Thursday, November 8, 2007

UB Libraries Develops New York State Geographic Data/Maps Database

Ever wonder how many more canals there are in New York State other than the Erie Canal? Where are our reservoirs? What areas are designated "forests"? Where are the "falls" other than Niagara? (there are 163 more)

The University at Buffalo Libraries now provides a database, the NYS Gazetteer and GeoData Collection, developed by Geosciences Librarian Michele Shular, which facilitates searching and locating 38,000 places, features, and other geographic information within New York State. Ms. Shular has electronically linked U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) digital maps archived at the UB Libraries with the New York State portion of the "Geographic Names Information System" (GNIS), a Federal repository of official domestic geographic names maintained by the USGS. The NYS Gazetteer and GeoData Collection is available free to the public on the UB Libraries web site. This comes out just in time for Geography Awareness Week, the third week in November.

The digital maps, technically referred to as georeferenced Digital Raster Graphics (DRGs), can be printed for class or field work or imported into Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. For example, DRG topographic maps can be combined with other geospatial data, such as Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), to enhance terrain and slope visualizations useful for site planning, land management, and earth science studies. This GIS import feature is useful for students, technical researchers and professionals in many fields, such as business, government, planning, and more.

Searches can be run on geographic names, feature type, by county map, by U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle, or by a merger of multiple categories. When searching the database, there are links provided to the appropriate feature in Google Maps. For example, you can locate:
4961 schools
298 hospitals
590 towers (largely radio/TV)
427 swamps
68 streams in Erie County
127 islands in St. Lawrence County
This type of extensive geodata/maps/gazetteer database follows the lead of a similar product by University of Virginia librarians.

Ms. Shular notes that the creation of this database is meant to promote and facilitate public access to free topographic maps and gazetteer information for New York State through an easy, searchable interface. "Topographic maps are wonderful tools that provide detailed information for natural and cultural features on the ground, such as slopes, valleys, rivers, roads, and even vegetation cover. Whether it is a K-12 teacher looking for geography class maps, a hiker looking to print a field map, or a GIS technician searching for a digital image to import into a GIS application, this database services a wide variety of needs. In time, the database will be expanded to include maps in a variety of scales, as well as other format types of geospatial data."

Don Gramlich, Lead Programmer Analyst in the UB Libraries, provided technical support for the development of the database.

For questions or assistance with the NYS Gazetteer and GeoData Collection, Ms. Shular can be reached in the UB Libraries by email, or by phone at 645-2947 x223.

(Thanks to Data Detective Michael R. Lavin of the University at Buffalo.)

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