In about a month, the US Census Bureau will be releasing the 2010 Census data to states so that they can begin the process of redistricting for the House of Representatives, as well as state legislatures that use those boundaries for election districts. This process happens every ten years, and is a vital part of the process of governing here in the US. Redistricting is also an incredibly controversial political process, as political parties and other groups at all levels of government have a keen interest in how groups of voters are aggregated into districts. In the past, redistricting has often led to conflicts and lawsuits, as those with the power to make the redistricting maps can translate that power into electoral victories. Many people are at least familiar with the notion of gerrymandering, which is a term that dates back to the early 19th century, and refers to the deliberate drawing of electoral boundaries to try to increase a candidate’s or party’s chances of winning an election. There is even a new documentary film coming out called Gerrymandering, which is an in-depth look at mapping electoral districts and its impact on recent elections.
Like many recent weather-related disasters, the media and on-line websites have started to increasingly use interactive maps to explain disasters such as Guardian UK and other news outlets coverage of the current Australian flooding. In most areas where flooding is a problem, flood maps are very important not only for planning, such as the work done by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, but also for insurance purposes. In fact, flood insurance has been a major topic of debate over the past few years in Australia, and GIS plays an important part in it as demonstrated in a 2009 ESRI Australia Insurance Flood Map and Risk Policy Pricing video.
The flooding reminded me of a 1988 science fiction disaster book I read called “The Drowning Towers” by distinguished Australian writer George Turner, which explored what would happen to society, if Australia flooded. It is considered one of the top science fiction novels of all time, but at the time it was written the idea of a flood on such a huge scale was considered to be unbelievable. It is interesting to me because disaster fiction always seems related to the geographical background of the person writing it, flooding has always been a very real problem in Australia. Corbis images has pictures of the Brisbane, Australia flood of 1893, Walking Melbourne has many historic photos includes ones of the 1863 flood, while the Australian Bureau of Meteorology provides a brief history of Queensland floods.
Finally, a national appeal has been started to raise funds, accept donations, and provide resources through the Queensland government.
There are many restaurant apps around that rely on users to input location on their locale or sites they visit to create a national or international database.
The most recent one I have found out about is The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood WATCH Project FishMap which asks users to share information on the locations of restaurants and markets for sustainable seafood. It provides seafood pictures and a list of seafood that is ocean friendly.
According to the Seafood WATCH website, they make
recommendations using science-based, peer reviewed, and ecosystem-based criteria. They state that “Since 1999, we’ve distributed tens of millions of pocket guides, our iPhone application has been downloaded more than 240,000 times, and we have close to 200 partners across North America, including the two largest food service companies in the U.S.”
The downloads and partners are important because voluntary apps are only as useful as the quantity of participants and quality/reliability of the information they enter.
In 2008, Sue posted about the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Renewable Energy Laboratory Atlas that was in development. I ran across the completed NREL FTP site with geospatial toolkits and GIS data by the NREL GIS team. They analyze wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other energy resources and provide corresponding GIS data. This includes a beta version of their MapSearch of maps created by the team. I had the honor of attending (sitting in the audience) a surprisingly tense and exciting National Middle School Science Bowl many years ago, so it was interesting to find out that NREL manages the National Middle School Science Bowl for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
When you travel around the US there are lots of interesting landmarks to see. Unfortunately, only a few get the top billing. Not to disparage the Grand Canyon’s and Jamestown’s of the country, but there are some great places to see that get lost in the limelight. Checkout this list from Matador Trips of the 20 Overlooked National Landmarks in the US. For anyone attending AAG in Seattle this year, note the Seattle Underground if you’re looking for something neat to see while you’re in the city!
I imagine other countries must have similar ‘hidden’ or ‘forgotten’ landmarks. Put any suggestions in the comments section and I’ll be happy to add them to this post!
I know I have been scarce on the blog recently while I try to balance the whole new professor thing with all the other fun stuff in my life, but I had to add my picks for your holiday shopping this year.
My first pick is a great resource that I have already used to get some cool gifts this year – Zazzle’s Library of Congress collection. This is an amazing collaboration between the Library of Congress, who have made parts of their digital collections of historical photographs, maps, and other documents available, and Zazzle, which is an online retail site that lets you custom-design your own t-shirts, mugs, posters, ties, sneakers and tons of other products using images available on the site or your own. For my own gifts, I created posters from Civil War photographs that I’ve previously only seen in books, and they turned out beautifully. There are also tons of maps that are crying out to be made into posters, iPhone and iPad case, aprons, mugs, you name it. If you’d like to make your own stuff, you can upload any kind of image and customize it on Zazzle’s products. It’s pretty inexpensive, too, so check it out!
My second pick is a cool product that I found out about from a recent Facebook post by James Fee, so thanks to James! It’s Pistil SF’s Map Styles map blankets, cool fleece blankets with prints of city maps using OSM data, in collaboration with CloudMade and Stamen Design. The two styles, Midnight Commander and Candymaps are both cool, but I definitely prefer the dark blue look of Midnight Commander. You can get them customized to any address, and you just specify what you need during the order process. They’ll even send you a jpeg of your chosen location for final approval. The only possible negative to these beautiful blankets is their price, which is a hefty $175 for a 62×50 lightweight fleece blanket. They’re amazing, though, so if price is no issue for you, definitely snap one up!
My third recommendation is to check out cool map and geography-themed gifts from a number of online retailers. For example, Uncommon Goods has about 30 map-themed products that are reasonably priced, including a scratch-off map that shows where you’ve visited, a necklace of the world’s continents and other map jewelry, and city and country themed pillows. Cafepress, which is like Zazzle and offers personalized products like t-shirts, hats, mugs and other goodies, also has lots of fun geography-themed merchandise. My favorites – the Eat, Sleep, Geography t-shirt and I have to throw in our very own Got Map? wall clock
There are also great geography themed gifts out there in cool little shops, so venture out beyond the interwebs and the malls, and who knows what you’ll find!
Faculty and students from the Penn State Online Geospatial Intelligence Certificate were on the show floor at Geoint2010 and we took some time to find out about the certificate program.
The world has been set right as we return to our GISDay tradition of talking with our friend Rick Lawson of Esri about a variety of GIS topics such as trends, education, and great GIS tools. Included in our conversation are the new Explore Your Place History tool and the gallery of tools from Cybertech.
This post was written as a guest post for the MyWonderfulWorld blog for Geography Awareness Week. Be sure to head over and check out more of the MWW blog-a-thon for GAW.
Continuing Geography Awareness Week, we would like to talk about a topic that brings together geospatial technologies (it is GIS Day after all) with this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme of Freshwater. Water quality assessment is a crucial issue in many parts of the world due to causes such as pollution in manufacturing countries, scarcity in arid regions, and issues of access in urban areas. While Earth Observation Day is still a few months away (April 8, 2011), we wanted to take a look at geographic information gathered from remote sensing technologies to understand how this imagery can be used in studying water quality and other water-related issues.
There are a number of remote sensing studies that have taken advantage of spectral responses of specific phenomena to look at how light of different wavelengths can capture various water quality issues including sediments suspended in water, algae blooms, aquatic plants, and water temperature. Additional studies of these spectral responses have also been used to derive information on salinity (pdf) , water clarity, and other water topics. The United States and the European Union, for instance, both have water quality mandates that have been supported through the use of remote sensing imagery, and they are not alone in the use of such imagery to address this need.
In addition to studies that look at water quality, remotely sensed data has also been used to support a wide range of studies that deal with other water issues, such as identifying spatial changes in water bodies, by providing researchers with detailed views of an area. For example, remotely sensed data has been crucial in monitoring the contraction of the Aral Sea in central Asia, as well as other important bodies of water throughout the world. Other examples include mapping oil spills such as the spill this past summer in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or change detection to track snow pack or glacial melt.
While information derived from aerial or satellite images can support the large area assessment of surface water sources, it is often supported through the use of other location information/technologies. In-situ sensors are used by agencies such as the USGS. A network of fixed location sensors is maintained that can be used to ground truth certain aspects of water quality. In the case of studies that look at locations other than those with static location sensors, GPS receivers are used to record locations, such as in the case of randomly sampled ground truth test sites.
Of course, the information that is captured and classified using remote sensing can be fused with other types geographic information to provide users and consumers with a contextual, and often richer, understanding of water quality issues. An article from the Summer 2009 issue of Imaging Notes, for example, talks about some of the GIS tools that are used in water quality modeling. The wealth of tools that can be brought to bear to assess water quality issues are growing and now include a number of geospatial technologies. So remember, even though we only celebrate Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day once a year, there are many amazing resources and research projects out there that utilize remotely-sensed information to help us understand and try to solve many of today’s pressing environmental issues, including water quality and availability.