Contributor Spotlight: University of Minnesota

This post is part of a monthly series to highlight each Big Ten Academic Alliance university that contributes to the geoportal.

Posted Jul 8, 2018Authors: Melinda Kernik and Ryan Mattke

Project Task Force Members: Ryan Mattke, Head, John R. Borchert Library and Melinda Kernik, Spatial Analyst & Curator.

Overview of Collections

The University of Minnesota has contributed public GIS records from the Minnesota Geospatial Commons, the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission, and several individual counties. They have also added many items from the University’s digital repositories, including scanned maps from the John R. Borchert Map Library, GeoTIFFs from the Polar Geospatial Center, research data from the U of M Digital Conservancy, and hundreds of mixed resources from the Minnesota Geological Survey.

The Geoportal in Action

We have found that the BTAA Geoportal is an excellent platform for showing students how to find and work with different types of spatial data. This was demonstrated recently when Madeleine Kerr, a professor in the School of Nursing, worked with us to develop activities for a spring semester 2018 online course. With the tutorial, continuing education students gained experience locating and mapping data related to social determinants of public health. They learned how to use common search interface elements to access digitized historical maps - in this case, a 19th century map of plague outbreaks in Bombay from the John R. Borchert Map Library Collection. Students also learned how to find, upload, and combine more recent geospatial data related to childhood lead exposure and to visualize it in ArcGIS Online.

We also find the geoportal useful when advising researchers. For example, a grad student was looking for GIS data for Twin Cities parks – we used the geoportal to search due to the map search option (combined with “parks” as a keyword). It turned out that St. Paul parks were part of a Ramsey County administrative boundaries data set, which would have been hard to locate with just text searching.