Using ARCGIS Online (AGOL) to Greatly Improve the Documentation of Paleontological Resources

LIGGETT, Gregory A; Bureau of Land Management, Montana State Office, Billings, MT


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency managing the most public land, is tasked with managing paleontological resources, both in the field and after their collection.

An important aspect of this is maintaining data systems related to paleontological localities, however there presently is no national data standard or system to use. Most often, fossil localities are reported to BLM by permitted researchers or consultants. As part of the reporting requirements for their permits, they are to provide a completed locality form and a map at 24k scale or higher for each locality. The information on the paper forms is then translated into a BLM state-specific system, with many potentials for error in the data, such as: transcription errors occur when filling out the forms from field notes; carelessness of plotting maps, or not including maps with enough resolution; and errors of BLM staff in trying to translate locality forms into our own systems. Clearly, this situation is ripe for improvement.

In anticipation of a coming national solution to this issue through a program called RAPTOR, the MT/DKs BLM developed a prototype application built on AGOL, Collector, and Survey123. This prototype will be tested during the 2019 field season by recruited researchers and a contractor, utilizing the Geoplatform environment. A web map was developed that includes a feature service to collect data from four Survey123 forms. The four forms are the following: 1) Locality Information (basic information about the locality); 2) Locality Visit (information about the specific visit to the locality, since they can be visited multiple times over multiple years); 3) Locality Documents (to capture pictures or other documentation); and 4) Areas Surveyed (to record where the crews surveyed for localities, including where they didn’t find localities). Utilizing mobile technology, the permittees will be able to record their new localities in the field, recording the required data through form interaction, and push that data directly to the BLM feature service on the fly.

This new process frees up users’ time by having the most labor-intensive part of their required reporting finished when they leave the field. And BLM gets reliable data without the need to enter it manually. The prototype will greatly inform our needs for developing the fully national system in RAPTOR. The paleontology portion of RAPTOR is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2019, with locality modules being developed sometime after that, so the summer 2019 data collection provides an excellent test case.