Crowd-Sourcing the National Map: Now a National Effort

The USGS continues to expand its crowd-sourcing of geographic data and is seeking volunteers nation-wide to contribute structures information.

The mapping crowd-sourcing program, known as The National Map Corps (TNMCorps), encourages citizens to collect structures data by adding new features, removing obsolete points, and correcting existing data for The National Map database. Structures being mapped in the project include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings.

Since the start of the project in 2012, more than 780 volunteers have made in excess of 13,000 contributions.  In addition to basic editing, a second volunteer peer review process greatly enhances the quality of data provided back to The National Map.  A few months ago, volunteers in 35 states were actively involved.  This final release of states opens up the entire country for volunteer structures enhancement.

To show appreciation of our volunteer’s efforts, The National Map Corps has instituted a recognition program that awards “virtual" badges to volunteers. The badges consist of a series of antique surveying instruments ranging from the Order of the Surveyor’s Chain (25 – 50 points) to the Theodolite Assemblage (2000+ points). Additionally, volunteers are publically acclaimed (with permission) via Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

"I enjoy mapping structures, it’s a unique combination of validating structures from aerial photography and web-based sources," says TNMCorps volunteer Don Kloker. "My structures contributions have provided me with an excellent geography lesson and I have learned many things about communities that I most likely would not have been otherwise able to experience." Don has contributed more than 2,000 points and quickly reached the highest recognition badge, the Theodolite Assemblage.

The citizen geographers/cartographers who participate in this program make a significant addition to the USGS’s ability to provide accurate information to the public. Data collected by volunteers become part of The National Map structures dataset which is available to users free of charge.

“TNMCorps allows me to update structure locations and their official names from the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)," said Corey Plank, Cartographer for the US Bureau of Land Management. "These updates allow The National Map and US Topo map series to better represent ground structures and official labels."

As part of an effort to engage civilian organizations, this year’s 4-H National Youth Science Day, planned for October 9, 2013, will feature geographic technology projects that are part of TNMCorps data collection efforts.

Tools on TNMCorps website explain how a volunteer can edit any area, regardless of their familiarity with the selected structures, and becoming a volunteer for TNMCorps is easy; go to The National Map Corps website to learn more and to sign up as a volunteer. If you have access to the Internet and are willing to dedicate some time to editing map data, we hope you will consider participating!

The first available virtual badge, The Order of the Surveyor’s Chain, awarded to TNMCoprs volunteers who collect more than 25 points. (Larger image) Status map of the U.S. showing the current location of volunteers and the dates when the states started collection. (Larger i