From Pens to Pixels

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mark Lane ’81 is a modern day mapmaker. Using different types of digital information and data, Lane makes it possible for Hall County to keep its maps current without having to recreate the existing copies on paper.

Mark Lane ’81 is a modern day mapmaker. Using different types of digital information and data, Lane makes it possible for Hall County to keep its maps current without having to recreate the existing copies on paper.This is easier said than done. Until 1998, all of the maps maintained by Hall County were on paper. Different county departments shared and maintained different maps and there was no way to tie data being stored in computer systems to a physical location on a map. The county continued to grow, escalating the situation even further. Map maintenance, in short, was becoming a problem.

The county turned to Lane for a solution, which ended up being a geographic information system (GIS) that integrates hardware, software and data. An intelligent GIS is a geographic database, which stores maps as well as analyzes datasets. Lane was assigned the job of directing and managing the GIS implementation and accepted the challenge with ease.

However, Lane’s very first map wasn’t a technological masterpiece. His passion for mapmaking was bred at the University of West Georgia and his original stab at cartography was created with pen, paper and tape.

“I took a cartography course, in which we made a number of maps as our class projects,” said Lane. “These maps were made completely by hand by drafting pens, map tape and sheets of adhesive paper with different patterns.”

Lane chose to attend UWG for the summer quarter immediately after his graduation from Heard County High School in Franklin. Persuaded by then-geography professor Dr. Jim O’Malley to pursue a career in city planning, he began taking courses to develop his interests. Inspired by his newfound career path, he attended every consecutive semester at West Georgia until he obtained his bachelor’s in geography.

Upon graduation, Lane received his American Institute of Certified Planners designation and began to work on special projects including implementing a web-based mapping system available to the public online, integrating the GIS into the 911 dispatching system and mapping felony crime locations for the sheriff ’s department. He recently received certification from the GIS Certification Institute for recognition in educational achievement, professional experience and contributions to the profession.

Lane credited the support of UWG and his family for his career successes.

“My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last September,” said Lane. “We hike and travel and enjoy our daily walks each evening with our dog.”

In addition to keeping Hall County’s maps in line, Lane makes time for jogging — he has run the Peachtree Road Race 26 times.