Information Management: Format Guidelines for Spatial Data

IM Guide » Data Submission » Data Format Guidelines » Format Guidelines for Spatial Data

Spatial Data Storage Formats

The Coweeta LTER provides data archiving, documentation, and discovery services for spatial data through both our own data portals and through LNO data portals. However, please note that spatial-vector and spatial-raster data are not included in our metadata. Our preferred file formats are ESRI Shapefile file stacks for vector data and ERDAS Imagine image files (.IMG) for raster data. However, we will work with researchers who wish to submit data in other formats. All data should be submitted in zip file archives that also provide files that include projection information (e.g. prj files, FGDC xml, etc.) While it is true that EML will provide some of these data, most GIS packages prefer one of the two (if not both) of the standard file formats mentioned).

General Guidelines

  • Spatial data should be recorded using the 1983 North American Datum (NAD83) and either decimal degree or Zone 17, metric UTM coordinates. Decimal Degree coordinates should include at least five decimal points. Except in rare instances, UTM coordinates do not require any data from the right of decimal point. Examples include:
    UTM_E UTM_N DD_E DD_NM
    275316 3888570 -83.46544 35.11493

  • Sampling locations should have unique ID numbers, long descriptive names, and short descriptive names (or acronym names) that are agreed on or designated as soon as a study site is selected. They should be used consistently from year to year by all researchers. For example:
    ID_Num Name Acronym UTM_E UTM_N
    21 Jones Creek Katie Price Site JCKP 275316 3888570

  • The precision of the methods used to collect the spatial coordinates should be described. Suggested descriptors include "survey instrument", "geodetic control point", "GPS" (include manufacturer name and model #), "digital map estimate", "1:24000 scale map estimate", and "general estimate".
  • Vector data that include attributes as part of the data table are subject to the same formatting and data documentation guidelines as any other tabular data set. Raster data values should also be documented. Please contact the Information Manager to discuss documentation of raster data.