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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity


Tasks that in the past would have required desktop GIS software can now be performed with a browser, using one of the many geographic information systems available on the Internet.

Data Viewers
Data viewers allow users to link to the host organization's spatial databases, manipulate layers to compose an informative display and print simple maps. Data download capability, if present, is limited to small excerpts from the host organizations databases.

The RR Sites Map data viewer is a good example. Hosted by the Wisconsin DNR's Bureau of Remediation and Redevelopment, the site provides information about properties where investigations and cleanups of contaminated soil or groundwater have taken place. RR Sites Map allows excerpts from source data to be downloaded and the map-making function allows users to add their own data to the map that is being composed. Check out our Links by Source page for more data viewers.

Parcel Mapping Sites
Parcel mapping sites are operated by local governments, specifically for distributing land ownership information. Our Land Information page has links to most of Wisconsin's parcel-mapping sites.

Web Mapping On Steroids
Some applications go well beyond simple displays of the data. They accept instructions from the user, perform mathematical and/or spatial analyses and return results.

MapQuest is a familiar example of a juiced-up web mapping application. A user inputs a set of trip parameters and the webmap produces customized route information and printable maps. Check out our Links by Source page for more applications.

Download Portals
Download portals are applications whose primary purpose is data distribution. The on-screen map functions as a menu for identifying spatial databases for transfer from the data owner to users, usually via FTP. We've made extensive use of download portals to stock our data library. Check out our Download Portals page for some sites that we've found to be useful.

Internet vs Desktop GIS
Some internet geographic information systems do an amazing job of mimicking desktop functionality. The Brown County Land Information site is a good example. We suggest that GIS beginners become thoroughly familiar with sites like this one. It's a way to ease in to the GIS learning curve.