Geographers are also involved in several other research initiatives that will contribute to the NSDI, including the following:

  • The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis leads research into the fundamental design and operations of GISs, as well as related efforts (e.g., the Alexandria Project) to develop methodologies and tools for the creation of a digital spatial ''library." This library will allow decision makers, researchers, and the general public to easily access georeferenced information through the Internet.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) monitors ecosystem changes at various spatial scales. The hierarchical database structure developed for EMAP now serves as a basis for much of EPA's environmental monitoring and analysis activities.
  • The USGS's National Digital Cartographic Database supports the production of paper and electronic maps (see Sidebar 6.7).
  • The U.S. Bureau of the Census has developed the Topologically Integrated Geographical Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) database (see Chapter 4).
  • The U.S. Department of Energy's Environmental Spatial Analysis Tool (ESAT) project evaluates waste management alternatives.
  • The National Center for Health Statistics has developed a cancer atlas.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics has undertaken a project to compile, analyze, and distribute data about the nation's transportation system.

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.

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