By now if you have lived anywhere on this Earth for the past few years you’ve heard about Google (www.google.com) and one of their products, Google Maps (www.maps.google.com). You can use Google Maps to search addresses anywhere in the world, to check for directions or even to check for traffic and to take a look at a street view. But did you know that you can also use Google Maps to store geographical information such as roads, trips, areas and you can actually share this information with others? All that is required of you is to have a Google e-mail account. Once you sign in, you can click on the link named “My Maps,” and you will have a choice to create a new map.When you click the link to create a new map you will have the opportunity to give your map a name and a description. You can also make your map public (shared with anyone) or private (shared with people to whom you give the map address). You can also request collaboration from other people or import features from other sources such as KML, KMZ or GeoRSS (more on this later). Figure 1 is a screenshot of a map that I have created, showing some of the capabilities of Google Maps. I have added a place mark where the LSU AgCenter Ben-Hur Research Station is located. I have also created a field and traced a path from the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department on the LSU campus to the station. Please note that Google Maps calculates the distance between sites.
Unfortunately Google maps does not calculate area. If you need to calculate area, use Map Tool 2 (http://www.zonums.com/gmaps/maptool.php). Map Tool 2 uses Google Maps and has several tools to calculate perimeter, area, etc. The field in question that I drew at Ben-Hur measures 9.8 acres. I can measure the area using Map Tool 2 and then update the dialog box with the measurement in my project in Google Maps.
Google Maps is nowhere near to be called a geographic information system (GIS) because it does not allow us to store information in a relational database. But Google Maps is a very friendly and easy-to-use software that allows us to store limited information in projects. Information can be retrieved over the Internet.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture