Episode 3-Mike Tischler, Director USGS Geospatial Office

Michael Tischler is the Director of the National Geospatial Program (NGP) at the US Geological Survey. NGP has existed for over 130 years and was originally created to make topographic maps to help settle the western part of the US. NGP now serves as an aggregator of federal data sets of mapping and geospatial information across multiple federal agencies. For example, the US Census provides transportation data that NGP then includes in its topographic data.

The data and maps are openly available to anyone. Many applications in the Apple and other app stores that allow you to easily download and use many of the maps. They are frequently used for everything from families planning camping trips to a federal agency making a water resource decisions. NGP's maps focus on elevation, topography, and hydrography.

Open Data: USGS was one of the leaders in opening up earth observation and geospatial data to the public. The priority is to make the data as usable by the public as possible.

NGP is based in Reston with operations in Denver, CO and Missouri and employs 25 National Map Liaisons across the country who work with states and localities.

Trends in Geospatial: On the data acquisition side, we have benefited greatly from large, very well-engineered satellites to collect data. Now the trend is to smaller satellites that can be operated cheaply. For example, Planetis attempting to cover 100% of the world each day and that is made possible by cheaper satellites. 

Drones are also changing how we collect data. They are increasingly useful at targeting small areas and capturing better data at cheaper prices. At some point we might be able to crowd source geospatial data enabled by this kind of technology.

On the analysis and processing side Tischler talks about the 4th Industrial Revolutionin which we will see a fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds. For example, could you consume mapping information in virtual or augmented reality in a way that helps you to understand and use the information more readily.

LIDAR: A key technology that enables geospatial mapping is light detection and ranging (LIDAR). The technology allows you to create robust and detailed maps and determine elevation. USGS creates both digital terrain models and surface models. Surface models include structures, trees and other objects. Terrain models show just the earth itself. Having both these models allow you to model how an area will look if you add or subtract: trees, buildings, or other objects.

3D Elevation Program (3DEP) : USGS worked with private firms to develop the business cases for using LIDAR to create 3 dimensional maps of the elevation and features across the United States. The estimated benefit is between $600m-$1b per year. For example, flood risk maps are based on this data. Autonomous vehicle manufacturers could also be using this data.

Great Government:  USGS works with a variety of different federal and state and local partners to pool resources and coordinate to ensure they are not duplicating GIS collection efforts. This is an example of great government at work.

Creating a Baseline: The 3DEP program will create an elevation baseline from which subsequent changes in sea level, new structures, and other changes can be measured.

Managing in Government: Persistence is a key to managing successfully in government. At times things seem harder than they need to be so creative and persistence are crucial. Don't be afraid to engage with the larger communities you serve. It helps energize leaders to engage with the kinds of committed communities that exist around gespatial.