Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mapping the Park

I spent this week with Gettysburg NMP’s Resource Management Division. As you might have guessed, the resource management division manages the park’s resources, which include its natural resources, such as plants and wildlife, and its cultural resources, which include the monuments, museum artifacts, and the historic landscape itself.

I began my first day in Resource Management with the park’s cartographer. Admittedly, I didn’t really know what kind of work a cartographer did on a daily basis, or how maps were even made in this day and age. We reviewed some basic map and coordinate systems, and I learned a little about GIS, a versatile digital mapping system that allowed you to manage geographic data and other information. Once I understood the very basics of the program, I was tasked with doing some digital mapping of my own. I borrowed a handheld GPS unit, and went for a walk. Gettysburg NMP has several trails that run through the park as well as many unofficial “social trails”. It was my job to map these trails by collecting GPS data. That afternoon, I hiked south, GPS in hand, towards big and little round top, taking care to walk every social trail that branched off of the main path.
Recording trail locations and features on a hand held GPS unit
The trails got confusing at times, as visitors had cleared trails onto big round top from several parking spots and clearings. I saw the importance of the mapping project, because it could be confusing to try and follow a hiking trail with so many unmarked, incomplete trails. In addition, the unmapped network of social trails could be confusing during an emergency. After I finished mapping, I walked back to the Resource Management office and my data was uploaded. It was satisfying to see the results of my work, especially since we learned that some stretches of the trail were not located where the map said they were.  
My data, in red, overlaid on top of an existing map
The actual location of the walking trail (in red) compared to its projected location (the dotted line)

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