Private Sector

Day of Geography – Week of Events!

I can’t begin to describe how happy I am that more people continue to contribute to the Day of Geography site. It’s a labour of love and a bit of a challenge to put this all together but the amount of information that students around the world can access continues to grow.

My day this year begins at my “day job” as a Planning and GIS Data Administrator at the Niagara Region in the Long Range Planning Department of the Planning and Development Services Division. While there I’m responsible for the maintenance and updates of the iDARTS program. That is, the interactive development application retrieval and tracking system. Basically it’s a GIS that attaches planning applications to the parcel(s) of land they apply to. These can include Official Plan amendments, Zoning Bylaw applications, Subdivision/Condominium applications among others.

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This is not all I do however, I’m also the Founder and Executive Director of Geospatial Niagara and the caretaker as it were of this here “Day of Geography” initiative along with some other volunteers of Geospatial Niagara – namely Ashley and Matt.

This year, my day with Geospatial Niagara consisted of taking part in a panel discussion called Community Connects for the Brock University Co-op program. This particular panel is about careers in geography, developing interview skills, networking skills and in general promoting the geospatial technologies and information sector, especially as it relates to the growing sector in Niagara. After the presentation, I need to return to work and pick up where I left off.

In the evening, I need to put the finishing touches on my presentation to a class of Grade 10 students at Sir Winston Secondary School in St. Catharines. The organization Business Education Council of Niagara has a program that receives requests from teachers throughout Niagara for people and organizations to participate in discussions with high school students about career/educational opportunities. No surprise, I’m doing a talk about careers in Geography. It’ll be a year to the day, since the last time I was there (incidentally on Day of Geography 2014). I’m sure there will be students that remember last years presentation!

Wednesday is GIS Day! Time to head over to Brock University to watch the ESRI scholarship presentations!

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On Wednesday evening, work continues to finalize discussion ideas for the Niagara Minecraft Project Educator Roundtable discussion on November 20 and the Niagara Minecraft student hackathon on November 21. The Niagara Minecraft Project began as a thesis project in the Niagara College GIS and Geospatial Management Program in the 2014-15 school year. The goal was to convert Niagara Region geospatial data (roads, hydrology and topography) into a 1:1 scale Minecraft map similar to those completed in England and Denmark. It was one of three projects sponsored by Geospatial Niagara. Recently due to the exposure that this project has garnered, Geospatial Niagara became part of ihub – Niagara’s Educational Research and Innovation hub as a portfolio company. This greatly increases our visibility and provides greater access to the schools that make up the District School Board of Niagara. The two events being held as part of the Niagara Minecraft Project will help us to engage those teachers that want to utilize Minecraft in their classrooms to provide their curriculum, and on the following day, allow kids to have fun and experiment with the full Niagara region Minecraft Map.

My work with Geospatial Niagara is a passion that I cannot put into words. I have a vision for what it can be and over the last two years, we’ve slowly built towards that vision bringing more volunteers into the fold. In 2014, we spoke with over 650 students ranging from Grades 2 all the way to Masters students. This year we’re on target to present to over 1000 people.

We have six student projects on the go this year – three of them are at Niagara College – The Niagara Minecraft 2.0 project, the Lincoln & Welland Regiment Interactive Geospatial Visualization project and the Niagara Hops Farm Site Suitability project and three of them are through the Brock University Honours Internship program. These include the Niagara Aspiring Geoparks Economic Study, an Active Transportation Mapping study and a Niagara Geographic Education study.

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Our treeOcode Niagara project really took off this year receiving a grant back in May from Evergreen that helped us out immensely. We’ve recently also started working with a community group to provide them geospatial services and consulting, this brings us out further into the community which is another mission of ours, promoting community participation through geography.

Studying geography opens your eyes to just how big yet how interdependent everything in our world is. Geography as a discipline has never been more important than it is right now. Most challenges we face in 2015-16 and far into the future, revolve around Geography. Working for or creating your own business no matter if it’s for profit or not for profit is incredibly rewarding – doing it as a geographer seems to make it even more fulfilling.

HAPPY DAY OF GEOGRAPHY EVERYONE!! Hope you’ve had an excellent GIS Day as well. Thank you to all who participated this year.

Mapping it Out: A Cartographer’s Journey

Although geographer is not something most kids dream about becoming, it is hard to find a geographer who is not completely enamored with their profession. My suspicion for the reason behind the love of career that most geo-spatial scientists have is that most of us have discovered the field of geography in an endeavor to comprehend an aspect of the world that we find particularly imperative or fascinating. Furthermore, in our pursuits to solve or better understand the mysteries that intrigue us, most of us have found the approach of geography to be, not just important, but necessary. Since it is more likely that a study’s data is spatial than not, it makes sense that understanding most data through a geo-spatial lens would become a rewarding quest. Thus was the path that led me to become a cartographer.

Telling NPS park visitors about the bats that call the North Cascades home.

Telling NPS park visitors about the bats that call the North Cascades home.

My undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology and secondary focus on geology served as a great background for my first job out of college as a park ranger for the North Cascades National Park. Many park scientists, such as Anne BraatenRoger Christophersen, and Jon Riedel and others were using GIS to understand the natural and cultural history of the North Cascades. This prompted me to enroll in the University of Wisconsin’s GIS program, which led to a summer of

mapping for the climbing department at Mount Rainier National Park and a permanent position with a small cartography firm in Bellingham, Washington, where I mapped for companies and agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and Green Trails. A strong desire to merge my cartographic skills with my human rights education from one of my very influential professors, Dr. Kathleen Young, prompted me to enroll in Western Washington Universitys M.S. in Geography program, where I studied and mapped the impact and application of education reform. Also having a passion for statistical analysis, I worked for the universitys Resilience Institute as a geo-statistical data visualization specialist under the guidance of Dr. Scott Miles, another influential person in my journey as a cartographer.

Taking GPS waypoints for mapping Goat Peak, in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Taking GPS waypoints for mapping Goat Peak, in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Upon graduating, I was hired by Esri’s Professional Services department, where I currently work as a cartographer and data visualization specialist and have helped start Esri’s Cartography Lab. This means that I get to work on a wide range of cartography and dataviz projects for customers. For example, while at the Cartography Lab I have mapped efforts ranging from ridding the ocean from plastic waste, to basketball arenas and a lot of other interesting cartography projects in between. I map for both print and the web. Currently, I am part of a team at Esri that is developing tools that will make it easier for cartographers like me to access data from the cloud using Illustrator and Photoshop. We were grateful for the opportunity to present our current prototype of this tool at the NACIS 2015 conference last month in Minneapolis.

The skills that I employ most frequently are equal parts statistical data analysis and visual design. In my time so far as a map maker, it is clear that meticulous focus on both of these sides of this balance is crucial to producing a high quality product. A rewarding part of ensuring good data design and visual design is drawing inspiration from previous successful mapping projects, which I seek daily.

I currently live in Bellingham, Washington, where I enjoy mapping my hiking and running activities.

Adventures in Ontario Archaeology

Hello There!

I’m Katie, a Heritage Cartographer for Archaeological Research Associates Ltd., but we are more commonly known in the industry as ‘ARA’. We are Ontario’s oldest archaeological and heritage consulting firm, and have been uncovering Ontario’s history since 1972.

ARA’s Archaeology Department is responsible for conducting all 4 Stages of archaeological assessments as regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. In addition to looking at cultural heritage resources below the ground in the Archaeology Department, ARAs Heritage Department looks at built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes. The long and short of all this means that there is no shortage of spatial data!

In a typical day I start with reviewing GPS points collected from our archaeological excavations. These points usually correspond to the locations of individual artifacts, boundaries of our assessments, topographic features and locations from which photographs were taken. This data is then presented in map layout or KMZ format for researchers, technical writers and project managers.

Much of the background research for archaeological and heritage assessments involves tracking down and manipulating historic maps like the ones pictured below.

Historic Atlases

My favourites are always the oldest maps – they are usually illustrated with colour and tiny people, buildings, animals and even vegetation. This snapshot of a Bird’s Eye Map shows all of these things!

Can you spot the horse and rider?
Birds Eye Figures

I have two really neat maps I’ve been working with lately, both from the City of Toronto Archives. One map is the Plan of Toronto Harbour by Joseph Bouchette that dates to 1792 and the other is the Plan of York by Lieutenant Philpotts of the Royal Engineers that dates to 1818! Check these two beauties out below. The Plan of Toronto Harbour has a delicately illustrated sailboat, and the Plan of York shows so much detail in the landscape, you can see the difference between grass, forest, swamp, orchard and gardens!

Plan of Toronto Harbour by Joseph Bouchette (1792)
(Click Image for Link to Source)
Plan of York

Plan of York by Lieutenant Philpotts of the Royal Engineers (1818)
(Click Image for Link to Source)
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Another source of historic map that is very important to both archaeology and heritage, are Fire Insurance Plans. Geo-referencing these plans allows us to map building footprints and materials through time. The legend below is an example of how much detail can be included in these types of maps.

FIP Legend

Due to archaeological site protection protocols, I can’t share much about the archaeological work I do, but I did have the opportunity to work with the Kitchener Public Library this past year to create the “Local Aboriginal History and Culture Bike Tour”. In honour of Aboriginal Month (June) in Canada, the Library made this guide available online and in its main branch, and held guided tours through-out the month. It was a great experience and a fantastic way to bring together archaeology, cultural heritage and public outreach.

Local Aboriginal History and Culture Bike Tour

Have a question or want to learn more about ARA? Follow us on Social Media!

For all things archaeology, cultural heritage and ARA please follow along on our Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/ArchaeologicalResearchAssociates); Twitter profiles @ArchResearch and @ARAHeritage and to further fuel your Pinterest obsession you can find us at www.pinterest.com/araarchaeology and www.pinterest.com/araheritage.

The best thing about the geospatial world

One of the great things about the geospatial world is the variety. Anything that can be related to a location is spatial (and when you think about it, that’s almost everything), which means that there’s practically no limit to the opportunities. Science, business, economics, government, politics, engineering and more are fields that make more and more use of geomatics. With geography, you can work in government; you can work in the private sector; you can work in academia. It can be the focus of your career or it can be a complementary tool. You can spend most of your time outdoors or all of it in an office. There’s a technical side to it and there’s a creative side. In my geomatics career, I’ve experienced most of the above and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chris Beasy, Senior GIS Project Manager

Chartwell Consultants Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia

The day and life of a GIS/Data Management Specialist at MMM Group Limited

MMM Group Limited (www.mmmgrouplimited.com) is an Canadian employee owned engineering consulting firm servicing our clients in the Transportation, order Environmental, Civil, Geomatics, Water Recourses, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Airports, Renewable Energy, and IT information systems sectors.  With over 60 years of professional consulting expertise, MMM Group is a leader in large scale P3 partnerships and providing quality engineering services to our clients. MMM’s moto “Enriching the Quality of Peoples lives” was adopted in 2013 as a reflection of what one of the main goals are for all of our projects.

On a day to day basis, I manage the Environmental Management departments Geospatial information and datasets and support field staff with information pre and post site visits.  Tasks range widely from plotting GPS coordinates of POIs, monitoring locations, to mapping out areas of environmental concerns. Types of projects that I am typically involved with include: Contamination Overview Studies, Groundwater Assessments, MOE Permits to Take Water, Hydrogeological Investigations, and Phase I/II/III Environmental Site Assessments.  Mainly my job involves a lot of data collection from any source that I can get information from, managing requests from Project/Department Managers, mentoring co-op students, and providing technical geospatial help and advice to project managers about where/how GIS can help the project.

Personally, I love that I am employed in the Geomatics sector.  Since high school, I have loved GIS and seeing the cool things you can do with technology and the power it has to help make informed decisions. I like how my position merges regular everyday information with spatial technology and seeing project manager’s eyes just light up once they see the final product and what they can do with it. As all geospatial professionals know, what’s GIS with data, and the more data we collect about our world the more we understand how it works/evolves (speaking from a Physical geography major).

Thanks to my good friend/fellow colleague Darren Platakis for coming up with this idea of sharing what we do in a day to younger Geomatics professionals.  I wish I had a resource like this too see what geospatial professional do on a daily basis when I was in school. I think it’s a fabulous idea, and I hope this day and website will have an impact on our future generation of professionals so they can see how cool the industry is and how they can have an impact on the world/community they live in!

Happy Geography Awareness Week Everyone!