USGS logo

Digital Mapping Techniques '98 -- Workshop Proceedings
U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-487


By David R. Soller

U.S. Geological Survey
908 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Telephone: (703) 648-6907
Fax: (703) 648-6937

The Digital Mapping Techniques '98 workshop was held from May 27 to 30, 1998, with eighty-eight attendees mostly from twenty-five State geological surveys and the USGS participating (see attendees list in Appendix A). This workshop was similar in nature to the first such workshop, held in June, 1997, in Lawrence, Kansas (Soller, 1997), and allowed further collaboration among all participants. This year's meeting was hosted by the Illinois State Geological Survey, on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Illinois. Both the Kansas and Illinois workshops focused on methods for data capture and digital map production; their goal was to help move the state surveys and the USGS toward development of more cost-effective, flexible, and useful systems for digital mapping and GIS analysis.

The public exchange of ideas and techniques is the workshop's primary objective. When, based on discussions at the workshop, an attendee adopts or modifies a newly learned technique, the workshop clearly has met that objective. According to this particular criterion, evidence for the success of last year's workshop is presented in this volume; referring to the paper in this volume by McCraw and others (New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources),

"After attending the Digital Mapping Techniques '97 (DMT '97) conference in Lawrence, KS, we decided to model our digital cartographic production program after that of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology ...[which] expedited our overall cartographic production. Months of trial-and-error digitizing and interaction between geologists and technicians were replaced by a single scanned image that could be quickly drafted. In about two weeks, the 1:24,000 Alameda geologic quadrangle went from an inked mylar to a multicolor plotted map sheet, complete with cross sections."
Such observations are quite gratifying and reflect the productive, collegial atmosphere of these two workshops. It has been a pleasure to participate in them.

These two workshops were coordinated by the AASG/USGS Data Capture Working Group, which was formed in August, 1996, to support the Association of American State Geologists and the USGS in their effort to build a National Geologic Map Database (Soller and Berg, this volume). The Working Group was formed because increased production efficiencies, standardization, and quality of digital map products were needed to help the Database, and the State and Federal geological surveys, provide more high-quality digital maps to the public.


I thank the Illinois State Geological Survey, and their Chief and State Geologist, Bill Shilts, for hosting a productive and enjoyable meeting. I especially thank Jennifer Hines and Rob Krumm, who coordinated the meeting for the ISGS and provided excellent support for the attendees. Their enthusiasm and expertise are greatly appreciated. Thanks also to Sheena Beaverson, who built and maintained the Web site (Appendix B) that provided registration services and workshop information to the attendees. Other ISGS personnel who helped with the workshop are Chris Goldsmith, Kari Lynn Kirkham, Allison Lecouris, Joe Schoen, and Barbara Stiff. I also note with gratitude the contributions of the following individuals: Tom Berg (Chair, AASG Digital Geologic Mapping Committee) for his help in conducting the meeting and for his continued support of AASG/USGS efforts to collaborate on the National Geologic Map Database; the members of the Data Capture Working Group (Warren Anderson, Kentucky Geological Survey; Rick Berquist and Elizabeth Campbell, Virginia Division of Mines and Geology; Rob Krumm and Barb Stiff, Illinois State Geological Survey; Scott McColloch, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey; Gina Ross, Kansas Geological Survey; Dave Wagner, California Division of Mines and Geology; and Tom Whitfield, Pennsylvania Geological Survey) for advice in planning the workshop's content and the suggestions to authors; and Patricia Packard (USGS) for help with Appendix C.


The workshop included 19 oral presentations. Each was supported by a short paper contained in these Proceedings. Some presentations were coordinated with Discussion Sessions, described below. The papers represent approaches that currently meet some or all needs for digital mapping at the respective agency. There is not, of course, a single "solution" or approach to digital mapping that will work for each agency or for each program or group within an agency -- personnel and funding levels, and the schedule, data format, and manner in which we must deliver our information to the public require that each agency design their own approach. However, the value of this workshop, and other forums like it, is through their role in helping to design or refine these agency-specific approaches to digital mapping and to find approaches used by other agencies that are applicable. In other words, communication helps us to avoid "reinventing the wheel."

Most presentations ranged across a number of issues, so I make little attempt to organize the papers by topic. With my apologies to authors whose work I may not adequately describe, I provide here a brief description of each paper. For the sake of brevity, the lead or presenting author only is listed. Further information about the software and hardware referred to below and elsewhere in these Proceedings is provided in Appendix C.

  1. Nick Tew (Alabama Geological Survey) -- converting to digital format the 1988 state geologic map, a process that involved some cooperation with a sister agency, the USGS.
  2. Warren Anderson (Kentucky Geological Survey) --- overview of digital mapping program, from data capture to production of derivative maps, with discussion of the need to generate funding.
  3. Gail Davidson (Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys) --- in times of shrinking budgets, how can we justify and develop a digital mapping program?
  4. Jim Giglierano (Iowa Geological Survey Bureau) --- an update on the Linn County, Iowa project discussed at last year's workshop, focusing on control of map versions, development of a map data model, and interaction with map users.
  5. Don Luman (Illinois State Geological Survey) -- integration of remote sensing into the state geologic mapping program.
  6. Carl Harris (Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources)--designing a data model for a statewide digital mapping project.
  7. David Soller (U.S. Geological Survey) -- description of, and report of progress for, the National Geologic Map Database.
  8. Ralph Haugerud (U.S. Geological Survey) -- the philosophy of geologic mapping, the need for standards, and some suggestions.
  9. Gary Raines (U.S. Geological Survey) -- an introduction to the AASG/USGS Data Model Working Group, a report of progress, and discussion of the need to reach consensus on a standard data model.
  10. Kimberly Sowder (Indiana Geological Survey) -- method for creating high-quality map plates from digital files.
  11. Barbara Stiff (Illinois State Geological Survey) -- overview of ISGS data capture techniques, data structure, and output for on-demand publication.
  12. Ron Wahl (U.S. Geological Survey) -- proposed standard specifications for 1:100,000-scale quadrangle boundary files.
  13. David Collins (Kansas Geological Survey) -- development of software to support 3-D visualization of buried units mapped from well-log data.
  14. Walter Hasenmueller (Indiana Geological Survey) -- a county-level pilot study to build a stratigraphic database and generate contour maps from that database, with discussion of the data model.
  15. Jonathan Arthur (Florida Geological Survey) -- discussion of various methods for generating contour maps from well-log data.
  16. David Soller (U.S. Geological Survey) -- a method for developing an internally consistent set of structure contour and thickness maps for thin, discontinuous glacial deposits.
  17. Jorgina Ross (Kansas Geological Survey) -- providing an interactive Web interface, for spatial query of maps and data (an ģInternet Map Serverē).
  18. Dan Nelson (Illinois State Geological Survey) -- building an NSDI Clearinghouse node and serving data, images, and metadata to the public.
  19. Peter Schweitzer (U.S. Geological Survey) -- metadata in the National Geologic Map Database; an overview of the AASG/USGS Metadata Working Group's report.


Twenty agencies exhibited posters throughout the workshop. These posters provided an excellent focus for technical discussions and support for oral presentations. They are documented in these Proceedings by information ranging from brief descriptions to more formal papers similar in length to those for the oral presentations. In an introductory section following the oral papers, the brief poster descriptions are given; they are followed by the more lengthy contributions.


The formal presentations were interspersed with general discussion sessions on selected topics. These sessions mostly were led by Rob Krumm (ISGS), Tom Berg (Ohio Geological Survey), and Dave Soller (USGS). The topics were:


The workshop concluded with a general discussion of the meeting's agenda and content. Attendees expressed a strong desire for a similar workshop next year, because this venue provides a rare opportunity for specialists in digital mapping to interact with a large group of their peers and to be exposed to new techniques and philosophies. A variety of issues were raised, many of which are related to increasing societal demands on the geological surveys concurrent with declines in funding: 1) the difficulties in balancing the reduction in budgets at the geological surveys with the expanded demand for digital mapping expertise and services; 2) strategies for cost-effective data capture, including GIS services available, for example, through private firms, the prison system, other government agencies; and 3) the continuing need to demonstrate the relevance of geoscience information to society. Some map products that demonstrate such relevance were cited.

The quality and availability of both paper and digital topographic maps were other topics of significant concern. It was resolved that we would: 1) ask the USGS National Mapping Division to clarify for us their policies on availability and revision of topographic maps and related digital products and 2) work to ensure their participation at next year's workshop.

The topic of most concern was one raised at last year's meeting -- the costs of map publication and distribution, and the relative merits of conventional map printing and the emerging print-on-demand technologies. Because there is no single publication strategy that will best apply to all categories of maps or geological surveys, detailed and well-focused discussions are needed. The various issues, technologies, personal experiences, and costs and benefits must be explored and debated to help each agency determine their most appropriate strategy. Attendees suggested that this topic should be a primary focus for next year's workshop. We will design the 1999 workshop with this suggestion clearly in mind.


Soller, D.R., editor, 1997, Proceedings of a workshop on digital mapping techniques: Methods for geologic map data capture, management, and publication: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-269, 120 p.

Home | Contents | Next

U.S.Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by Dave Soller
Last updated 10.06.98