Using Geographic Information System (GIS) software to map data can be a very effective tool for analysis. The steep learning curve with some GIS software can be intimidating. Fortunately, the free online version of ArcGIS from Esri is easy to use with data collected on LabQuest or LabQuest 2.

To illustrate, we investigated how temperature and light vary within Gabriel Park in southwest Portland. Temperature, illumination, latitude, and longitude, along with several other parameters, were recorded at each of five sites using the Data Matrix data-collection mode of LabQuest 2. The data were imported into Logger Pro computer software, then exported to the computer’s desktop in GIS format.

At the Esri website, we clicked on the Map button, then simply dragged and dropped the exported data file onto the resulting map. Symbols, with sizes determined by the magnitude of the attribute, e.g., temperature in the first figure, automatically populated on each site. The Base Map Gallery button allowed us to choose this satellite image.

The size of the circles in this graphic display shows at a glance that the tennis court was the warmest site and that the forest site was the coolest. Clicking on a site displays all the attribute data for that site. In this case, the forest site data included: illumination, 598 lux; relative humidity, 44.09%; UVB intensity, 17.30 mW/m2; temperature, 23.80°C, UVA intensity, 170 mW/m2; latitude, 45.47°; longitude, –122.72°; and altitude, 119.90 m.

With only two clicks, we changed the displayed attribute to illumination, creating the second figure. The yellow circles, representing the magnitude of illumination, show that the tennis court, meadow (east southeast of the tennis court), and garden (near the bottom of the image), had roughly the same amount of sunlight. Yet, we know the tennis court was the warmest site based on the first figure. Why were the meadow and garden cooler than the tennis court when they all received the same amount of sunlight? This is the type of question that GIS can help students answer.

For more details on mapping your data, see “How do I map data collected on a LabQuest or LabQuest 2?

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