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Digital Mapping Techniques '00 -- Workshop Proceedings
U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00-325

Developing the North American Geologic Map Data Model

By the North American Data Model Steering Committee

Dave Soller (Committee Coordinator and U.S. Geological Survey,
Tom Berg (Ohio Geological Survey,
Boyan Brodaric (Geological Survey of Canada,
Jim Cobb (Kentucky Geological Survey,
Bruce Johnson (U.S. Geological Survey,
Murray Journeay (Geological Survey of Canada,
Rob Krumm (Illinois State Geological Survey,
Jon Matti (U.S. Geological Survey,
Scott McColloch (West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey,
Peter Schweitzer (U.S. Geological Survey,
Loudon Stanford (Idaho Geological Survey,

The development of a standard data model for geologic map information will benefit the geoscience community by providing the common structure for describing geologic phenomenon and for managing the spatial and attribute information in publicly-accessible computer systems. In North America, representatives of geological surveys in Canada and the United States have agreed to work together to address the challenges of building a standard data model and the software tools that permit it to be effectively used. They are working together through the mechanism of the North American Data Model Steering Committee (NADMSC).

Evolution of this cooperatively-developed data model is documented in various informal papers from 1996 to present (for example, Geologic Map Data Model Steering Committee,1999). The data model described in those papers is conceptual in nature, because this work was necessary before the concepts could be evaluated and implemented in various computer systems. Attention is now turning toward testing and implementation; several papers in this Proceedings volume describe efforts to begin to implement the concepts, and more certainly will follow in the years ahead. Because the conceptual model could not stipulate the nature of the GIS and database software in which an agency might choose to develop a geologic map database, there likely will be modifications to the conceptual model as it is test-implemented in various systems across the U.S. and Canada. This is to be expected, as the data model evolves from a conceptual to a physical state.

The geoscience community is composed of diverse agencies and individuals, with a wide range of technical expertise, budgets, and user-support requirements. Therefore, the NADMSC expects that when the various Canadian and U.S. geological surveys evaluate and implement the data model in the coming years, they will modify it as needed to suit their system and user requirements. The role of the NADMSC will be to support these implementations with: 1) technical assistance and data model documentation; 2) modifications to the conceptual model as needed; 3) coordination of software tool development; and 4) the proposal of standard scientific terminology with which to attribute digital geologic maps. To fulfill these roles, the NADMSC has formed six Technical Teams, as follows:

Each Technical Team is now staffed and is conducting its assignment. Within one year, measureable progress is expected and will be reported at the NADMSC Web site,, and in public venues such as these Proceedings. Interested persons are invited to register at the site and, through comments, guidance, and test-implementations, contribute to the data model's continued evolution.


Geologic Map Data Model Steering Committee, 1999, Progress toward development of a standard geologic map data model, in D.R. Soller, ed., Digital Mapping Techniques '99 -- Workshop Proceedings: U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report 99-386, p. 57-58,

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Last updated 11.01.00