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’.

Drones

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 dms-usa.maps.arcgis.com). 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!

screenshot2

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:

GriffinMap

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.

FoGR

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

AAG

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?

GIS DAY

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!

What’s that thing in the sky?

Is it a bird? A plane? A rocket?

No – it’s a drone.

From Wikipedia

Welcome to the world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV for short) or unmanned aerial systems (UAS – preferred by government).

A little scary, isn’t it? I mean look at that thing – it’s got a camera and can literally go anywhere.

Well, technically, not anywhere. The U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has applied several restrictions for hobby users and will consider commercial use of a drone on a case-by-case basis. There’s a lot of unknowns about regulation of drones at the moment, but one thing is for sure – people are using them.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending CalGIS 2015 in Sacramento, California. I went to one of the all-day preliminary sessions specifically on UAVs and UASs. Many UAV vendors were anxious to show off their wares and tell us all about what cool things their drones could do for both large and small business.

I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker.

Honestly, I want one. I’ve wanted one for a while now, ever since I saw this video:

I’m not a marine biologist, but like many of us, I am enamored with marine creatures and the footage above inspired me. Wouldn’t it be great if I could use a drone to inspect vegetation condition on a project or monitor potential wildlife habitat without disturbing the critters?

So, I’ve been on the look out for drones. I’ve been following their development and the FAA rulings, and when I saw there was a whole day of presentations just on drones at this year’s CalGIS, I knew I had to go.

I’m glad I did, because I found out three important things:

  1. There are here, folks. Commercially available drones can be bought and used today. Check out companies like 3DR.
  2. No one likes a drone invading their privacy.
  3. And safety cannot be overstated. Rest assured, you do not want to be the one to take down a small-engine plane when your drone gets sucked into their engine or propeller.

While I’m not quite ready to go out and buy one (yet), I will be approaching companies like GeoWing Mapping and Airphrame on how best I could start using UAV technology to provide my customers the most detailed and up-to-date map products available today.

 

The Fourth Part of the World

Today’s post will be a departure from my usual content. Below, I offer a book review on an historical map. While it may not seem relevant, I believe history is important, and history about maps even more so. Read on to learn more about the map that named half of the world.

FP

The Fourth Part of the World, The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map that Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester

The Fourth Part (my abbreviation for that long title) is a hefty tome.  At 462 pages (hardback edition – yes, it’s worth it), including an index and notes, one might think a book so long about one map would be a slog to get through. But Toby Lester easily engages the reader by bringing the European Middle Ages to life.

The author starts the book with a preface that details why he started on a quest to research the Waldseemuller world map of 1507.

$10 million.  (It’s always about money, isn’t it?)

In 2003, the Library of Congress had just purchased the Waldseemuller map for $10 million dollars, 2 million more than the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. This fact piqued Toby Lester’s interest and six years later, he produced The Fourth Part.

The Fourth Part is divided into three parts: Part One, Old World; Part Two, New World; and Part Three, The Whole World. It also includes a Prologue, Epilogue, and an Appendix along with Notes and an Index.

Part One – Old World

In this section, Mr. Lester delves into the mindset of the early Medieval scholar. Their religious view of the world told them that the world consisted of three parts only – Asia, Africa, and Europe. They based much of their geographic knowledge of the world on what the Bible taught or alluded to. This lead to representations of the world that were rather limited and did not take into account knowledge gathered outside of their religious texts. However, just because those religious scholars might not have wanted to know anything beyond the bounds of the world set out in their religious texts, the world has a way of making itself known.

In the mid 13th century, the Great Khan Guyuk (widely known as Genphis Khan) announced to the western world (Europe):

Through the power of God all empires from sunrise to sunset have been given to us, and we own them.

What a surprising and frightening proclamation! Ultimately, the Mongol empire building efforts, along with the numerous Crusades to win back Jerusalem, led to more geographic information circulating among the European scholars.

Monks were sent to parley and Christianize the Mongols. Though they did not succeed in that venture, they did bring back cultural and geographical details that helped flesh out European’s sense of the world. Still, their view of the world consisted of T-O maps and mappamundi – rather poor representations of the world that excluded at least half of it.

It’s easy for us to look back and scoff at the inadequate maps that were produced in Europe before the 14th century. It’s easy to forget that most people were illiterate. Merchants and travelers didn’t have the benefit of a travel guide, nor were they able to produce one with their own knowledge because they didn’t have the skills or means to do so. What geographic information they gathered, it mostly stayed int heir heads.

The Christian monks that produced maps and cosmology (geography) texts at the time worked with the best knowledge available to them, but they were bereft of the great secular knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Roman Latins. Much of their knowledge of the world’s geography was more accurate, but it was lost to Europe’s Catholics (who were the keeper of knowledge at that time).

Example of a mappamundi. Click on the image above to see more.

Part Two – New World

In this section, the author chronicles the efforts of the great Genoese and Florentine mariners at rediscovering the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the 14th century, surprisingly detailed and accurate marine charts of Europe and North Africa emerged. Europeans also rediscovered Ptolemy and other Greek texts that helped piece the larger world together. With Portugal and Spain’s drive to reach India (as their overland routes were hampered by the Muslims taking control over the entire Middle East), maps of the known world were improved, and the thought of sailing west gripped explorers. So they did.

Part Two is the largest section in The Fourth Part, and contain the most fascinating tales. Any summary of mine will do it injustice. So, I’ll leave you with this quote from the book:

Just as one thing leads to another and starts a train of thought, while he was in Portugal [my father] began to speculate that just as the Portuguese had sailed so far south, it should be possible to sail as far west, and to find land in that direction. – Ferdinand Columbus (circa 1538)

This was the great age of discovery. When maps and the information they held started and decided wars, when the slave trade fed European’s insatiable hunger for more goods, and when there was a rivalry between nations at a fervor. It was only a matter of time before something earth-shattering would happen.

Part Three – The Whole World

The last part of the book, Mr. Lester explains how Walter Lud, Matthias Ringmann, and Martin Waldseemuller, all cartographers, came across one of Amerigo Vespucci’s letters that detailed his explorations of the New World. Though that letter was a fake, the three scholars and map makers didn’t know that at the time. They took it, and the information it offered, at face value. Together they created a “curious little book” titled Cosmographiae introductio (1507). This little book included a huge map (the largest known map to have been produced at the time), and it just so happened to haphazardly name the New World – America.

What struck me most while reading The Fourth Part is how religion has played such a huge role in our political, social, and geographic history. Of course, I already knew that. Anyone with any sort of education can see religion’s stamp on just about everything, but the author presents the motives (both religious and otherwise) behind the map makers and explorers in a manner that drives that fact home.

Conclusion? I can’t recommend this book enough. If you want a well-researched, yet concise, summary of the events that led up to the discovery of the New World – the fourth part of the world – then this is the perfect book for you. If you have any interest in history and/or maps, this is also a must read.