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Project Overview

Many small organizations with decision making authority and responsibility related to natural resources lack the capacity to take advantage of digital mapping tools.  These tools are often expensive and require considerable specialized training. The goal of this project was to provide a set of basic tools for visualizing and analyzing spatial data and information. Researchers at the Natural Resources Research Institute, along with collaborators at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Sea Grant, developed the Natural Resource Atlas of Northeastern Minnesota to facilitate communication and inform decision making that involves or impacts natural resources in the Laurentian Mixed Forest region. This tool is being developed as a collaboration between end users and scientists; development will occur in stages, with phase one to be completed in 2018.

The project was funded by a direct appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature as part of the Minnesota Mining and Water Innovation Initiative to the Natural Resources Research Institute. At the beginning the project, we reviewed many web-based decision tools and interviewed a set of developers to learn about the challenges they and their users encountered and the ways they overcame those challenges. We also interviewed target end-users about their decision making processes and desired content and functionality. Finally, we identified topic-specific experts and formed advisory committees to provide guidance on content, technical development, and delivery mechanisms.

The main features of the Atlas are a multidisciplinary, spatial database and an interactive mapping tool with basic Geographical Information System (GIS) analytical capabilities. The database provides users access to over 250 data layers from reputable sources covering 26 counties in Northern Minnesota. These data can be accessed directly within the mapping tool or downloaded for external use. The mapping tool allows users to view different combinations of data, make measurements, perform basic analyses, and share the results.

For more information or to discuss training options, please contact us.