MapInfo / Forestry Users Meeting - 06/06/06

The MapInfo/Forestry Users Group met on June 6th 2006 at the Oregon State University, College of Forestry in Corvallis, Oregon.   Over a dozen participants, representing 10 different organizations from Oregon and Washington attended the meeting which lasted more than 5 hours.

After a brief welcome note, introductions, and a few comments,  Mr. Jim Kiser,  (Instructor, OSU, College of Forestry, Department of Forest Engineering) detailed his use of  the MapInfo Professional Program in the courses he teaches at OSU.   Jim has been using MapInfo Pro since Version 4.0 and began integrating MapInfo into his course work in 1997.     Mr. Kiser introduces students to various portions of the MapInfo program in his Forest Photogrammetry, Forest Route Surveying, and Advanced Surveying courses.     Students can access and use MapInfo in the computer lab dedicated solely to surveying courses.   For the most part students are introduced to MapInfo after receiving some education on GIS concepts and the ESRI products.  Jim spends a short amount of time discussing a few differences in terminology and approaches to accessing data.    Students are required to process data collected in the field using GPS technology, or via aerial photo interpretation using MapInfo Pro.  Beyond the simple access, display and plotting of the GIS data collected, students are also introduced to database and geo-query concepts to ask questions of the GIS data.    MapInfo is an integral tool in advanced class projects which seek to perform a cost analysis for culvert maintenance.   Mr. Kiser intends to continue to use MapInfo technology in his course work and is especially pleased with the ease of which MapInfo can be used to bring together data from a variety of differing sources.

Several of the group participants also attended MapWorld 2006, in Phoenix, AZ.  Following Jim's presentation the MapWorld participants (Mark Dvorscak, Lone Rock Timber Co.; Barbara Heisen, Menasha Forest Products; Robin Harkins, Roseburg Forest Products; Chris Lacy, Port Blakely Tree Farms and Tony Cooley, Data Directions) each presented their individual report on the worldwide event.   All agreed perhaps the most valuable aspect of MapWorld was access to MapInfo personnel.  MapInfo employees were readily available to address technical issues and hear feedback and requests for program features.   The forestry group as a whole felt like a small voice in the "location intelligence" and "predictive analytics" oriented conference.  Despite this fact, nearly all participants were given the opportunity to discuss needs and issues in detail with product managers and system developers.  The MapInfo team is now well aware of the use of the MapInfo technology for timberland management applications.   Networking with other Forestry/Natural Resource based users from the Northeast and elsewhere was also beneficial.  Everyone attended some technical sessions which were useful and beneficial.   Additional advanced sessions could have been added to certain time slots.  A detailed conversation ensued related to MapInfo's future .NET/Grande product.  Everyone was excited at the prospect of the tremendous new features and capabilities demonstrated at the various Grande Preview sessions of the conference.  Some concern and frustrations were expressed related to the continued delays in bringing this product to market however.   Some of the newer technologies introduced at the conference which show promise in forestry applications include MapInfo's Confirm - Infrastructure Management ToolMapText's SmartLable for MapInfo,  and Exa-Min Technologie's Geobasemap Mobile

Next, Tony Cooley , of Data Directions presented information on new technologies useful to forestry.  This presentation included a review of the new features of the just released MapInfo Pro Version 8.5;  a detailed discussion on techniques for stream analysis which included using Vertical Mapper and the StreamBuilder product from Avantra Geosystems; analyzing lightning strike data as received from; and live demonstrations of the PDA based Mobile Mapping products TierraMapper and GBM Mobile.

Eric Kranzush, of Giustina Land and Timber Company, presented details and a live demonstration of the Ortho32 software.  This program, created by Digital Mapping Systems,  offers an inexpensive means to orthorectify aerial photography, from your desktop.  The software will write raster georeference results in several formats including MapInfo .TAB and ER Mapper.  Eric discussed a variety of means to collect elevation data to use as image control including DEM extraction and GPS field collections.   Eric advised to request and obtain specific and current camera calibration details when acquiring aerial photography.   It was also noted that historical camera calibration data can be obtained via the Internet.    Several overlapping aerial images, processed by Eric, were presented in MapInfo.  All images lined up well with each other and existing vector data with no apparent distortion.  It was generally accepted that when extracting elevation control data from DEMs, that the resulting ortho photos, although ortho corrected, were not as precise at images acquired from commercial vendors.    

Chris Lacy, GIS Forester with Port Blakely Tree Farms, once again concluded the presentations with a detailed overview of Port Blakely's efforts to convert GIS functions to  an RDBMS using MS SQL Server and MapInfo SpatialWare.   Chris presented several benefits to implementing a spatially enabled relational database for GIS functions including: easy data integration with non GIS data, data security, enforcement of data integrity, multi user access and edits, data redundancy and more.    Chris described the actual process of converting their existing MapInfo GIS data into MS SQL Server Spatial Data Types as 'simple' using the Easy Loader utility provided with SpatialWare.   Port Blakely is still in the early stages of implementing this alternate approach to utilizing their GIS data but sees increased value for a variety of reasons once fully employed.

The meeting concluded with dinner, beverages and continued conversation for some at McMenamins in Corvallis.  

PowerPoint files for some of the meeting presentations are provided below:

        Chris Lacy's MapWorld 2006 Notes

       New MapInfo technologies useful to Forestry (2 MB)

       Ortho32 Software (34 MB)

       RDBMS-based GIS (1.7 MB)

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