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Explore the study area

In this lesson, you'll create a map using ArcGIS Pro. You'll first start a project, then you'll import an existing map document and the data you need to perform the analysis. Then, you'll symbolize and organize the data to make sure you have what you need.

Find the study area

Before you can make a map, you must first create a project. A project stores the maps, databases, toolboxes, styles, and other folders that may be useful when making your map. Then you'll import a map document with some of the data you need to start the map.

  1. Go to the Get Started with ArcGIS Pro group.
  2. Point to the Brazilian_Rainforest thumbnail. Click Open in ArcGIS Desktop to download it.

    Download the map item

  3. Click the Rondonia thumbnail to download it.
  4. Extract the contents of the files to a location of your choice.
  5. Start ArcGIS Pro.
  6. If prompted, sign in using your licensed ArcGIS account or an ArcGIS Enterprise named user account.

    ArcGIS Pro opens to the splash screen. Project templates are listed under the heading New. If you've created a project before, it'll be listed under Recent Projects.


    If you don't have ArcGIS Pro or an ArcGIS account, you can sign up for an ArcGIS free trial.

  7. Under New, click Catalog.

    Choose a map template

    The Catalog template creates a project with no maps associated. This is the best option if you're planning to open an existing map because it opens to the Catalog view so you can browse to your existing content. The Map option opens a 2D map with your project, and the Scene templates create projects with 3D maps. The Start without a template option opens a blank project that you can add maps or scenes to as you go.

  8. In the Create a New Project window, name the project Rondonia Deforestation.

    By default, the project is saved to the ArcGIS folder, located in the Documents folder on your computer's C: drive. To save the project elsewhere, browse to a different location.

  9. Make sure the Create a new folder for this project check box is checked, and click OK.

    Create a new project

    It is often helpful to create a dedicated folder for your project. Each new project includes a project file (.aprx), a default geodatabase, and a toolbox. Filing these together makes it easier to find, share, and store your project and data.

    The project opens and displays the Catalog view. In this view, you can manage and browse data.

    Default project view

    Now you'll begin adding data for your project. The data you already have is referenced by an ArcMap map document, or .mxd. You can re-create the map in ArcGIS Pro by importing the .mxd.

  10. On the ribbon, on the Insert tab, click Import Map.

    Add data to the project

  11. Browse to the folder where you downloaded Brazilian_Rainforest.mxd, select the file and click OK.

    Imported data from ArcMap document

    A map tab named Brazilian Rainforest is added to the project. It has three layers: Brazilian states, an outline of the Amazon ecoregion, and cities in the state of Rondônia. These layers are drawn on top of the default basemap, Topographic. To better see the characteristics of the rainforest, you'll change to basemap to Imagery.

  12. On the ribbon, click the Map tab. In the Layer group, click Basemap and choose Imagery.

    Choose Imagery basemap

     A basemap depicts background reference information such as landforms and political boundaries. It can help show your data's location in the context of the world. Next, you'll locate the Brazilian state of Rondônia.

  13. On the ribbon, in the Inquiry group, click Locate.

    Locate features

    The Locate pane appears. This pane, like the others, can be docked or positioned anywhere in the application for convenience. By default, it appears to the right of the project and may cover the Catalog pane. The Locate pane allows you to find places on the map using a keyword search.

  14. In the Locate pane, search for Rondonia.

    Several results appear, and the map zooms to the Brazilian state of Rondônia.

    Locate the state of Rondônia

  15. Close the Locate pane.
  16. On the Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the project, click Save.

Organize and symbolize data

Currently, you can't see the basemap under the Brazilian States layer. You'll change the layer's symbology to better see your layers. You'll also organize the layers in the Contents pane. The Contents pane lists all layers in the map. It also shows the layer's symbology and any groups that organize the layers. 

  1. In the Contents pane, right-click Brazilian States and click Symbology.

    Layer symbology

    The Symbology pane opens. Symbology refers to the way each layer appears on the map. You can update the Primary Symbology method, as well as change colors, shapes, sizes, rotation, and so on.

  2. In the Symbology pane, for Symbol, click the color box.

    Symbol box

    The Symbol gallery opens. These are commonly used default symbols that you can apply to layers. You can choose a symbol from the gallery and still change any of its characteristics if you choose.

  3. In the Gallery, click the second option, Black Outline (2pt).

    The Brazilian states are now shown with just a black outline. The dark color is difficult to see against the basemap, so you'll change it to a lighter color.

  4. At the top of the pane, next to Gallery, click Properties. On the Properties tab, expand Appearance.

    Layer appearance

  5. For Outline Color, click the color menu and choose Lilac Dust.

    Lilac Dust


    Hover over colors to show names.

  6. Click Apply to update the symbol.

    The states are now shown in a light purple shade that stands out against the Imagery basemap. Now, you'll add more data.

  7. On the ribbon, click the View tab. In the Windows group, click Catalog Pane.

    Open the Catalog Pane

    Earlier, you saw the Catalog View. This pane allows you to browse your data in a similar way while also giving you the option to drag layers onto the map. The Catalog View is better to use if you want to view metadata, preview the dataset, and so on.

  8. In the Catalog pane, right-click Databases and choose Add Database.

    Add Database

  9. In the Select Existing Geodatabase window, browse to the data you unzipped and choose Rondonia.gdb. Click OK.

    Geographic data, such as your lesson data, is most efficiently stored and managed in geodatabases. These formats don't have the limitations of shapefiles, which can easily be corrupted. Geodatabases can easily be compressed, and can have spatial and attribute validation applied to the features within.

  10. In the Catalog pane, expand Databases.

    There are two geodatabases in the Databases folder. The one titled Rondonia Deforestation.gdb is a default geodatabase created when you made the project. This geodatabase will store and manage all project-specific data sources and products, unless you specify otherwise. The second geodatabase is the one you just added.

  11. Right-click Rondonia.gdb and choose Make Default.

    Rondonia.gdb is marked with a home icon. By making it the default geodatabase, you're specifying that any data you create is saved here.

  12. Expand Rondonia.gdb.

    Rondonia geodatabase

    The geodatabase contains four feature classes and one raster dataset, which can be added to the map as layers. You'll learn more about raster datasets later. A feature class is a storage structure that stores and manages the geometry and attributes of spatial features. The collection of polygons representing Brazilian states is an example of a feature class, as is the line features that make up the roads. The term layer refers to a map representation of data, while feature class refers to the file-based data itself. Feature classes store three main data types: point, line, and polygon.

Add and symbolize the Roads layer

Next, you'll add a layer of roads. There are two main types of roads in Rondônia: official roads, built by or with the permission of the government, and unofficial roads, built independently of the government. Because your ultimate goal is to determine the potential deforestation caused by a proposed road, looking at existing roads is vital to your final analysis.

  1. In the Catalog pane, click Roads and drag it onto the map.

    Roads layer

    The Roads layer is added to the map.


    When you add a layer from a geodatabase, it has random default symbology. The appearance of your Roads layer may vary from the example images.

    The Roads layer contains a dense network of roads that covers most of the state. The layer doesn't extend past the Amazon Ecoregion boundary.

  2. On the ribbon, click the Map tab. In the Selection group, click Select By Attributes.

    Select by Attributes

    The Select Layer By Attribute tool opens in the Geoprocessing pane. This tool lets you build a logical expression to determine the features that will be selected from the specified layer.

  3. In the Geoprocessing pane, for Input Rows, make sure Roads is selected.

    Select from roads layer

  4. If necessary, for Selection Type, click the drop-down arrow and choose New Selection.
  5. Under Expression, click New expression.
  6. In the query builder, click the first box, which currently shows the default attribute, OBJECTID. In the list of attributes, click Status.

    The first box specifies which data field you want to use. The second box contains a logical operator, such as is equal to.

  7. In the last box, expand the options and choose Official.

    Expression builder

    When set to Values, as the box currently is, it will list the data values that the field contains.

  8. Click the green check mark to validate the expression.

    Validating the expression makes sure it's a valid SQL query.

  9. Click Run.

    Select official roads

    Official roads appear to connect municipalities and facilitate travel between population centers. Although they mostly appear in deforested areas, deforestation does not solely occur in places where there are official roads. There appear to be significantly fewer official roads than unofficial roads.

    The ability to see official roads independent of the total road network is useful reference information. However, a selection is not permanent and will be erased if you make another selection or deselect the features. To prevent this, you'll make a new layer based on the selection.

  10. In the Contents pane, right-click Roads, point to Data, and choose Export Features.

    Export selected features

    The Feature Class to Feature Class tool opens in the Geoprocessing pane.

  11. In the Geoprocessing pane, for Output Feature Class, type Official_Roads.

    Because you set Rondonia.gdb as the default geodatabase earlier, the Official_Roads layer will be saved there.

  12. Click Run.

    The new layer is added to the Contents pane. It is also drawn on the map, but it may be hidden under the selection. It may also be the same color as the original feature class.

  13. On the ribbon, in the Selection group, click Clear.

    Clear selection

  14. If necessary, drag Official_Roads and above Roads.

    Reordering layers changes the order in which they are drawn on the map. The first layers listed under Drawing Order are shown on top of the layers listed below them.

  15. In the Contents pane, click the Official_Roads line symbol.

    The Symbology pane opens to the Official_Roads layer.

  16. In the Symbology pane, click the Gallery tab and choose the first symbol for Minor Road.

    Minor road symbol

    On the map, the official roads layer is drawn in white.

    Official roads

  17. In the Contents pane, click Official_Roads two times to make the name editable. Rename the layer Official Roads (without the underscore).

    Lastly, you'll change the symbology of the original Roads layer.

  18. Click the Roads symbol. In the Symbology pane, click the Properties tab.
  19. For Color, expand the color menu and choose Aster Purple and click Apply.

    Aster purple road color

    This color purple is a good contrast from both the Imagery basemap and the official roads.

  20. On the Quick Access Toolbar, click the Save button.

    Save the project

In this lesson, you started a new map and added boundary layers to locate your study area. You added layers of infrastructure that will be important for analysis and general map information. In the next lesson, you'll take a closer look at the relationship between deforestation and roads to find a pattern you can apply to the proposed road.