Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Time as Delaware's Geospatial Data Coordinator

Speaking about my work experience during the recent Lewes Candidates' Forum, I mentioned my time as "Geospatial Data Coordinator."  I've since been asked for a bit more information about what that means.

There's a class of database management tools known as Geographic Information Systems - GIS - that combines mapping (where things are) with databases (what things are) in a way that makes it easier to understand just what's going on.

If we map data about ground elevation, add historical information about where floods have occurred, overlay that with a map of the roads, then add the locations of all the people in the community with mobility issues, we can do a much more meaningful job of planning for evacuation should we get hit with a Sandy-sized coastal storm.

GIS, Geospatial Data and You a presentation to the Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning (2010).

A Geospatial Data Coordinator works among all levels of government to coordinate the use and sharing of digital mapping data, information, and tools.

Back in 1998, when I joined the Office of State Planning Coordination, state agencies and local governments had started using GIS. But when they presented their data to the public, it often didn't match. It's hard to coordinate planning among different levels of government if they can't agree on the landscape.

I was hired to try to bring some order to that chaos. I created and led a group called the Delaware Geographic Data Committee (DGDC).  We created data standards and got the state and local governments to agree to work together and share their data. We found funds for, and managed, major statewide data-creation projects, including regular updates to the aerial photographs and elevation data at the heart of GIS systems.

I also served as GIS technical lead for the Office and led the efforts to create the maps that make up the heart of the State Strategies for Policies and Spending.  I was involved in three different iterations of the Strategies Maps.

In 2002, I led a team of DGDC members that created a web-based mapping system called the Data Mapping and Integration Laboratory (DataMIL) which was intended to present the collected GIS data of the state and local governments, online, and provide tools for people to point out errors and suggest improvements.  It was eventually overshadowed by Google Maps, (and later others) which did the same thing at a national level, and was retired last year.

DataMIL made a bit of a splash, though. It was featured in a national trade journal (PDF) and earned our team the 2003 John Wesley Powell Award from the USGS.  In 2005, I was given the first Delaware Geographic Community Service Award by the DGDC.

I also began to represent Delaware on a national GIS data coordination group called the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC).  I served on the Board of Directors of NSGIC and was the chair of the group's Communications Committee.  In 2008, I was given a NSGIC Outstanding Service Award.  After I moved to my present job, and resigned from NSGIC, they were kind enough to present me with their 2011 Lifetime Service Award (PDF).

I'm proud to say that the DGDC continues to serve the state.  My position has been filled by the able and dedicated Miriam Pomilio, long a colleague and friend. She's carried forward what I started and made great improvements.

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