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.

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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.

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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.

 

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