GIS

My Day of Geography!

When I was a kid my favorite uncle introduced me to Archaeology while we were out on a hike. (We had found an old building, and he told me that it was an archaeologist’s job to tell what may have happened in the past). That was it, I was hooked. From that day forward my dream was to be an archaeologist. Fast forward many years and I was a registered student at McMaster University. While there, I was in the Anthropology department and was introduced to incredible professors whom loved what they did.

During my time at a local Archaeological Field school, we were looking at the distribution of artifacts across the area, and from that moment forward my love for GIS was born. I was completed fascinated about how to connect geography and anthropology under one umbrella. How people use space to alter their actions or relationships with environments. About how animals instinctively alter their flight or migration patterns based on environmental changes (nature or man made).

At McMaster we did a few amazing projects such as “If there was Emergency at the Toronto International Airport, where would an Airbus 300 land?” This was an incredible realization about how as a society we are looking to increase transportation with safety as what would see a secondary consideration.

Then, I took remote sensing.

Have you ever heard the term “What I did not have in innate talent, I made up for in passion”? Well, that was me. I studied as hard as I could because there was something about learning how we can read the Earth’s surface and it’s changes or what is currently occurring from an image. Maybe this connected a bit to my love of photography, but remote sensing is still close to my heart.

My last year at McMaster, my friend and I were talking about post-graduate programs. He was selected for Environmental Sciences at Niagara College, and I was for the GIS program. For us, we laughed that we would be spending another year together at the same school. The program at Niagara College was one of the hardest programs I have ever completed, but while there, I met some incredible people including Darren Platakis from Geospatial Niagara.

He was my client for my thesis the Niagara Minecraft 2.0 + Geology project, where we utilized the geospatial data of the Niagara region into the video game Minecraft. The purpose of this project was to provide an educational opportunity for students in the Niagara region. He also introduced me to the Niagara Aspiring Geopark and later the TreeOcode projects. Although that was the toughest year I have ever educationally experienced, it was the most rewarding. Both in the people I went to school with and the education I received.

I spent almost two years volunteering with Geospatial Niagara after I graduated from Niagara College, and today, I am Geospatial Niagara’s first paid employee and I am constantly looking for grants or other opportunities to continue to bring Open Data and Educational Opportunities. I spend my days creating much needed maps for volunteer organizations and the TreeOcode project in St. Catharines.

My education did not stop when I graduated and it continues to this day. My job is not sitting at a desk making maps and writing reports. It is building and developing ideas and educational tools for kids and adults so we can keep Niagara people in Niagara. It is making connections to grow geography in Niagara and continuing to build on Darren’s ideas that geographic education shouldn’t end in elementary school.

Because the most important thing is making sure, we all have a place.
Add me or follow @spatialceleste

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!

 

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Classrooms and Cubicles – Day of Geography 2016

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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!

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!

New to GIS, but loving it.

Hello to all. My name is Shaun and I am currently working on a GIS project for a reservation in Southern Manitoba. Our main goal and objective is to gather data using Trimble Geo7X units, in order to make a map of the reserve. There is currently no way of Emergency crews to know where to go if they are called out, (which they regularly are). The crews usually end up driving around in search of a property, and when it comes to these situations time is of the essence. Sometimes the lack of information ends with tragic results. The map we are currently producing using ArcMap 10.3, will include various important information. Things like the number of people in each unit, main entrances and photos of the units will all be included. We plan to pass our information on to local emergency services and hopefully make a difference in the community by getting emergency crews to locations quicker and in turn, saving lives.

This is my first experience with GIS and I am finding it challenging and rewarding at the same time. I look forward to speaking with others about their experiences in the field. Thank you!!