Posts Tagged ‘state’

The Coastal Atlas from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

February 5, 2018 Leave a 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 3 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 2 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 3 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.