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Project Development

Phase 1

Related-Tool Developer Engagement

Prior to beginning the design of the Atlas we identified a diverse set of web-based decision tools from across the country that were similar to our vision for the Atlas. We contacted and interviewed the developers of six of those tools to learn more about the challenges they faced while building their tools and the solutions they found to overcome those challenges. This information was used to guide the development of the Atlas.

Download a summary report of findings from interviews with online tool developers for NRRI’s Digital Atlas Project.

Target-User Engagement

From the early planning stages of the Atlas project we recognized the importance of including end-users in the design and development of the Atlas to ensure that the Atlas had the content and functionality to meet their needs. We focused on small organizations that have decision-making authority that affects natural resources and economic development but do not have their own Geographic Information System department. We identified 10 organizations that were closely aligned with these criteria.

To learn more about their decision-making processes and needs, we met with several groups and conducted interviews with individuals from each group. The goal of the meetings and interviews was to learn where they currently were getting their data, whether they had access to the data they needed, and whether the tools they were using to view, analyze, and share the data had the necessary functionality. This information was used to make the Atlas as relevant to the needs of our target end-users as possible. Following initial development, pilot testing was conducted with the target end-users and developers of other similar tools and further refinements were made.

Download a summary report of interviews with target end users.

Advisory Committee Engagement

Three technical advisory committees were established to provide guidance on database content, Mapping Tool functionality, and technical development. Two of the committees provided topic-specific guidance on water and geological issues. These committees included experts from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, University of Minnesota Duluth, US Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. The third committee advised on database structure and Mapping Tool programming and development. Representatives from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Wisconsin Extension were included on this committee.

Phase 2

Target-User Engagement

The engagement of Atlas users continues to be central to our design and development process. To better understand how the Atlas is meeting the needs of our users, we conducted two surveys. The first survey was designed to better understand how the available data is meeting user needs and how it can be improved. The second survey was designed to better understand how the functionality of the mapping tool is meeting user needs and how it can be improved.

Download a summary report of the data survey.

Download a summary report of the functionality survey.

Advisory Committee Engagement

For Phase 2, a single Advisory Committee was established. This committee provides general guidance on how to best meet the needs of our end-users. Its members are from organizations or sectors in which we have active users or hope to establish active users, including the Board of Soil and Water Resources, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency, Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, Minnesota Association of Townships, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Dovetail Partners, Barr Engineering, and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.

Outreach and Training

The Atlas team provides free training. It is hands-on, delivered remotely, and can be completed in one 60- or 90-minute session. No experience is necessary.

To discuss training options, please contact us.