By Mallory Graves, GIS Associate
I mentioned to a colleague recently that working with GIS data for any environmental medium is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. While I cannot take credit for the Jell-O catchphrase, I can speak to its resonance in the business of utilizing GIS in stormwater management, where watershed boundaries change by the minute, point source locations may actually be streams, and visual assessments are acceptable forms of defining the common operating picture of a site as large as Disney Land. The integration of GIS data and spatial analysis offers a visual representation of complex phenomena as well as the ability to examine relationships between multiple layers of information in data-driven contexts that are constantly in flux.
Along with the core function of desktop and web/online GIS, we have officially entered the era of hyper-precision mapping devices, whether you fly them, attach them, hold them, or wear them, the geospatial field has recognized the demand for high quality, real-time location-driven products designed for non-GIS users, with little post-processing or QA/QC time. UAV/drone technology, a service now provided by Alta, offers a multitude of products clients can take advantage of, from aerial imagery coverage of project sites at 1 cm accuracy, Digital Surface Models (DEMs), and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) point clouds for advanced 3D modeling.
A Triangular Irregular Network (TIN) surface derived from contour lines in ArcGIS Desktop shows terrain relief, color coded by elevation values. TIN surfaces can be an effective visual tool for examining grading impacts over the course of a major development project, water and drainage features, and erosion studies.
We are also seeing the traditional paper method of data verification, sampling events and reporting tasks such as site inspections being traded in for tablet/mobile-based solutions with customizable forms and workflows to ensure data are pushed directly to the cloud or a server in real time. For emissions inventories, an overhaul in sensor technology will drastically change air quality monitoring practices via mobile and stationary devices designed for detection of multiple toxins, as well as increased sensor coverage in Southern California. In the Building Sciences field, the recent integration of BIM (Building Information Modeling) and GIS allows engineers and GIS specialists to develop 3D building renderings at LODs that were not possible before. 3D and subsurface modeling will also be a game changer for applications in water resources and groundwater management, land use and ground cover/soil studies, and site assessment and remediation.
As advisors, observers, and solution seekers in and across environmental compliance fields, we are required to be vigilant about regulatory hurdles, anticipate roadblocks before they occur, and provide outstanding products and services to our clients. Alta offers dedicated GIS solutions tailored to project goals. To learn more about Alta’s GIS services, contact us email@example.com.