The Protected Areas Database of the US (PAD-US) is America’s official national inventory of U.S. terrestrial and marine protected areas, belonging to the list of National Geospatial Data Assets (NGDA). PAD-US allows users to explore protected area networks, allowing you to see data such as maps of nearby protected lands. This data informs decisions about conservation, recreation, and land use planning.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) wished to improve in both science research and management to better support a data-driven model for their organization. The hope was to create “at-the-ready data services and platforms”. It would help answer difficult questions regarding the application of specific policies on certain types of Protected Area Government Land Ownership and terrestrial species. In summation, USGS wanted to create a more robust and efficient way of integrating data feeds via newly defined stack patterns for PAD-US and for other core science datasets. They also required the delivery of a better definition of end user data products and data services.

Xentity had the task of developing data solution designs to establish the target platform. Also, to rationalize and assess the readiness, complexity, and other gaps in order to move to the new data-driven model.

Creating a More Integratable and Accessible Platform

Xentity and USGS’s problem was that PAD-US was in need of an integratable and accessible data platform. Scientists needed this platform to easily reproduce and access the data for their own research. If the data is not integratable from PAD-US, researchers cannot access and use it in their own endeavors. Thus, Xentity’s scope had to consider five dimensions in order to achieve the vision’s product quality, delivery and operating goals.

  1. Research questions
  2. Data
  3. Models
  4. Hardware
  5. Users.

When posing research questions with the same data, model, hardware, and user, a data scientist will only need to do some data reproduction to integrate their data from PAD-US. However, if the PAD-US data platform cannot integrate or be accessible to provide any of those dimensions, the work increases. Also, the capability to reproduce data becomes much harder. This leaves data inaccessible for both researchers and the public. Instead, platforms should be highly integratable and accessible. This is crucial for PAD-US, as the entire point of its existence is accessible, integratable data. This data must allow users to make informed decisions about conservation, recreation, or land use planning.

The goal of this next generation platform’s creation was two-fold. First, Xentity moved PAD-US to an Information Product & Services model with more efficient and automated data processing methods to enable the user community to achieve more flexibilities in what they can ask of the resulting data. In other words, when posing a research question, users have more available options in what they can receive from the resulting data.  Also, to open the door to allow automation to help in profiling and identifying analysis. These analysis support gaps and errors. Also, other analysis of each of the five aforementioned dimensions to more data quality improvements more efficiently.

Continuous Development and Evolution in an Ongoing Project

Xentity’s efforts provided a set of future architectural options that were deemed feasible for implementation through regular consultation with USGS management and through available information on USGS technological infrastructure. They laid a set of design principles for how the database can evolve to more of a data system capable of meeting known and yet to be discovered new uses. USGS received a final report detailing an alternative future direction as well as new architectural principles. This allowed them to deliver a more efficient and integratable version of PAD-US to the community at large.