USGS National Map Corps Hits Crowdsourcing Milestone

February 3, 2015  - By 0 Comments

National Map Corps

The U.S. Geological Survey citizen science project, The National Map Corps, has realized remarkable response. In less than two years, the volunteer-based project has harvested more than 100,000 “points.” Hundreds of volunteer cartographers are making significant additions to the USGS ability to provide accurate mapping information to the public.

Each point represents a structure or manmade feature on a map that has been verified and updated, and then submitted to support The National Map and US Topo maps.

Using crowd-sourcing techniques, the USGS Volunteer Geographic Information project known as The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) encourages citizen volunteers to collect manmade structure data in an effort to provide accurate and authoritative spatial map data for the USGS National Geospatial Program’s web-based map products.

“I am 80 years old. I work three days a week for a golf course trapping moles and gophers,” said a prominent citizen scientist volunteer who goes by the handle Mole Trapper. “I spent 11 years volunteering for a fish and wildlife agency. When the big landslide at Oso, Washington, happened, I went on the USGS website and discovered the map corps. I worked summers while in high school for a surveyor who was very precise, and he told me an inaccurate survey is worthless. I hate inaccurate maps, so this program was just right for me. I hope my work is as accurate as it can be, but if it isn’t, I plead old age.”

Structures being updated include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings. The data being collected by volunteers becomes part of The National Map structures dataset, which is made available to users free of charge.

“I am retired from an unrelated field, but I have loved maps and travel all my life,” explained another active volunteer who goes by fconley. “When I saw that USGS was looking for volunteers, I immediately joined, first working with paper maps and quads. As digital mapping, satellite imagery, and GPS became more available I was enthralled. With the imagery now accessible, it is almost like being able to travel sitting at my desk. At times, locating structures seems similar to solving puzzles or detective work. This whole project is not only enjoyable,it makes me feel that I am making a lasting and useful contribution. I am thankful for the opportunity to be involved in this fascinating endeavor.”

Beginning as a series of pilot projects in 2011, The National Map Corps has grown state by state to include the entire U.S. By August 2013, volunteers were editing in every state in the country and the U.S. territories. To date, the number of active volunteers has grown to 930, including some participants who have collected in excess of 6,000 points.

To show appreciation of the volunteers’ efforts, The National Map Corps instituted a recognition program that awards “virtual” badges to volunteers. Each edit submitted is worth one point towards the badge level. The badges consist of a series of antique surveying instruments and images following the evolution of land survey and moving to aerial observation of the Earth’s surface, such as pigeon-mounted cameras and hot-air balloons. Additionally, volunteers are publicly acknowledged (with permission) via TwitterFacebook and Google+.

Tools on TNMCorps website explain how a volunteer can edit any area, regardless of his or her familiarity with the selected structures. To volunteer, go to The National Map Corps website to sign up.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Featured Stories, GIS News, GIS Software, Mapping
Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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