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History of Volunteer Mapping at the USGS

  • 1994: the USGS established the Earth Science Corps, a program that allowed citizens to "adopt a quad" and act as a volunteer field force.

  • 1995 - 2001: More than 3300 volunteers identified and annotated between 100 and 300 paper maps each year. The information they provided was incorporated into topographic map revisions

    Annotated Map
    Portion of Kunkletown, PA Quadrangle, hand annotated by volunteer, submitted to USGS in 2000.

  • 2001: The volunteer program was renamed The National Map Corps. The National Map is a seamless, continuously maintained, nationally consistent set of base geographic data available over the Internet. Program emphasis shifted from annotating every feature on published paper maps to collecting data on built structures in the US using hand-held GPS units. Volunteers received instructions on how to collect the x,y coordinates and feature attributes of structures.

  • 2003 – 2006: Approximately 22,800 data points were submitted by more than 1000 volunteers. Data were submitted in various forms: spreadsheets, emails, and handwritten pages of notes.

    TNM Corps banner from 2005
    A National Map Corp Web banner from 2005 showing a volunteer using a hand-held GPS unit.

  • 2006 – 2008: A web-based tool was used by 401 volunteers to submit 3847 points which were stored in a database. During this period, The National Map Corps program produced lesson plans for teachers that followed the national geography standards of the National Council on Geographic Education. National Map Corps volunteers formed a lively community that communicated through email lists.

    A National Map Corp volunteer entering data via the web-based tool in 2007.

  • 2008: The National Map Corps program was suspended due to funding limitations.

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