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Outreach

Tribal GIS Training in the Northeast U.S.



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Geographic Information System (GIS) software, used by many U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers, provides a powerful tool to visualize and aid in the interpretation of geographic and other location-based (geospatial) data. GIS software is most often used in the USGS to create geologic and environmental maps that consist of geospatial data layers superimposed on geographic “background” layers (such as topography), and to integrate data layers of different types or from different sources. The tools and capabilities of GIS extend far beyond geologic and environmental mapping, however, and groups outside the formal scientific community can benefit from learning to use and adapt GIS techniques employed by the USGS.

Tribal participants at the GIS training session in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, along with some of the USGS personnel
Above: Tribal participants at the GIS training session in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, along with some of the USGS personnel who contributed to the success of the session: Brian Andrews (second from left), VeeAnn Cross (fourth from right), and Andrea Toran (far right). USGS photograph by Brian Buczkowski. [larger version]

USGS scientists and outreach coordinators in the Northeast U.S. developed the Tribal GIS Training model following a series of science planning meetings in 2013 between USGS staff and representatives of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, and the Penobscot Indian Nation. At these meetings, tribal representatives discussed their need for assistance in collecting and interpreting field data as well as using GIS to document and protect cultural and natural resources.

Director of the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center addresses tribal participants
Above: Walter Barnhardt, director of the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, addresses tribal participants at the GIS training session in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. USGS photograph by Andrea Toran. [larger version]

The first GIS training session for Northeast tribes was held at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) New England Regional Laboratory in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, March 31–April 1, 2014. A follow-up session was held at the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, November 12–14, 2014. Invitations to these training sessions were extended to members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Mohegan Tribe, Penobscot Indian Nation, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township, Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, Narragansett Indian Tribe, Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head.

The planning team recruited representatives from Esri (a commercial supplier of ArcGIS software and technical support) to collaborate and participate in the initial training session held in North Chelmsford. Esri loaned laptops to the participants, provided staff to teach the modules, and offered hands-on support throughout the training session. Because this was the pilot project for a new initiative, the planning team purposely kept the agenda for the first session broad in scope, offering participants introductory-level modules for GIS analysis, geoprocessing, and report generation. Pete Steeves, GIS Specialist from the USGS New England Water Science Center in Northborough, Massachusetts, introduced the participants to StreamStats, a web-based GIS that provides users with access to an assortment of analytical tools for water resources planning and management. 

The agenda for the second session in Woods Hole was specifically crafted to focus on issues and applications relevant to the tribes’ individual needs. Volunteer staff from the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center provided individual support and specialized assistance to participants for the duration of the training. In addition, customized presentations by USGS volunteers addressed specific requests gathered through needs assessments and discussions with tribal members:

  • Elizabeth Pendleton discussed the Massachusetts Sea-Floor Mapping Project, with emphasis on habitat monitoring and mapping. In addition to her presentation on sea-floor mapping, Pendleton demonstrated how to use hyperlinks in a GIS: by clicking on a point or line on the map, the user can bring up a related image. Based on the evaluations, the participants particularly liked learning how to enable this feature and apply it to tribal archeological map products; instead of making static maps, they added hyperlinks to images in order to create a dynamic experience for the end user.
  • Brian Andrews offered a presentation and facilitated a discussion on how to search for free base-map data using the National Map and state GIS resources. All participants accessed their particular state’s GIS website and downloaded spatial data for their tribal locations. Andrews also discussed the importance of scale and resolution when using third-party datasets for local use.
  • Pete Steeves repeated his presentation on analyzing surface waters using StreamStats. The participants were particularly interested in how StreamStats is used for water and land management and water-quality regulation.
  • John O’Malley demonstrated how to set up an ArcGIS Map Server. He also provided individual instruction and hands-on support during the GIS exercise and pointed some of the participants to the Esri training website, where they can access free training modules on GIS and ArcGIS technology.

GIS specialist with the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center offers hands-on support to tribal participants
Above: John O’Malley (checked shirt), GIS specialist with the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, offers hands-on support to tribal participants in the GIS training session in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. USGS photograph by Andrea Toran. [larger version]

Final evaluations of the second session indicated a need and desire for further training and ongoing support.  Hands-on assistance provided by USGS staff to the program participants was very helpful and much appreciated.

This program benefitted from the development and oversight of the USGS Tribal GIS Training planning team: Glenn Holcomb, Andrea Toran, VeeAnn Cross, Pete Steeves, and Dan Walters. GIS experts and support staff from the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center included Brian Andrews, Brian Buczkowski, John O’Malley, Elizabeth Pendleton, Sue Barton, and Kelle List.


Related Sound Waves Stories
New Tide Gage/Weather Station Installed in Collaboration with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Mashpee, Massachusetts
July / August 2014
“Native Youth in Science–Preserving Our Homelands” Completes Year Two
Nov. / Dec. 2013

Related Websites
National Map
USGS
Esri training website
Esri
Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
Aroostook Band of Micmacs
Aroostook Band of Micmacs
Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township
Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township
Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point
Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point
Penobscot Indian Nation
Penobscot Indian Nation
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
USGS

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in this issue:

Research
Virus Calculated as Culprit Killing Sea Stars

Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

California Seafloor Mapping Program Reaches Milestone

Future Wave and Wind Effects on Pacific Islands

Fieldwork
California’s Sea Otter Numbers Holding Steady

New USGS Research Vessel in the Great Lakes

Spotlight on Sandy
Five New USGS Oceanographic Datasets Published Online

Outreach
Explore Coastal and Seafloor Images along U.S. Coasts

Getting Out of Harm’s Way—Evacuation from Tsunamis

USGS at the 2014 St. Petersburg Science Festival in Florida

Tribal GIS Training in the Northeast U.S.

Undamming Washington’s Elwha River—Public Lecture

Awards
Geologist Brian Atwater Receives Communications Award

Publications
Frozen Heat—New International Report on Methane Hydrates

Jan. / Feb. Publications

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