Spatial Database Development

Integrated spatial databaseA well-designed and complete spatial database is critical to the success of any project. The Spatial Analysis Services staff have extensive experience in the development of spatial databases. Standard services include assistance with primary data collection, acquisition of secondary data, and contextual data linkages.

Primary Data Collection

Primary data are original data collected by an investigator or research project. In population research, primary spatial data often take the form of point locations that represent study participant residences, workplaces, facilities, or some other feature of interest that cannot be obtained from an existing data source. Two of the most common ways that these data can be collected are via GPS or address geocoding. GPS receivers and GPS-enabled mobile devices can collect geographic coordinates of locations that the study team visits. Address geocoding can be used to convert mailing addresses into geographic coordinates within the US, Europe, and a handful of other countries around the world. Other data collection methods involve the scanning and digitizing of maps to extract features, and using community leaders to identify locations of interest on maps or remotely sensed imagery.

The Spatial Analysis Services unit supports the use of mobile data collection technologies for the collection of primary spatial data. These technologies include, but aren't limited to, standalone GPS tracking devices and GPS-enabled tablets and smartphones with geospatial apps. GPS tracking devices can be used to record movements and the activity space of study subjects, while tablets and smartphones allow for paperless collected of spatial features and the incorporation of location collection modules within digital survey forms.

Spatial Analysis Services staff can assist with survey instrument design for primary spatial data collection initiatives. We will develop procedures, training plans and materials, and documentation for the use of GPS receivers, mobile technologies, rangefinders, and other mapping equipment. We can produce field maps, both hardcopy and  digital, for use during data collection. We train project members on field data collection and quality control procedures, and may participate in the fieldwork as well.

Secondary Data Acquisition

Secondary data are data that already exist and can be acquired from a public or commercial source. We evaluate data sources and advise CPC researchers on the appropriateness and limitations, and implement the data development efforts. 

Aerial and satellite-borne sensors are rich sources of data, especially for research applications in population and environment. Spatial Analysis Services staff guide the selection of the appropriate remote sensor type for measuring the phenomena of interest (e.g., the spatial, temporal, spectral, and radiometric resolutions needed and the platform most appropriate). We locate and obtain data from government and commercial providers, and process and prepare the raw data for further analysis.

Contextual Data Linkages

After the primary and secondary data have been acquired, cleaned, and integrated into a comprehensive spatial database, they must be linked to be used together in spatial analyses. Contextual data linkage is the method by which information from the secondary contextual data sources (i.e., those data that contain information relevant to answering the research questions) are linked to the primary data, which most often tend to be participants' residential locations. These linkages are implemented within the GIS software, either through the standard software or programmatically.

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