St. Catharines

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!

 

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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.

 

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!