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Mapping it out

Volume 7 Number 6 June 5 - July 10 2011

Chandra Jayasuriya, the University’s Cartographer. Photo: Dave Tacon
Chandra Jayasuriya, the University’s Cartographer. Photo: Dave Tacon

Chandra Jayasuriya, the University’s Cartographer, based in the Department of Resource Management and Geography, traces the path from pen and ink to computer imaging in her craft which she has practised for more than twenty years at the University.


As the only cartographer in the university and serving a wide range of clients, my work is very diverse and ranges from relatively straightforward figures, diagrams and graphs to production of detailed and specialised maps.

Each job I do is unique, being drawn according to customer specifications. My recent maps include geological maps; hydrological maps; maps showing changes in international boundaries; maps of communal lands owned by indigenous communities in various countries, including Australia; maps showing distribution of various mental health services in Victoria; historical maps of some old Chinese cities; maps of archaeological sites; and agro-climatic and land use maps.

Some of the mapping work requires substantial research, including use of archival material from libraries and other sources while other maps are generated from field notes and sketches.

I have produced maps and diagrams of various archaeological dig sites in North eastern Anatolia – Turkey, Syria and Georgia, utilising detailed field level primary data. At the invitation of Professor Tony Sagona, in 2005 I participated in the initial site reconnaissance of an archaeological site in Mtskheta north of Tbilisi, Georgia, to gain firsthand knowledge of the location, which helped me produce a series of maps which were subsequently published.

When I joined the University in 1988, all my work was done manually. It was basically pen and ink work on drafting film.

This has totally changed and now everything I do is computer-based. This change from conventional cartography to digital cartography was necessary to keep up with technology.

I currently use a range of computer software such as ArcGIS, MapInfo and Illustrator, which enables data to be converted into a number of forms - in both colour and black and white - ready for publications, theses and/or presentations including maps, diagrams, web-published maps and interactive web maps. I keep in touch with availability of new software and techniques and update the programmes as necessary.

I am located in the Melbourne School of Land and Environment (MSLE), Department of Resource Management and Geography. My main responsibilities are, first, to provide high quality cartographic and drafting work and appropriate advice and guidance for such work, particularly for research publications and theses, for MSLE staff and students; and second, the maintenance of the specialised map collection in the Department of Resource Management and Geography.

Currently, one of my priority responsibilities is to provide cartographic assistance to a major project, “The Farms, Rivers and Markets Project’, in the faculty – http://www.frm.unimelb.edu.au/default.htm – for which I will prepare a series of maps using GIS data for project reports, journal articles and presentations.

While my direct responsibilities relate to staff and students in the MSLE, I also do a lot of work for other academics in the university because of increased demand for cartographic work, with the stronger emphasis on research publications. My recent clients have included academics/researchers from the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, School of Earth Sciences, Graduate School of Education, Asia Institute, Languages and Linguistics, Architecture, Building and Planning, School of Historical Studies, Civil Engineering, Melbourne University Publishing (MUP) and Ian Potter Museum of Art in our university. Occasionally I work for non-University clients (when time permits) and recently I have done cartographic work for academics in Deakin and La Trobe Universities and also for the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Victoria.

Before coming to the University I worked as a cartographer in the Drawing Office, Division of Land Use Research, CSIRO, Canberra from 1972-78 and again, from 1982-88. I moved to Melbourne in 1988 and joined the (then) Department of Geography as Cartographer in June 1988 and have been here from then.

I am a member of the Spatial Sciences Institute of Australia – the professional body - and the Australian and New Zealand Map Society and regularly participate in their conferences and other professional activities. I am also a cartography editor of The Journal of Maps, an international journal for which I undertake reviews of the quality of submitted cartographic material, and a member of the University map library Users Group.

Staff who need to get any cartographic work done can find my details and samples of my work on the web (http://www.landfood.unimelb.edu.au/research/cartographic.html).