Have you ever been doing field research, had your GPS, and searched for a locality or species? Well, what happens when you find and record the coordinates then later have no idea which county you where in?
Almost all biodiversity collections record the State and County/Parish of where the specimen was collected or observed. Sometimes that data is not easy to find. I have wondered where I should look to find this information. First, I tried the USGS, then google search “County Lookup.” But everything seems to be based on zipcodes and that did nothing to solve the problem. I even hoped Google Maps would have an easy way to sort through coordinates to find county name.
Google has come to the rescue once again with their Google Map geo service, but it took a little digging (http://maps.google.com/maps/geo).
However, this service has required a helper code to make it easier to use. So this webservice uses that geoservice to easily get at that locality information. The result is a “json” web service to send the latitude & longitude and it will tell you which state & county you are in!
Visit Web Service: http://labs.silverbiology.com/countylookup/
I started with a visual interactive tool to help users quickly find a point either by manually entering a latitude & longitude. This tool can also be used by clicking in different places on a Google Map to get locality info. But the real use is to help collection managers perform batch processing to clean label data of erroneous localities.
Imagine a scenario where there are 12,000 specimens that have geospatial data and county information but you want to know if they are accurate. In a recent sample test of this tool, about 15% or specimens had faulty locality information. In most cases, the error was simply that an adjacent county was identified, but various other errors have also been identified. With a short script to interact with the web service can now identify the specimens that need to be corrected in the collection database! This is just one more step to having more accurate information.