Contributor Spotlight: University of Wisconsin-Madison

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

Posted Aug 21, 2018Authors: Jaime Martinedale and Jim Lacy

Project Task Force Members

Jaime Martindale - Arthur H. Robinson Map Library and Jim Lacy - Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office

The Geoportal in Action

Wisconsin is unique in that we don’t have an official state geoportal of our own. Therefore, we rely heavily on referring users to the BTAA Geoportal to access the geospatial content they need. While many agencies and local offices in Wisconsin provide data access via their own websites, pointing users to the BTAA Geoportal as a single point of entry to discover and download maps and data across our state (and region) is extremely valuable. The geoportal is especially useful to our students and researchers working on projects with natural features that simply don’t stop at political (state or county) boundaries. By using the BTAA Geoportal they can easily collect data from neighboring states and look seamlessly at their entire research area.

Overview of Collections

Wisconsin collections include a variety of geospatial data from local county offices, state agencies, and university researchers. Our statewide layers include datasets from:

Counties across Wisconsin (72 in total) submit geospatial data annually to the Robinson Map Library where it is archived and made publicly accessible for download from the geoportal. These datasets include (but are not limited to): tax parcels and zoning, roads and right-of-ways, land use, addresses, buildings, parks and trails, PLSS control, and hydrography.

Work is currently underway to collect more university research data, but one of the most interesting research datasets available from the geoportal is the Wisconsin Land Economic Inventory, or “Bordner Survey” as it is commonly known. The Bordner Survey was a comprehensive program of Wisconsin counties conducted from the 1920s through the 1940s that produced detailed, field-based maps with over 100 classes. The impetus for the survey was an environmental crisis in rural Wisconsin brought about by land use decisions made decades earlier, especially those associated with the careless logging of the original forests. The Forest Landscape Ecology Lab (FLEL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has collaborated with the WI State Cartographer’s Office (SCO) to digitize and create vector geospatial data from the survey maps published through the Bordner Survey.