A geospatial lab kit…

I am sitting at my desk feeling slightly befuddled by my own question…”what would you put in a geospatial lab kit”. I want to move my fall class out of the class/lab regime to have them put feet to grass and get a better sense of the use of maps and data collection. My first instinct is to toss them a GPS and say ‘see you in an hour’ but we are at the stage where there are too many people in a class to break up into groups with our Trimbles and not yet at the point where I am ready to get a dozen consumer devices. Plus, this doesn’t give the students something that they can use after the class.

A quick Google search with variations gave me no ‘go to’ list that others offer up for use in their classes. Some things seem obvious like a compass and a copy of the local USGS quad, but what is the best balance between cool tools/toys (200 foot tape) and good expectation of costs ($10? $200?). Do you focus on mapping, how far into surveying do you go?

Like I said, befuddled. To begin to resolve my befuddlement I have decided to look at and list materials then go through and figure out what fits into my current structure or would require only minimal tweaks to fit into class or labs. At the same time I want hear what others are using in class or at work that would help someone just getting into Geography and geospatial technologies. Please email or leave suggestions in the comments. In a few days I will share my original list (with suggestions), the items I am probably going to require for class/lab in the fall, and then in the fall I will share how well the items are working out in my class.

Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas!

What people do with maps in the era of GPS and Web Maps

In the era of GPS and Web Mapping you might think that paper(physical, concrete things you hold in your hands) maps are on their way out. I don’t necessarily agree, paper maps are very useful when you’re away from our friend electricity and are certainly handy in emergencies.

Beyond that I’ve started to notice, perhaps a bit late, that paper maps have started to take on another life as a creative medium. A few post’s back I highlighted AxisMaps where the maps were transformed into a piece of art. And if you leave the house more often than I do, you’ve probably noticed the topographic map stationary sets. Today I found another unique use of maps at CityFabric, where metropolitan areas are screen printed onto tote bags and t-shirts, complete with a pin to highlight a favorite location.

I know there are a lot of neat geographic themed gifts out there, but I think I’d like to hear from our readers and listeners if they have seen, heard, witnessed any novel uses of geographic data (not just gifts or nick-knacks).  I mean it. Find some really weird or unique use of geographic data and send a photo or link in and I’ll compile a post of all the neat stuff you find!


LightSquared to Impact 75% of GPS Receivers…. maybe

Here’s some bad news for LightSquared – looks like their system will negatively impact the overwhelming majority of GPS receivers currently in operation, based upon a leak of a test report. A series of tests were conducted by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration between Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 confirming this concern. LightSquared fired back suggesting they plan on operating at a lower power point than the tests and that ‘interfered’ isn’t properly defined by the study. They estimate their new systems will only negatively interact with 10% of existing GPS units. LightSquared says in a letter, “The report presents a completely slanted and selective review of the test results. Clearly the leak was intended to prejudge the issue and prejudice public opinion against LightSquared.”

To be honest, in my opinion, even 10% seems a bit high. Regulators were withholding approval for the new system in anticipation of this study. Looks like to me LightSquared better commission a new study PDQ or risk loosing approval for their new systems.

Reasonably Priced “Vintage” Geography Gifts

If you are looking for some nice looking gifts for the geographer in your life that are wonderfully unique, look no further than the Steam Punk Emporium.  What they call Brassy Bits: vintage looking compasses, sextants, telescopes, magnifying loupes, pocket sundials… I would call old fashioned geography and cartography tools. Most of them range in price from $5.00 to around $50.00  There are even some vintage looking geography and globe themed necklaces and pocket watches.

Conserving the Night Sky

Is your portion of the night sky polluted by artificial light?  Check out this really slick Google Map interface I found on the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) web site .  For over 22 years, the IDA has been advocating to keep our night sky clean of light pollution.  Their reasons go beyond astronomy purposes and have provided resources for legislation that would both reduce night sky lighting and provide very large amounts of energy savings to the global economy.

Find A Dark Spot Tonight
Click on the image to go directly to map viewer

Data for the map comes from the NGDC, where you can find some links to more interactive maps and other imagery services.


Discounts for your GAW and holiday gifts

Each year as the holidays approach (and yes I include GAW in that list of holidays) we try to reach out to a vendor who carries Geographic or cartographic items to see if they would be willing to cut you guys a break/provide a discount in exchange for some free ad space on VerySpatial. This year we have talked ODTMaps.com into working with us…and for the first time it was actually easy to get a retailer on board.

We hope to have an ad up on the site soon that will highlight the 10% discount you can get using our coupon code veryspatial on the ODT Maps order summary page. However, in the short term they would like you to know that if you sign up for the ODT Maps newsletter you will get an exclusive newsletter subscriber discount in the November 21 issue of the ODT Maps newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter head over to http://odtmaps.com/ and select Get E-Updates or follow this direct link. The newsletter discount will save you 30% Nov 23-28…ah Black Friday/CyberMonday sales.

If haven’t visited the ODT Maps site before take a minute to check it out. They have everything from maps to inflatable globes to magnets and stickers. They also have a selection of gift suggestions which includes a Hugg-a-Planet skin for those do-it-yourselfers who want to make the world themselves…and then hugg it (our Hugg-a-Planet still holds a place of honor). But perhaps most awesome of all is the large collection of south oriented maps and the EarthBall which has NITEGLOW CITIES! I am telling you now the the EarthBall may very well be the grand prize for our 6.5 year anniversary contest coming up in January…which means I need to go register for the newsletter so that we can afford to give one away (with the help of the coupon).

GEOGRAFREE – Front Line podcast in English

We are always excited about new Geography or geospatial podcasts since they are few and far between, but I am even more excited that a longstanding Geography podcast has become accessible to me (and other english speakers). The GEOGRAFREE Front-Line podcast has been produced in German for 106 episodes but has switched to english with episode 107. The podcast is hosted by Dr Torsten Wißmann who is a faculty member at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, though he is currently a visiting professor at UT Austin. Based on the first english episode he takes a more focused perspective than the 3 of us on avsp could ever hope to have (ah, the clarity of having only one host). The episode’s topics centered on human geography with a great sense of humor and a perspective that helps to highlight the aspects of Geography in the content he discusses.

As Torsten says in episode 107, I hope he doesn’t upset too many of his German speaking listeners in his switch to English, but I am very happy that he has opened the podcast to those of us who only know a handful of words in German. Be sure to check out GEOGRAFREE Front Line and become a US Frontliner

Royal Society Opens Its Archives

Prepare to watch today’s productivity sink like a log tied with rocks and encased in a block of cement. The Royal Society in the UK has thrown open its archives of papers that date back to the 17th century. There are some seriously amazing gems in that collection. Newton’s first paper? It’s in there. Ben Franklin’s kite experiment? It’s in there. Kinda curious what Darwin was publishing before his famous book? Guess what? In there. What to know what the first mention of ‘geography’ was in the collection? That would have been all the way back at the beginning in 1686.

Let’s be honest – I could spend weeks and weeks in this collection and still only scratch the outer coating of the packaging for the surface. All you have to do it begin your journey into the history of science is click this little link.