HERO: Human-Environment Regional Observatory

HERO Data Archive and Interactive Retrieval

Go directly to the list of HERO map layers and data download
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Digital Map Products


All the thematic conform to boundaries of three study areas (all nested)--the small, medium, and large study areas. The study areas were selected based upon towns and watershed boundaries; all the source files were downloaded from MassGIS.

The small study area consists of Worcester and its nine surrounding towns, and it suits more detailed analysis of human-environment interactions in the Worcester metropolitan area. The medium study area (104 towns) consists of Worcester Country and selected towns west and east of the county lines based upon their location in particular watersheds. The large study area allows for analyses spanning the entire rural-urban interaction zones in central and eastern Massachusetts (minus the cape and southeast). Virtually all of the digital maps produced by this group have one of the three study areas as the geographic extent. At a certain point the group hopes to include an "extreme" study area including all of Massachusetts and part of Rhode Island and Connecticut.


HERO has implemented a quality-control procedure for metadata. For now we are using the FGDC metadata standard for documenting digital geo-spatial data.

Click here for a color-coded FGDC metadata data template (developed by Ethan Frost).

Click here for the short version of the above template designed for ArcView data format.

Click here for the short version of the above template designed for Idrisi data format.

File Organization and Naming Convention

In our data archive, folders are organized according to different map themes: e.g.,
extent (zooming windows),
annual precipitation,

For the majority of thematic layers, a subset of maps were generated by window-fitting (using extent files); their extents are denoted by using four prefixes to the folder/file name: l_ represents large extent, m_ for medium extent, s_for small extent, e_for extreme extent. For example, m_annpcp_01 represents annual precipitation map for the medium window; e_extent_01 represents extreme extent files, etc.

Thematic maps for each extent are further grouped around two data formats: one for ArcView and another for Idrisi.

All the map folders/files have presently a suffix _01, which denotes version 1. For example, l_annpcp_01 represents annual precipitation map version 1 for the large extent.

Each may layer specific to each extent is associated with a metadata record. All the metadata records use following naming convention: the name of the map file it describes plus a _arcview or a _idrisi extension to distinguish between the two types of map data formats we are using. For example, l_extent_01_arcview represents metadata record for the map file l_extent_01.

Downloadable metatadata records for individual map files are all in Microsoft Word file. Metadata records for Idrisi files are also provided, using Idrisi internal metadata (ird) files. They can be downloaded together with the Idrisi files.

We consistently use small caps to name all files (both map layers and metadata records).