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Online map lets users 'Explore Mississippi'
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- What was once possible only in movies is now a reality to the average Mississippian who can visit an online map of the state and find a picture of their own neighborhood and home.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service has combined aerial photographs of the state taken from 1995 to 1996, census information and Geographic Information System data into a single, multi-layered map of Mississippi. Called Explore Mississippi, this information is available online at no cost at http://www.geospatial.msstate.edu/. Click on the link called "Online Mapping."
Matt Jones, Extension associate in MSU's Remote Sensing and Technologies Center, said the map was created initially as a resource for county agents, but offered to the public as well.
"Users can gain geographic information about the state and explore Mississippi in a new way," Jones said. "You can find your house on this map and have an interesting view of it, but you can also pull a great deal of information from the website."
Developers included data provided by several government agencies, such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition to providing a wealth of information in layers on the map, Jones said developers see this as a tool to introduce users to GIS technologies.
"One of our goals in the Extension Service is to provide education to the public, and the web is such a good tool to do that," Jones said.
Visitors to the site see an image of the state with each of the counties represented. Clicking on the map will zoom into that area. A toolbar is offered at the top of the screen, allowing users a variety of interaction options. Users can measure distances, find places of interest, learn road or stream names, see population figures and breakdowns, search for certain areas or view the aerial photographs.
A help screen is available, and Jones said the map constantly is being modified to become more user-friendly.
"Aerial photographs are already available for much of the state, and in the near future, the entire state will be available," Jones said. "The aerial photos are made up of squares, or pixels, and each pixel represents an area 1 meter by 1 meter."
The website is best viewed using Internet Explorer, and works over dial-up Internet connections. The web-based GIS lets users select what layers they want to see from a list offered on the right side of the screen. Users with a slow Internet connection can choose to make just one or two layers visible to speed the site's functioning.
"This site is now based on an HTML browser designed for users with slower Internet capabilities, but later we will have a site based on a Java browser, which will allow more robust capabilities," Jones said.
Developers are seeking feedback from users, so those interested in exploring the site are encouraged to e-mail their comments to email@example.com.
Contact: Matt Jones, (662) 325-0912