Day of Geography

Geography Matters!

Submitted by Joseph Kerski:

Joseph Kerski in front of one of his favourite things – a map!

I confess that I am a “geographer by training and by philosophy.”  What does that mean?  The “training” part is easy.  I believe that while we all are natural-born geographers in the sense that from the time we are born, we are continually trying to make sense of our environment.  But there is also a formal discipline called Geography in which I immersed myself, beginning in high school and continuing on to three degrees in Geography and continuing on the job.  Contrary to what many people believe, Geography is not about memorizing state and national capitals, imports and exports, and the names of mountain ranges and seas. Yes, places and data are important to geographers, but Geography is the study of how the environment influences people and how people influence the environment.

The “philosophy” part has to do with respecting, enjoying, and caring for the environment, and seeing the world from a spatial perspective.  Other posts on the Day of Geography site make it evident that others share this philosophy and these convictions.

How has this philosophy influenced me?  It has deeply affected the way I view the world, how I view our role as people in the world, and how geographic processes are fundamental to understanding the world.   How has this influenced my career?  It has drawn me into the world of geotechnologies–how we can use digital maps, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and data–to make better decisions on a daily basis on issues that impact the planet.

I believe that spatial analysis with mapping and geotechnologies can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective.  My goal is to empower educators, students, decision makers, and the general public to think spatially and use geotechnologies in teaching, learning, and research to solve 21st Century problems from local to global scale. These problems include natural hazards, food security, city planning, sustainable agriculture and tourism, water quality and quantity, soil erosion, energy, political instability, crime, human health, and others that grow in complexity and increasingly affect our everyday lives. One of my major goals is to see geotechnologies being used beyond geography, planning, and environmental studies, in such disciplines as history, business, sociology, health, and elsewhere across the campus and in society.  My hobbies and interests involve getting out into the field to collect data about the environment, computer mapping, Geographic Information Systems, GPS, remote sensing, analyzing data, teaching, hiking, music, and caving.

Joseph Kerski in the field – guess where?

I served for 22 years as geographer and cartographer at NOAA, the US Census Bureau, and the US Geological Survey.  I teach online and face-to-face courses at primary and secondary schools, through MOOCs, and universities such as Sinte Gleska University, Penn State, and the University of Denver.  I am active in educational nonprofit organizations, including serving as president of the National Council for Geographic Education.  Since 2006, I have served as Education Manager for Esri, on a team that emphasis thought leadership in geospatial technologies in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally.  I focus on GIS-based curriculum development, research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, professional development for educators, communication about the need for geographic skills, tools, and perspectives through keynote addresses, articles, social media, and workshops, and fostering partnerships to support GIS in education.  I am active in creating and teaching online courses in spatial thinking and geotechnologies.  I have written books such as Interpreting Our World, Spatial Mathematics, International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning with GIS in Secondary Schools, The Essentials of the Environment, Tribal GIS, and The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data.  I am on work travel about 1/3 of the time, to regional, national, and international conferences to speak about geotechnologies in education and to learn from others, and to university campuses and even some primary and secondary schools.  Some of my more memorable trips have been to 6 universities in Japan, teaching at three secondary schools in the UAE, teaching in a 500 year old educational institute with gold ceilings in Germany, working with a sustainability grant at the Island Institute in Maine, working with a group of educators from Africa and the Middle East in Tunisia, teaching in a rainforest in Costa Rica, meeting some incredible high school and university students and professors in Kenya, and visiting the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, New Mexico State University, and Penn State University for the past few “GIS Day” (www.gisday.com) events. Just a month ago, I had the honor of working with faculty at the University of Moncton in New Brunswick, Canada.  But I also find everyday joy in helping the many people who write or call me each day with a technical or educational question.

I write weekly for our GIS education blog, a career education blog, and a spatial data in society blog.  I have created over 3,500 videos about geography, STEM, education, GIS, GPS, and remote sensing, mapping, space and place, and fieldwork.  For more information about me, see www.josephkerski.com, or my posts on http://twitter.com/josephkerski

For the past decade, the word “green” has been probably been used more than any other to market or promote products, services, and programs. You may have seen green be applied to things that are truly sustainable as well as to things that may not be.  Last month I even saw a green phrase used at a gas station: “Our gas is clean and green.” Perhaps the station itself was powered by wind energy? At any rate, there is no doubt that the word “green” is all around us and shows no sign of abating.

In my field of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), “green” is used frequently as well, and for good reason. From wind power to tree management to river restoration to other applications, GIS is being applied on a daily basis to solve problems from local to global. In a document entitled “GIS is Green“, it is stated that “With the growing unease and awareness among large segments of the population that remedial action must be taken to resolve the many environmental crises we now face, GIS solutions are currently being implemented around the world that provide the technological and scientific support necessary to create programs and processes designed to return our planet to a more sustainable and balanced level of use. Whether increasing the efficiency of fleet vehicles by optimizing standard routes and subsequently reducing fuel consumption or determining the optimum location for a wind farm to produce energy with minimal pollution, GIS provides the quantified information and analytical capabilities necessary to make decisions that can both support growth and reduce consumption.

What made me aware that choosing a green career was important?  Many of us have pivotal moments that helped shape their career path.  My “a-ha moment” in deciding to work for sustainability and geography is when I read a book entitled The Last Great Auk, by Allan W. Eckert, as an 11-year old.  Because the author makes the very last of these great birds the protagonist, I found this to be an enjoyable, fascinating book that reads very much like a novel.   However, I also knew that these great flightless birds would go extinct at the end of the book on 3 July 1844, and knowing this was the way the book would end did not make it easy to read.  I knew upon reaching the end of the book that I wanted to have a career involving mapping and studying the Earth in some way, and perhaps in my own way prevent future extinctions.   I created a 10-part video series where I discuss the book and encourage you to dig into these videos while thinking about your own career paths.  In Part 1 of the video series, I describe four reasons to explore the connections between geography and language arts, and about key moments in our education journey.

Mapping earthquakes in 3D using GIS on the web – the 3D Scene Viewer in ArcGIS Online.

Career Advice

I encourage you to identify your interests and career first and foremost, then think about what organization would best help you to achieve your goals.  Equally important, think about what organization you would most like to contribute to in order to help meet their goals, because, of course, it’s not all just about you.

The two most important qualities I believe for all of you looking for a career or job position is:  Be Yourself, and Be Curious.  What do I mean?

Be Yourself means being honest about your own job and personal strengths and your own weaknesses, or areas that you are seeking to improve.  Don’t pretend in an interview to be anything you’re not.  Be Curious means asking questions.  This means to ask questions at the interview, of course.  But beyond the interview, on the job and while you are still in school, ask lots of questions. Be curious about the world.  Good questions lead to good investigations. Investigate and solve problems.  If you don’t have some of the skills needed to solve those problems, acquire and practice those skills.

About 6,000 people work at my company, Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute).   Our headquarters is in southern California (Redlands), we have 10 regional offices in the USA and some smaller satellite offices, and more than 80 worldwide distributor offices.   We are the largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) organization in the world and as such receive a lot of applications for every job we post.  If you are serious about making a positive difference on our planet with GIS, I encourage you to gain those skills and apply at Esri!

What are the five most important skills that a successful professional in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) should have? I have recorded a three-part video series (Part 1Part 2, and Part 3) wherein I address these skills.  I begin the video series by presenting two ways of thinking about GIS in your career:  (1) As a toolset that you use in your career as an environmental researcher, planner, biologist, public safety officer, marketing analyst, or in another career where GIS is listed only as a required or advised set of skills;  and (2) As a GIS manager, technician, analyst, or another career where GIS or a variant is a part of the title and primary job duties.

I see GIS as a three-legged stool, one that incorporates content knowledge, skills, and the geographic perspective.  In other words, the skills alone will not guarantee success, but are a fundamental part of it.  Equally important is the content knowledge–whether in GIScience, meteorology, energy, water resources, planning, or another field.  Finally, don’t be discouraged by my mention of the geographic perspective if you feel inadequate here.  It is one of the most interesting parts of the stool, and one that might take years to develop.  Indeed, as most things in GIS, it is a lifelong endeavor, which leads me to my #1 top skill:  I can’t give it away:  Watch the video to find out!

On Staying Motivated

Throughout my career, four things have kept me motivated.  First and foremost, choose something that you feel passionate about.  Then, every day at work, you don’t just have a job, you have a career.  You are working not just for a paycheck, or for quitting time, but for larger goals that can make long-term positive impacts on people and the planet.  In my field of geotechnology education, I feel that I am having a positive influence on research, partnerships, curriculum, educators, policymakers, and students, and that in itself keeps me motivated on a daily basis.

That’s not to say, though, that I don’t experience times when I need to work actively at staying motivated.  These times often occur for me at the start of a long project, such as a book I am committed to writing or a public relations campaign to universities.  So, the second thing that has kept me motivated, particularly during these times, is to keep an eye on the long-term goal, and think of the long-term impact and benefits that the project will have.  Thinking specifically on who will benefit and why and how they will do so can also provide energy.

Third, think of the project in smaller components, in weeks, days, or even just a few hours:  What can you accomplish by, say, noontime, today, on this project?  How will you measure that you have accomplished it?  Breaking up large projects into smaller pieces has helped me stay motivated.  Along with that, the fourth recommendation I have is to just start.  Sometimes, thinking about a project is more daunting than diving in and starting on it.  Just do it!  Yes, planning is important, but working hard and putting some tasks behind you can provide motivation to go on to the next steps.

Final Words:  Don’t Toss Your Brain

In my work in environmental education and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), I have seen many computer technologies and methods come and go.  In the video linked below, I discuss some of them, including punch cards, floppy disks, and CD-ROMs.  Yet one tool has remained vitally important in analyzing our world–your brain!  Making sense of our world through maps and spatial data is more important than ever.  As the deluge of data increases, it will be important in your career to think critically about data, understanding if and when to use it, evaluating its quality, managing error, and making decisions based on data.  Keep thinking! The point is:  Toss some tools, but don’t toss your brain!

Keeping it Green

As luck would have it, I started my new job on Day of Geography (DOG) to kick off Geography Awareness Week!

meMy name is Ashley. I have made a few posts here for DOG, and today I returned to the Regional Municipality of Niagara to start my new position as the Engagement & Education Coordinator for Waste Management Services. In this role I will be responsible for developing and managing public outreach programs – including promotional/educational material development, coordinating presentations, and implementing strategic communication strategies for waste management.

With schooling in geography and education and a passion for the environment, I am excited for the days ahead.

Friday I said farewell to my previous position working for a wonderful company that is also in the field of waste management and technology. ReCollect is a software company that specializes in digital solutions to help improve waste diversion, communications, and engagement with residents. I was part of the Customer Success team assisting clients (municipalities and haulers) in fully utilizing their digital products, while acting as trusted advisor for personalizing their tools to reach their goals. With customers in both the United States and Canada, it is fascinating to see the differences in solid waste programs and helping communicate these programs to their residents.

To those Geo-professionals out there who have not yet found their area of specialty, I would say to you it may be in the last place you expect. After completing my post-graduate certificate in GIS, I was granted with a few opportunities as a recent graduate, and one of those happened to be with the Niagara Region as a Waste Management Intern.

It is hard to explain to others how I fell in love with garbage, recycling and all things perceived as ‘icky’, but when you are educating others about something that is so important and necessary for the environment, it is a great feeling. I am fortunate enough to focus on what I am truly passionate about, promoting environmental education and engagement through Waste Management.

Keep it green!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

Rethink Your Waste…

Hello, online My name is Ashley, clinic and I am currently on contract with the Niagara Region (sadly, order only for a few more weeks) as a Waste Management Intern. Waste management refers to the prevention, monitoring, handling and treatment of various types of municipal waste. The Niagara Region provides weekly curbside collection to low density residential, multi-residential and industrial, commercial and institutional sectors to increase the diversion rate of Blue/Grey Box and Green Bin materials to extend the use of existing landfills and reduce their effect on the environment.

Me dressed as Phil for the Bridges for Autism event before taking the ice.

Dressed as Phil for the Bridges for Autism event before taking the ice.

I work in a team with 7  interns, carrying out various tasks and organizing and maintaining waste management outreach efforts provided by the Region including but not limited to:

  • Outreach (presentations and events)
  • Multi-residential recycling
  • Special Events Recycling
  • Waste/Recycling audits

Although I contribute to all aspects, I am the lead on outreach–booking and organizing presentations to schools, community groups, summer camps and organizations to deliver our waste diversion message. It is great to get out into the community with hopes of inspiring a healthier environment for the future, built on the connections that youth and citizens make with their environment to make informed waste management choices. Depending on the presentation we bring along our friends; Benji the Blue Box, Greycie the Grey Box and Phil the Green Bin! And yes, it is just as fun as you think it is to wear these mascot costumes!

All these coffee cups are not recyclable in Niagara and will end up in our landfills

Five days worth of coffee cups that are not recyclable in Niagara and will end up in our landfills

Today, our intern team completed a week long office building waste audit under O. Reg. 102/94: Waste Audits And Waste Reduction Work Plans. This is exactly what it sounds like, opening up garbage and recycling bags collected by custodial staff and sorting through the material to see how well folks are diverting their waste. Not glamorous, but important and informative.

Aside from office building audits, we also complete audits at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), Niagara Falls Downtown Business Areas, and residential curbside Green Bin audits in promotion of the Green Bin campaign.  Information collected during these audits is essential in influencing the type of promotion and outreach as well as achieving optimal performance at the MRF.

Our team of interns are the face of the Waste Management Department. We are out in the community promoting best practices in waste diversion! My teaching degree has made this position an easy transition, but it is my background in Geography and GIS that leaves me wanting to explore this environmental field in more depth!

Stay Green, Ashley

What Does My Day of Geography Look Like? Map Library Associate/Geospatial Data Coordinator

I work in a fishbowl called the Map, there Data & GIS Library. I’m always on the frontline helping students with a variety of requests from navigating Mackenzie Chown Complex to extracting remote sensing data or using HTML to make a web mapping application! I LOVE to help students and thrive on geospatial data requests or GIS problem-solving issues. When I’m not helping students, I’m working on digitization projects that make historical map documents GIS-ready.

MapLibrary

For example: historical topo maps; historical air photos; and historical maps. I also try to keep the MDGL on the cutting edge of technology…often my ideas are ahead of their time. None-the-less, exploring geospatial data availability, quality and delivery are my priority so that the Brock University community is served the best data to meet their teaching and research needs. I love my job!

Posted on behalf of Sharon Janzen – Brock University Map, Data & GIS Library.

 

Map Library 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Braaten, Roger 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 University’s 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 university’s 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.

My Spatial Career

My Geography Degree was the best thing that ever happened to me on all scales of my life (no pun intended…well maybe a little). I have worked (and yes I mean was paid) in the realms of Economic Development & Tourism, Heritage Planning, Development Compliance, Urban Planning, Geographic Information Systems & Asset Management – IT….yes I said ‘IT’ and now Engineering….what!

Yes my spatial career has been just that – all over the place overlapping multiple disciplines! There is so much I have done and so much I can do! Geographers can understand processes, data, mapping, SPACE! And with that comes many many many many disciplines!  I have held many titles throughout my life (Technology Analyst, Urban Planner, Tourist Ambassador, Technician) although they may not all sound geographical they all have been because of Geography! I have been blessed with meeting people all over the world! issued permits for new land uses and buildings! Built spatial databases! Created and manipulated data to create awesome Maps!

On this Day of Geography I am an Infrastructure and Environmental Technologist with Municipal Works at the City of Niagara Falls. I work primarily with Infrastructure and Asset Management. I map out our municipal infrastructure – sanitary, storm, water, roads etc and attach attribute information to these assets! I get to take care of the infrastructure that supports our daily lives! Nothing beats the knowledge of the space around you! Thanks for reading!

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, ARA’s 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)
1818Phillpotts

 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.