• Presentation

Lessons Learned in Using Online Mapping Tools on Field Studies


Bergeron, D. A., Parsons, S. L., Wheaton, W., McCracken, R. L., Mattox, A. L., & Feldman, J. L. (2009, May). Lessons Learned in Using Online Mapping Tools on Field Studies. Presented at IFD&TC 2009, .


Within the past decade, there has been an increase in the use and development of online mapping tools. Programs such as Mapquest, Google Maps, and Microsoft Maps have allowed survey research field managers to help their staff assess the most efficient travel routes and solve problems their staff encounters in the field.

This paper will explore some of the lessons learned using online mapping tools on various field studies as well as a brief overview of some of the more commonly used tools. For example, before online resources were available, field managers had to rely on traditional maps such as road maps and topographical maps. The level of detail available in online mapping tools, from aerial photographs, street level definition, and the ability to zoom and pan have proven to be a much more useful resource than traditional paper maps. Additionally, these tools often show the most efficient route between two points. However, these online mapping tools are not always ideal. In many rural areas, the satellite imagery is not as detailed as it is in urban areas; additionally the age of the aerial photograph(s) and street maps are sometimes unknown. Furthermore, there are some issues to be worked out with some of the open source features present in some of the online tools. For example, Google’s Keyhole Markup Language works well when plotting points over a large area, but does not work as well when trying to plot multiple points in a small geographic area.

In this paper we will show how online mapping tools have assisted in managing their field staff by helping them to determine the geographic location of a particular dwelling unit or landmark, plan the most efficient travel routes between points of interest, as well as allowing field managers to view the areas where their staff is working. We will explore some of the limitations that exist such as unequal coverage and different tools providing different routes between the same two points. Finally, we will examine lessons learned using online mapping tools.