Not For Profit

Classrooms and Cubicles – Day of Geography 2016

Displaying DOG_2016_F1.jpg

Well it’s Geography Awareness Week 2016 – and more specifically Day of Geography. This is the day where we encourage geographers, geospatial professionals, environmental professionals and anyone that uses geography in their occupation or career to blog about their workday.

For those that don’t know, my name is Darren Platakis. I’m the founder of Geospatial Niagara and the creator of Day of Geography (with inspiration from Day of Archaeology). I also work in the Long Range Community Planning department of Planning and Development for the Regional Municipality of Niagara. I may be a sort of anomaly in that my Day of Geography usually consists of many different things. I generally try and make it out to several schools during Geography Awareness week to promote the discipline as well as potential careers. Today I visited Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls, Ontario and spoke with a Grade 10 Civics class. These types of visits are always fun and truth be told, are what I live for especially in my work with Geospatial Niagara.

I strongly encourage anyone, regardless of their career to give back to students. Go into your old high school and share your experiences. Teachers are always looking for resources to bring into the class room whether it’s a website, a document etc. But the greatest resources that they can draw on are real people, with real experiences that can be shared.

After spending an hour there, I returned to my cubicle and began catching up on the incoming
applications that need to be input into iDARTS – Interactive Development Application Retrival and Tracking System. My position entails geo-referencing Development Applications that come into the Region through the 12 lower tier municipalities. A map of the Niagara Region appears below that illustrates the municipalities of the Niagara Region.

Image result for niagara region

The applications are numerous and cover everything from Consent and Condominium applications to Servicing and Zoning By-law amendment applications. Each of these need to be geo-referenced so that the planners that are responsible for the applications can readily see where the applications are located. These planners also use an internal web-based mapping application called Niagara Atlas to do their work in terms of providing comments regarding the application. They investigate such things as are there wetlands present near the application, what will be the impact of increased traffic, is there adequate services available? There are any number of questions that a planner needs to address before a decision is made with any application. Personally I am not a planner, but I assist them by attaching the applications to the parcels of land where they are located.

I’m also responsible for the mapping and maintaining of the Building Permit information that comes into the Region on a monthly basis. This helps us to track where new growth is occurring and allows us to begin to visualize the growth of the region. We receive information in the form of .xls or .csv files and sometimes as .pdf’s which can be frustrating. We aggregate this data and generate statistics that help inform the decision making process.

Later this week, on GIS Day, Wednesday, November 16, I will be visiting St. Paul Catholic High School (website under construction) again to present to a class on careers in Geography focusing on the use of GIS software. Thursday has me meeting with the Mayor of St. Catharines, Ontario with respect to a Geospatial Niagara project called treeOCode Niagara. This project is community engagement initiative that promotes the value of the urban forest.

treeocodemain

Click to go to the treeOcode Niagara map

The project uses either Open Data or crowd-sourced data to capture the locations of trees. If the species and the diameter of tree is known then the eco-benefits of that tree can be calculated.

As it currently stands, the almost 20,000 trees that are currently in the treeOcode database provide nearly $1.3 million in benefits to the community. The bulk of the trees currently in the database are in the Municipality of St. Catharines but there are some from the Town of Niagara on the Lake as well.

The meeting on Thursday is to provide information to the city about treeOcode Niagara with the hopes that we can engage more people about the benefits of the urban forest canopy.

All in all, my career in Geography varies. It is that variety that I like. Next year I may be speaking with a Grade 3 class for Day of Geography or trying to put together a presentation for GIS Day 2017. Who knows? But what I do know is that I am passionate about geography and equally passionate about promoting geo-literacy to students across Niagara and, through Day of Geography, around the world.

Visit Day of Geography, Geospatial Niagara or treeOcode Niagara on Facebook. Find out more about the Niagara Region.

Please spread the word about Day of Geography – Share YOUR story.

 

Ontario Oil, Gas & Salt Resources Library

The Ontario Oil, Gas & Salt Resources (OGSR) Library is a not-for-profit organization that provides prospectors, drillers, consultants, the general public, and numerous other interested parties with information related to Ontario’s petroleum industry.

Currently, the Library is staffed by three employees: one Manager, one Data/Operations Administrator, and one Geographic Information Systems Technician (myself). During the summer, we usually employ 1-2 students: one with a Geology background and/or one with a GIS background. At any given time, we tend to be working on a few special projects that sometimes require additional staff hired on contract as needed. The office of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (MNRF) Geologist is also located in our building. The main MNRF building is conveniently located a few steps away from the Library, which is quite useful considering the inter-connectivity of our operations.

In Ontario, there are over 26,000 known petroleum wells. In 2007, Wells Cards containing general information about every single one of these wells became available to the public online through our website. To date, there are 26, 705 Well Cards available for public viewing online…click this link for a sample well card.  In early 2012, a project began to scan all 26,000 + of our physical well files. Each well file is a folder containing Well Licences, location maps, licence applications, and various other paperwork that is relevant to a well’s history. As well files were scanned, they became available online to paying members, and in April of 2015, the project was completed. To date, well files consist of over 500,000 images and in 2014, our members viewed over 14,000 of these images! This barely scratches the surface in terms of what is available online, however, as you can see that there is a lot more additional information that can be accessed from the well cards page (most of this information being reserved for paying members). Ultimately, the accessibility of this data has reduced the need for the public and members to phone/e-mail us to request information, and there is even less of a need for people to physically be in the library to access our data. In 2014, 150,000 well cards were accessed online by members alone. This, of course, gives us more time to work on other projects and allows members to retrieve data more efficiently, but we always enjoy visitors to the library as some days it can get pretty quiet!

logsGeophysical logs (above) comprise some of the data that is reserved for paying members and are an on-going project to keep up to date. Geophysical logs vary in what they represent, but basically they contain some sort of measurement (such as gamma ray or neutron density) that provides useful information to operators and prospectors. Various instruments are lowered into a well borehole that gather data which is then represented visually on a log. These logs are then sent to us at the library and we scan them and add them to our database. In 2014, our members viewed over 10,000 logs online! Currently, we are in the process of catching up with our backlog (no pun intended) of logs by scanning a certain number of logs each week. We are on track to be caught up in a few months, and from there we will scan logs as they accumulate. Roughly 100 new logs are generated each year, and all of these can be scanned in 2-3 days of continuous scanning.

Sample Tray

Sample Chip VialsAside from updating and maintaining well data, the OGSR Library also stores and maintains drill core and sample chips from wells drilled all over Ontario. Drill core is a circular core that has been cut in half lengthwise and placed in boxes; this is what comes out of the ground when a hole is drilled for a well…a picture of drill core can be seen below in the section discussing our Core Photography project. Sample chips are ground up core that comes out of the ground also during the drilling of a hole for a well; operators must gather these samples at least every 3 or 6 meters depending on the type of well. The operator will place these samples in bags labeled with the depth at which they were sampled, deliver them to us, at which point they are washed and placed vials (image to the right). In our 3,600 square foot warehouse, there are over 1,100 drill cores from 1,000 different wells contained in over 100,000 boxes, and there are sample chips from over 10,800 different wells that are stored on over 12,000 trays (image above) inside over 1,000,000 vials! In the image below, you can see all of the boxes that contain the drill core. The grey cabinets under the boxes store the sample trays and vials.

OGSR Library Warehouse

Much of the spatial data that we manage can be found in our PxTools, a file compatible with Google Earth. The file can be downloaded by clicking here. Simply download the file, make sure you have Google Earth (or GE Pro) installed on your computer, double click the downloaded .kmz file, and you will be able to see 35 different layers such as petroleum wells, petroleum pools, and historic scanned and georeferenced maps! We regularly update some of the layers found in PxTools and add new data as it becomes available.

One major project occurring at the OGSR Library on a yearly basis pertains to Production Records for active wells in Ontario; our Data/Operations Administrator carries out most of the tasks involved in this project. Operators are required to submit information about their production, for example how many cubic meters were produced in a given year, to the library annually. We receive roughly 2,000 forms at the beginning of each year, and we plan to have all of them scanned and digitized by the end of June. These scans then get uploaded to our website for members to view, and this is another data set that is frequently utilized; in 2014, 12,000 production records were reviewed by our members.

Yet another project that will always be ongoing is our core photography project. Many clients, members, prospectors, etc. find it useful to view the drill cores that we store in our warehouse. Before our core photography project began, the only way to accomplish this was to physically be at the OGSR Library. Now, upon request, we can photograph drill core and provide it to clients for a fee per box that is photographed. To date, over 2,000 core boxes have been photographed; currently, we can photograph a maximum of roughly 40 core boxes per day. The equipment for this project was generously donated by Charlie Fairbank, who owns and maintains historic oil lands in Oil Springs, Ontario, where much of Canada’s and the world’s first commercial oil production began in 1858. Each core box is photographed three times: once under UV light, once under normal lighting, and once under normal lighting after wetting the core. In the image below, you can see an example of the three different types of photos that are taken for each core box. The bottom (purplish) portion of each core section is the UV photo; this type of light causes certain features of the core to fluoresce, features that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The middle portion of each core section is the wet photo, and the top portion is the dry photo.

Core Photography Project

As the GIS Technician, I am responsible for updating our annual “Oil & Gas Pools & Pipelines of Southern Ontario” map. Each year, I make edits to the petroleum pools layer (which can be viewed in PxTools) based on newly drilled wells and new information that has been made available. Some of the boundaries that still exist in the layer today were derived from geological studies that occurred many years ago. The Pools and Pipelines map is accompanied by tabular data showing Cumulative and Annual Oil/Gas production by pool. The data come from the Production Records project mentioned previously.

From time to time, clients will request maps for projects they are working on, so usually when this happens the client request becomes my priority. We deliver high quality maps to clients digitally for the most part, but sometimes hard copies are needed so we will print them using our in-house plotter. We also create map books for some of our clients that require regular updates to spatial and attribute data.

As I’m sure you can tell, a lot of our work involves keeping our data up to date. This is very important to the petroleum industry in Ontario because our data helps drillers, prospectors, consultants, etc. make informed decisions…this is a perfect example of the infamous ‘GIGO’ acronym (good [data] in, good [data] out).

Every now and then we also like to go on fields trips and learn about the geography that is happening in the real world. During our most recent field trip, we visited Sulphur Springs Conservation Area in Hanover, Ontario. We took a few interesting underwater video’s that can be viewed by clicking here…check out the video’s description to learn more!

Hopefully this post has provided some insights into what we do here at the OGSR Library. It’s such an interesting place, yet many people do not even know it exists. If anyone is ever in the London area, we would be more than happy to give you or your group a tour! Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have and be sure to check out our website at www.ogsrlibrary.com. You can even receive a free seven day membership to explore the data that we have available – just visit www.ogsrlibrary.com/free to create your account!

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.

IMG_0686

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!

CUGlS_5WoAAI_93

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.

TCBanner

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.

Geospatial Niagara – Day of Geography – Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School

SWSelfie 2

Sir Winston Churchill Selfie

Well today is the day!!! Day of Geography! The first one ever and definitely not the last.

Geospatial Niagara created Day of Geography but was inspired by the Archaeological community’s “Day of Archaeology“. The story of why, how, when can be found in the “About the Project” section.

Today was a special day because myself and six other colleagues had the fortune of making a presentation to approximately 100+ Grade 9 Geography students at a local high school – Sir Winston Churchill. Joining me on stage were Jean Tong – Director of K-12 Education at ESRI Canada, Kevin Turner – Physical Geography Professor at Brock University, Colleen Beard – Head of the Map, Data & GIS Library at Brock University, Teresa Alonzi and Amber-Lynn Schmucker from the Brock University Geographical Society and Janet Finlay – Program Coordinator of the Niagara College GIS and Geospatial Management Program.

I’d like to thank Kristen Salvas and Melanie Bourque from the Sir Winston Churchill Geography Department for making this happen. They capitalized on this event and we are very thankful. They were the first high school to take part in what I hope Geospatial Niagara can do every year, and that is bringing the possibilities of Geography to students, not only on Day of Geography but throughout the year as well

SirWinstonI am aware that there was another high school Day of Geography event and that was in Waterloo at the Waterloo Collegiate Institute being put on by my colleague Dr. Amanda Hooykaas.

The presentation began with a Jean Tong walking about what resources the students could access immediately and showed examples of various types of story maps. Thus began a journey through their education from high school through to university and post secondary education.

Next up came Kevin talking about some of the course offerings at Brock University and about his own research pertaining to climate change and its impacts in the Far North.

Colleen Beard guided the students through the Map, Data and GIS library site, illustrating some of the student created maps as well as the excellent War of 1812 Google Maps Presentation.

Teresa Alonzi and Amber-Lynn Schmucker, both from the Brock University Geographical Society (BUGS) talked about their experiences in the geography program. Interestingly enough neither of them began with geography at Brock, they found geography and switched their majors. They had found their calling.

Janet Finlay from Niagara College talked to the students about the GIS/Geospatial Management Program and about all the work (and the rewards) that entails.

The presentation wrapped up with me discussing Geospatial Niagara. What we’re all about, out vision, mission and goals.

We wrapped up with a little bit of a question period from the students which included one of my favourite questions to answer. “Why did you choose geography?”…. For me, I had some amazing teachers all the way through grade school to high school and university/college. In the long run I don’t think I chose geography. Geography chose me. But the educators that I had refined my vision and increased my passion for the subject to areas I had no idea about.

I encourage everyone professional or student, to share your love of all things geo. If you are in high school, share it with those in younger grades. If you are in college or university visit your old high school or grade school. Pay it forward…

And now the planning begins for Day of Geography 2015 – November 16, 2015 to make it bigger and better.

Cheers!

Mapping Fish Habitat

One of my favorite projects to work on for Chartwell Consultants is Forage Fish Mapping. For this project we provide GPS post-processing, sildenafil data management and mapping support to a biologist who searches for beaches in British Columbia which are suitable spawning habitat for forage fish. (more…)

Day of Geography is Almost Here!

Geography Awareness Week Geogratree

Geography Awareness Week Geogratree

Hello World!! This is usually the phrase used to test a string of code. In this case, the phrase means so much more.

In the context of this post, it truly is “Hello World”. As this post is being written (November 9, 2014), the Day of Geography site has had visitors from 56 countries and 291 cities. This is incredibly inspiring to me! I can imagine days where students from around the world visit the site and become inspired to become remote sensing specialists, urban planners, educators, transportation geographers, GIS analysts, surveyors….. the list goes endlessly on and on.

Geospatial Niagara is incredibly proud to bring you Day of Geography and we thank our supporters in this endeavour. It has been a valuable learning experience for us and we hope it provides a valuable learning experience to students, educators and citizens around the world.

As Geography Awareness Week begins, let’s also remember those that inspired us to become geo-professionals. Each of us has been inspired in some way by those who have educated us. To those who have and continue to inspire me, lit the fire and keep it burning. Thank you!

To our contributors, Day of Geography wouldn’t exist without you sharing the stories of your work day. From all of us at Geospatial Niagara…

THANK YOU!