Module M09 - Participatory Scale Mapping and Surveying

Unit M09U03 - Making Scale Maps using Existing Base Maps


This Unit discusses the use of geo-referenced base maps for drawing scale maps. An existing base map provides geo-referenced data about rivers, roads and terrain. Making a map is a matter of customising the base map with local knowledge and adding layers of community data to it. This is a quick way of making scale maps – if the base maps are available – with no need for any tools or measurements. It can be done in a house and is thus sometimes referred to as “table-top mapping”. This Unit covers preparing a base map and the basics of drawing and verifying community data.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • discuss the use of base maps for drawing scale maps;
  • prepare paper base maps;
  • select and adapt scales;
  • customise base maps to make local reference maps;
  • reproduce base maps;
  • draw community data on base maps;
  • transfer information from sketch maps to base maps;
  • verify and validate data through ground-truthing.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. How to make scale maps by drawing directly on existing base maps (PPT No. 1: Making Scale Maps Using Existing Base Maps) (40 min)
  2. Practise drawing local knowledge on a base map (Exercise No. 1: Sketching Local Knowledge on a Base Map) (1 hr)

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):



2 hours

Additional trainer resources

  • Chapin, Mac and Bill Threlkeld. 2001. Indigenous Landscapes: A study in ethnocartography. USA Center for the Support of Native Lands.
  • Tobias, Terry. 2000. Chief Kerry’s Moose: A guidebook to land use and occupancy mapping, research design and data collection. Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Ecotrust, Vancouver, Canada.

Equipment needed

Depending on availability, topographic map or other base map, copies of a base map of the local area (preferably geo-referenced), field note books (one per trainee), field pencil and eraser, colour pencils and pens, transparent or semi-transparent sheets of paper, compass

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