Introduction to GIS software

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1 Introduction to GIS software There are a wide variety of GIS software packages available. Some of these software packages are freely available for you to download and could be used in your classroom. ArcGIS Explorer is one of those freely available GIS software packages. Objective: The objective of this tutorial is to familiarize yourself with some basic functions of ArcGIS Explorer. Please note that this tutorial does not attempt to give you a complete introduction to all basic functions in ArcGIS Explorer. It is rather a starting point for you to explore some more of the functionality that is offered by ArcGIS Explorer for some of your specific geospatial data analysis needs/geospatial classroom activity. Note: This tutorial has been written for PCs so some parts of the tutorial might not work for you if you are using a Mac. 1) Installing ArcGIS Explorer on your own computer Unfortunately, ArcGIS Explorer does only run on PCs. To install ArcGIS Explorer on your own PC, click on the executable (ArcGISExplorerDownload) that can be found in your Ecology class folder (C: \Ecology Student Resources\Software\PC\ArcGIS Explorer). You can also download ArcExplorer for free from the following ESRI website: ( 2) Start ArcGIS Explorer To start ArcGIS Explorer simply click on the ArcGIS Explorer icon on you desktop. 1

2 The following window will appear: Select Associate KML with ArcGIS Explorer. You should now see a satellite image of the world that looks something like the image shown below: Above the satellite image, you will see the ArcGIS Explorer ribbon with the Home and Display tab. 2

3 To navigate to the McCall area (or the area you are interested in), pick the Home tab on the ribbon, click on the Find button and type in Mccall, ID or the geographic coordinates of the location you are looking for. 2) Reading in field data and displaying it In this step you will learn how to read in the GPS coordinates associated with the plant specimens you collected for the digital herbarium. To do this, open Excel (Start/All programs/microsoft Office) and create a spreadsheet that has at least the following three columns: location (your first data entry would be 1 (for location one), your second data entry would be 2 for location two, and so forth), latitude, and longitude. You can also add additional columns that contain information associated with a given coordinate (e.g. soil moisture information). After you created the spreadsheet it might look something like this: 3

4 Next, save your file as a.txt (table delimited file). To do this, click on the Microsoft Windows icon in the upper left hand corner of the Excel screen and click on Save as /other formats. This will bring up a window that allows you to save your spreadsheet in different file formats. You want to save your file as a.txt file. To do this, find the Save as type pulldown menu and select text (Tab delimited). After you click Ok a warning window will pop-up. Click OK. Another warning window will pop-up. Select Yes. Now we are ready to read the text file you just created into ArcGIS Explorer. To do this, pick the Home tab on the ribbon, click on the Add Content pulldown menu, and click on Add text file.... A window will appear that allows you to navigate to the text file you created earlier. Once you located your GPS file, specify the file delimiter (if it is a.txt file it is tab delimited so select the "Tab") and click Next. In the following window you will have to select the columns in your GPS file that contain the latitude and longitude information as well as the coordinate system (most likely WGS-84) of the data you collected. Also, you have to select the column that contains the title field (e.g. the columns that contains the unique name or number you assigned to each of your GPS points. In our case that is the Location column). Finally, select All Fields in the Description Field dropdown menu. 3) Geotagging pictures You can geotag images with picture editing and organizing software such as Picasa. Picasa is a Google product that can be downloaded for free. Open Picasa and navigate to the jpeg image called Sagebrush meadows in your Dropbox folder (C:\...\Dropbox\Jan Teaching Files\CSS 560\Data\ArcGIS Explorer). Click on the image and select the Show/Hide places Panel button in the lower right hand 4

5 corner. Picasa will then load a Google map. Bellow the map you will be able to type in the GPS coordinates your picture is associated with. For example, if your GPS coordinates are (Lat) and (Long), you would type the following in the Search for an address field: In our case, the picture was taken at the following location: (Lat) and (Long). After you typed in the coordinates, hit the search button and a pop-up window will appear on the Google map that asks you if you would like to put your image here. Click OK and your picture is geotagged. Next, in ArcGIS Explorer, pick the Home tab on the ribbon, click on the Add Content pulldown menu, and click on Geotagged Photographs.... A window will appear that allows you to navigate to the geotagged image. Once you navigated to the geotagged image click on Open and ArcGIS Explorer will automatically place the image at the location you specified (Note: You can geotagg digital photographs, graphs you create in R Commander etc. as long as they are saved in some sort of digital image format e.g. such as JPEG). 5

6 4) Importing GIS data layers and shapefiles Many GIS data that could assist in the interpretation and analysis of your geospatial data are already freely available online. So a good place to start looking for geospatial datasets before you go out in the field to collect data might be to search online. A good place to start looking for GIS data for Idaho is the Inside Idaho website ( For this part of the tutorial, please open the Inside Idaho website ( and click on the Popular data in the Find Data dropdown menu. This will bring you to the organizational chart shown below that gives an overview on different types of datasets that are available (e.g. datasets related to climate, geoscience, transportation etc.) For this tutorial, you will take a look at some precipitation data for Idaho. To get these data, click on Precipitation hyperlink. A new window will appear that lists different datasets. Before you download any of the datasets listed, it is good practice to look at the data description that provides some valuable information about the data (e.g. what data type you are dealing with, data description, geographic coordinate system associated with the data etc.). To get this information about the data you are about to download, click on the Precipitation for Idaho; Mean Annual ( ) hyperlink. Take a moment and browse through the data description. You might wonder why you need all this information about the data. For example, it is quite important to know what coordinate system the dataset is in if you are planning to overlay it with other GIS data layers. If it does not have the same coordinate system as your 6

7 other layers, you have to transform it to the coordinate system of your other layers. Otherwise, you would not be able to lay it on top of your other GIS data layers (Note: It is beyond this tutorial to discuss how to transform GIS data layers from one coordinate system to another). After you familiarized yourself with the data, click on ESRI Layer File (lyr) and download and save the dataset on your computer. After you downloaded the dataset, pick the Home tab on the ArcGIS Explorer ribbon, click on the Add Content pulldown menu, click on ArcGIS layers..., and navigate to the folder where you saved the precipitation data under. You should now see a precipitation map for Idaho shown below: To see the legend of the map, right click on in the Contents window and click on Show Legend. The precipitation information for Idaho in the GIS layers you just opened is stored in grid cells, similar to information stored in a digital image (Fig. 1). This type of data is called raster data. Another type of GIS data you might frequently come across when you are working with GIS is called vector data. Vector data are points, lines, and polygons (Fig. 1). 7

8 Figure 1. Illustration of raster and vector data (Source of illustration: This means you already worked with vector data in part 2 of this tutorial when you imported GPS locations (or points) into ArcGIS Explorer. Now, we want to create a map that shows the location of MOSS, the Nokes Experimental forest (which is an experimental forest approximately 3 miles southeast from MOSS), and Ponderosa State Park. To do this, zoom into the McCall area. Next, pick the Home tab on the ArcGIS Explorer ribbon, click on the Add Content pulldown menu, click on Shapefiles... (Note: a shapefile is a vector data format), and navigate to the Nokes and IDPR_Managed_Land folders (C:\...\Dropbox\Jan Teaching Files\CSS 560\Data\ArcGIS Explorer) that contain the area information for the Nokes Experimental Forest and Ponderosa State Park, respectively. Now, simply click on the.shp file in each of the folders and the area associated with the Nokes Experimental Forest and the Ponderosa 8

9 State Park should appear (please note that the IDPR_Managed_Land shapefile contains all areas in Idaho managed by Idaho State Parks and Recreation only the area that covers the peninsula reaching into Payette Lake and at the northern end of Payette Lake is associated with Ponderosa State Park). You will see that both the area covering the Nokes Experimental Forest and Ponderosa State Park do have the same color. To give the Nokes Experimental Forest a different color, click on the little arrow in the Contents menu next to the nokes_boundary. Next, right click on nokes_boundary and go to Symbol and chose a color you want to use for the Nokes Experimental Forest. 9

10 OK now we mapped the area associated with Ponderosa State Park and with the Nokes Experimental Forest but what about MOSS? To map the area associated with MOSS, we are zooming into the area. Next, we are choosing the Area tool from the Home tab... and trace the MOSS boundary by clicking on its corners. 10

11 After you traced the entire area, simply double click. Voilá now you mapped the Nokes Experimental Forest, Ponderosa State Park, and MOSS. Now, we want to make a map with a legend. To do this, we first want to change the names in our Contents window to MOSS, Nokes Experimental Forest, Ponderosa State Park. To do this, simply right click on the current names and select Rename. This then allows you to rename the names associated with our three shapefiles. Next, you can place the contents window showing your legend anywhere you want within your map by simply clicking on it and holding down your left mouse button. 11

12 You can also adjust the size of the legend window by putting your mouse on the corner of the Contents window. Now, find the prt scr on your keyboard to take a screenshot, and open Paint (under Accessories ). 12

13 After you open Paint, simply right click within the white area and select paste. You should now see your map within Paint but also some information you do not want. To just select the map area you want to show, click on the Select tool on the Paint menu bar that allows you to identify the area you are interested in. Make sure you select the north arrow in the lower left corner, the legend, and the scale bar in the lower right corner since every good map should have this information. Once you selected the area, right click and select copy, press Ctrl+N, select Don t Save in the window that pops up, right click within the white area and select paste. Finally, go to Save as and save your map as a JPEG picture on your harddrive. Make sure you save the map image in a location where you can later find it. Now, navigate to the folder where you saved your map image and open it. 13

14 Congratulations, here is your first map you made with ArcGIS Explorer. Make sure that it has a legend, north arrow, and a scale bar. 6) Helpful tutorials on tools that might help in the analysis of your data How to query your data ( 7) Helpful resources To learn more about ArcGIS Explorer (e.g. see some demos), go to the ArcGIS Explorer website: Important: If you used a MOSS computer for this tutorial, please make sure you delete all the files you created from the computer after you are done with the tutorial. Thanks! Disclaimer: Please any suggestions of how to potentially improve this document to Jan Eitel uidaho.edu). Use of trade names does not constitute an official endorsement by the McCall Outdoor Science School. 14

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