Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Day in the Life of a…Planner

My day started typically enough, viagra with turning my computer on, try reviewing my email and voice mail.

Working in a small, rural municipality in Niagara Region, my focus is customer service. I try to start everyday with a to do list, and depending on the day it either gets put aside due to customer calls/walk-ins, or on the occasional good day, I actually get to check something off of the list, before it grows again 🙂

Typical activities:

1. Phone calls: As the only planner in the municipality, I get all kinds of phone calls. They usually include needing zoning information or reviewing building plans to ensure they are compliant with zoning

2. Mapping – I use Niagara Navigator (municipal version) daily as it helps me look up a property to see it from a Google Earth perspective. Zoning and Official Plan data are included as layers, which helps me answer questions faster than otherwise.

Today:

1. Regional Matched Funding: I have been directed by our CAO to identify projects that will qualify for Lakefront and/or Waterfront funding from the Region. This involves identifying potential partners (CAA, Niagara Region Health) and trying to match the project details to the funding requirements. Another challenge is getting the capital needs onto the 2015 Township budget

2. Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) teleconference: I am a volunteer member of the newly formed National Initiatives Advisory Committee. Our first telecon is this afternoon. I have to review the agenda and meeting materials in preparation for the meeting.

3. Township Zoning By-law: Our new Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw became officially in force last Wednesday. Dealing with the public has identified some typos, errors and omissions etc that need to be resolved. I have started to track these issues, in order to resolve them later this year, or early in 2015.

4. Customer Service: On-going phone calls, walk-ins and other inquiries.

5. Committee of Adjustment Applications for December 2014 hearing: We have received 2 applications that need to be processed. This involves ensuring that both are deemed “Complete” per the Planning Act, that both have Notice of Hearings drafted, and that both are circulated to the appropriate agencies (checklist used to confirm this).

Day Of Geography: Notes from COGS

Congratulations on the inaugural Day of Geography!

view of COGS from a phantom quadcopter in July 2013

view of COGS from a phantom quadcopter in July 2013

There are five programs taught at the Centre of Geographic Sciences within NSCC in Lawrencetown, NS serving direct-entry and post-graduate students. These are:

  • Survey Technician measuring the physical world around us to determine the shape and position of objects or features
  • Geomatics Engineering Technology delivering practical measurement skills and techniques, as well as the theory behind them
  • Geographic Sciences using geomatics tools and technology for Community & Environmental Planning, Remote Sensing, Cartography, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Advanced Marine Geomatics using geomatics to effectively explore, manage, and monitor the marine and coastal environments
  • Advanced Geographic Sciences complementing a science degree with geomatics technologies

Graduates have made positive contributions around the world (here’s a voluntary map) and find meaningful careers across the industry spectrum.

The school (in various names; the present had considerable input from Roger Tomlinson) is dedicated to geographic programs and features the Walter K. Morrison Map Collection. We have been teaching programs pertaining to geography since the end of WWII.

For a colourful look at the last 25 years of COGS, check out this article.

A day in the life of a geographer who is just doing what she does…

A day in the life of a geographer who is just doing what she does…

Today’s schedule is much like any other for me these days – changing, case uncertain, medical and never replicated. My official title includes “Adjunct Faculty” for the Faculty of Environment, viagra University of Waterloo – that means I am on contract to teach a variety of courses, but I am not limited to that.
In the last few years I have taught everything from Fluvial Geomorphology (how rivers work and what role we play in that), to Tourism Management, to Introductory Human Geography, to Environmental Literature, to Conservation and Parks Management (which is the course I am currently teaching). I guess at this point in my career (I graduated with a PhD from UWaterloo just a couple of years ago), I am still plugging away at really creating my own niche in geographic education (hence the diverse course offerings!) – but it certainly takes a long while and I am committed to the journey.
In addition to teaching, I was also recently appointed as the Field Course Developer for the Faculty. I believe that students need the opportunity to go outside and into the field in order to truly engage with the material taught in the classroom. I work with various professors across the faculty to assess current course offerings and look for ways to integrate additional applied experiences; students don’t necessarily need to go to exotic locations in order to learn about the world – often the very best lessons are learned in our own backyards. My motivation for this whole shift in education stems from my own experiences as a student. In my third year of my undergrad, I was quite bored with my education. I chose courses that were interesting, did co-op work terms in great locations, and yet something was missing. I found the solution in a field course in the States, where I spent two months retracing the route of Lewis and Clark across Montana via paddle and foot – and got university credits for the work that I did while out there. I returned with a renewed interest in what I was doing, and most importantly, why it all connected to not only me but to the larger landscape as well. And so today? I am hoping to facilitate similar experiences for undergraduates in the Faculty of Environment. I am working on two proposals for new field courses for this summer – one in an urban national park and a second in an old growth forest in northern Ontario. I don’t know what the end products might be – whether students end up creating environmental interpretation literature, writing advocacy letters to decision-makers, or collaborating on GIS work – but what is important to me is that these students make their education matter. And that perhaps it provokes some significant conversations. In a not-so-distant past life I was a wilderness guide and my heart still sings when I am out there. By bringing my own students out there, I am hoping to inspire a whole new group of folks to see the world in a slightly new light.
Seeing the world differently is important for not only my own students, but those who will follow. Today I am also taking three of my geography undergraduate students into a local high school to talk with grade elevens and twelves about “this whole geography thing”. I am excited to sit on the sidelines, so to speak, and just let my own students explain why this is such an important and exciting field to be getting into. I know that realistically not every student I teach will become a geographer with a capital “G”, but I hope that whether students become planners, teachers, parents, economists, lawyers, or farmers, they continue to do good work connecting people to places and advocating for the causes they believe in. And that they never forget to pause and look at the beautiful world that we all live in.
And, lastly, I am packing. Tomorrow I head to Ottawa for the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s Annual General Meeting and Fellows Dinner. This year I am being inducted as a Fellow for the Society. For me, this is a big deal. Not only is it a lifetime appointment, but it also adds a significant amount of obligation and yes, perhaps even some pressure to keep up with them all. I feel that I am part of the next generation of educators – a generation that must continue to share Canada with Canadians and also with the world. Through my days, I continue to find great moments of inspiration and opportunity. There is lots to be done in this realm and I am pleased to be playing a small role. Teaching geography is not an occupation, it is a way of being, an approach to life and livelihood that requires open eyes, the willingness to engage with others who may not see the world quite like me, and the constant and conscious decision to keep pushing forward, no matter what barrier may initially appear to be there.
And so I sign off, and head back into the world. I’ll see you out there – be it on the trail, in the city, or somewhere in between…
Be well,
~ Amanda Hooykaas, PhD, FRCGS
Email: alhooykaas@uwaterloo.ca
Website: amandahooykaas.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Geography Awareness Week Everyone!

Tradition of Week of Geography in Czechia

Czech Week of GeographySince 2006, dosage the Czech Geographic Society – Branch Northern Bohemia, troche has organized a Week of Geography. This traditional science popularization activity is coming into its ninth year. On this occasion we are pleased to join the international Day of Geography within Geography Awareness Week. This year we try to make a small step to organize a national Week of Geography with other geographical academic institutions across the whole country.

Until this year (2014), Department of Geography in Ústí nad Labem was the only host department of the Week of Geography on the date around 17th November, although various other science popularization activities were being organized throughout the year in Czechia. The Week of Geography in Ústí nad Labem has been primarily aimed at university students, and to a lesser extent at the wider audience interested in geography. It has been composed of presentations and workshops, discussions on actual topics, as well as film projections and small exhibitions and poster exhibitions. As examples we can list these activities:

a lecture from necrogeography

an Arabic language lesson

a workshop in 3D modelling of cities

a presentation on the discovery of the Amazon River sources by prof. Janský, a leader of the expedition

a discussion on cartographic production for schools with a publisher

a film discussing the destruction of settlements through open coal mining in Northern Bohemia

an exhibition of old atlases

students´ presentations from their journeys

A regular part of the week program is the Career Day in Geography, where former students are invited to talk about the usefulness of geography for their contemporary jobs. The Day of Geography (usually on Thursday) is aimed at further education of geography teachers from primary and secondary schools. Friday is connected with GIS Day.

High-tech Gadgets and Bike Rides

This morning I tested a brand new $4, cialis 000 piece of GPS equipment to see how accurate it was. I configured it at my desk with the latest software and then I jumped on my bike and took it to a nearby provincial Survey monument buried in a concrete slab at a nearby park down the road. I had found the exact coordinates for the survey monument online so I knew that if the device was working properly it should record the exact same coordinates if I put the GPS on top of the monument. Sure enough, recipe the device averaged within about 50cm of the location of the monument. Satisfied I rode my bike back to the office, vialis 40mg put together a map that I loaded onto the device, added a form for collecting data and attributes and gave device to my colleague, an environmental engineer to go use out on the project site. Though this is definitely not what my morning looks like every day, I thought that it was pretty cool to be able to play with high-tech gadgets and ride my bike as part of my job.

Ryan Sutcliffe, GIS Technician

Stantec (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada)

IMG_0105

Mapping Fish Habitat

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

A Day in the Life of the UK Defence Geographic Centre

This picture shows Defence Geographic Centre products being used for battle planning in a military Battle Group Headquarters

Welcome to the Defence Geographic Centre (DGC) post for the “Day of Geography” which will provide an insight into how geographers support the UK Ministry of Defence and the wider interests of the UK Government. It is by necessity quite a long post but I hope you will find it interesting and stay with me until the end.  It begins with a general description of the organsation before leading into a “Day in the life of” tour. The picture shows DGC products being used for battle planning in a military Battle Group Headquarters.

DGC is a complex organisation, viagra 100mg unique within the UK and recognised by national and international partners as world class leaders in many of our areas of operation.  I am the Head of Geographic Research and my group comprises about 100 people spread across four teams.  Earlier today I walked around my teams and the other parts of DGC to capture a snapshot of some of the activities on a typical day. I have also added a few details about my own activities.  But first I need to set out some context; without it the day in the life snapshot will not make much sense!

DGC is based in West London and is an organisation within the Joint Forces Command of the UK Ministry of Defence.  The majority of our 340 civilian personnel are members of the Geospatial Analyst specialist professional group. Director DGC is our “Head of Profession”.  Our Geospatial Analysts are professionals in disciplines including cartography, try geography, physician geographic information management, geopolitics, photogrammetry, imagery exploitation, aeronautical information, GIS, reprographic services, and the management and delivery of map supply.

Within DGC are a small number of military personnel from the Army’s 42 Royal Engineer (Geographic) Regiment, specialists in the provision of deployable geospatial analyst support.  They provide a specialist military perspective in our decisions on how to satisfy military requirements and support engagement with our customers; these include colleagues from their regiment who are attached to a variety of military units and headquarters and a larger number who remain in the regiment’s main base until they are called upon to deploy in support of military operations in several locations around the world.

Also closely related to DGC are specialists in air navigation/air cartography within No1 Aeronautical Documents Unit, Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy officers who are specialists in hydrography and meteorology, each responsible for managing the UK MOD relationships with the UK Hydrographic Office and Meteorological Office.

We take our professional development very seriously. Many of our people are graduates in geography and other relevant subjects, but this is not a pre-requisite for DGC recruitment. We nevertheless believe that we are the single largest employer of geographers in the UK.  Some of our people have completed postgraduate qualifications in a variety of relevant subjects, often supported by DGC sponsorship.  A growing number of us are also achieving Chartered Geographer accreditation with the Royal Geographical Society; this recognition of our status as professional geographers is very important to us.

Our job is to provide geographic information, advice, products and services to the MOD and HM Armed Forces.  We can be called upon to provide this for any part of the world where there is a defence interest (for UK areas we use data provided by the relevant civilian national mapping authorities in Great Britain and Northern Ireland). We support every level of defence activity.  But no-one else in HM Government does what we do; we are in so many ways a national asset and we therefore increasingly support other government departments through a variety of arrangements.

You can read more general background information about DGC on the www.gov.uk website:

About the Defence Geographic Centre

Putting the Military on the Map – 3 January 2013

DGC Receives GIS Award – 4 October 2012

But before you do that please consider reading on to see what is happening in DGC today……..

MONDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2014

My day started with a review of last week’s activities and a look ahead to the coming week.  Every Monday my colleagues on the senior leadership team and our key team members meet to conduct a structured review of ongoing and emerging operational tasks.  This is called the “Monday Operations Meeting”.  To prepare for this I first held a short informal meeting with my own team leaders to discuss: how are things going; what has been completed and what is in progress; are there any issues that I need to be aware of; here are some things that you need to know about for the coming week – potential changes in priorities, management interventions, incoming and outgoing visits; and finally a little bit of admin…..

We then all joined the Monday Operations Meeting.  We were briefed on latest developments and directions/requirements and my colleagues and I each provided a brief situation report on the tasks and developments in our teams.  Some new urgent requirements emerged, some priorities were changed, and during the course of today I will be taking actions to adjust our response.  The variety of tasks and areas of interest is huge and constantly changing.  We are acquiring, producing and providing geographic information for many locations around the world – wherever there is a HM Government or MOD focus on emerging or ongoing events and crises – as well as for military training and exercises.

Everything happens somewhere and our decision makers at all levels want to know where that is, what is there, and so on.

We broadly have two types of work: our first priority is always to support the current operational and planning requirements of the MOD Permanent Joint Headquarters, as directed by the tasking authorities in Joint Forces Command. However, in order to be able to respond quickly as situations evolve (often with as little as two hours notice) we need to have anticipated and prepared as much as possible – this is our longer term planned and programmed work.

After the Monday Operations Meeting we dispersed and, in order to produce the snapshot for this post, I started this special “Day of Geography” tour around the DGC to see what is going on in more detail.

My first stop was with DGC’s Head of Geographic Information Collection and International Relationships; he is one of my colleagues on the senior leadership team.  He is researching the history of USA/UK geospatial cooperation for Defence purposes and has discovered that the very first agreement to exchange maps and survey information was signed in May 1942. There have been many agreements signed since then which have deepened the level of cooperation between the two countries. He has made a number of decisions and sent emails covering the release of UK-produced mapping and data to support the relief effort for the Ebola crisis. The aim is to allow access to vital mapping over Sierra Leone to those organisations that really need it.

My next stop is with the Geographic Applications Branch which provides technical support for our specialist geospatial tools and advises some of our customers. They are part of a group led by another of my senior leadership team colleagues who has responsibility for foundation data production, stewardship, and cartographic expertise. One of the team has recently visited Friedrichshafen to provide geographic expert support to the MOD team involved in the Airbus A400M Atlas programme.  The trials involved loading and testing a number of DGC geographic datasets including raster Map data, flight obstructions data and elevation models, and this is now being followed up in the office today.

My next stop is with DGC’s Senior Geographic Data Steward.  Good authoritative data, and in particular its management and stewardship, is critical for DGC and the users of DGC’s services. Her team is finalising the DGC Archiving and File Naming Convention Policy in support of our transformation to a “Data Centric Working” model.  They are also finalising the report and recommendations from the Data Centric Working Pilot Study we conducted during the summer in partnership with ESRI UK and Raytheon and auditing our data repositories to ensure that we are able to prepare the data for a new approach to storage and discovery.  This includes ensuring that the metadata is captured and stored in compliance with the MOD Geospatial Metadata Profile.

Next on the tour is a task team which specialises in imagery management and exploitation.  They are researching commercial satellite imagery holdings to identify imagery that will be suitable for use as a source for the creation of products to support the personnel deployed to West Africa as part of the Ebola crisis response.  The task team is going to rectify, reformat and enhance the imagery so that it can be exploited by the other task teams.  Although the resultant products are initially aimed at the needs of UK personnel, they will almost certainly be shared with key partners.

The next task team specialises in information important to users in the aeronautical community, such as powerlines and vertical obstructions; they acquire and manage that data and ensure that it is accurately incorporated into a variety of products.  This complements and supports the work of the No1 Air Information Documents Unit, which produces specialist products such as aeronautical navigation charts and documents describing the terminal approach procedures and plans for airfields.  Today the task team are looking at how they can grow their capacity through cross training, so that team members can take on a wider range of activities.  The work has a highly temporal nature as the outputs must support the refresh and reissue of critical flight safety outputs on a 28 day cycle.  This cycle is non-negotiable and cross-training will improve the team’s resilience, but it is crucial to maintain a high level of data quality at the same time.

The next segment of my tour takes in some of my own teams.  My first stop is with one of my senior staff who leads the core team of geographic research experts.  He has reviewed and discussed some materials from the geographical names, boundaries, and geodesy sections which will soon be used for briefing visitors to DGC. He has also held a meeting with DGC’s web services team to discuss structure of the database schema for a planned MOD gazetteer to support search and discovery of information using web services. Team leadership carries additional management responsibilities and he is now assessing applications arising from a recent external recruitment campaign.

DGC’s boundaries expert is one of several staff who have completed a relevant MA at Kings College London, sponsored by DGC. He started the day with a review of the daily feeds from BBC Monitoring; he was looking for news reports that might be relevant to his research into boundary issues and extracted information for reference in our digital filing system. For the remainder of the day he is writing up summaries of his research into the status and alignments of the international boundaries of a country in Africa, including factors that are relevant to understanding interstate disputes.

DGC’s geographical names experts work closely with colleagues at the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (PCGN) based at the Royal Geographical Society.  Today one of the team is finalising checks on the spelling and positioning of geographical names on products to support the Ebola crisis response over West Africa.  Using additional larger-scale mapping sources she has been able add names for rivers which would have otherwise remained unidentified.  This will enhance the utility of the products.  I called the PCGN and learned that today they are identifying the locations of villages in an African country, checking the names on another product to support the Ebola crisis response, researching names for use on briefing maps of three countries in the Middle East and Asia, and looking for new information on recent changes to internal administrative boundaries in a country in Asia.

Just around the corner one of DGC’s experts in geodesy is compiling geodetic information for a new training area map so that it can include the correct magnetic information.  He also has work in progress to determine the history of a map of an African country; this will enable us to accurately georeference it so that it becomes a useful source for deriving the alignments of internal administrative boundaries in that country.

I am fortunate to have a team member who has a particularly deep passion for, and expertise in, military cartography and relevant aspects of imagery exploitation. He is working on a draft specification for a new product intended to depict border porosity.  He needs to include advice on the factors and potential sources (imagery and documentary sources) that should be considered, so he is conducting research into the relevance and weighting of those factors as applied to the question of what makes a border porous for determined, opportunist and encumbered groups.  He will then need to devise a way to portray that porosity in a graphical form that is both meaningful and useful to the user of the product.

Anyone familiar with maps will be aware that there is a great deal of information around the margins, including the identification of the product and producer.  One of my team members is an expert in these matters, as well as an expert cartographer.  Today he has attended a cross-DGC daily task management meeting, before determining the product identification and marginalia guidance for two new products over a key UK naval base.  His next task is to review the marginalia and cartographic content of the latest in a series of interactive geographic research products of a country in Africa.

My next stop is one of the three task teams in my group, each of which has a distinct primary expertise, but is also capable of surging support to other tasks as required. They are compiling a “Map Book” as part of the Ebola crisis response.  It will bring together a wide variety of relatively small-scale briefing maps which have been completed across the DGC and by our team members embedded into other parts of MOD.   The bundling of products produced in different places, at different times, for different purposes, inevitably highlights some inconsistencies which may reduce the users’ confidence in the Map Book.  The team are using Adobe Photoshop to make minor adjustments so that the Map Book complies with the latest cartographic and marginalia specification.

The team have other tasks in work for another area in which MOD has personnel on the ground and is using ESRI ArcMap and imagery sources to digitise and symbolise vector data of transportation networks and buildings of interest.  The vectors will be integrated with an imagery base, grid and geodetic information to form an image-map atlas.  The process of defining page extents and index pages will be complex but is essential if the product is to be delivered in a format that is easy to carry and use.

One of my three task teams specialises in research-heavy products which include an element of information discovery, analysis and fusion that is more complex than that required for a typical “standard specification” cartographic product. The team is also developing our ability to acquire and visualise information relevant to the study of human geography.  Understanding the distribution and characteristics of populations (and their relationships with the physical environment, infrastructure, economy, institutions and governance) is now accepted as essential to anticipating and responding to conflict situations, humanitarian crises and natural disasters.

The team is busy producing a range of products in support of MOD and HM Government planning and operations in many locations in Africa and the Middle East. They are also engaged in an important collaborative project with international partners to develop a structured data model to support the collection and analysis of human geography data.

I have a particular interest in the human geography developments as I chair the UK MOD Human Domain Community of Interest.  Linked to this I chair an annual conference which my team and I co-organise with international partners, hosted by the DefenceAcademy at Shrivenham.  The next conference will be held 1-3 June 2015 and you will be able find out more about it on the DefenceAcademy website early in 2015 by searching for “Spatial Socio Cultural Knowledge Workshop”.  It will focus on “Defence Engagement”.  You can read about the last conference here:

Human Geography Conference 2014

The third of my task teams is working in partnership with other DGC task teams to rapidly produce new topographic maps to military specifications for several areas of topical MOD and HM Government interest.  These maps are not being compiled from scratch (which would take many weeks or months) but from a ready-made database of centre-line vector data.  This is the result of several years of work by 29 nations, working in partnership to create a database of features from imagery sources to an accuracy equivalent to a 1:50,000 scale.  The database is not optimised for direct use as it is intended to be the source for derived products, produced quickly (sometimes enhanced with extra content) when required.  The products are then shared with key partners.  DGC is one of the lead nations in this partnership led by the USA.  DGC has a team dedicated to delivering our contribution which we achieve though contracts with industry partners in the commercial sector.

Elsewhere in DGC…     There are small teams engaging directly with our customers to ensure that they are receiving the support they need.

We have a very small number of staff who are following up the applications from our recent external recruitment campaign; this important activity has temporarily drawn them away from their other key function of ensuring that we develop and maintain our professional skills.

We have small teams which are busy making contact with partners and suppliers all over the world to negotiate access to, or purchase of, maps and databases; these are received in paper and digital formats and, after an initial assessment to determine their usefulness, they are catalogued into our extensive libraries.  The products which are judged to be suitable to satisfy high priority customer requirements are immediately diverted into the relevant parts of DGC to be exploited or passed directly to the customers in a suitable format.

In the dissemination group there is a small team maintaining MOD’s geographic information web services.  They are working closely with a task team which is dedicated to the selection and organisation of the products and data that is judged to be most useful and suitable at a variety of scales and resolutions over countries of particular interest, so that customers can be given the best available data in a single large package on high capacity disk drives and through web services.  Their colleagues nearby are extracting digital data and products in smaller volumes onto optical media and lower capacity disk drives for those customers who have more discreet requirements.  For the customers who need paper maps and charts, our team is busy conducting the rapid plotting or high volume lithographic printing of quantities of maps and charts which are subsequently distributed from our map depot.

None of this would be possible without the support of our very small and dedicated team of administrative support staff.

That concludes this Day of Geography tour of the DGC.  I hope that you have found it interesting to have an insight into some of the many ways in which geographers contribute to activities of national and international importance.

(c) Crown Copyright 2014

Of people and places

A study of people and places.’ This was how Geography was first described to me at School, and years later it still seems to me to be a good tagline for the subject. As far as I have seen, Geography is unique. It is perhaps the most multidisciplinary subject, giving you incredible potential to immerse yourself in whatever interests you most, and discover the surprising way in which different subjects fit together. It really is a poster-child for the interdisciplinary philosophy.

My name is Benjamin Laken, and I am a Physical Geographer. I studied Geography as an undergraduate degree in England at Sussex University (2004–2007), and then a doctorate in the subject, also from Sussex, 2007–2010. Since then, I worked in several postdoc research positions: firstly, for the Spanish government at an Astrophysics institute in the Canary Islands (2010–2014), and recently I moved to the Department of Geophysics at the University of Oslo, Norway. In this post, I will try to tell you a bit about what I have worked on, how I see geography and the opportunities it can bring, as well as the possible exciting future areas for people who are considering entering the field.

I will try and give some real-world examples now, from my own experience of some of the projects I have worked on. On my personal website you can find much more information about my work, including publications, presentations, tweets, and videos. For the last four years, one of my main areas of focus has been examining connections between the Earth’s atmosphere and space weather. I felt that this was an important subject, as improving our understanding of natural climate variability directly relates to our understanding of how humans impact our world.

130 000 lakes of the ECCO project covering the Fennoscandian region. We aim to project changes in the ecology and properties of these lakes with global warming.

130 000 lakes of the ECCO project covering the Fennoscandian region. We aim to project changes in the ecology and properties of these lakes with global warming.

As with any scientific research project, this meant spending a lot of time working with large amounts of data to test your ideas. Often, as was my case, a researcher may not have any experience of computer science before embarking on a post-graduate program. In the tradition of a PhD this usually means that you learn to work the way your supervisor worked, and so it was for me. Starting from FORTRAN 77, I learned to create procedural programs, from there I moved to a number of much more modern languages and methods. Today, I primarily rely on Python, Git, and some really exciting tools that let you access and process vast amounts of incredible scientific data non-locally. I found that the best tools are non-discipline specific, so you really learn skills that you could apply to any set of problems, whether its creating a scientific analysis, generating pixel-perfect figures to communicate your findings, or something more practical like building a database or website.

Today, I am working as a Postdoctorate Research Fellow on a cross-disciplinary project in Norway, called ECCO (Effects of climate change on boreal lake ecosystems). This project aims to discover the way in which the hundreds of thousand lakes across the Fennoscandian region will respond to global warming. It essentially combines the skills of hydrologists, biologists, ecologists, remote sensors, GIS, and climate modellers, to produce a detailed picture of how this critical resource will be impacted over the coming decades. My main roles in the project are to develop and run software to identify the future climate over 130,000 individual lakes selected for the project, and to examine recent changes over the lakes and their surroundings from satellite data, and identify the specific processes contributing to these responses. These lakes are a critical resource, and our findings could likely be important in influencing decision-making and policies across the region.

Within geography, you are able to take time to study a wide array of subjects, and focus on the facets of those which interest you the most. For me, this has largely been climate science, and its connection to atmospheric physics, computer science, ecology, environmental science, politics, society, statistics, physics, and many more. Geography gives you free reign to study the big picture of many disciplines, and interact with a wide range of people. You can really see this philosophy in action if you go to the biggest scientific meetings, such as the annual European Geophysical Union, where thousands of researchers meet to discuss an almost unbelievable range of esoteric topics—wherever you go there, you can be sure to find a Geographer somewhere! However, as a downside to the topical breadth of Geography, you find that the onus is indefinitely on you to go back over subjects which you may have only covered in a cursory manner, and deepen your knowledge as required. I would say that in Geography you will probably always feel like a little fish swimming in a big pond: as you become comfortable and familiar with one set of ideas and working tools, you find that the next subject connected to your work has a whole new range of practices and methods which you might want to learn to integrate and benefit from. It is really a subject that will always keep on challenging you. It can be as practical as disaster mapping, and on-the-ground relief work, or as theoretical as speculating on the environment and climate of alien-worlds. In Geography, the choice is yours!