SIDEBAR 6.7 Geography and the NSDI: USGS Geographic and Spatial Systems Program
In addition to playing a major role in developing standards for digital geographic and cartographic data and coordinating the NSDI project, USGS researchers have been exploring ways to integrate and apply spatial data in policy and management contexts. The USGS's Geographic and Spatial Systems Program "supports research to develop and test new and innovative theories and techniques to manage spatial data, including research in new techniques for modeling, analyzing, and visualizing spatial data in GIS and in automated cartography, image processing, and land characterization" (Kelmelis et al., 1993, p. 36). This research underpins national policies dealing with human-environmental interactions. A significant component of these policies involves land surface characterization. As part of a research program directed toward integrating GIS technology, remote sensing technology, and environmental simulation models, a new 159-class dataset of land surface characteristics has been constructed for the conterminous United States (see Plate 11). The digital representation of this dataset is used in the land process components of general atmospheric circulation, watershed, hydrologic, ecosystem, and biogeochemical cycle models.