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Better Document Management Through Georeferencing
By David E. Coleman, Paul Jokiel, Eric Hill, and Naomi Bentivoglio

Editor's note: Typically bibliographic searches are performed on keywords. The authors have developed a system that searches for bibliographic citations and datasets within a given geographic area. This georeferenced application gives environmental managers at the Honolulu, Hawaii, office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) access to both dataset information and related bibliographic citations using the ArcView 3.x graphical interface to select the geographic area. The prototype described in this article was developed for the initial phase of a project and is limited to the coastal areas of the Island of Oahu. It provides access to more than 2,300 bibliographic records and metadata from selected environmental datasets. The user receives a report in plain text format that is suitable for printing or downloading.

click to see enlargement
Information available for selected locations (shown in red) is retrieved using menu selections.

Monitoring the health of coral reefs has been identified as a major priority, both in the United States and internationally. The application of GIS provides managers and researchers with an invaluable tool to address fundamental scientific and management questions concerning the past, present, and future status of Hawaii's coral reefs. A major shortcoming of existing systems has been a disconnect between the extensive spatial data and bibliographic information and historical data available from a wide range of sources. Whenever a question arises in a given geographic area, the researcher or manager must uncover all relevant information for that area. Thus, there is a critical need to quickly and effectively identify and access pertinent scientific literature within a given spatial framework.

Defining the Problem

Scattered reports, files, and bibliographies can contain vital information on various aspects of coral reefs. Much of the information is found in "gray" literature reports that are not cited in standard literature and are rarely disseminated to the larger scientific community. Electronic bibliographies using different search engines and formats exist in a variety of noncompatible systems, but there is no single tool that allows for a simple search based on a specific geographic location in Hawaii's coral reef and near-shore ecosystems. This situation makes any in-depth review of the literature for a given site in Hawaii time-consuming and far from cost-effective.

Biologists at the USFWS office use ArcView 3.x to analyze environmental data for various near-shore regimes surrounding the islands of Hawaii. Nonspatial data is maintained in Microsoft Access. Locating supporting literature for studies and evaluation of specific areas requires that biologists perform time-consuming literature searches and visit many offices, libraries, and organizations to access the identified materials. A group of concerned biologists and librarians decided to develop a management tool that would simplify this process. Because one of the constraints adopted for the project was that the new system would use software that staff were already familiar with and had ready access to, this meant finding a solution that took advantage of the features of Microsoft Access and ArcView 3.x.

A successful solution would provide

  • A single access point, search interface, and electronic format
  • Centralized access via the USFWS server
  • Improved, cost-effective access to information
  • Value-added documentation through the inclusion of geographic information
  • A methodology for capturing new information as it is produced
  • A centralized location for data that is currently dispersed
  • Archiving of noncopyrighted documents for future use
  • An electronic format that could be upgraded as access and communication technology evolves
  • An information resource for both future GIS projects and future data mining projects
  • A system that benefits many agencies such as USFWS, the University of Hawaii, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Project Description

To address the problem, a multifunctional database was developed that merges coral reef bibliographic references with the metadata from environmental datasets. This demonstration project focused on the Island of Oahu because considerable data--well-defined monitoring sites and literature--was readily available for this area. However, the database can be expanded to include other islands of Hawaii and the Pacific to support other federal and international conservation management concerns. Four types of datasets were developed for this project.

ArcView Data

Shapefiles and location names for the Island of Oahu were obtained from the Hawaii Statewide GIS Program Web site ( Tables were developed that contain bibliographic citations, metadata information, and map location names. A table was also created that allows for one-to-many linking so that ArcView 3.x could identify single records that referenced more than one location.

Access Data

Relational tables and search forms was developed in Microsoft Access 2000. The tables contain related information for bibliographic citations, bibliographic record information, and map location names. The forms let users search for and edit existing data and input new data. Periodically, the database is exported in dBASE (DBF) format and used to update ArcView 3.x.

Bibliographic Data

The citations, abstracts, and comments commonly used by USFWS biologists come in a variety of formats--HTML, word processing, and print. Consolidating this information into a centralized database greatly simplified the identification process for biologists and managers. When available, comments from local biologists were added to the records.

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