Peter Knoop, the Kelsey Museum IT Advocate, recently presented a talk at the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) international conference in Atlanta. 

Best Practices for Mobile GIS and Information Technology in the Field

Abstract: The increasing availability and power of mobile information technology in the field is enabling new and innovative applications of GIS from archaeology to zoology. We present an overview of emerging best practices derived from field­based research and courses that leverage GIS, focusing on archaeology, and related examples from geology, environmental sciences, and ecology. There are several key factors to consider in developing a mobile GIS strategy: power, ergonomics, networking, and data management. For instance, can one rely on an electrical grid or on­site power generation, and are batteries required to transport power to where it is needed? Using a tablet at the office or home is a very different experience than holding one all­day in the field, so ergonomic considerations, such as hand­straps or shoulder harnesses, as well as durability, are important. Often fieldwork represents a significant investment of time and money, so a reliable backup strategy is a key part of the mobile GIS workflow, and designing one for a field site usually means dealing with a lack of Internet access. It is also important to remember that gathering and using data in the field is typically just the first step of working with information in GIS. Data schemas and workflows should be designed to help maximize productivity in the field, however, they also need to accommodate data­sharing and continued analysis at home. While information technology continues to evolve, these emerging best practices can provide guidance for successful application of GIS in field research and teaching. 

Sinem Çakır (left) and Matt Naglak in the field at Notion using FileMaker Pro and Collector for ArcGIS to record architectural survey data.
Christina DiFabio, Sinem Çakır, Matt Naglak, and Alex Marko (left to right) planning out the iPad architectural survey strategy for the day.