Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Predictive environmental understanding

Geospatial Portals

EVS leverages commercial and open-source standards and software to develop rich, interactive web-based portals to geospatial data sets and accompanying models.

Environmental research and problem solving involve large, complex geospatial data sets and associated models that must be integrated, managed, and disseminated to user communities. The users can range from a handful of specialized researchers studying fundamental processes to large general audiences in the case of environmental impact statements that generate significant public interest.

The challenge is to provide cost-effective, intuitive portals to user communities—ideally portals flexible enough for inclusion of new data sets and models as they become available and readily scalable to accommodate audiences of any size.

Commercial software such as Esri's Portal and Server products provide out-of-the-box geospatial frameworks that can be adapted readily to a wide variety of needs. Commercial products offer turn-key portals for a variety of applications and can be a cost-effective, efficient solution in many cases. EVS has experience extending and adapting Esri frameworks/portals to address project-specific needs for settings as varied as facility management, enterprise geographic information systems (GIS), field data collection support, and homeland security.

Open-source standards and supporting software frameworks for geospatial information have recently matured significantly, so that they can become the sole basis for developing web portals for environmental applications. An example generic software stack uses PostGIS (built on PostgreSQL) as the underlying spatially aware relational database, GeoServer as the mapping server, GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) and Python with its extensive scientific libraries for more complex spatial modeling, Ruby on Rails as the application server, OpenLayers for map interaction, and Javascript frameworks such as React, AppRun, and AngularJS for client‑side application development, all hosted in a Linux‑based cloud environment. EVS has worked with open‑source frameworks including Geonode (map viewing and creation), GeoShape (geospatial data editing), and MapStory (temporal views of spatial data).

EVS has developed innovative web-based geospatial portals that leverage open-source standards and software, in work for DOE and the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Included are the following:

  • The Energy Zone Mapping Tool, for federal and state planners, non-governmental organizations, grid operators, and energy industry professionals interested in clean energy development in the eastern United States.
  • Solar Energy Environmental Mapper (Solar Mapper), providing customized public access to utility-scale solar energy resources and related siting factors in the six southwestern states studied in the Solar PEIS (Solar Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement).
  • The Section 368 Energy Corridor Mapping Tool, for viewing data on: 1) the energy corridors, 2) existing pipeline/electric transmission line infrastructure, and 3) natural and cultural resources within and adjacent to the corridors. This tool facilitates feedback on corridor reviews through online commenting and access to corridor abstracts.

EVS is particularly well suited for these innovative projects, whether they involve open-source approaches, commercial products, or a blend of the two. EVS has more than 25 years of experience in applying GIS in environmental analyses; a dedicated team of experienced web interface and server-side programmers; a solid technical foundation in supporting environmental disciplines such as ecology, hydrology, climatology, and environmental engineering; and expertise in high-performance computing/big data challenges embodied in the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.

Related Research Areas

See the Research Highlights Index for a complete list of EVS Research Areas.

photo of Andrew Ayers
Principal Software Engineer
Capabilities: Development of advanced web applications and systems; implementation of open-source technologies; integration of geospatial analysis, scientific computing, and alternative data storage with traditional web applications; use of modern methods in custom software development.