Project Bird Feeder Watch

It’s that time of year again in North America, Project Bird Feeder Watch for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.  It is a great opportunity for an easy to do citizen science activity.  Citizen scientists count the count the birds they see at their bird feeders. The data is used to map bird migration and bird populations.  Because it comes with a kit to do the bird count, there is a $15.00 participation fee which supports the project. Project Bird Feeder Watch has been around for more than 25 years making its data extremely important. You can explore some of the data and maps on their site.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada along with the Audubon Society are also sponsors of the Great Backyard Bird Count which starts in February and is free for participants. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a list of other citizen science projects that people might be interested in doing such as urban bird count, pigeon count, and migratory birds. Bird Studies Canada has citizen science projects such as The Christmas Bird Count, Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, and the nocturnal owl survey. I think these would be fantastic school, family, or even team-building exercises that involve geospatial data and the local community.

GIS Lounge conducting a GIS Skills and Employment Survey

Are you currently employed in the field of GIS? Help contribute to GIS Lounge’s study about the state of GIS employment and the skills needed to succeed as a GIS professional. The results of the survey will be published in early 2012 on This is a great service to the community and the more folks that take the survey the better the results. Check out the short survey at

US World Regional Geography class gets a chance to Skype with Burmese activist Suu Kyi

Professor John Boyer’s World Regions class at Virginia Tech got an amazing opportunity yesterday evening to interview Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who is known the world over for her efforts as a pro-democracy activist in Myanmar (Burma). After Boyer and his class recorded a video interview request and posted it to YouTube, Suu Kyi agreed to the request and answered questions from students and the audience for about 45 minutes via Skype. Here’s local news coverage of the event and congratulations to Professor Boyer on an unbelievable experience for his students!


The News and Geography Awareness

Matthew Erickson, deputy graphics director at The New York Times, has a great post about  “When Maps Shouldn’t Be Maps” or how location can be represented by a broad range of geovisualizations. He discusses that while using a map is often the right choose when presenting information that geovisualizations can add to the story. He has some great examples with explanations.  His blog post is timely because the theme of Geography Awareness Week this year is about geography in your community. Reading or watching the news is often the easiest way for people to get involved in their local geography, so it is nice when journalists understand the many ways they can present geospatial information. I think journalists are often an overlooked source for great neo-geography.

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 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 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).

GAW2011 is here

Ladies and gents, we are firmly into Geography Awareness Week 2011 (#gaw2011) and events they are a-happenin’ from your local classrooms to the social media circuses. If you haven’t checked out the usual suspects you should head over (in no particular order) to:

  • GeographyAwarenessWeek
  • On Facebook
  • Mission:Explore
  • MyWonderfulWorld Blog
  • to name just a few
  • Remember, this year’s theme is “the adventure in your community” so go out and share, create, or take part in a Geography adventure to spread the word!

    Zebra Stripe App

    A  short article in this month’s National Geographic magazine gives me a chance to tell a funny kid’s joke about zebras.  “There were two chickens standing at crosswalk. One says to the other: Should we cross the road?  The other one says: No Way! Look what happened to the zebra!”  According to the National Geographic article,”Scanning Zebras“,  zebra stripes are like a fortuitous blend of fingerprints and bar codes. This means that each black and white stripe pattern is unique to that zebra  and is patterned in a way that makes it possible to be scanned like a bar code.  McDermott reports that scientists and citizen scientists can use an app called Stripe Spotter created by the University of Illinois at Chicago and Princeton University to upload the zebra’s identity into a database.  Researchers involved in the project have recently written a paper, ” Biometric Animal Databases From Field Photographs: Identification of Individual Zebra in the Wild“. They think that in the future it could be used to identify other animals with strong patters such as tigers, giraffe, and kudu. This is another great example of how ingenuity in geospatial technologies can make it easier for citizen scientists to get involved in research, lessen the workload on scientists in the field, and improve the scientific process.

    Less than a week to GIS Day

    GIS Day is next Wednesday, November 16. If you are not hosting an event, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help spread the word. Oh contrare, you can use your freelance status on GIS Day to get the word out. Whether you are sharing your interest via your favorite social media, telling your neighbor about your most recent map, or showing your non-GIS coworkers how awesome your job is, get out there and spread the word.

    Daniel Raven-Ellison on GAW2011 and the adventure in your community

    National Geographic Education has done a great job of trying to prepare educators for the 2011 Geography Awareness Week and made a number of their presentations available online on their YouTube channel. While I encourage you to run out and view them all to give you some last minute ideas for next week (or to begin to prepare for 2012) I can’t embed all of the videos, so I have chosen one by Daniel Raven-Ellison that highlights Mission: Explore and the activities attached to the the GAW theme ‘the adventure in your community’.

    (this is part 1 of 3)
    Part 2
    Part 3

    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