Case Studies & Presentations Publications Related Links WWETAC


Open Source, Cloud Server Wildland Threat Mapper


In recent years GIS and web technologies have advanced to allow the sharing of geospatial data on the web. Land management agencies sometimes have a need to simply post GIS datasets on the web without requiring advanced GIS modeling capabilities on the server. There are many products available to serve geospatial datasets on the web, but many of these have a complicated setup, costly license fees, and provide more capabilities than are needed for some users. There is also a need to simplify web server setup. The map we have built is an example of an inexpensive and simple solution for agencies to post and share GIS data on the web using open source map servers and open source GIS clients deployed on a virtual cloud server.

The USDA Forest Service and other public land management agencies often compile and generate geospatial data as a result of their research and activities. Making this data available to the public is often hindered by a lack of web and map servers inside the agency. When the servers are available, they often require GIS expertise to set up and maintain. Some of the more popular map servers, while providing advanced geoprocessing capabilities, have high annual license fees. The need to post geospatial data continues to grow as Federal land management agencies grapple with wide ranging social and ecological issues with stakeholders and other interested external entities.

One potential solution to streamline the sharing of geospatial data under the current information policy is through the use of cloud computing and open source map servers. The federal government is encouraging the use of cloud computing by its agencies by launching the General Services Administration?s cloud storefront This online storefront enhances how the government leverages technology by enabling federal agencies to acquire and purchase cloud computing services in an efficient, effective manner.

We have built a cloud server based map server solution for the USDA Forest Service Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC). One of our goals is to build a system for users to view existing geospatial data layers of wildland threats to examine spatial intersections of multiple threats with high value resources such as critical wildlife habitat, wildland urban interfaces, and other human and ecological values. Additionally, the system allows users to connect to other internet map services available on the web.

The open source cloud map displays in your web browser without software installation required. This map uses the open source GeoServer application for the map server. The web browser application is built using open source software such as OpenLayers and GeoExt. The application is written primarily in JavaScript with some ASP.NET on the server. The map server is hosted in the Amazon cloud using an EC2 virtual server.

Static Mercator Map (non customizable)

This map requires no login but does not allow you to create your own custom map by adding or removing map layers. It contains all layers provided by the GeoServer map server and also several Bing Map base layers. This map uses the EPSG 900913 ('Spherical Mercator') spatial reference, which is commonly used by commercial providers such as Google Maps®, Microsoft Virtual Earth® (Bing Maps®), Yahoo Maps®, etc.

Customizable Map

The customizable map includes tools to add additional layers from other map servers on the web. It requires a login in order to identify you for retrieving and saving your own custom map. It uses the EPSG:4326 (latitude/longitude based on the WGS84 datum) spatial reference. This is the most widely supported spatial reference system for non commercial providers and makes it possible to add layers from these providers to the map. A sample customizable map is provided for users to try without the need to login. The sample map is fully functional except changes to the map cannot be saved.

Open Source Cloud Map User Guide (pdf 507 kb) - A complete user guide for both maps.

Custom Map Tutorial (pdf 1003 kb) - To help you get started, follow this step by step tutorial for creating a custom map.

Technical Description - A technical description of the system design.

Map System Setup Instructions - Documentation describing how to set up a similar system.



Western Wildland Environmental
Threat Assessment Center

3160 NE Third St.
Prineville, OR 97754
P (541) 416-6583
F (541) 416-6693

Contact Information

Alan Ager
Phone: 541.969.8683

Charlie Schrader-Patton
Phone: 541.312.4291
Ken Bunzel
Phone: 208.882.0410