Niagara

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.

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

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!

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.

Geospatial Niagara – Day of Geography – Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School

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Sir Winston Churchill Selfie

Well today is the day!!! Day of Geography! The first one ever and definitely not the last.

Geospatial Niagara created Day of Geography but was inspired by the Archaeological community’s “Day of Archaeology“. The story of why, how, when can be found in the “About the Project” section.

Today was a special day because myself and six other colleagues had the fortune of making a presentation to approximately 100+ Grade 9 Geography students at a local high school – Sir Winston Churchill. Joining me on stage were Jean Tong – Director of K-12 Education at ESRI Canada, Kevin Turner – Physical Geography Professor at Brock University, Colleen Beard – Head of the Map, Data & GIS Library at Brock University, Teresa Alonzi and Amber-Lynn Schmucker from the Brock University Geographical Society and Janet Finlay – Program Coordinator of the Niagara College GIS and Geospatial Management Program.

I’d like to thank Kristen Salvas and Melanie Bourque from the Sir Winston Churchill Geography Department for making this happen. They capitalized on this event and we are very thankful. They were the first high school to take part in what I hope Geospatial Niagara can do every year, and that is bringing the possibilities of Geography to students, not only on Day of Geography but throughout the year as well

SirWinstonI am aware that there was another high school Day of Geography event and that was in Waterloo at the Waterloo Collegiate Institute being put on by my colleague Dr. Amanda Hooykaas.

The presentation began with a Jean Tong walking about what resources the students could access immediately and showed examples of various types of story maps. Thus began a journey through their education from high school through to university and post secondary education.

Next up came Kevin talking about some of the course offerings at Brock University and about his own research pertaining to climate change and its impacts in the Far North.

Colleen Beard guided the students through the Map, Data and GIS library site, illustrating some of the student created maps as well as the excellent War of 1812 Google Maps Presentation.

Teresa Alonzi and Amber-Lynn Schmucker, both from the Brock University Geographical Society (BUGS) talked about their experiences in the geography program. Interestingly enough neither of them began with geography at Brock, they found geography and switched their majors. They had found their calling.

Janet Finlay from Niagara College talked to the students about the GIS/Geospatial Management Program and about all the work (and the rewards) that entails.

The presentation wrapped up with me discussing Geospatial Niagara. What we’re all about, out vision, mission and goals.

We wrapped up with a little bit of a question period from the students which included one of my favourite questions to answer. “Why did you choose geography?”…. For me, I had some amazing teachers all the way through grade school to high school and university/college. In the long run I don’t think I chose geography. Geography chose me. But the educators that I had refined my vision and increased my passion for the subject to areas I had no idea about.

I encourage everyone professional or student, to share your love of all things geo. If you are in high school, share it with those in younger grades. If you are in college or university visit your old high school or grade school. Pay it forward…

And now the planning begins for Day of Geography 2015 – November 16, 2015 to make it bigger and better.

Cheers!

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 is Almost Here!

Geography Awareness Week Geogratree

Geography Awareness Week Geogratree

Hello World!! This is usually the phrase used to test a string of code. In this case, the phrase means so much more.

In the context of this post, it truly is “Hello World”. As this post is being written (November 9, 2014), the Day of Geography site has had visitors from 56 countries and 291 cities. This is incredibly inspiring to me! I can imagine days where students from around the world visit the site and become inspired to become remote sensing specialists, urban planners, educators, transportation geographers, GIS analysts, surveyors….. the list goes endlessly on and on.

Geospatial Niagara is incredibly proud to bring you Day of Geography and we thank our supporters in this endeavour. It has been a valuable learning experience for us and we hope it provides a valuable learning experience to students, educators and citizens around the world.

As Geography Awareness Week begins, let’s also remember those that inspired us to become geo-professionals. Each of us has been inspired in some way by those who have educated us. To those who have and continue to inspire me, lit the fire and keep it burning. Thank you!

To our contributors, Day of Geography wouldn’t exist without you sharing the stories of your work day. From all of us at Geospatial Niagara…

THANK YOU!