GIS Design and Implementation at La Selva
Elizabeth A. Wentz and Joseph A. Bishop
BIOLOGICAL research stations are growing in number and becoming more sophisticated in the services they provide. It is not uncommon for researchers to have access to full meal services, air-conditioned laboratories, libraries, and computers (NSF 1992). More comfortable living combined with access to research equipment allows researchers the opportunity to stay longer at the site, thereby becoming part of an atmosphere that promotes the integration of data, information, and knowledge. One of the mechanisms available for this integration is access to computer-based tools such as GIS and Database Management Systems (DBMS).
Techniques associated with GIS and DBMS are not new to research and government agencies. Their popularity also extends into various disciplines including geography, ecology, and biology (Cromley and Cromley 1987; Michelmore et al. 1991; Roughgarden, Running, and Matson 1991; Wright 1991; Moreno and Heyerdahl 1992). In these fields GIS allows for the combination of diverse, geographically referenced data in a computer environment for storage, query, and analysis. Additionally, GIS provides users with a structured environment in which data from various sources can be integrated and analyzed. For example, it becomes possible to examine impacts of socioeconomic development on biological conservation (Scott et. al. 1993; Sader, Stone, and Joyce 1990). Before the availability of such tools, combining data from multiple sources was difficult and often not attempted. Tools such as a GIS/DBMS in the data collection environment makes this possible.
This case study shows how the installation of a GIS/DBMS at one field station—La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica—is bringing tools for multidisciplinary research directly into the research environment. The important aspects