USGS Recruits Citizen Volunteers for National Map Corps

GPS MappingSince its conception in 1879, the U.S Geological Survey has devoted itself to mapping the vast lands that constitute the United States of America. After over a century of survey work, the USGS is still plugging away, using new technologies and techniques to produce more accurate, comprehensive maps of the nation. With over 3 million square miles of territory to survey, this is no small undertaking.


Recently, in an effort to increase the speed and scope of their work, the USGS has employed a somewhat unconventional approach: Crowdsourcing.


The National Map Corps was founded in 2001 in an effort to get citizen volunteers involved in this monumental survey project. It developed out of an earlier program started nearly a decade earlier called “adopt a quad” which recruited volunteers to annotate topographic maps.


The National Map Corps has a somewhat different focus than its predecessor. Rather than annotating topographic maps, volunteers chart structures with GPS coordinates. In the last two years, volunteers have submitted over 100,000 data points to the USGS, mapping everything from schools, to post offices, to hospitals. The USGS is calling the project its citizen science project. Currently, there are over 900 volunteers involved in the program.


One such volunteer, who goes by the internet handle “fconley,” explained his interest in the program on the USGS website. “I have loved maps and travel all my life,” he said. “When I saw that the USGS was looking for volunteers I immediately joined…At times, locating structures seems similar to solving puzzles or detective work. This whole project is not only enjoyable but it makes me feel like I am making a lasting and useful contribution.”


All interested volunteers need to participate in the National Map Corps is an internet connection and a willingness to learn basic GPS mapping techniques.


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