University of Kansas Field Station

Introduction to the GIS Database

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): A Tool for Ecological Research and Natural Resource Management

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-aided method to collect, manipulate, analyze, and display spatial data.  These data exist in two distinct digital formats (vector or raster). In the vector format, spatial data are represented as points, lines or polygons, with the ability to store additional attributes with the features (e.g., sample locations, streams, road networks, or political boundaries). In the raster format, data are stored as a continuous field of uniformly-sized grid cells in which each cell contains a single value (e.g., satellite images or elevation models). The University of Kansas Field Station, through the Kansas Biological Survey (KBS), maintains GIS capabilities using ESRI ArcGIS software installed on computers in laboratories and offices.

GIS represents a powerful tool for investigating diverse research questions and for natural resource management. At the Field Station, scientists use GIS to address questions related to changes in land use and land cover, habitat assessment, and other landscape-level phenomena. At a finer spatial scale, researchers use GIS to analyze data from experimental plots and grids dealing with vegetation distribution, animal movements, and other themes.

The Field Station provides its user community with a set of baseline data for use without restriction: for example, soils, topography, management unit boundaries, facilities, historic vegetation, and an extensive set of aerial photography dating back to 1941 are available. The Field Station also maintains GIS databases on individual research projects and biological data that are available upon request.

Data may be accessed through the web portal of the Kansas Biological Survey here. Once there, use the left side panel to browse the datasets of the Kansas University Field Station.