How to Create a KML/Google Earth Layer of your own Vital Signs data
By: Alexa Dayton
April 23, 2010
The Vital Signs map is great for looking at and comparing observations, but Google
Earth is a much more powerful tool you can use to see Vital Signs data with other
layers of information.
Below are the steps to create a Google Earth layer of your own data. To do this, you
need a Google account (Gmail account), and Google Earth on your computer (free
download). There are other tools available for creating Google Earth KML layers,
but this one is the simplest I have found and can be used at any grade level.
Before you get started, you may want to use a TChart, or Venn diagram to help lay
out the data needed to answer your research question. For example, are you
looking at how a species changed over time? If yes, you will want to repeat the steps
below twice – once for the first time snapshot, then again for the later time snapshot
so that you can see these as different layers on a map. If you are interested in
comparing 2 groups, such as found versus not found, you may also want to repeat
these steps below, once for each set in the comparison question.
Step 1: Build your Vital Signs dataset
1. Go to Explore Data > Sort & Export
2. Use the Advanced Search to choose the data you want to see on the map
3. Click View
4. Scan the table in the Vital Signs window to make sure it’s the data you want
5. Click Export
Step 2: Save your data file
Save the Export file to your desktop, or another easy to find place. The file name
should incorporate your Vital Signs username, and be in a .csv format (comma
separated value). This typically happens automatically.
Step 3: Open and clean up your data file in Excel or Numbers
1. Open your file
2. Delete unwanted columns
3. Move the species name column to column A
4. Move the latitude and longitude columns to B and C
5. Save this file, keeping the .csv format.
Note: If you are using Numbers, you will need to export the file to a .csv. If
you using Excel, the standard file format .xls will also work.
Step 4: Open Google Fusion Tables
1. Using your web browser, go to Google Fusion Tables
2. Click on the New Table button
3. Select “New empty table”
Step 5: Import your data to Google Fusion Tables
1. Browse to find your cleaned up and reformatted VS data file (.csv or .xls) –
likely on your desktop
2. Click Next
Step 6: Select the columns you want to see on the map
Step 7: Finish up
1. Click Finish
2. See a table view of your data
Step 8: Check to make sure latitude/longitude are read as location data
1. Click Edit
2. Click Modify Columns
3. Select Latitude in the Table Columns list
4. Check that “Type” says “Location”
5. Do the same with Longitude
Step 9: See your data on a map
1. Click Visualize
2. Click Map
Step 10: Export to a KML file to use in Google Earth
1. Click the “Export to KML” link at the top of the map
2. Open this file directly with Google Earth, or download the file
Step 11: Explore your data on Google Earth!
Your own data layer has been added to the “My Temporary places” area of your
Google Earth Places, and will be displayed in the browser window. You can now edit
this layer using the Google Earth toolbars and built in tools.
Step 12: Layer and learn
Geospatial analysis is a wonderful way to extract deeper meaning from datasets, and
relate different pieces of information to enrich understanding.
You can now layer on more information to make meaning of your Vital Signs data!
Try turning on other Google Earth layers, and see what you can learn. Layers are
available in from the Share Curriculum Resources section of the Vital Signs site:
Click “Analysis resources”