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Geography Prof's Maps Used Widely in Media

By Meghan Dusek

MAY 24, 2007--New professors can be like portmanteaus in that, while they bring themselves and their knowledge to the university, sometimes they carry along recognition outside of the local sphere.

A newcomer to the UW-River Falls geography department, assistant Professor Matt Dooley brings with him a history of creating maps for the National Arbor Day Foundation (NADF), which have been used in several newspapers, including the Washington Post and New York Times as well as seen on CNN and National Arbor Day Foundation commercials.

"I'm glad to have had the opportunity to make a contribution that provides a better understanding of our warming planet," says Dooley.

Dooley's affiliation with the NADF began in 2002, when, as a graduate student, he updated hardiness zone map and the change map using geographic information systems software showing the differences in hardiness zones since 1990. He has since made several of the maps, incorporating more recent climate data.

The maps can be viewed at the NADF web site at .

In using GIS Dooley employs a computer system for creating, storing, mapping and analyzing spatial data. Through the software, researchers can incorporate multiple layers of spatial information (like elevation, demographics or hydrology) at once for analysis, problem solving and decision-making. It is a useful tool for a variety of disciplines that use or analyze spatial data--biology, business and engineering, for example.

"GIS is bound to the discipline of geography since it provides powerful tools to identify, explore and understand spatial relationships," Dooley says. "The GIS user is, and will always be, the most important part of GIS. Users must have a solid background in mapping and basic geographic principles in order to use GIS appropriately."

The GIS and cartography program at UWRF is among the strongest in the nation, Dooley says. Geography chair and co-GIS faculty Charlie Rader, along with Dooley, designed and maintain the current GIS lab and curriculum.

"In the future, I would like to help expand the GIS lab, create new courses in GIS, and promote interdisciplinary research in the St. Croix Valley," Dooley says.

Dooley's maps in The Washington Post story on the NADF are at:

The National Arbor Day Foundation web site is at


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