In 1996, CGRER awarded three grants on the subject of "Iowa’s Environmental Future."
George Malanson focused his efforts on land cover. He evaluated spatial data bases that were already in existence — basic geological features, the Department of Natural Resource’s spatial data systems for Iowa's land cover around 1850, and water well distribution. Malanson analyzed such data bases and united them into a single recognizable format so that all resulting maps could be overlaid and multiple features could be viewed in one document. He also designed user-friendly techniques for the public to access this information.
Gene Takle and Bill Gutowski looked at the interaction between land use changes and climate. Takle and Gutowski accessed GIS systems collected by Malanson and translated them to parameters that interfaced climate-related data — such as deep soil moisture and the total surface area of transpiring leaves. Researchers can then overlay these high-resolution maps of various surface features (historic vegetation, groundwater, soils, etc.) with specific climatic scenarios.
Gerard Rushton studied the inaccessibility of Iowa's environmental spatial data. While Iowa's GIS data sets were numerous and increasing, they were of little use if no one could readily retrieve them. Rushton eased this problem by creating an environmental data clearinghouse for Iowa; the clearinghouse was actually a program at a centralized computer site that attached users via the Internet to dispersed GIS data systems. No central depository existed; the data remained with agencies and researchers scattered throughout the state while they constantly manipulated and upgraded them. Rushton's technologies and methodologies paralleled those of the National Spatial Data System (NSDS).