The U.S. Geological Survey Cartographic and Geographic Information Science Research Activities 2006-2010
Usery, E. Lynn, Cartography and Geographic Information Science
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produces geospatial databases and topographic maps for the United States of America. A part of that mission includes conducting research in geographic information science (GIScience) and cartography to support mapping and improve the design, quality, deliver, and use of geospatial data and topographic maps. The Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS) was established by the USGS in January 2006 as a part of the National Geospatial Program Office. CEGIS (http://cegis.usgs.gov) evolved from a team of cartographic researchers at the Mid-Continent Mapping Center. The team became known as the Cartographic Research group and was supported by the Cooperative Topographic Mapping, Geographic Analysis and Monitoring, and Land Remote Sensing programs of the Geography Discipline of the USGS from 19992005. In 2006, the Cartographic Research group and its projects (http://carto-research.er.usgs.gov/) became the core of CEGIS staff and research. In 2006, CEGIS research became focused on The National Map (http://nationalmap.gov).
With the establishment of CEGIS, the USGS took advantage of an existing contract with the National Research Council (NRC) of the American National Academy of Sciences to develop A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science at the US. Geological Survey (http://books.nap. edu/catalogphp?record_id=12004) (NRC, 2007). The NRC completed and published the report in December 2007. The research agenda in the NRC report then became the basis for CEGIS research to support The National Map and advance the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) of the United States. Initiation in 2008 of the research recommendations of the NRC was facilitated by the fact that several ongoing CEGIS research projects were identified as short-term (2 to 4 years) high priority by the NRC. These include developing an ontology for The National Map, automated data integration and generalization. The NRC also recommended additional high priority short-term projects including User-Centered Design for Web Map Services and Design of an Electronic Topographic Map. Long term (4 to 8 years) projects recommended by the NRC centered on developing ontology-driven, spatio-temporal, quality-aware, and transaction processing data models.
CEGIS Research Activities
Based on the NRC recommendations and other research needs for The National Map identified within the USGS, CEGIS established six short term inter-related research projects. These projects address immediate objectives of The National Map to investigate new methods for information access and dissemination, automated data integration and generalization, and knowledge organization systems, which are formalized specifications of domain knowledge that include taxonomies, thesauri, gazetteers, and ontologies. They provide important authoritative or community-sanctioned domain knowledge in forms that are explicit and shareable by both humans and computational systems. The projects included:
--Geographic Feature Ontology for The National Map.
--Automated Data Integration.
--User-Centered Design for Web Services.
--Electronic Topographic Map Design.
--Multi-Resolution Raster Data, including rapid projection and an application to sea level rise.
The results of these projects to date (September 2010) are briefly documented in the remainder of this article.
Geographic Feature Ontology for The National Map
Ontologies specify feature semantics for richer data models. New data models and associated knowledge organization systems for The National Map can translate traditional topographic information into a flexible spatiotemporal knowledge base that can serve many different application areas. In 2009, CEGIS sponsored a Specialist Meeting on "Developing and Ontology for The National Map." Participants in the Specialist Meeting developed short position papers and provided insight on the construction of the ontology. Six of the papers were published in Cartographica (Varanka and Usery 2010). A feature ontology has been developed for the topographic features present in The National Map databases. The ontology was constructed using previous USGS classifications of topographic features including Digital Line Graph-Enhanced (DLG-E), Digital Line Graph-Feature (DLG-F), and the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) formal specifications and the current Best Practices Data models to provide a basis for a new ontology that can support The National Map (Varanka 2009). The developed ontology includes:
--Terrain includes 58 USGS landform features, such as arch, delta, moraine, sink.
--Surface Water features and relations derived primarily from DLG terms now incorporated in the NHD.
--Ecological Regimes--classifications are based primarily on their user applications
--Built-up Areas--classified using the US. Census Bureau North America Industry Classification System (US. Census 2007): includes 180 features categorized in subclasses including transportation and warehousing; entertainment and recreation; utilities; resource extraction; structures; agriculture and fishing; and others.
--Divisions--includes 45 features from survey lines, civil government units, and boundaries.
--Events--includes eight security features, such as hazard, earthquake, floods and six historical site features, such as archaeological site and historical marker.
Recent research activity for this project has focused on the Semantic Web and the USGS has made available nine research datasets from the National Map databases in the Resource Description Framework (RDF) triple format. These datasets are accessible from a public server provided by CEGIS with a SPARQL endpoint (http://22.214.171.124:8890/sparql) to support semantic query capability (Varanka et al. 2010).
Automated Data Integration
Integrating spatial data sets from a wide range of sources presents a fundamental research challenge for The National Map and CEGIS research. Spatial data sets at disparate scales, resolutions, and quality are difficult to fuse or merge, and there is a series of issues in bringing these disparate data together for spatial analysis and decision making. The most basic challenge involves the compatibility of the geometry. Accomplishments include developing an empirical standard for geometric error that still supports integration in the visual presentation and the embryonics of a theory of integration based on scale and resolution (Usery et al. 2009a). Additionally, developments of collaborators include an automated method of integrating vector transportation with orthographic images (Knoblock and Shahabi 2007).
The conflation of surface water features and Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) is also being investigated using light detection and ranging (lidar) data. Initial work has examined commercial software offerings for drainage network extraction and comparing results from different algorithms against each other and against existing hydrographic networks such as NHD (Clarke and Archer 2009).
Geophysical Data Conflation and Integration
Geophysical data, which are derived from the underlying geology of an area and fundamentally interpreted through precise geospatial coordination, present a research challenge for data integration. It is the integration of geophysical data within a precise geospatial framework that provides the first and most basic challenge. CEGIS research currently involves the study of precisely locating point geophysical data from pre-GPS era surveys using The National Map as a reference system (Shoberg et al. in review) as well as conflating high precision local survey geophysical data with stations of unknown quality from national databases (Shoberg and Stoddard, in review). Further CEGIS is researching how reliable standard algorithms used to generate raster surfaces and grid data can be interpolated for very low density, highly asymmetric point source theoretical data (Shoberg 2010).
Providing an operational capability for automated multi-scale display and delivery of The National Map and other USGS geospatial data requires generalization procedures. Research has focused on developing automated cartographic generalization for the hydrography theme to furnish, from high-resolution data, smaller scale representations, or intermediate levels of detail that are sufficient for a range of topographic map scales. Automated procedures include phases for data enrichment, feature pruning, tailored generalization operations, and validation. Data enrichment involves processing that adds prominence and density estimates to features for subsequent generalization and symbolization operations. Prototype sequences for feature simplification and other generalization operations have been tailored for primary terrain and climate conditions, which, through an automatically derived national classification system, will be smoothly blended over the span of natural physiographic conditions in the country. Validation uses conflation to separately compare generalized line and area features with suitable benchmark data to produce spatially distributed line and area correspondence metrics. A second form of validation establishes a geographic range over which tailored generalization sequences produce satisfactory results, in an effort to implement a parsimonious set of data processing sequences for the nation. Aside from developing a framework to smoothly transition generalization sequences over the range of conditions, future work will focus on testing and implementing similar strategies for generalization of other data themes.
CEGIS Research Symposium: GD12010: Generalization and Data Integration
As a part of Generalization Initiative activities, USGS funded a research symposium in Boulder, CO June 20-29, 2010. The Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) provided some additional funding. The symposium focused on current accomplishments and current challenges for generalization of spatial data, with special emphasis on data modeling and data integration. Significant progress has been made in recent years on generalization for scale-change and topographic base mapping, and on design and construction of Multi-Resolution Databases (MRDBs). European national mapping agencies have been especially active in automatic data modeling and agent-based generalization. Current impediments to building fully functional MRDBs relate to integrating various data representations. Data integration continues to challenge links between multiple representations, data fusion, conflation, conflict resolution, and other data modeling tasks. The goal of the symposium was to catalyze discussion and collaboration between the data integration and generalization communities; to identify problems which can be addressed given current state of knowledge, and to prioritize challenges which remain. Throughout discussion, emphasis was centered on national mapping.
Thirty-two researchers from eight countries and nine students from four universities participated in the symposium, held on the University of Colorado campus. Intermixed plenary and small group sessions on three aspects of generalization, national mapping and data integration accomplished several important objectives. Members of national mapping agencies from several countries shared information about progress and special challenges to data processing and integration in national mapping efforts. Academic perspectives informed the discussion on current and emerging methods for processing and for assessing uncertainty. Impacts of volunteered geographic information (VGI) and user-generated content (UGC) entered discussions throughout the symposium.
A research volume based on the symposium is underway, to be co-edited by the three faculty affiliates to CEGIS (Professors Buttenfield, Brewer and Clarke). The volume will include a summary of the symposium as well as papers submitted by participants detailing empirical results and research problems relevant to generalization and data integration. A report to USGS is nearly complete, and a 50-minute briefing on the symposium was presented at the ICC Commission Workshop on Generalization and Multiple Representations, held in Zurich Switzerland at the GIScience 2010 conference in September (http://ica.ign.fr/2010_Zurich/ slides/2010-ICA WSGene-Invited-Buttenfield.pdf).
User-Centered Design for Web Services
Improving usability of the human interface, providing easy access to high-quality maps in various media, and high-quality printing for all users is the focus of the User-Centered Design project. CEGIS is conducting research that will transform the well-designed traditional paper topographic maps into an easy-to-use electronic, web-based, multipurpose utility for a variety of users. Research over the past two years has focused on defining the user base for The National Map through nationwide interviews and surveys. These surveys revealed the importance of new trends in user creation of data with online mapping platforms and social media. The USGS held a workshop on VGI in 2010 and began a pilot project testing how user generated data can be incorporated into The National Map databases. A second workshop will be held in the spring of 2011 on data licensing issues on the geospatial web. CEGIS researchers have also been active in related fields of cyberinfrastructure and ontology research.
Electronic Topographic Map Design
Topographic maps are the one of the most important products of the USGS and The National Map. Two research foci of electronic topographic map design are of particular and immediate value to the cartographic display of The National Map: (1) development of PDF topographic maps for wide distribution and (2) development of foreground and background data layers for control of visual hierarchies in each of the eight data layers for which USGS has responsibility in The National Map.
Designs for multiscale map presentations have been developed in cooperation with The Pennsylvania State University. One emphasis of the project is incorporation of generalized hydrography produced at The University of Colorado at Boulder, and collaboration between CEGIS, PSU, and CU has been closely coordinated. The map designs balance display changes with geometry changes through scale. For example, line coalescence problems at smaller scales may be solved by eliminating feature types and using thinner line symbols (example display changes), by applying simplification, collapse, and amalgamation operations to features (example geometry changes), or using both approaches together. The maps are also fully labeled, and a challenge of the project has been to retain dynamic automated labeling by continuously refining geographic information system labeling rules so that later data updates may be moved readily onto the topographic maps. In addition to design adjustments that respond to scale change, the maps are evaluated using multiple resolutions--onscreen 91 ppi (desktop), 120 ppi (laptop), print 400 ppi--and to multiple formats (PDF, ArcMap, cached tiles for web display, paper) to accommodate varied map reading contexts. Preliminary work and updates on progress on this multiscale topographic mapping project is posted at http://ScaleMaster.org (see also Brewer et al. 2009, 2010; Brewer and Buttenfield 2007, 2010; Brewer and Akella 2008).
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Multi-Resolution Raster Data
This project is composed of two tasks, the first on rapid projection of raster databases and the second on an application in a global model and animation of sea level rise. The focus of the rapid projection task was to develop a Web implementation (to include analyses of high-performance computing technologies) for accurate reprojection and resampling of raster data for The National Map. Results include an implemented USGS software package, mapIMG on a variety of platforms, new categorical resampling methods that allow significantly better preservation of categories when downsampling, a resampler for data of counts, such as population numbers, and the development of an object-oriented public-domain version of the General Cartographic Transformation Package. The mapIMG software serves as the basis for future development for issues of map projection of large (multi gigabyte) databases over the Web. All software and test data are open source and are available at http://cegis.usgs.gov/multiscale_ databases.html.
The focus of the application task was to develop projection methods for global model with an initial application to modeling and animating sea level rise. The developed model included 30-arcsec resolution global elevation, population, and land cover and for the coastal United States 30 m resolution data for the same datasets. Results include sea level rise animations for the world and the United States coasts (http://cegis. usg.gov/sea_level_rise.html) (Usery et al. 2009b).
Current and Future Research
The CEGIS research agenda established from the recommendations from the NRC report has evolved to include work with the Semantic Web, online digital gazetteers that are ontology-driven, and efforts to tap the exploding phenomena of social media, crowd sourcing, and VGI. These activities are classed in a large project on cyberinfrastructure that is being researched in the context of The National Map. Additional CEGIS research currently beginning focuses on spatiotemporal, three-dimensional, feature/ event-based, and semantic data models. Figure 1 shows the structure and inter-relations of CEGIS current and future research.
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E. Lynn Usery, United States Geological Survey, 1400 Independence Road, Rolla, MO 65401, USA. Email:
E. Lynn Usery is a Research Physical Scientist and Director of the USGS Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS). In addition to his own research into semantics and ontology for geospatial data, Dr. Usery directs the research program for The National Map through CEGIS.
Contributions to this report were made by Cynthia Brewer, Barbara Buttenfield, Keith Clarke, Michael P. Finn, Steve Helterbrand, Barbara Poore, Thomas Shoberg, Larry Stanislawski, and Dalia Varanka.…
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Publication information: Article title: The U.S. Geological Survey Cartographic and Geographic Information Science Research Activities 2006-2010. Contributors: Usery, E. Lynn - Author. Journal title: Cartography and Geographic Information Science. Volume: 38. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 2011. Page number: 302+. © 2008 American Congress on Surveying & Mapping. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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