Newsletter Article: DOC Launches New Website

Republished from the Department of Conservation employee newsletter, What’s Up DOC? Volume 18, Number 2 | March 15, 2017

Platform Will Make Vast Amounts of GIS Data More Accessible

By Staci Morrison

Say hello to DOC Maps. The Department has a shiny new website that offers easy access to hundreds of spatial databases and maps produced by DOC. It’s a one-stop shop for our geospatial information system (GIS) data spanning all divisions and then some: geology, seismic hazards, mineral resources, and mining; agriculture and land use; and oil, gas, and geothermal energy.

Led by DOC’s GIS Coordinator Nate Roth, the site has been the better part of 10 months in the making – from brainstorming through publication – an impressive feat considering Roth has only been the Department’s GIS lead for a little more than a year.

“We have a mandate to make our data publicly available – and we take that seriously,” Roth said. “But making the data available was not sufficient. We needed to make it accessible, to get it into a form that all our user groups — whether they are a school kid looking for a map or a scientist building on our work — can have access to in a way that is useful to them.”

Starting with the novice, who may come to the site to answer a specific question (for example, “what’s the geology where I live?”), the site is intuitive enough to get one’s foot in the door. Those unfamiliar with GIS data can still interact with the maps – zoom and pan around — and immediately see associated information that puts the map data into context. Roth has also provided basic FAQs within the site, a great starting place for the newcomer.

DOC Maps also caters to intermediate users who want more control of their map exploration. The site’s Data Viewers allow these users to pick what layers they want to turn on or off, zoom in further, or recollect and display different data together, creating their own maps.
Of course, DOC Maps is also useful to the experts who already have GIS software and seasoned skillsets. These super users can dive into the data directly to take and use what they need for outside analyses and map-making.

GIS data is important for measuring, mapping, or making visual countless types of information related to a geographic area. This includes tracking the changing use of land, reviewing permit applications, evaluating risks from mines or wells, mapping earthquake faults so developers can avoid risky areas for high-rise buildings or homes, and many other uses both big and small.

Government organizations, city planners, researchers regularly use GIS data for purposes such as planning infrastructure and protecting land resources. GIS allows a user to start with one data set and add layers of useful information to aid with research; for example, starting with a map of active faults, and putting the location of nearby schools and hospitals on top of that base.

Housing a wealth of California’s geographic information, the site was built to reach a spectrum of visitors, from those who don’t know what GIS is, to the experts who use GIS every day. So, Roth took a tiered method to cataloging DOC’s collection of data.
Starting with the novice, who may come to the site to answer a specific question (for example, “what’s the geology where I live?”), the site is intuitive enough to get one’s foot in the door. Those unfamiliar with GIS data can still interact with the maps – zoom and pan around — and immediately see associated information that puts the map data into context. Roth has also provided basic FAQs within the site, a great starting place for the newcomer.

DOC Maps also caters to intermediate users who want more control of their map exploration. The site’s Data Viewers allow these users to pick what layers they want to turn on or off, zoom in further, or recollect and display different data together, creating their own maps.

Of course, DOC Maps is also useful to the experts who already have GIS software and seasoned skill sets. These super users can dive into the data directly to take and use what they need for outside analyses and map-making.

The building and public launch of DOC Maps was the result of successful cross-divisional teamwork. ETSD staff — including YungKai Chin, Navdeep Dhaliwal, Pablo Fung, Manoj Beeravelli, Todd Boobar, Pam Lim and Yelena Lebedchik – was actively engaged, providing review and support. GIS staff within each division, as well as a handful of DOC beta users who provided meaningful input on the early versions of the site, also contributed.

DOC Director David Bunn applauded the work of Roth and his colleagues.
“Simplifying access to GIS geospatial data and web maps demonstrates the science-driven foundation of our work,” the Director said. “This powerful tool enables the DOC to be a resource for all Californians, who can use this information to inform local decision-making and state efforts to support public safety, the environment, and the economy.”

The initial launch of the site is a milestone for the DOC, paving the way for further, simplified access to DOC’s vast collection of data. And so far the site has been getting a fair amount of attention, with a 70 percent bump in web traffic after the updated site went live.

So take DOC Maps for a spin. Try out a search by Subject Area or create an entirely new map with geographic information interesting to you or your work. Then email Roth any kinks or feedback you encounter along the way. He has a few more features to roll out in the next few weeks, and some data sets that are in the final stages of preparation before being added. Your feedback will help focus these upgrades.