FGDC Geologic Data Subcommittee
Minutes of Meeting,
April 4, 2011

Attending: Jerry Bernard (NRCS), Tim Connors (NPS), Mark Crowell (FEMA), Vince Santucci (NPS), and Dave Soller (USGS).

This meeting focused on: (1) status of the FGDC Standard for Geologic Map Symbolization and potential updates to the Standard, and (2) development of geologic database designs by participating agencies, and the possibility for convergence on common design elements.

1. Introductory remarks by each Subcommittee member, focusing on agency accomplishments and possible opportunities for collaboration.

2. Status of the FGDC Geologic Map Symbolization Standard.
On behalf of the FGDC, the Standard continues to be supported by the USGS National Geologic Map Database project (NGMDB). Collaboration with ESRI has resulted in the release and subsequent update of a subset of the FGDC symbols, created as Cartographic Representations for use in ArcGIS. ESRI recently announced that their implementation work on this Standard has been completed, and the Subcommittee discussed various options for revisions and updates to the set of FGDC geologic symbols in the Arc implementation. This new work likely would involve collaboration among technical staff in Federal and State agencies, and notably with the Geological Survey of Canada. Advice and comment from technical staff will commence in May, at the annual Digital Mapping Techniques (DMT) meeting; discussion topics will include: (1) whether Arc styles or Cartographic Representations are preferred, or if both are needed now and in the near future, but for different purposes; (2) who can volunteer to help build, or evaluate, the current ESRI set and any new symbols created; and (3) mechanisms to facilitate using certain symbols to represent other features -- this possibility is acknowledged in the FGDC Standard's Introduction, and we will consider how to explicitly advise how such "repurposing" of symbols should be done. Advice from the DMT meeting and elsewhere will be considered in a Subcommittee plan to be developed this Summer or Fall.
The Subcommittee also discussed updates to the Standard. The Standard was released in 2006; comments and suggestions from users have been compiled, and revisions now seem to be warranted. Later this year, the NGMDB project will reconstitute the Map Symbol Committee in order to obtain expert guidance on proposed revisions. These revisions will be presented to the Subcommittee later this year, and decisions made regarding how to proceed.

3. Convergence on a geologic map database design.
The Subcommittee has proposed to work toward a standard database design for geologic map and related information. This is intended to address the concern expressed by various agencies that the numerous databases in use or under development do not have sufficient commonality to enable them to be interoperable. These design differences are justifiable, and reflect the somewhat unique missions and requirements of each agency; however, the benefits of a common design approach, for users and producers alike, is clear. The Subcommittee resolves to examine certain database designs in use (e.g., by USGS and NPS), and to determine whether a common design could now be proposed. This common design could range from a set of general specifications for field and table names, to a single, tightly-defined specfication. The Subcommittee anticipates that something in the middle, or closer to the general specification, is most likely to be proposed and adopted by producers and users alike. The challenging aspects of this design include: (1) the extent to which controlled-term list for science terminology can be imposed, (2) how the features will be physically organized in a GIS (e.g., an Arc Geodatabase), (3) the actual names for fields and tables (i.e., they should be short but informative), and (4) the extent to which feature-level metadata will be imposed in order to track the origin of, and modification to, a given feature, as it is used and reused over time in numerous map complilations.
The Subcommittee will focus on certain database designs already in use. These include the National Park Service data model, which has been used for many years, and the new design by the USGS-AASG National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (tentatively named "NCGMP09"). There will be a technical evaluation of these and other designs at the upcoming Digital Mapping Techniques meeting, and the results of that evaluation will be considered by the Subcommittee. We anticipate that in late 2011, the Subcommittee will report some progress on this subject.

4. Collaboration on design of databases for paleontologic information.
Several agencies (e.g., BLM, USFS, NPS, USGS) voiced interest in sharing information, and perhaps collaborating, on the various projects that are focusing on development of paleontologic databases. These databases serve different purposes (e.g., protection of fossil resources on public lands, public education, scientific research). To promote interoperability, it is anticipated that certain common elements to the various designs can be agreed upon. This Subcommittee will provide some coordination, beginning with a meeting on this subject later in 2011.