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Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Data. Laurie Schretlen & Leah Vanderjagt Netspeed October 20, 2005. GIS & Spatial Data - Today. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology: basics, applications, and directions

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fundamentals of geographic information systems and spatial data

Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Data

Laurie Schretlen & Leah Vanderjagt

Netspeed October 20, 2005

gis spatial data today
GIS & Spatial Data - Today
  • Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology: basics, applications, and directions
  • Spatial data: information resources for GIS research
  • Spatial data access –
    • in Canada and in Alberta
gis components
GIS Components
  • Map data
    • Information about location w/graphics

gis components1
GIS Components:
  • Attribute data
    • Information about what can be found at a particular location

gis as database
GIS as database

spatial data examples
Spatial data examples
  • Road networks
  • Vegetation inventories
  • Soil inventories
  • Census results
  • Municipal boundaries
  • Elevation values
  • Climate readings
  • Habitat ranges
gis components2
GIS Components
  • Software
    • A technology for storing and analyzing location and attribute data

gis components3
GIS Components
  • Hardware
    • Systems to support rapid graphic analysis and processing

gis personnel
GIS Personnel
  • People
    • Project coordinators
    • Data analysts
    • Programmers
    • Data and knowledge managers
      • Librarians
gis components4
GIS Components
  • Methods
    • The analysis to be performed on the data

gis methods and analysis
GIS Methods and Analysis
  • GIS is used to answer questions and support decisions
  • The quality of the answer depends on:
    • The METHODS chosen
    • The DATA (more on that later)
data layers
Data Layers
  • The ability to ‘stack’ layers in a GIS allows us to ask questions about the relationship between different objects of study

Image courtesy of Charlene Nielsen, Department of Biology, University of Alberta

  • What two things occur at the same location?

overlay gis
Overlay – GIS
  • What residences lie beneath this toxic plume of ammonia?
overlay gis1
Overlay GIS

  • What lots are located near this road?

  • GIS is used to ask ‘what if?’
  • Testing scenarios and possible outcomes

Image created by Leah Vanderjagt, 2005: Data: NRCan CDED; City of Edmonton 2001 Digital Orthophotos

modeling site selection
Modeling - Site Selection
  • Combining best conditions from multiple layers to come up with the best location for a proposed facility
  • Eg. Good slope drainage + enough distance from streams + access to roads = Best site
gis applications
GIS Applications
  • GIS applications combine multiple analytical processes to support decision-making
  • Some examples from non-profit and government sectors:
habitat tracking and analysis
Habitat tracking and analysis
health care disease outbreak monitoring and modeling
Health Care: Disease outbreak monitoring and modeling

Avian Flu

Affected and at-risk poultry farms

Dispersion of Avian Flu in Thailand

sars mapping
SARS Mapping

Distribution map

Outbreak model – Buffalo, NY

other uses
Other uses
  • Many groups still need to create paper maps to support operations - nearly always GIS-based
  • GIS is also used for storage of information – there is an archiving function
directions for gis
Directions for GIS
  • Standards
  • Unlocking the GIS black box -distributed experimentation and collaboration
  • GIScience
gis in academic institutions
GIS in Academic Institutions
  • GIS is used extensively in science/ecology disciplines:
    • Renewable resources management
    • Forestry
    • Biology (ecology)
    • Geography
    • Earth and atmospheric sciences
    • Geology
gis in academic institutions1
GIS in Academic Institutions
  • Also used in:
    • Civil engineering
    • Business
    • Economics
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Health
gis and libraries
GIS and Libraries
  • Community demographic analysis
spatial data access
Spatial data access
  • ‘Map’ + ‘Attribute’ data is usually referred to as spatial data
  • Locating the right spatial data and obtaining the rights to use it is a major component of every GIS project
spatial data quality projections
Spatial data quality: Projections

spatial data access1
Spatial data access
  • Spatial data is expensive to create and update
  • Government agencies and large corporations can afford it
  • Data sharing is not necessarily a part of the plan
spatial data access2
Spatial data access
  • If it’s shared, spatial data is either sold by the producer or by a designated value-added reseller
  • Public consultations have resulted in open sharing of more and more spatial data sets at the federal level
  • Some federal data is made available through the Depository Services Program
spatial data access3
Spatial data access
  • There is much more data available for purchase
  • Therefore, there is a spatial data economy in Canada
  • This economy is driven by cost-recovery policies
  • Government agencies charge other agencies, corporations, and individuals for data access
different models of access
Different models of access
  • United States – wide, very open access to drive commercial development
  • Canada – stewardship model of cost-recovery
  • Provincial economy examples:
    • Manitoba
    • Alberta
alberta policy environment
Alberta Policy Environment
  • Government agencies: cost-recovery sales
  • Third party vendors: data enhancers and resellers for profit
  • Data producers who do not sell or distribute their data
challenges to access
Challenges to Access
  • What is the result of Alberta’s policy environment?
  • Data creators don’t have sufficient resources to respond to individual researcher demand
  • Data suppliers do not document or support data products
  • Data suppliers’ primary business is not datasupply, ie. creating happy data customers
post secondary response
Post-secondary Response
  • “Underground data economy” – have and have-not departments at one institution
  • Some data creators provide data in exchange for research results
  • Individuals or projects receive licenses for data; cannot be shared with institution
  • Academic libraries began to acquire data through license (database model)
  • Successful examples: NRCan, DMTI
  • To address issues of access to spatial data in Alberta, the GEODE project was launched in 1999
  • Participating institutions:
    • University of Alberta
    • University of Calgary
    • SAIT
    • University of Lethbridge
    • Miistakis Institute for the Rockies
  • Access to Alberta-based spatial data
    • Digital elevation models
    • Topographic data
    • Alberta Vegetation Index
    • Census boundaries
    • Landsat 7 imagery
  • Metadata development
  • Data browser
  • 10,000+ files downloaded
benefits to gis researchers
Benefits to GIS Researchers
  • Consortium-wide access to high quality data
  • Centralized price and acquisition negotiations
  • The opportunity to work with industry-standard Alberta data
benefits to suppliers
Benefits to suppliers
  • One point of access for post-secondary institutions
  • Data support coordinated through library and departments
  • Institutional licensing
  • Training of future employees with industry standard data
geode s transformation
GEODE’s Transformation
  • GEODE was reconceived in late 2004 as a consortium – to facilitate and promote access to spatial data for post-secondary education in Alberta
  • Objectives:
    • Develop new funding strategies
    • Enhance contents of collection
    • Expand institutional membership
benefits of institutional membership
Benefits of institutional membership
  • Access to GEODE collections
  • Training and assistance with GEODE service delivery
  • Advocacy and liaison with vendors
  • Cost-sharing
  • Technology/infrastructure guidance
  • Collaborative development of best practices
gis for post secondary education
GIS for Post-secondary Education
  • For access to spatial data for GIS research and teaching to continue and thrive in Alberta, academic libraries need to collaborate to:
    • Develop spatial data collections according to shared research priorities
    • Lobby for access with producers and vendors
    • Share resources and expertise
moving forward
Moving forward
  • Long-range technology goal: database-driven web service delivery of spatial data files
  • GEODE is seeking assistance with the development of a province-wide licensing model for spatial data use in research and teaching
questions discussion
Questions? Discussion?

Laurie Schretlen – lschretl @

Leah Vanderjagt – leahv @

web citations
Web Citations
  • Google Local:
  • Google Earth:
  • BC Habitat Wizard:
  • Sensitive Habitat Inventory and Mapping: