If you hang out on LinkedIn or any other social media platform, you’ve seen them: infographics – an amalgamation of graphics and text that tells a story or delivers a witty message.

Here’s one you might mistaken for a map:

Boulder is for Fun Map/Infographic

This example definitely tends more towards an infographic rather than a map:

Benefits of Regulated Marijuana

As a GIS Specialist, I don’t often think of my maps as “infographics”, but, essentially, that’s what they are. If I am more careful with my map designs, I might be able to convey more information than just want’s on the map.

Recently, I needed a map to convey the evolution of national and local fire planning policies and plans. Rather than try to color-code temporal data on a single map, I created a timeline:

While simple and not as elegant as the previous examples, it conveys some dense information clearly.

Conference Season!

Most years, I usually watch the conference season from afar.

But this year I get to join in the fun. Below are the two I shall be attending. How about you?

CalGIS/LocationCon 2017

  • May 22 – 24, 2017
  • Oakland, California

This year’s theme is “Building Bridges” and is co-hosted by CalGIS (URISA) and LocationTech. This year’s conference will host a diverse schedule and attendees. The CalGIS community tend to represent GIS best practices in government, non-profit, education and consulting in California. The LocationTech community represents folk who develop advanced location aware technologies via collaboration with commercially-friendly open source software.

This conference will meld the “old” with the “new”. I’m excited about learning more. The three-days are packed with lots of talks, sessions, and trainings.

ESRI’s UC in San Diego

  • July 10 – 14, 2017
  • San Diego, California

ESRI’s User Conference (UC) is probably the largest gathering of GIS professionals anywhere in the United States. The last one I went to was over 10 years ago.

This year’s UC boasts over 300 hours of moderated sessions and over 450 hours of training.


I won’t be able to attend all five days of the conference, but I do intend to be there for the bulk of the week and learn as much as I can from my peers and industry professionals.

I’ll report back on each. Until then, enjoy all the opportunities to travel.

Nor Cal Rx Fire Council Annual Meeting – 2017

It’s that time of year again! Local firebugs are congregating in Petaluma, California.

March 7-8, 2017

Lucchesi Park Community Center, Petaluma, CA

I’ll be there, will you?

Check out the particulars here.

The organizers have a full agenda with some amazing speakers lined up. Carl Skinner (USFS, retired) will talk about historical fire regime shifts; Christine Olsen from the Oregon State University will clue us all in on what the public really think about smoke from Rx fires; and Sasha Berleman will highlight some local resources folks here in the North Bay can utilize for cooperative burns. There are more speakers, but those are the three I’m looking forward to hearing from.

Don’t forget to register here.

See you there!

Living Atlas

Late last year, I attended one of ESRI’s webinars about their relatively new data product: Living Atlas (click on the link to access the archived recording).

It be honest, I’m not exactly sure how it is different from all the other online content they provide. However, during the webinar, they promised more precise (and better) aerial imagery. They called it DigitalGlobe Basemap +Vivid.

I haven’t seen that data product – yet. I imagine it will be folded into their World Imagery layer?

Regardless, the webinar did remind me of all the great content available on ESRI ArcGIS Online. While some data layers are suspect and should be avoided, those from trusted sources with complete metadata provide easy access to information I would otherwise have to go hunting for from original sources.

If you are like me, often you just need a reference layer to orient yourself to a place or discover things nearby. Adding layers from ArcGIS Online to my desktop working document can help with that process.

To learn more about all the data ESRI offers online, click on the picture below.

What happened to 2016?

My last post was almost a year ago. What happened to 2016? It went by in a flash.

Regardless of how much I’ve neglected my website this past year, I thought I’d take this opportunity to update it with… stuff.

GIS/Software Advancements… or not

ESRI continues to lead in the desktop-GIS environment. As much as QGIS remains the go-to open source alternative, ArcMap along with ArcGIS Pro, remain the industry standard for government and private use. No matter how much folks would like to disrupt the status quo, that’s pretty much what we have to look forward to in 2017.

Web Mapping

Just about EVERYONE is jumping on the web mapping bandwagon. In addition to ESRI’s ArcGIS Online services, there are a host of other companies offering the same (and sometimes better) web mapping services. This past year I tried Carto (was CartoDB). You can check out my public profile here. I haven’t added very much; just a couple of boundary layers. I can say that the interface is very easy to use and the base maps as accurate as Google Maps. The free account version automatically makes all your data and maps public. One aspect of web mapping that I like is that many of the services have tools to help you interpret your data and not just symbolize it. It is definitely taking GIS to ‘the masses’.


To drone or not to drone… that was the big question for 2016. And while many folks have purchased a drone (they are nifty), they are not as ubiquitous as we all thought they would be by now. One of the biggest draw backs of owning a drone is what to do with all that data. Software to accurately process all the imagery can be expensive. While there are many applications where drone surveys are reducing costs, if you aren’t just going out to make a quick movie, gathering data via a drone can end up being more complicated and costly than you might expect.

And the commercial use of drones is still not without controversy. The new FAA rules (effective August 29th, 2016) mandates some limitations that might make gathering the super accurate data you were after a little more difficult.

Women in GIS

My colleagues and I continue to bring together women working in the field of GIS and geospatial industries. Recently, we’ve had an influx of interest to pursue our causes. Together, we came up with this cool graphic to show what Women in GIS means to us. Check it out:

As a fund-raising effort, we hope to have products emblazoned with this graphic in time for the 2017 conference season.

Cool Map

Throughout the year, I am exposed to some pretty nifty maps. Some are static maps, while others are interactive (in real life!).

Here’s one that I thought worth sharing:

An Atlas of Electricity

Until next time, enjoy the end-of-year festivities and may 2017 bring you contentment and success.


Women in GIS

Last year, I joined Women in GIS, an advocacy group geared towards helping women and minorities navigate their careers in geospatial industries.

Actually, it is more accurate to say that I got (willingly) sucked into an administrative role with the organization. I’m managing their website and I’ve conducted a few interviews. While we don’t have a lot of content on the site – yet – I have high hopes. Right now, a group of women are working hard to develop an organization that will be useful to their members and inspiring for an entire field.

However, we are just a bunch of volunteers. We don’t exactly have a mission other than to network and support each other. Kind of like a big, global therapy group. Sometimes, I wonder if Women in GIS is even needed.

So…why are we form a group?

Good question

Like many tech oriented fields, women tend to get marginalized where men have traditionally dominated.

GIS – Geographic Information Systems – is a field born from the proliferation of computers. In 1962, Roger Tomlinson, often touted as the father of GIS, began the first steps of cataloging natural resources in Canada. In doing so, he created the first GIS.

It is important to note that GIS has a father, but not a mother. Why is that?

In the 1960s, though women were starting to make strides, only 38% of us went to work and we traditionally occupied positions less cerebral than men. Many of us working at that time just didn’t hold the kind of jobs that would put us in place to do the kind of work to develop an entirely new computer system. It wasn’t just that we weren’t working, but we weren’t professors, surveyors, or engineers.

By 2004, women accounted for 60% of the labor market, and we started holding more tech-oriented, managerial, and professional positions.

Woohoo! Good for us, but last year, in California, Governor Brown did something astounding. He passed a law prohibiting employers from forbidding their workers to compare wages and the law also required equal pay for similar work regardless of gender.

Let’s back up a bit and think about that.

In the year 2015, just about 100 years after the women’s suffrage movement started in United States, a governor of one of the largest states in said union had to pass a law to ensure women were compensated equally for their work.

We should be embarrassed. After so many years of fighting for equal rights in the work force, women shouldn’t still have to be protected by a law. It should be standard business practice.

But it is not just about equal pay. It’s also about who is doing the work. Women remain under-represented in the information technology industry. Just take a look at this handy graphic put together by National Center for Women and Information Technology:

btn_04032015_webWhile women make up more than 50% of the educated work force, we hold less than 30% of the jobs in computing. The numbers get worse the higher you go up the corporate ladder, with only 6% of Chief Information Officer positions being held by women.

As an Hispanic woman, I’m especially appalled by the last statistic on this graphic: Only 1% of the computing workforce are Hispanic women.

One percent!

There is no reason other than sexism and racism (either overt or unintentional) for these numbers to exist. While I like to think we are all playing on the same field, with the same resources, and similar connections, we are not.

One is a lonely number

So, why form a group advocating for women and minority voices in GIS?

Because if we don’t, our voices will not be heard. Like other tech-oriented industries, GIS relies heavily on computers and it is easy to not see us. Anyone working in GIS is somewhat annoymous. Though metadata helps to attribute data to individual GIS professionals, industry maps rarely attributed to their creator. It is not easy for a girl, trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, to see us – to see women in GIS and geospatial roles. They see women as models, actresses, waitresses, nurses, but when are they going to see a female GIS professional? Unless we go out and actively recruit young women and minorities, our industry will remain white, male-dominated.

So, let’s stand together and be seen. Join me in bringing the world to every girl’s attention.

2015 in Review

The new year is only a couple of days away, and I thought it would be a good idea to review all the projects I worked on in 2015.

But instead of doing an article here, I utilized ESRI’s Story Map templates to walk you through all the places I’ve have the opportunity to work in.

To be honest, I didn’t go to all the places listed in my story map. For most, I simply created maps from the comfort of my home office. But I had the chance to visit Ethiopia (twice), Kenya, and Chile this year. And though it wasn’t for work, my husband and I visited Pacific City, Oregon as well.

How I Did It

In case you were wondering, utilizing ESRI’s Story Maps is fairly simply, but it does require an ESRI ArcGIS Online account. If you don’t have one, you can’t do it. But if you do, in a nutshell, here are the steps involved in creating an interactive story map:

  1. Log on to your ESRI ArcGIS Online account and create a new map. Choose a base map that best works with the data you intend to upload. For example, earlier this year, I created a Censorship on the Internet Story Map. Because of the “dark” subject matter, I went with the ESRI’s Dark Gray Canvas. It features white labels over gray continents on near black seas.
  2. Next, upload your data. You can upload a geodatabase or shapefiles, but your shapefiles will need to be in a zipped folder.
  3. Once the data is loaded, you’ll have to symbolize and configure any data pop-ups. ESRI makes this fairly simple, but if you don’t get it right the first time, you can always change the layer parameters by hovering on the layer name. When the edit icons appear, choose among them to change the symbology or functionality.
  4. If you are happy with how your map looks and functions, the next step is to save the map (title it, add tags, and describe the map) and set the sharing option to public.
  5. To create a Web Map, you can do this several ways and you can even create a Web Application (similar, but different). But for now, let’s keep it simple. With my project story map, I decided to host this on ESRI’s account server (my address is I also decided I wanted a simple Story Map that just walks people through the various projects I worked on for each month of 2015. Here are the steps I went through to create my story map:
  6. From the My Contents page, click on the ‘Create’ drop-down arrow, then click on ‘Apps’, and then finally on ‘Using a Template’.
  7. A pop-up window will appear called ‘Create a New Web App’ and it asks you “What do you want to do?” Below that, click on ‘Build a Story Map’.
  8. There are several option here. I went with the Story Map Journal because I like how it combines text, images, and the map in a vertical scroll. I could have went with the Story Map Tour, but I don’t have images for each of my projects other than the maps I created themselves, which I don’t want to share (because of client confidentiality concerns).
  9. Once you click on the template you want to use, you have a choice. You can either host it on ESRI’s server – the ‘CREATE APP’ option – or ‘DOWNLOAD’ the template html and javascript files and host it on your own server. I’ve done it both ways. Each is fairly simple to use, however, I like hosting it on my ESRI online account because then I can manage all my web maps via one interface (rather than keep track of the backend stuff on my server). So, for this exercise, I chose to ‘CREATE APP’.
  10. Fill in the title, tags (these help folks find your map), a summary of what your map conveys, and then specify where you want to save it (depending on how you have your account organized, just use the default account folder). You can use the same info you entered when you created your online map above.
  11. Once you click ‘DONE’, you are taken to the online Map Builder. Depending on which template you chose, you’ll be presented with several options. From here on out, it is fairly intuitive, but can get complicated. This is your chance to create your masterpiece! Take your time and utilize photos. You can save your work any time and no one sees anything until you make it public. For this story map, I went with a Floating Panel, I chose to use the online map I created above as my “main stage content”, and I customized each location based on the month I completed a project. Then I added text and pictures in the side panel. Alternatively, you can start out with an image or video. Get creative and make a story map that entices and intrigues by, well, telling a story!


Click through to visit the interactive map. You’ll get a chance to virtually travel the world with me.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

GIS Day 2015

A year has flow by, my friends, and GIS Day will soon be upon us.

Are you ready?

On November 18th, 2015, come join us at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa, CA for some map fun and spatial discussion. The North Bay GIS User Group GIS Day activities start at 9am and continue to 3pm. It’s a full day of presentations, exhibits, and virtual/real map exploration. There’s always something new to learn and discover.

If you register for the event early, you’ll be entered into a drawing for this cool poster from Griffin Map Design:


Or you just might win a virtual training course or a Sonoma County park pass (indispensable if you have a dog) or a 360Geographics trail map! I don’t think too may folks pre-register, so the odds are in your favor.

Hope to see you there!

Show Off

I don’t often get a chance to showcase my work.

As a consultant, much of what I do is confidential. However, at times, I get the opportunity to work for a non-profit or on a public project, and that means I can share.


Recently, I was approached by Friends of the Gualala River (FoGR), to create a few maps of the planned timber harvests adjacent to the river in northern Sonoma County, California. The challenge was to quickly and effectively show the currently planned logging areas with those that had been conducted in prior years.

The maps that accompanied the timber harvest plans looked something like this:

Portion of original timber harvest plan map (courtesy of CDF, 2014).
Portion of original timber harvest plan map (courtesy of CDF, 2014).

Serviceable, for sure, but the maps had a lot of data, were very hard to read, and it was difficult to determine context.

So, I was asked to take just a few key components of the map, and create something more visually appealing, and give a better sense of where the units were in relation to a seaside community and adjacent parks.

Here’s the result (you can click on it for a bigger version):

Created for FoGR, DMS, 2015.
Created for FoGR, DMS, 2015.

To be fair, I didn’t have to include as much information as the original map. The focus was to highlight the adjacent community and provide an aerial for context. Everything else was disregarded. I think it looks alright. What do you think? What would you have done differently?

To see more, visit FoGR’s post on the project.

Airports and Trails

Another project I recently got a chance to work on were the trail development options at the Truckee Airport District in Truckee, California.

Truckee Airport Trail Option map, DMS, 2015.
Truckee Airport Trail Option map, DMS, 2015.

The goal of this map was to show the trail development options in relation to the surrounding trail system and possible connection points.

Neither of these project were technically challenging, but it was nice to just create something that met my clients’ needs and I could share.

Story Maps for All

While I appreciate a well-designed paper map, there’s no denying that most folks hangout in the internet more often than not and rarely do we print stuff out anymore. So, why not do the same for our maps?

For the two projects above, I create two simple ESRI Story Maps:

  1. Gualala River – Proposed Timber Harvest Plans
  2. Truckee Airport District Trail Development Options

Story maps are interactive maps that use narrative (and sometimes pictures) along with a map to highlight a problem or solution. While I didn’t use the Story Maps to their full-potential, I hope from these simple examples you can get a glimpse of their potential.

If you would like to see more cool maps, check out the Interactive Web Maps link list to the right (if you’re on a desktop) or scroll down to the bottom of the page (if you’re mobile).

Geographers on the Bay


I have always wanted to go to an Association of American Geographers annual meeting. While a long time member, I don’t participate much in the organization, but going to one of the meetings has always intrigued me.

In my mind, I imagine the meetings filled with astute professors, students, and professionals discussing all the latest findings in geography and related fields. For some reason, in my head, they are all smarter than I am. If I were to insinuate myself into their ranks, they would  discover I’m not a real geographer and kick me out. What a nightmare, huh?

Because the meetings have been held on the east coast lately, I’ve been able to indulge my (ahem) strange fantasy.

In 2016, I have no such excuse (fear?) to keep me from going!

From AAG's 2016 annual meeting announcement.
From AAG’s 2016 annual meeting announcement.

The next AAG annual meeting is in San Francisco, just a stone’s throw (okay, a bit more than that, but you get the idea) away from me. It will be held from March 29th to April 2nd, 2016. I plan on registering. Will you?


Just a friendly reminder: GIS Day 2015 is rapidly approaching. On November 18th, 2015, the North Bay GIS User Group will again be hosting an education-filled day with geographic activities for school kids, a map poster contest for students, and presentations for adults. Join us for the entire day or just come for the swag (there might be t-shirts this year).

Did I mention it’s free?

Save the date and come join us at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa!