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Project Overview

Small organizations, including many that work on natural resource issues, often lack the capacity to use spatial data in their decision making processes. This has generally required expensive software and considerable specialized training. Researchers at the Natural Resources Research Institute, along with collaborators at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Sea Grant, are working to remove those barriers through the development of the Minnesota Natural Resource Atlas. The goal of the project is to provide a set of basic tools for visualizing and analyzing spatial data that are free and easy to use.

The Atlas project began in the fall of 2016 with initial effort focused on identifying the needs of potential end-users. The information gained from the engagement of the developers of similar tools, natural resource experts, and potential end-users was used to design and develop the Natural Resource Atlas for Northeastern Minnesota. This initial version of the Atlas paired a multidisciplinary, spatial database and an interactive mapping tool with basic Geographical Information System (GIS) analytical capabilities. Users had access to over 250 data layers from reputable sources covering 26 counties in Northeastern and North Central Minnesota. The mapping tool allowed users to view different combinations of data, make measurements, perform basic analyses, and share the results. This first phase was completed in the fall of 2018.

The project is currently in Phase 2, which began in the fall of 2019. The primary objectives are to expand statewide, enhance the mapping tool’s functionality, and acquire and develop more data. As a result of ongoing work towards these objectives, users now have access to nearly 400 data layers across the state and more ways to visualize, analyze, and share spatial data and information. Additionally, an outreach and training program is broadening the Atlas user base and providing new users with the skills they need to use the Atlas effectively. The second phase is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021.

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