I am mapping research data on ~5-hectare plots on steep terrain. The lead scientist has pointed out that our lovely GPS data does a great job of putting our data on a map, but what he needs to know/see is the distance over the ground between our data points, the way a mouse or other ground animal would see the world.
I'm not sure how to approach this, as I have worked entirely in normal, bird's-eye mapping. I don't think GIS can unhook from real geographic locations and warp the data so that ground distances are shown. Is this correct?
My current idea is to use 3D Analyst to generate over-terrain distances between points using the best DEM-generated elevation data I can find, export that into... Excel? and do a basic grid of the research elements. I realize this is cartographically neanderthal, but I'm an extreme newbie. Does this make sense? Is there a better way to do this?
The tools we have in hand are GIS ArcInfo 9.3 and any free or very low-cost software that may help. Any advice or input would be gratefully accepted.
CIES, Millbrook, NY
-draft of plot elements attached