"Current Research" (Mammals after Dinosaurs)

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GIS and the Denver Basin Project:
Creating a GIS Database for the Denver Basin

by Lara M. Juliusson
Click on map for enlarged bersion

ArcView Denver Basin GIS database showing the Denver Basin, fossil localities, digital elevation files, and a topographic map index.

GIS, Geographic Information Systems, is a computer system that allows many types of geographic data to be mapped as separate layers and analyzed together to produce new maps and information about areas on the earth. The Denver Basin Project uses GIS to help map and understand the geology, paleontology, and hydrology of the Denver Basin.

One of the first steps towards utilizing GIS for this type of research was to build a GIS database of the map data layers necessary for this type of work. The first stage of the GIS aspect of the Denver Basin project, involved the creation of this database.

GIS layers, or themes, can come from many difference sources. I've used three sources to gather data for the Denver Basin GIS database. The USGS has compiled their hard copy map data into digital GIS format. This includes, geology, topographic, and digital elevation maps. Iíve downloaded and assembled these layers into the new database. A second source of GIS data is local public agencies. The Colorado Springs Parks GIS department was able to provide me with large scale data for four parks in the project study area. Lastly, Iíve generated several GIS themes internally in the museum GIS lab. A theme showing the locations of Kirk Johnson's fossil leaf sites was generated from a spreadsheet of their locations that he provided. Using a digitizing tablet, a map"tracing" device, several layers of data were made from existing scientific publications.

Finally, all of these layers were organized into GIS software, which allows the different layers to be displayed, categorized, and analyzed in different ways. All of the maps you see of the Denver Basin on this web page were cartographically created from these GIS layers.

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