Interning at the City of Walla Walla’s
GIS Support Services:
Creating a Winery Map of the
Walla Walla American Viticultural Appalachian
My internship with the City of Walla Walla’s Geographic Information System (GIS) Support Services narrowly escaped becoming a four-month monitoring project of the city dump. Originally, the City had planned for me to work on a statistical analysis of the city’s income taxes, but this internship ceased to be an option when funding did not come through for the project. There were few projects for me to work on (hence the opportunity at the dump), so I was very happy to hear that I could work on creating a winery map of the Walla Walla American Viticultural Appalachian (WW AVA). This exciting project was a personal interest of my GIS supervisor, Chris Owen, and was also a topic he hoped to present at the next ESRI International User Conference in August 2006. The primary goal of my project was to create a reader-friendly map of wineries in the WW AVA also capable of GIS analysis, to be presented at the conference. After the conference, the map will be helpful in promoting tourism to Walla Walla and for monitoring growth of the wine industry.
As a pseudo-employee of the City, I was assigned a login name and email address so that I could use the network, access the ArcIMS, and communicate with individuals outside of the City office. I expected processes such as creating my login account to be relatively simple, but most were complicated and surprisingly bureaucratic. It took much more effort than I expected for me to obtain access to the network and required authorization from four different people, both in and outside of our department. Once settled into my space opposite of Chris at his desk, I began locating existing GIS map layers relevant to the project, such as roads, waterways, parcel boundaries, and county and city orthophotos. I also located non-GIS maps (Walla Walla Wine Alliance winery map and VinMaps WW AVA map) and visited the Chamber of Commerce for additional information. From the City’s relevant layers I was able to create a base map that was used as part of the final winery location map.
After constructing a base map and creating blank shapefiles for GPS layers to be imported into, I began the slow process of compiling a geodatabase of tourism and industry-specific information. In order to choose what information to put into the database, I researched available information presented by wineries (both inside and outside of the WW AVA) along with information presented in winery tourism advertisements. From this information I created a survey to ask all of the wineries in the WW AVA. It took until the end of the semester to complete this table, partially because of the amount of time it took to contact each individual winery, and partially because working on the table was so darn tedious!
The most fun part of my internship was creating a map layer of wineries using mobile mapping equipment in field. I used two different systems, one of which worked significantly better than the other. The ArcPad unit has a specialty GPS extension, and is basically a palm pilot on steroids. An advantage to using this system is that you can save multiple attributes per record (for example, that point being recorded is Such-and-Such Winery, that they are part of the wine alliance, and that they are open to the public). A weighty disadvantage I encountered, however, is that the GPS extension was very finicky. I took it out for an afternoon and collected no successful points, at which point we decided to switch to using the Leica. The Leica GS20 GPS unit is quite fancy in that it utilizes a built-in Coast Guard beacon receiver that performs real-time measurement-correction in the field. Because of the beacon the unit is capable of sub-meter accuracy. One disadvantage, however, is that the beacon is not always available—which disables the user’s ability to take any data in the field. I spent over half of my internship days collecting (or trying to collect) winery data points in the field. For more distant points that I could not collect because of their proximity to Walla Walla and my time constraints, I was able to locate points with the help of the transportation layer and the orthophoto.
After collecting XY data, the next important step was joining the GPS
points to the geodatabase of winery information by using a common attribute.
For this project, the attribute was Wine_ID (the winery’s name). The common
attribute allows database information (name of winery, data of establishment,
type of grapes used…) to be accessed through clicking on the spatial (visual)
data. This is not a critical link for a printed map, but rather for a map capable
of more advanced analysis.
The last part of my internship involved creating a map suited to several audiences: the ESRI User Conference, tourists to Walla Walla, Walla Walla vintners, and the Walla Walla Wine Alliance. Several weeks into the semester, it became obvious that my project would become part of collaborative efforts to make a map of the WW AVA. Although interning with the City, to more quickly collect data—and more importantly to gain access to the vineyards—I gathered data with Jesse Poppick, a University of Montana graduate student who is writing his masters thesis on the terrior of the WW AVA. In order to gain permission from the vineyards to access their vineyards, Jesse is working with the Alliance on creating a map of the AVA. Like Jesse to the Wine Alliance, I worked with Jesse to gain access to wineries and vineyards. It was a bit of a struggle for all of the involved parties to understand that collaboration allows us the best outcome.
For weeks after we all met the groups would bad-mouth each other (ie
City against Alliance, vice verse), but tensions began to ease by the end of
the semester. I think that my presence as a student between the groups may have
actually improved their relationships and willingness to work together. The
following are interactions and perspectives of and between the various groups
mid-way through the semester:
After learning that Rebekah was interested in our project the City hoped that the Wine Alliance would be interested in sharing their data with us to complement our survey and save us some work. Rebekah strongly asserted that she did not want to collaborate with the City if it were going to turn around and make a profit-driven map from the data. She was very concerned about the City’s motivation to collaborate on a project. She assured me that she and the Wine Alliance wanted nothing to do with a project that “did not protect the interests of the wineries.”
Jesse, on the other hand was quite interested in recruiting locals to help him map vineyards. Since he already had permission to conduct the mapping through the Alliance, all he needed is assistance in collection. He offered to train me how to use the Trimble GPS the first afternoon after we met as a group, before the Wine Alliance had cleared me (part of the City) to work on the project. He even offered to share data with the City if I helped him collect…which was a bit of a contradiction considering he is loosely working for the Alliance…
Kevin, after giving his presentation, let it be known that he had been studying the geology of the vineyards for over fifteen years and that this was his passion. He focused his research question on the geology and climate of the region, and subtly highlighted the fact that Jesse knew nothing about these studies, although he could probably pull off a reasonable study by copying a similar Oregon study. He described the vision of a book he was in the process of starting that would incorporate these maps. The first meeting went reasonably well and gave us all somewhere to go with the understanding that multiple people are working on similar or the same projects.
The biggest challenges I encountered while working on this project were technology malfunctions and political conflicts that stemmed from creating a map with data from multiple parties. While the Leica GPS unit is cutting edge, it does not always function as it is supposed to. I spent several days wandering in the field waiting for the unit to find a signal from the elusive Coast Guard correction beacon. Additionally, I had trouble with the GPS when not using the City truck. When inside my car, the Leica would lose its signal and I would have to wait up to half an hour to regain the signal, even if just for a few minutes. As a solution to this problem I tied the unit to my roof racks and ran another tether through my sunroof to secure the (very expensive) City equipment to my car while keeping it outside of the vehicle. On a separate note, I encountered considerable hostility from various parties interested in acquiring a map of wineries and vineyards in the WW AVA. Major conflicts arose between the City of Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Wine Alliance, while tension built between winery and vineyard owners, a graduate student from the University of Montana, and even the Whitman College Geology Department. The point of contention revolved around who would collect and process the data, and who would have access to and publishing rights for that data.
My time with the City’s GIS Services has taught me technical equipment skills (ArcIMS network, GPS/beacon equipment, ArcInfo), as well as how to act in a professional atmosphere. Before working at the City I had not considered that I needed to CC my supervisor for most emails I send to new contacts, or that I needed to consider legal conflicts that might arise from creating a map with data from multiple parties. Most days at my internship were fairly informal. Because my supervisor does not have very much time to commit to this project, I have made contact and met with people related to the project, including situations in which I represented the City. Subtle experiences such as these make me aware of what working in a company or organization is really like.
Working with the City of Walla Walla has given me an idea
of how many processes go into making a simple map. Whether waiting for a strong
enough satellite signal or sorting through the complexities of an ArcIMS management
system, patience was a learned virtue. I would recommend an internship at the
City’s GIS Support Services for motivated and self-directed students who
can create a vision for their project. Projects may be very dull at the GIS
office if students do not suggest a project of interest and direct the project
in this direction. Overall, I very much enjoyed working with my supervisor,
Chris Owen, and look forward to presenting with him at the ESRI International
User Conference in August 2006.
Draft of Winery Map