Datasets used for the GeoED Workshops

Because of the diversity and richness of geospatial data that have been collected by various government agencies, mapping organizations, and commercial sources, understanding all the different geospatial data formats can be very daunting.  Cartographic databases are normally in a vector format (points, lines, and polygons) while aerial photographs and satellite images are in raster (pixel) format.  It is possible to integrate all geospatial data within a GIS because they all have a common thread: they are "geo-referenced."  This means that every point, line, and area in a cartographic database, all the point locations collected in a GPS, and all the pixels in aerial photographs or satellite images have identifiable pinpointed location on the surface of the earth.  This pinpointed location can be precisely measured in latitude and longitude, or some other geographic system (called "datums").  When all geospatial data are properly geo-referenced, we can arrange them in different layers without "mismatching" of different places.  This is the key to success in a GIS; it  also provides a large combination of geospatial themes.  One of the most popular during the workshop was combining sea level rise data with census population data to determine where people might be most affected by sea level rise in the state of Florida.

The datasets used in this workshop for the mapping exercises were geo-referenced by the principal investigators, thus the teachers did not need to undertake this step.  Datasets downloaded directly from the USGS or other mapping agencies would require advanced editing and geo-referencing.  We strongly advise that these processes be done by mapping professionals.  Most university geography departments have faculty or staff members who are knowledgeable about these procedures, and you may want to consult with them.

During our 2009 and 2010 summer GeoED Workshops, we used public domain software: ESRI's AEJEE 2.3.2, Advanced GIF Animator, Google Earth, DNR Garmin, and Flex Projector.  To effectively use the datasets from this web page, it is important that teachers be able to identify which data file is used for which piece of software. 

  • For AEJEE, the main file to use is called a shape file.  Shape files are also used in other more powerful GIS software programs such as ArcGIS and ArcView.  The name "shape file" actually refers to a layer in a GIS and is composed of a minimum of three separate files: a shape file (with a .shp extension), an index file (with a .shx extension), and a database file (with a .dbf extension).  The shape file (or a layer) will not work if any one of the three files is missing from the same folder.
  • The Advanced GIF Animator software will actually accept a variety of image file formats, including the most common Jpeg file, the GIF file, the TIFF file, and the geoTIFF file (a geo-referenced TIFF file).  One can input any number of Jpeg files into the software and run them as moving animations.  Once these images are loaded into the software successfully and the animation is saved, it will be saved as a GIF file in an animated format.
  • For Google Earth, the file format used is normally the "KML" or "KMZ" (zipped KML) file formats.  KML files can be created inside Google Earth.  They can also be created from ESRI's ArcGIS by exporting ArcGIS layers as KML files so that they can be compatible with Google Earth.  KML files can also be created by exporting DNR Garmin data as GPS waypoints and paths that were collected in the field or school field trips.
  • For DNR Garmin, the collection of waypoint or path data are actually collected by the Garmin GPS Unit.  Once GPS data are collected, the GPS unit is plugged into a computer pre-loaded with DNR Garmin.  Downloading waypoint and path data into DNR Garmin are simple processes.  The data can then be exported either as KML files for use with Google Earth or as GPX files (GPS exchange format) for use with GIS software.

The following datasets were used by the participating teachers to develop their own lesson modules:

Florida Sea Level Data: For use with AEJEE, data include sea level (0 foot rise), 1-foot rise, 2-feet rise, 3-feet rise, 4-feet rise, 5-feet rise, 10-feet rise, 15-feet rise, 20-feet rise, 25-feet rise, and 30-feet rise scenarios; download them here (zip file at 28MB). 

Population Data: US Census Bureau Population Data (2008 estimation) at the block level affected by sea level rise, for use with AEJEE; download them here (zip file at 34MB).

Exploring the United States, A Bird's Eye View data CD purchased from the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE).  The CD contains various lesson plans with shape files and other satellite image data files for use with AEJEE and other ESRI GIS software programs.  These data files are very suitable for teaching geosciences at the K6 to K12 levels. The workshop organizers purchased enough copies of the CD for all participating teachers.  Individual CDs can be purchased from NCGE at $36 each.

Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Data: NOAA world map image data for monthly average sea surface temperature in GIF format; for use with Advanced GIF Animator.  Teachers can create SST animations of monthly changes within a year or select to animate the same month from year to year.  To download, click on the year of the data: 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 (each of these are zip files, ranging from 2MB to 5.8MB)

Hurricane Tracks: For use with AEJEE, data include 1995 to 2007 hurricane tracks along the US Southeast Coast; click here to download (zip file at 1.6 MB).

North Pole Ice Cap:  For use with AEJEE.  Because polar data are best displayed in a polar projection, this dataset includes no continental boundaries which must be shown with great distortions.  The data are organized by the year, as follows: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.  Click on the year to download that year's data.  These are zip files and must be unzipped into a regular folder before they can be used with AEJEE.  Lesson plans can be set up to compare any one year with another as separate layers in AEJEE.  Screen captures of each year and saved as jpeg images can also be used to create animations.

Antarctica Ice Cap:  For use with AEJEE.  Because polar data are best displayed in a polar projection, this dataset do include Antarctica's shoreline.  The data are organized by the year, as follows: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.  Click on the year to download that year's data.  These are zip files and must be unzipped into a regular folder before they can be used with AEJEE.  Lesson plans can be set up to compare any one year with another as separate layers in AEJEE.  Screen captures of each year and saved as jpeg images can also be used to create animations.

Examples of Google Earth KML or KMZ data files are listed below (also excellent resources for teaching).  These are zip files; once you have downloaded them into either KMZ or KML files, simply double-click on the KML or KMZ file and it will open into Google Earth.

Other Resources: