The cartographer (map maker) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist for the Denver Basin Project creates maps about the Denver Basin from the data uncovered by the projects scientists. These maps will be included in various manuscripts and presentations written by the scientists, and some will be available on this Web site.
Maps will be used directly by the scientists for research purposes. The GIS specialist will produce base maps on which the scientists can record the locations of data or specimens they gather in the field. These maps will then be returned to the GIS laboratory and the data from them entered into the GIS computer. Geographic information systems use special GIS software, which links map objects, for example, fossil sites, river systems, and surface geology areas, to a database that provides information about each map object. GIS then allows the layering of different types of map data to create map displays that allow previously unseen spatial patterns to emerge. The Denver Basin scientists will use the maps I create to make analyses from these patterns. Types of analyses might include the prediction of the extent of different types of bedrock geology, or the thickness of the geology itself, the location of the K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) boundary, and the types of depositional environments present at different times for specific localities.
Geography is the science behind making maps and spatial analysis. Geography looks at what is where and why. It asks the questions, why are certain things near each other or farther apart, and how do they, or have they, influenced each other? Geography helps to bring together the various disciplines of the earth sciences by asking these questions. GIS is an exciting and fairly new technological tool from the field of geography that automates the making of maps and increases the interpretive spatial analyses that can be done with them.