once you have explored layers of interest, you can use the “Add Content” tool on IndianaMap to quickly add, remove, and manage each layer. Each layer can be examined and saved as a favorite.  Sure enough, after I had used the tool, revisiting the site showed me the layers I had favorited in “My layers” so I could resume my work from a few days ago, right away.

On the Spatial Reserves blog, we often feature sites with a particularly useful user interface.  IndianaMap definitely achieves high quality marks in this regard.  Give it a try!



User Interface for the Indiana Map showing bedrock geology, karst springs, and selecting one of my favorite parts of Indiana’s geology–its limestone.

A Review of the Texas Natural Resources Information Systems Data Portal

February 12, 2017 3 comments

In this blog and in our book, we have reviewed many geospatial data portals.  One of the oldest and yet most useful of all regional or state portals is that of the Texas Natural Resources Information System, or TNRIS.  Indeed, TNRIS predated digital spatial data, for it was founded in 1968, housing paper topographic and geologic maps and aerial photographs for years before hosting digital spatial data.  TNRIS allows searches by county or by data theme.  If one zooms in on a the statewide map with county boundaries, the familiar USGS 7.5-minute grid is displayed, from which one can download such data as digital raster graphics, elevation, wetlands, geology, and historical and current satellite imagery.  Statewide themes include bathymetry, land cover, soils, census data, transportation, and many others.  Metadata is not only available but it is conveniently packaged, and the site doesn’t burden the data user with needless frills and fancy ways to download–it is, in my view, what a data portal should be–with the ability to quickly go in and get what one needs, in a variety of formats.

As GIS technologies have evolved, the TNRIS portal has evolved as well.  One of the most innovative and useful sections of their site is its online mapping services.  Here, high resolution imagery (30 cm in many places), land cover, and other themes are hosted as ArcGIS services and OGC WMS services.  The site conveniently enables the data user to preview the services on their website or to copy the URL for the service so that it may be used in ArcGIS Online.  Therefore, not everything from TNRIS needs to be downloaded–a growing amount can be streamed.

Texas is an excellent location for other useful data portals as well:  The General Land Office hosts data on habitat, minerals, oil and gas, and other themes.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality hosts data on air and water quality, toxic hazards, and other layers.  Texas Parks and Wildlife hosts data on bays, ecosystems, trails, and wildlife management areas.  And other gems exist, such as the railroads and other data hosted by Entergy on the Texas Site Selection Center.


A section of the Texas Natural Resources Information Systems geospatial data portal.

Maryland’s Mapping and GIS Data Portal

September 29, 2014 4 comments

Maryland’s mapping and GIS “iMap” data portal takes an innovative approach to serving data.  It allows the user to zoom to a specific area on the map and then conduct a data search for that specific area.  Yes, other sites have done this for years, but the Maryland data portal uses a dynamic ArcGIS Online map to launch searches.  In addition, the 20 data categories listed–from agriculture to demographics, health to imagery, structures to weather–are rich in content, and the data user is offered numerous data formats to receive the data.  The site also goes the extra distance by providing step-by-step instructions on how to add web and WFS services, how to geocode, how to join data, and how to cartographically display results.

The GIS data portal is run by the Geographic Information Office (GIO), and by collaborating with partners, it seeks to “provide access to a large collection of data via the Maryland iMap that can be leveraged for use in many applications and analyses.”  The GIS data portal is a part of the state’s open data portal, which claims to be #1 in the USA for its commitment to open data.

We are honest in our book and in this blog about describing data portals that seem to be there “just for show” and that had no input from GIS professional staff.  The Maryland iMap portal, by contrast, is quite innovative, extensive, and GIS-user friendly, and seems to be a good model for other organizations to follow.  Such portals do not appear overnight, and this is obviously the product of a good deal of collaboration among government, private, academic, and nonprofit organizations,

Maryland's iMap Mapping and GIS Data Portal

Maryland’s iMap Mapping and GIS Data Portal.

Iowa Historical Imagery and other spatial data served in ArcGIS Online

August 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Some key spatial data from longstanding data portals are making their way onto platforms such as ArcGIS Online.  One of these is the data from the Iowa Geographic Map Server, served from the Iowa State University GIS facility.  The data set, searchable on ArcGIS Online via the keywords “Iowa Geographic“, is one of the finest examples of the holdings of a state data depository in an easy-to-use format.

Iowa State GIS Data in ArcGIS Online

Iowa State GIS Data in ArcGIS Online.

The data available includes aerial photographs from the 1930s, 1950s, and then every decade from the 1970s onwards.  Also included are an atlas from 1875, a general land office survey from the 1800s, a hillshade from Lidar data, the public land survey system, civil townships, and watershed boundaries.  Changes in agricultural practice, urban forms and size, river meanders, and much more can be explored via this map.  In addition, one can add the individual layers to one’s own map by pointing to the server URL found in the metadata for each layer.  That the metadata are well populated is another reason that the data portal has long been one of my favorites.  If one needs to download the data, those data sets are still available via the data portal at Iowa State University on   While even more data are available via the data portal itself at Iowa State University, it is wonderful to be able to quickly browse a subset of the data via the ArcGIS Online map.  ArcGIS Online contains tools such as making layers transparent, adding map notes and bookmarks, and the ability to use the Iowa portal layers as a backdrop for one’s own data.  In addition, as a teaching and research tool, the way the data are served in ArcGIS Online allows land use changes to be quickly observed and measured without having to download each layer and loading them into desktop GIS software.

As data from portals such as the Iowa Geographic Map Server migrate to platforms such as ArcGIS Online, the data user will have additional ways to access that data.  It takes a commitment from data providers to serve their holdings onto these platforms, but data users in government, nonprofit, industry, and academia will all benefit.  Learn more about data portals, data platforms such as ArcGIS Online, and data types in our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and keep an eye on this blog.