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ArcPro Adventures and Possibilities

This blog post was written partially for an assignment, but it will be looking into ArcGIS Pro! I use this software frequently in my research. This tool allows you to digitize and map planetary (or Earth based!) images, create figures, and produce different shareable versions of your work. This post will cover the basics about ArcGIS and ArcPro, the main types of things that I do with it, and some of the options for how you can share the work that you create in the software program. This is by no means a comprehensive summary of Arc, it is merely a teaser to pull you in and start you on your own Arc journey.


ESRI, the company behind many mapping and image processing software packages, created ArcPro to replace the ArcMap and ArcGIS programs, though both of them are still widely used. The primary difference between the new software and the old, is the implementation of a ribbon system showing the many tools, buttons, and options in the program. This "ribbon" format is similar to the newer format adopted by Microsoft Office several years back. In both Office and Arc, you used to have to have several toolbars open and know your way around drop down menus, keyboard shortcuts, search tools, and right-click menus. Now, in both programs, ideally you can find most of what you need conveniently located and organized in the ribbons and tabs at the top of the screen. The interface for Arc is consequently much more visual and intuitive. Intuitive for a first time user I should say. The changes themselves are a bit difficult for ArcMap users to adjust to, primarily because things are located in different places, making it slightly confusing. However, the commonalities between Office and Arc are actually useful for consumers who use both products, because the familiarity with Office may help you navigate through Arc's many options. See below for images of both the Office and Arc "ribbon" setups.

The top version is the word ribbon with different tabs at the top which offer different buttons. The lower image is the ribbon bar from Arc, which is notably similar.


Common Uses

Now, ArcPro is really designed for everything to do with Maps. It is intended primarily for terrestrial maps and loads with a world map. For most uses of Arc, one can focus in on the area they are looking at and load layers that suit their purpose. Arc itself has a catalog of layers of everything from wind speed to tree cover to pipelines to buildings to geology. These layers can then be analyzed with a series of geoprocessing tools to solve problems. A common type of problem that can be solved in Arc is a site search. This is when a person is looking for a location that matches a set of criteria. For example, if you were looking for a place to stargaze within the city of London, Ontario, you could load layers that would help you find one. You could have criteria such as high elevation, no trees, no buildings, low light pollution, etc. Each of those criteria would have a layer. Geoprocessing tools would then allow you to identify all areas of the map that fit all of your criteria.


Another type of map is one that shows a series of data. For example if you collected rain water levels for everywhere across the United States, you could produce a map that showed a colorized version of the country, based on their rain water level. You can add other attributes to features on the map as well, and have information pop up when you hover over locations or bookmarked spots.


The third common use is the one that I am most familiar with. This is the process of digitizing information and analyzing it. For terrestrial projects, these functions are used when you wish to have a dataset that does not exist online, in the Arc Catalog, or as a file that can be imported (usually this is called a shape file). In this scenario, a user loads an image or other dataset the contains the information they want, and then traces over the features, datapoint, or other information contained within. This digitization process creates "feature" layers within the project. These are essentially lines, dots, and polygons drawn in by the user. These features can be exported as their own shape file for use in many different softwares.


The above process of digitization is what is most commonly used for both geology and planetary science, and most commonly in the field of mapping. In both cases, satellite images or other datasets (spectral etc.) are used to show the area being mapped and then boundaries and features are drawn in using Arc. As an example, I might load a Mars HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) image into Arc. I could then use the tools to section off areas of the image that showed different types of surface features. I might have one color of polygons for dunes, another for craters, another for canyons, and so forth. Most geologic maps for planetary bodies are done in this manner, often using ArcGIS.


Sharing Your Maps (Figures and The Other ESRI Apps)

There are a number of different ways you can take your maps from ArcPro or ArcGIS and share them with the world. The most straightforward way is to simply make figures from your map. Essentially, you would zoom in to a particular section of the map and make it into a figure. This is done using layouts. In ArcGIS, the user could simply switch to layout view and manipulate the view and the page to make figures. In ArcPro, its slightly more complicated, but also more versatile. Within the project you are working on, you have to add a new layout. Then, you draw a shape (usually a rectangle) using a specific tool to indicate where you want part of your map to show up. You then move your map around to show up in that shape in the appropriate way. Then, much like in ArcGIS, you can add peripheral features such as a North arrow, a legend, a scale, and labels. You can also have more than one shape with different parts of your map, allowing you to have multiple images in your new figure. The layers and setup of ArcGIS allows you to lock parts of the figure so that they can't be changed while you work on other portions of the figure.


Depending on what purpose your map is going to have, there are other cool ways that you can share them with the world. One of these ways is dashboards. This type of presentation is often seen on sites that are reporting information such as voting counts, COVID case counts, or even weather. The Dashboards application from ESRI, often available to those that have access to ArcPro, helps you make this type of presentation. Essentially, your map is the central part of the page, but then you have graphs, information, titles and analyses around the map. Usually dashboards are interactive, where you can select a features or area on the map and then the graphs, information and analyses change to reflect what you have selected. I've included the video ESRI uses to introduce Dashboards below.





Another application within the suite of options available from ESRI is StoryMaps. StoryMaps are similar to a slide show in some ways. They are quite literally intended to tell the story of your map or maps. This type of format is useful if you have multiple layers to your map that can't all be shown at the same time, or if there is interesting history or background that goes with your map. For example, if you have made maps that show how an area and landmarks have changed over time, you could highlight different areas of the map and show different years. Another example would be if you are showing how deforestation has affected an area over time, you could tell the story of the forest and show maps of deforestation levels at different points in time. I've included a short video from ESRI about StoryMaps below.





And that's it for this brief Arc overview. Check out the ESRI website and ArcPro sites for more information!


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