Software for Collectors: Two Invaluable Programs for the Collector from DeLorme Mapping Software

by G. Thomas Watters
The most valuable part of your collection is the label. It may also be the most neglected and unfinished part. If your collection is to have any scientific value, each specimen needs at least three pieces of information: where it was found, who found it, and when. Way down the list on importance is: what is it? Identifications may change daily, but the collection information does not. Without these data, your shells are just pretty paperweights.

Whether you collect your own specimens, or trade or purchase them, you need to verify the locality record. The rule of thumb is to give enough information that anyone reading the label could find the spot. Don't rely on unwritten notes in your head. It won't do your heirs any good. Granted, unless you collected the shell, the information may be less than informative. "Philippines" and "Florida Keys" are near useless as localities.

Before computers, when trilobites roamed the seas, one had to rely on paper maps to find a locality. Good ones, such as topographic maps, were costly and covered little ground. Perhaps the best paper maps to come along were those produced by DeLorme. Many states have been completed. The detail of county roads, streams, keys, and other features made these oversize paperbacked atlases an instant success with naturalists. My Ohio copy is now mostly held together by duct tape, with marginal notes scribbled while in a moving car, and covered in coffee stains. Thus, it was with something approaching reverence that I installed DeLorme's two CD-ROM-based mapping programs: Global Explorer and Street Atlas USA. If you are awed by how much information can be stuffed on a CD, this will be a religious experience.

Global Explorer - This program is a guide to the geography of the Earth. It contains over 120,000 indexed places and features, and information on 20,000 of them. You probably knew that Pointe des Almadies at Dakar was the western-most point of land in all Africa, but did you know that Hell Ville in Madagascar was named for Admiral de Hell, governor of Reunion? Or that Dzyarzhynskaya is the tallest mountain in Belarussia at 1,135 ft? All of this gazetteer information may be gleaned by clicking on special symbols that appear on the maps. You may turn the symbols off if you don't want the clutter. The maps may be zoomed in or out with buttons, or you can simply click and drag a square around whatever you wish to zoom in on. At maximum resolution, the map is about nine miles wide - anywhere on Earth. Selected major cities zoom into a map width of about two miles and contain many street names. Additional buttons give air route mileages between two points. While you cannot print out directly from Global Explorer, you can copy to the Windows Clipboard and paste it into another application.

In addition to cities, towns, and roads, the maps show rivers, mountains, reefs, and other natural features. You may find places and things by typing their names. This is like a dictionary, in that you must spell a word correctly for it to be found. You can narrow your search by selecting a particular country and/or category of places. For instance, you could look at just the lakes from Taiwan (four are listed). It is important to remember that there are many more features not on the list that appear on the map. So if you don't find it in the index, it still pays to go searching for it. Why something appears in the index, and something else does not, is a mystery. The minuscule island of Nosy Andriamitaroka is in the index, but the more substantial Malaita in the Solomons is not. Many rivers and streams are indicated, but most are not identified.

So how does Global Explorer fare as a collections locality check? I randomly selected 120 locales from my collection. I was able to find 95 of them (79%). Others may be in there, but may have been missed because of spelling errors. In summary, this program enables you to correct spellings, supply additional information, and create printed maps of a site. I find it indispensable in checking locality records. Now you'll know where legendary collecting spots like Goree, Tranquebar, and Amboine are located. It is entertaining, informative, and well-crafted -- and well worth your money.

Global Explorer runs within Windows 3.1 on a 386 or better PC with a CD-ROM drive and VGA. The program uses 3 Mb of disc space. List price about $59.

Street Atlas USA 3.0 for Windows - Type your street address, and it will show your street, which side of the street you live on, street numbers on the street behind you, the name of that creek in your back yard, your longitude and latitude... everything but you looking out the window. Don't know the address? You can find an area based on zip code or area code and exchange. You can look up any of one million places, or 25 million street segments. They're all here: Monkey's Eyebrow, KY; Bugtussle, TN; and the always popular Intercourse, PA. You can print custom maps directly from the program using many annotating options or paste a map into another application. You can annotate directly on the map and save it to be displayed whenever you view that area. This CD-ROM mapping program is nothing short of awesome.

As the name states, this is meant to be a street atlas. However, it also contains nearly every river, stream, mountain, key, road, and pothole in the USA. At maximum resolution, the map is about 1/3 of a mile in width. Unfortunately, unlike Global Explorer, you cannot search for these features - only places and addresses. Thus, you must give it a place to go to to find a feature, the Green River at Munfordville for instance. Another disadvantage is that there are no county names on the map, although at high resolution there are county lines shown. This seems a major exclusion for a program that has everything else, and is its major drawback. But a great plus is the ability to get longitude and latitude from the cursor location. Wherever you point, there are the coordinates in the lower left. Unlike Global Explorer, Street Atlas is not a gazetteer - it does not supply information about any of the places.

To test it, I randomly pulled 130 USA localities from my collection. It found an impressive 115 of them (88%). This program's greatest use is to the freshwater and terrestrial collector, but marine shellers will find it a very useful tool as well. With the excellent plotting functions, you could theoretically produce a map of every locale for every shell in your collection.

Runs within Windows 3.1, NT, or 95 on a 386/33 or better PC with a CD-ROM drive and VGA. The program uses 4 Mb of disc space. List price about $79, but can be found cheaper. There also is a Mac version.

If you want more information, demos, and on-line ordering, check out DeLorme's impressive Web site at DeLorme's address is Lower Main St., PO Box 298, Freeport, ME 04032, 207-865-4171. Look 'em up on Street Atlas USA. They're next to I-95 and the Maine Central Railroad line, according to the program.

Aquatic Ecology Laboratory and Museum of Biological Diversity, The Ohio State University, 1314 Kinnear Road, Columbus, OH 43212-1394