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Web Based Mapping: An Annotated Webliography

American Fact Finder

System Requirements: IE 5.0 or higher; Navigator 4.76; Browser with JavaScript and style sheets enables; Browser must accept cookies; display resolution set to 800x600 or higher.

You can create reference maps and thematic maps with Fact Finder. Reference maps display geographic boundaries of states, counties, cities as well as features like rivers, railroads, hospitals, and airports. Thematic maps use Census statistical data to display certain phenomena, such as percent Asian population by county in Texas. (Census nicely distinguishes the two: "Remember" if you have a "where is" question, use a Reference Map. If you have a "how many" or "what percent" question that is related to a specific geographic area, use a Thematic Map.")

The geographic area displayed is easily changed by drop down buttons ("Change Selections Menu") and also by the zoom buttons. The map can be re-centered and zoomed. The "identify" button displays a particular area the user has clicked on in a pop up window, as a map and with some additional information.

For thematic maps users can change the number of classes, the color scheme, and the classing interval.

A legend is included and is updated each time a new theme is added or subtracted.

There is an excellent tutorial on creating and printing maps for the novice user.

Australia's Natural Resources Atlas

This site can create maps on a wide variety of Australia's environmental features. The window opens with some basic data layers but by clicking the add-more data button (a plus sign on top of papers in the top left toolbar, or the same symbol on the lower right side frame), additional data layers can be added. A total of 190 different layers are grouped into nine categories: administrative/regional boundaries; agriculture; base layers; biodiversity and  vegetation; climate; coasts; land; rangelands; and water.

The zoom in tool works differently than most of the other sites: by clicking on the icon, the user then draws a box around the desired area to be mapped. When a new map is generated, the toolbar is complemented by an additional button which allows the user to go back to the full extent of the map -- much easier than repeatedly clicking the zoom out icon and then the map in order to get back to the full extent. It is possible to pan to different directions as well.

The legend can be viewed by clicking "show legend" on the lower right hand frame. The legend opens in a pop-up window. 

Users can: search for town/city names; identify a feature by clicking first on the "identify" icon and then clicking on a particular spot on the map; and, search for a value on the map.

Maps can be printed. To do so, users click on the print button and a window asking for a map title and additional comments pops-up. After completing the fields (they can be left blank if so desired), a printer-friendly map, including legend, pops up in another window.

There is a very good help section, although it is a very user friendly site. The buttons are clear and intuitive. One caveat: the site tends to run a bit slowly at times. As requests are made, a "working" message pops-up though -- this is useful in case you think the site has not registered your request.

The site is regularly being updated so more information, better functioning should be expected. The site makes little use of JavaScript on the user-end, so a 3.2 HTML compliant browser should suffice.

Community Atlas ≠ US Only

Most data are collected at a scale of 1:2,000,000 and are intended for use at a national or large regional scales. In the map browser, a bar scale appears under the map. From a series of topics, users can select layers to display of the US at various scales. There are a wide variety of layers which are broken down into 10 categories: agriculture, biology, boundaries, climate, environment, geology, people, transportation, water, and reference. Within these categories, users can select multiple layers for display (this, though, is complicated when the same colors are used to display the different layers). The number of layers is truly amazing: everything from the distribution of cotton to butterfly species to ethnic concentrations to airports, roads, and dams.

Users can zoom to a particular state in addition to zooming in/out. Panning is available, as is an index button which allows the user to move a rectangle over the US map to change the map center. An "identify" button allows the user to click on the map and find the latitude and longitude of the location and corresponding data. For example, on a map of butterfly distribution, I clicked on latitude 32 18 10 N, longitude 84 18 40 W, Schley County, Georgia where 12 different butterfly species were recorded.

A help button is available which pops-up another window describing each of the available buttons. It is suggested that screen resolution should be set to 800- by 600-pixels or higher. Community Atlas is compatible with Microsoft IE and Netscape Communicator, versions 4.x or higher. Problems with IE 4.x on the Mac have been reported but IE version 5 on the Mac seems to work (Communicator 4.x or 5.x on the Mac works).

Cornell Interactive Mapping and Data Analysis

This site will run on Netscape 4.07 or later and/or IE 4.0 later. It experiences problems with Netscape, so IE is the recommended browser.

This site was developed as a web-based tool for the site-authors' data sets. The data sets reflect the researchers' interests: data is largely from the Middle East, North Africa, and the US. This tool is geoscience and geology oriented, although you can map transportation networks and towns and cities.

Once created, maps can be downloaded as .jpg or postscripts. Legends cannot be generated (users must remember the data they have mapped and/or create the legends themselves), although you can change the color, size, and shape of symbols as they display on the map.

If you are interested in mapping environmental data, this site will be useful. Although, it is not exactly intuitive, good help instructions are provided.

Datasets are grouped into categories (geography, geology, geophysics, images/grids, and CTBT). Available datasets include:

Geography: country borders, states, lakes, rivers

Geology: world geology, US geology, faults, mines

Geophysics: ISC seismicity (by magnitude), seismic stations, CMT focal mechanisms, GPS vectors

Images/grids: topography, ages of the ocean floor, free air gravity

CTBT: IMS seismic station, infrasound stations, known nuclear test sites, nuclear power plant locations

Environmental Protection Agency's EnviroMapper

This site allows users to map a variety of layers at a large scale about US environmental features. A diverse set of environmental layers can be mapped, providing a spatial view of human-environment interactions.

The initial map layers offered at a national scale are rather limited: interstates, counties, and states. Users can zoom in to an area by clicking anywhere on the US map; or, users can select a state, county, city, or watershed from a drop-down list.

Users can also enter a zip code to map. Zooming in/out are available, and users can set the magnitude of zooming to 2, 4, 8, or 16 times.

Maps can be printed, by clicking on the "Printable Map" button. This button pops up a window where users can enter a title (or not) and then another window opens with a printer-friendly version, including a legend.

There is an adequate help section which allows users to click on particular layers for definitions (though those definitions are at times rather murky).

This site is fairly popular. On many occasions, I have been unable to reach the EnviroMapper homepage, or have been unable to get beyond the home page and have a request submitted. The popularity of this site can make it difficult to rely on in a classroom setting. However, there are two good reasons to use this site: (1) the business of the site tends to be worse on the weekends than the weekdays so school-time users may not have as many difficulties; and, (2) it is a great site for mapping environmental information, especially at the local level.

Environmental Protection Agency's EnviroMapper for Water

If users are interested only in water issues than they can use the same, general EnviroMapper just for water issues. It looks exactly the same as original EnviroMapper and functions exactly the same as well. For general information about functionality, see above. 

EnviroMapper for water has fewer layers than the general EnviroMapper -- it can only be used to see impaired water or water quality features. These layers though can be viewed in relation to schools, hospitals, and populated places.

Because this site operates on a different server, and probably also because of its very specific nature, EnviroMapper for Water does not have the efficiency issues that EnviroMapper does. I have not experienced problems accessing the site or creating maps at anytime of day that I have used it.

HUD E-Maps

Healthy Communities Environmental Mapping or HUD E-MAPS is a free Internet service that combines information on HUD's community development and housing programs with the EPA's environmental data. HUD E-MAPS provide location, type and performance of HUD-funded activities in every neighborhood across the country, and select EPA information on brownfields, hazardous wastes, air pollution and waste water discharges. HUD created this site with community activism in mind: they want to empower local communities to build smarter and healthier neighborhoods.

While users begin with a US outline map, users click (or type in a zip code, city, or state) on a desired area and are able to select layers for viewing. Zooming in to county level provides more data. Definitions of each of the layers are provided, as are detailed instructions on how to use the site. The help section is one of the best you will find of web-based GIS sites. The buttons are clear, easily understandable. Users can zoom, pan, undo selections, refresh the map to update layers, and print. Census information at the state, county, and tract level can be obtained. This site is extremely user-friendly. It's a great site for students to explore the link between human-environment connections. 

One caveat: it can run a little slow at times.

The EPA data is updated on a monthly basis; HUD-specific data is current as of March 2000. Version 4 or later of most web browsers is required to use this site.

Map Maker

This is a rather technical site in that the inputs may be unfamiliar to many people (e.g., map width, minimum bounding rectangle, grid spacing, data set resolution) but it does have both basic and advanced capabilities so the basic allows the user to make a map of some part of the world. The layers are minimal: only rivers, political boundaries, and coastlines. Users can zoom in and out, set resolution from coarse to fine, and choose projection. Map Maker is based on Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) 3.x and a geographic database (this makes it the exception in web mapping – it's not ESRI's IMS). Of GMT's commands, they only make use of psbasemap, pscoast, psxyz, pstext, mapproject. While you cannot make pretty thematic maps on this site, you can make basic, generic maps and most importantly, it allows you to manipulate projection – students can see how projection alters view of the world. Distortion can be illustrated at small

scales and by zooming in, students can see that changing projection matters less on large scale maps (and thus distortion is less of a problem in large scale maps).

You can plot point data (no lines or polygons although they have intent to allow for this eventually). They provide a description of each of the criteria but it is not extensive so I do not understand everything that can be done with Map Maker. System Requirements: No limitations that I can find. At mid-day Monday, the site moved quickly.  

NGS Map Machine

Map machine is a partner-project between NGS & ESRI. Links are provided for more information about GIS, downloading GIS tools for free, obtaining data, and taking on-line courses. It is a simple process to construct basic maps but the site lacks a ≥help≤ page or an introduction to the capabilities of the product. There should be some type of information that tells the user what she can and cannot do with the product.

The site has ≥map categories≤ which allow the user to select various types of maps (world, US, street, historical, etc.). By clicking on these buttons, drop-down menus allow for further specification (e.g. from world themes, the user can select physical, political and cultural, or climate and weather maps). By selecting a specification, a map is then generated. The map that is generated can then be refined to more specific areas and in some cases, other themes. A

particular map can be zoomed in or zoomed out or a map with whatever theme can be generated for a particular area. It does not seem that you can pick multiple themes and overlay them on one map. For example, if a user wanted to combine ≥earthquakes (historic)≤ with

≥earthquakes (recent)≤, they could not.

Maps can be saved, e-mailed, printed, and customized (symbols can be selected and then placed on the map according to the makers desired location). If a legend is wanted, then ≥map key≤ must be clicked and another window opens up ≠ this is not the friendliest way of displaying the legend. However, the printer-friendly version of the map does display the legend (along with

copyright, scale, source of information, and title).  

TIGER ≠ US Census Bureau

TIGER is an acronym for Topographically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing: it is the system and digital database of the Census Bureau, used for their mapping needs. The TIGER database contains data extracted from the Census which has been made available to the public for map creation.

TIGER is a digital database, containing geographic features like roads, political boundaries, water bodies, as well as other datasets for the entire United States. Coordinates, feature names and type, address ranges, and geographic relationships between features are included. TIGER was originally created to support the Census' decennial census' mapping and related geographic tasks.

Maps can be created at a variety of scales, using a number of different themes, and turning different layers on and off. The maps are largely human-oriented, although some physical layers are available as well. For example, maps reflecting population distribution for a particular area can be created, and then related to some physical features, a good activity for examining human-environment interaction. The maps can be used to discuss a variety of topics like family income and racial/ethnic background from a spatial perspective.

It is an easy-to-use tool but its greatest detractor is its slowness. TIGER is a popular site and thus, very busy. With an Ethernet connection at 6 PM on a Monday, I was unable to generate maps because the server was just too busy. This could be a serious impediment to classroom use!  

US-Only Demographic Data Viewer

The demographic data viewer is similar to the US-Mexico DDViewer 3.1 described below, except it is just US data. The site works the same. Users can select three different versions (Java-based and not) of the viewer to match their systems' capabilities. Variables to be mapped include population, income, education, employment, housing, and other (which includes two datasets: land area in square miles and mobile homes). These categories differ slightly from

those in the US-Mexico viewer -- data availability for the US is greater than that of Mexico.

US-Mexico DDViewer 3.1

US-Mexico Demographic Data Viewer provides interactive data mapping, viewing, and analysis of more than 200 socioeconomic variables that are congruent between the United States and Mexico. A useful tool for browsing and visualizing patterns at geographic levels ranging from regions to counties/municipios, the US-Mexico DDViewer may be used to map population, vital statistics, land area, and household data. This site notes that currently there is not set of

environmental variables that span the US and Mexico at the county level.

This site is still under development, so some problems may be experienced. (The site-authors note that problems mapping county level data exist and, therefore the validity of county-level maps cannot be guaranteed.) In addition, limitations occur when trying to map populous areas (for example, mapping NYC or Los Angeles can prove difficult).

This site is excellent. Users can select a wide variety of demographic data about various regions of the US and Mexico.

While it takes a bit of work to figure out the buttons (but not too much), it is a worthwhile tool, particularly suited for older students. A tutorial is included, as are help instructions. It can take time to draw the maps so patience is necessary.

Because the program is Java-based you cannot print the map, a limitation, although alternative ways to print the map are offered in the help section for both PCs and Macs.

Xerox PARC Map Viewer

This map viewer is similar to Map Maker (above) but perhaps more user friendly. Users can just point and click on different parts of the world to have a map generated. Layers are limited to border, rivers, and coastlines. Color can be added on a limited basis and is not selected by the user. Users can zoom in/out, change the database (the US database has more detail than the world database), alter projection (elliptical, rectangular, sinusoidal, narrow, square). This site is more user friendly, in terms of pointing and clicking, than Map Maker. The graphics are pretty basic and might be boring to those students used to flashy graphics. As noted with Map Maker, this site's utility may lie primarily in showing students how projection alters the look of the world.

The site warns that connections could be slow since each request requires compiling of new data from their server but I did not find it to be overly slow (less than a minute wait time) at midday on a weekday. 

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