Geospatial Niagara

Day of Geography 2017

Hello everyone. Welcome to the 4th annual Day of Geography!

On this day, I’m doing a wide variety of things. As my full time job is working in the Long Range Community Planning pod of Planning and Development Services at the Niagara Region, a healthy part of my day so far is catching up on some applications that needed to be entered into our iDarts – Development Application Tracking System. This is a system that manages the various types of development applications that come in (these include Subdivisions, Condominiums, Zoning By-law, etc.). I wasn’t at work this passed Friday so the applications have piled up a little.

As some may know, I’m also the founder of Geospatial Niagara (the organization behind Day of Geography) and we have so many projects on the go. One thing that is particularly new this year for me is the GeoNiagara Radio Show.  This project began as a 4th Year Honours Internship in Brock Universities Department of Geography and Tourism Studies. Season 2 has just gotten underway and we will be airing Episode 3 on November 22, 2017.

The premise of the show is to engage and inform educators, students, and the broader community about the relevance and importance of geography as a discipline and geo-literacy as an educational necessity in a world that is ever increasingly being informed and influenced by geospatial technologies and information. The show is hosted my myself and co-host/producer RJ!

All of the episodes air on 103.7 CFBU, usually on the third Wednesday of the month, but after airing, the MP3’s are made available for download. If you wouldn’t think that you could make a career in media if you have a geography background, take a look around at the use of maps and visualizations in print media on television and on the internet. There are plenty of examples of stories that will include interactive maps as part of the story. After the passing of Gord Downie – lead singer and lyricist of The Tragically Hip, the CBC posted a story map of the geographic inspirations for  some of the bands songs. You can be interested in media and utilize a geographic education for that career that you desire!

Some more good news! Geospatial Niagara now has employee number 1, Celeste, and today a little bit of time has been spent communicating with her with respect to some of our other projects, trying to determine budgeting of some services.

It’s never ceases to amaze me the types of jobs that I do in a day and as all of them are based one way or another in Geography, these do not feel like jobs! To me it is fun!

Happy Geography Awareness Week!!

 

 

 

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.

 

Day of Geography – Week of Events!

I can’t begin to describe how happy I am that more people continue to contribute to the Day of Geography site. It’s a labour of love and a bit of a challenge to put this all together but the amount of information that students around the world can access continues to grow.

My day this year begins at my “day job” as a Planning and GIS Data Administrator at the Niagara Region in the Long Range Planning Department of the Planning and Development Services Division. While there I’m responsible for the maintenance and updates of the iDARTS program. That is, the interactive development application retrieval and tracking system. Basically it’s a GIS that attaches planning applications to the parcel(s) of land they apply to. These can include Official Plan amendments, Zoning Bylaw applications, Subdivision/Condominium applications among others.

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This is not all I do however, I’m also the Founder and Executive Director of Geospatial Niagara and the caretaker as it were of this here “Day of Geography” initiative along with some other volunteers of Geospatial Niagara – namely Ashley and Matt.

This year, my day with Geospatial Niagara consisted of taking part in a panel discussion called Community Connects for the Brock University Co-op program. This particular panel is about careers in geography, developing interview skills, networking skills and in general promoting the geospatial technologies and information sector, especially as it relates to the growing sector in Niagara. After the presentation, I need to return to work and pick up where I left off.

In the evening, I need to put the finishing touches on my presentation to a class of Grade 10 students at Sir Winston Secondary School in St. Catharines. The organization Business Education Council of Niagara has a program that receives requests from teachers throughout Niagara for people and organizations to participate in discussions with high school students about career/educational opportunities. No surprise, I’m doing a talk about careers in Geography. It’ll be a year to the day, since the last time I was there (incidentally on Day of Geography 2014). I’m sure there will be students that remember last years presentation!

Wednesday is GIS Day! Time to head over to Brock University to watch the ESRI scholarship presentations!

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On Wednesday evening, work continues to finalize discussion ideas for the Niagara Minecraft Project Educator Roundtable discussion on November 20 and the Niagara Minecraft student hackathon on November 21. The Niagara Minecraft Project began as a thesis project in the Niagara College GIS and Geospatial Management Program in the 2014-15 school year. The goal was to convert Niagara Region geospatial data (roads, hydrology and topography) into a 1:1 scale Minecraft map similar to those completed in England and Denmark. It was one of three projects sponsored by Geospatial Niagara. Recently due to the exposure that this project has garnered, Geospatial Niagara became part of ihub – Niagara’s Educational Research and Innovation hub as a portfolio company. This greatly increases our visibility and provides greater access to the schools that make up the District School Board of Niagara. The two events being held as part of the Niagara Minecraft Project will help us to engage those teachers that want to utilize Minecraft in their classrooms to provide their curriculum, and on the following day, allow kids to have fun and experiment with the full Niagara region Minecraft Map.

My work with Geospatial Niagara is a passion that I cannot put into words. I have a vision for what it can be and over the last two years, we’ve slowly built towards that vision bringing more volunteers into the fold. In 2014, we spoke with over 650 students ranging from Grades 2 all the way to Masters students. This year we’re on target to present to over 1000 people.

We have six student projects on the go this year – three of them are at Niagara College – The Niagara Minecraft 2.0 project, the Lincoln & Welland Regiment Interactive Geospatial Visualization project and the Niagara Hops Farm Site Suitability project and three of them are through the Brock University Honours Internship program. These include the Niagara Aspiring Geoparks Economic Study, an Active Transportation Mapping study and a Niagara Geographic Education study.

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Our treeOcode Niagara project really took off this year receiving a grant back in May from Evergreen that helped us out immensely. We’ve recently also started working with a community group to provide them geospatial services and consulting, this brings us out further into the community which is another mission of ours, promoting community participation through geography.

Studying geography opens your eyes to just how big yet how interdependent everything in our world is. Geography as a discipline has never been more important than it is right now. Most challenges we face in 2015-16 and far into the future, revolve around Geography. Working for or creating your own business no matter if it’s for profit or not for profit is incredibly rewarding – doing it as a geographer seems to make it even more fulfilling.

HAPPY DAY OF GEOGRAPHY EVERYONE!! Hope you’ve had an excellent GIS Day as well. Thank you to all who participated this year.

Scott Kelly’s Year In Space Updates!

Hi folks,

I’d like to share that I’ve spent some time today updating some pins on the map

Feel free to share attached image (or resize, if you wish)

Thanks for doing Day Of Geography!

Cheers, Dave

 

Posted on behalf of Dave McLean

Tree Inventory Intern

me

With a love for nature, erectile geography and the world around us, I graduated from Brock University with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and a Bachelor of Education with a Basic Qualification in Junior/Intermediate divisions with a teachable in Geography. This past fall, I returned to academia and earned a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems/Geospatial Management from Niagara College, and shortly after acquired a temporary internship with the City of Welland. (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.

Student: Brock University

Before I begin discussing my day, I’d like to describe my educational background. In 2011 I began my first year of study as a Human Geography student at Brock University. I attended Niagara College last year as part of a joint program between Brock and Niagara College and earned a post-graduate certificate in GIS-Geospatial Management. This was a great decision because I gained a lot of hands on experience working with GIS software and learning about the many applications that are involved with GIS. Plus, I will end up with a Bachelors Degree and a Post-Graduate Certificate after four years as opposed to five. While at Niagara College, I discovered that GIS presents a wide variety of employment opportunities and that I enjoyed the field very much. As a result, I found my career path for when I finish my studies at Brock this coming April. (more…)