Land Management

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!

Rethink Your Waste…

Hello, my name is Ashley, and I am currently on contract with the Niagara Region (sadly, 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 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

A Little Insight Into the Life of an Urban Planner

Submitted via email from Denise – Urban Planner

At the young age of 17 I knew that my dad was a planner, what exactly that meant I was not too sure. When it came time to apply for post-secondary, I had not put too much thought into what programs I would apply for; I just knew I wanted to go to university. Sports and hanging out with my friends was top of mind during my high school years, not what I wanted to be so many years down the road. (more…)

Niagara Region: Student Planner

My name is Alexander Morrison, and I am a Student Planner working within the Community and Long Range Planning Department at the Niagara Region.

To provide a brief background about myself, I am fourth year student attending the University of Waterloo. I am enrolled in the Faculty of Environment Co-op Planning program, minoring in Geography and Environmental Management. I have taken several university courses that have incorporated the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programs into various assignments and projects. To date, I have completed two co-op work terms and am currently involved in my third work term with the Niagara Region.

For my first two co-op terms, I worked as a Cartographic Technologist Assistant at the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO). My tasks at the MTO primarily involved researching and updating geographic coordinates on a variety of datasets for use on the Ontario Road Map and creating Photogrammetric Contract Maps for contractor bidding purposes. The tasks often required in-depth use of computer programs such as ArcGIS, AutoCAD and Google Earth, as these programs included a variety of tools that were used to define data attribute queries and conduct a variety of spatial analyses.

While my tasks at the Niagara Region differ from the MTO, I have discovered that I still encounter GIS within my daily tasks. For example, for the large majority of the day, I have been collecting information from the Niagara Region Greenbelt Plan Review and comparing it to another Regions Greenbelt Review. From my research, I have come across a variety of maps that display the extent of the Greenbelt and the Municipalities and Regions within it. I was also able to find datasets that displayed features such as roads, rails, highways, trails, property boundaries, and water features just to name a few. The collected GIS datasets and attributes provide insight as to the challenges and opportunities that both Regions face in association to the Greenbelt.

The rest of my day has consisted of reviewing proposal applications for Niagara Regions Public Art Policy. My task is to ensure that the proposals are complete and consistent to the objectives envisioned by the Niagara Region. For each proposal, I must fill out an evaluation check list that is broken down into weighted categories. I must also provide comments for my reasoning of evaluation, as well as on areas that I believe are reflective of Niagara Regions policy objective, or any components of the proposal that are unclear. I must also consider how the proposal methodology expects to achieve successful implementation of innovative, collaborative and creative public engagement strategies.

How I Became a Geographer

To tell the story about how I became a geographer and what I do every day today, I feel the need to first explain how I first came to the subject, and what geography means to me.

I actually came to geography by chance. Following high school, I was trained as a chemist for a couple of years. At the age of 20 when came the time for me to specialize further, I wanted two things: I wanted to work in biochemistry and I wanted to do research. However, at the time I thought that my grades were not high enough to follow this career path, and so instead I decided a complete change of field entering a geographic science school. I thought that maps were cool, so why not learn how to make them? (more…)