Developing a GIS Database for the Gray Fossil Site, Tennessee, Based on Modern Surveying

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The selection of an appropriate data acquisition method is a significant phase of GIS design, because the data determine the scale and accuracy of the analysis in the GIS. In the case of fossils, the method selected must provide precise mapping of all sizes of fossils uncovered at the paleontological site. Historically, paleontologists have used different methods to establish the approximate locations of fossils. A commonly used method consisted of string line grids and measuring tapes to provide arbitrary x, y and z coordinates. The maps produced using these methods often lacked accuracy were not replicable and did not provide any information about the conditions of the site. We studied how modern land surveying can enable fast accurate, replicable and precise mapping of fossils in 3D. First, the horizontal control monuments in the site were fixed using Global Positioning System (GPS), and a vertical control network was established by running an accurate, level loop from nearby state traverse control stations to the monuments within the site. Based on that, control stations were established throughout the project site, locating the existing geologic strata and providing a control network for the site base map. One challenge we faced was the design of a linkage mechanism that establishes unique identifiers for the fossils uncovered at the site. These identifiers are essential for determining fossil attributes and ensuring the consistency, integrity and completeness of the GIS database. The integration of modern land surveying techniques with GIS in this project has provided researchers with additional tools for spatial analysis, evaluation of site conditions and accurate relocation of fossils in the field.

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