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Geospatial Research Unit
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Background

Funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and in partnership with West Virginia University, the Geospatial Research Unit (GRU) was established to develop geospatial technologies that support the business mission of the NRCS. The GRU operates collaboratively with university researchers, other NRCS Centers, as well as private and public partners to advance the integration and utilization of geospatial technologies in NRCS. The Center will identify and integrate advanced technologies to bring soil data and natural resource information to the user community in a format that is easily accessed, readily understood, consistent, and reliable.

The initiative to create the GRU began in 2002 and language was placed in the Senate budget of 2003 to bring about the collaboration between NRCS and WVU. The NRCS staff and WVU staff are now in place, along with several contractors and students. Many projects and initiatives are underway in software development, database integration, visualization, and mapping.

Mission

The mission of the GRU is to enhance the NRCS’s capacity to produce, utilize, and apply soil and natural resources information through the innovative application of geospatial technologies in partnership with Cooperative Ecosystem Study Units, private industry, and other USDA technology centers.

Goals

NSSC-GRU’s specific goals are to:

  1. Develop and integrate spatial science and technologies that bring the full wealth of soil and resource data and information to the user community
  2. Research, develop, and prototype technologies to improve the detail and accuracy of modern soil surveys and resource inventories
  3. Research and develop innovative and efficient digital data collection, database management, mapping and analysis technologies, including spatial data mining, geostatistics, and multivariate spatial statistics
  4. Test and prototype field-based technologies for more efficient data collection
  5. Research and prototype web-based map services to improve delivery of information to the user community
  6. Research and prototype innovative methods to display information and facilitates its interpretation, understanding, and use
  7. Implement research prototypes as functional user-friendly applications.