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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity


The Biodiversity Center's spatial data archive is intended to serve the entire University community, but the master files are hard to get at for the typical GIS user. Of course the Biodiversity Center staff can find and retrieve requested data items from the mess of CDs and DVDs sitting on shelves in the Biodiversity Center GIS Lab, but that's a hassle for us and for users. To make it possible for users to search for and retrieve data items entirely on their own, we've placed a large subset of our spatial data archive on the "Geodata Drive" - a 2 terrabyte share on the University network.
The Geodata Drive is available to all authorized users of the UW-Green Bay network. However, the drive doesn't show up in the Windows folder tree until it has been "mapped" by the user. The procedure is detailed below.

Finding Stuff
The geodata drive looks like a hopeless mess to someone visiting it for the first time. Finding stuff requires very good file management skills as well as a knowledge of how our library is set up.

  • Users should be very good at using Windows Explorer (aka "My Computer") for basic file management tasks.
  • Users should be able to use ArcCatalog to find and examine a database and add it to a map document.
  • Users should review documentation for the "filed by topic" and "filed by geography" portions of the library.

Use the Geodata Drive Properly
Even though it is technically feasible, it is not appropriate to use the Geodata drive as a workspace. It is OK to link to files on Geodata from an ArcGIS map document as part of searching for and evaluating data. But maintaining such links is extremely bad practice. Data items that have been selected for inclusion in a user's GIS should be copied to his/her workspace and accessed there. Take our word for it, trying to maintain links to files located on Geodata will result in much unhappiness.

Why Bother With the Geodata Drive?
At times it seems that using the spatial data archive is more trouble than it's worth. Public domain data downloads are free and fast, so it might be simpler for users to get the data each time it's needed. That may be true in some cases, but our experience tells us that the time spent finding and downloading files is just the beginning. Additional work often needs to be done to assure the useablity of the downloaded files - uncompressing, cataloging, checking/fixing, adding pyramids, etc. If needed data has already been downloaded and cataloged, it usually pays to go to the archive for it, rather than downloading it again.

Geodata Drive Mapping Procedure
Start by opening the “Map Network Drive” dialogue by right-clicking on “Computer” in the Windows Explorer folder tree.

Here's that string in a form you can copy and paste:      \\fstorea\geodata$

Mapping the geodata drive is a "once and done" task for those with faculty/staff accounts. Those with student accounts need to repeat the procedure each time they log in.