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Serving  GAP Data on the Web: Expanding Usability and Accessibility

One of the foremost objectives of the GAP program is to provide spatial data, supporting
documentation, and Gap Analysis reports to the public. This goal serves two purposes: to
provide information that summarizes the state of biodiversity, i.e., the results of the Gap
Analysis, and to describe the process openly. Colleagues and researchers should have the option
of either accessing data in their native format and recreating models or examining the same
models with new parameters. Consequently, we designed our data distribution strategy with
these users in mind. To date, we have published CD-ROM sets for seven completed states and
have served the base data on our Web site ( for
nine states. We anticipate distributing an additional 10 states in the near future.

Presently, the only means to search the National Gap Analysis Program data holdings is through
Clearinghouse Gateways on the Internet. To provide an easier method to search our data
holdings, we are designing a relational database of all state data using Access 2000. Our goal is
to create Web interfaces that will enable users to query this database for a directory of data sets.
The user will be able to find not only basic GIS data layers but also a myriad of supplemental
materials such as land cover manuals, vertebrate models, bibliographies, field plot information,
and species richness grids. We can manage internal tracking of National Gap Analysis data
holdings with this database. Finally, this database will be a comprehensive archive of all data
submitted to the National Gap Analysis Program and will be updated with remapping efforts.

Our first decade of GAP, the proof-of-concept stage, was primarily an effort to test
methodologies and to assemble the data. Now that we are well on our way to completing the
first round of data in all the states, we are moving into a stronger application phase and recognize
that our clientele represents a more diverse community. As the public becomes aware of our
products, the need for access increases. Now our users include those who may not have the
hardware and GIS software to view spatial data. For example, a small regional planning office
that could apply GAP data to land use planning efforts may not be able to establish a GIS lab or
hire the expertise for their needs. To address this issue, the USGS Center for Biological
Informatics (CBI) is developing a data server to expand accessibility. The information
technologists at CBI are coordinating with ESRI analysts and the GAP Operations Office in
Moscow to explore new ways to display and distribute the data. A prototype ArcIMS interface is
being developed that will allow users to download raw data sets from an intuitive interface, view
and analyze data with Web-based GIS capabilities that are available in standard browsers, select
geographic areas of interest to examine, create customized outputs that can be downloaded, and
manipulate data with a nonproprietary package of map tools. Through this effort, we hope to
kindle an expansion of education and outreach applications.

Ree Brannon and Derek McNamara

National Gap Analysis Program, Moscow, Idaho