Four Winds Nature Institute Mapping Workshop

October 16, 2012

We had a fun, whirlwind of  a workshop yesterday evening with the Four Winds Nature Institute.  I wasn’t exactly sure which direction the workshop would go, so I’m now putting up a post with links to what we covered, and a few extra tutorials.  If you have any questions about these topics, please be in touch!

Google My Places

Google Fusion Tables

Google Earth

Quantum GIS (QGIS)

Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI)
data for use in QGIS:

Aerial Wiggle Stereoscopy

June 26, 2012

Today’s geo-meme:



Visualizing GPS Tracks

February 7, 2011

In a proof of concept, I wanted to see what kind of visualization I could pull together for a GPS track that I collected with Google’s My Tracks application.  To get this video, my approach was as follows, potentially roundabout:

  • Collect/save GPS track with My Tracks
  • Download CSV of GPS track points, which includes speed and time fields
  • Plot CSV as points in ArcMap
  • Convert points to line
  • Spatial join of points and line to apply speed and time fields to line
  • Symbolize by speed categories
  • Export to Google Earth using Export to KML with time stamps pulled from time field
  • Create tour in Google Earth
  • Export to movie with Google Earth Pro’s Movie Maker

Wildlife Impacts of the Gulf Oil Disaster

December 16, 2010

I produced a few animations for the National Wildlife Federation showing impacts of the Gulf oil spill on birds, dolphins, whales, and sea turtles that were published today on NWF’s Oil Spill site and Animal Planet’s R.O.A.R. blog.

We used wildlife data from NOAA’s Gulf Response web map (data found under BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill -> Wildlife Observations) and surface oil data from a KML posted on Google’s Oil Spill Crisis Response page.  This data originally came from NOAA-NESDIS satellite imagery, available to download as images and shapefiles from an archive on their Deepwater Horizon page.

The map below is the final image of the bird deaths and injuries animation, showing a cumulative number of birds affected and the full extent of the oil spill.  Just below that are the three animations, which you can also watch over on the Animal Planet blog.

Pew – Protect Tuna Globally

December 7, 2010

The Pew Environment Group recently posted the Google Earth mini-tour of bluefin tuna spawning grounds that we created for their Global Tuna Conservation Campaign, which strives to “Prohibit take of Atlantic bluefin tuna on their spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea.”

Download tour

3 seconds of fame

August 30, 2010

Rachel Maddow flashed a screenshot of my oil platforms map on her Friday, August 27, 2010 show.  If you want to watch the story, here’s the link:

And here’s a screenshot of her screenshot:

Gulf of Mexico Oil Rigs – 2nd Post

June 13, 2010

I am writing this follow-up post to last week’s post for two reasons.  The first reason is the number one search phrase bringing people to this blog for the past few days has been “how many oil rigs are in the Gulf of Mexico?”  I didn’t state this in the first post, and also, the data set has been updated since then.  So, I re-downloaded the Mineral Management Service platform location points from their GIS data site, and this is what the file currently shows:

  • Active platforms – 3,579
  • Removed platforms – 3,319
  • Proposed platforms – 123

The second reason for this post is, while watching the animation, I was interested in the number of platforms that seemed to be popping up throughout the years in shallow waters, not just a strong shift from installations in shallow waters to deep waters.  As I watched, I couldn’t help think of a recent comment to environmentalists from Sarah Palin, now perpetuated throughout her sphere of influence.  “Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country’s energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas.”  She is, for the most part, talking about ANWR when she mentions onshore drilling.  It is true that there has been lots of opposition to drilling in ANWR for many years now.  But I can’t imagine that opposing onshore drilling in northern Alaska has forced companies to drill in deeper waters in the Gulf of Mexico.  And as far as shallow water drilling goes, looking at the platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, shallow water drilling has NOT been abandoned for deep water.  Rather, the option for deep water drilling has simply become more feasible in the past few decades.  The graph below illustrates this point.

The next post, I promise, will have fewer words.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Rigs

June 10, 2010

When I first heard about the difficulties of stopping the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I thought, “Seriously?  There’s no plan here?  You never tested disaster scenarios?”  It’s as if they thought it could never happen.  If there’s an emergency, you have a plan.  My office has a plan for fire drills, for example.  Well, they never ran a fire drill.  And it seems that one of the factors that makes stopping this leak so difficult is the sheer depth of the spill at 5,000 feet below sea level.  As the Christian Science Monitor reports, “BP has once again acknowledged that this process has never been attempted at this depth before.”  New technologies have allowed us to drill deeper and deeper wells, but the disaster prevention technologies have not kept up at the same pace (no surprise there).

On to the maps: I was shocked when I saw this map displaying the number of oil rigs that currently dot the Gulf of Mexico.  Searching around a bit, I was able to find the data used to create this map at a Minerals Management Service mapping site.  I wanted to look at this data a bit differently, attempting to visualize the depths of each rig.  So I gathered some bathymetry data from British Oceanographic Data Centre, available here.  For each of the rig locations, I applied a depth, then displayed the rigs as graduated symbols; increased sizes for deeper waters.  Taking a closer look at the rig data, I noticed the database contained information about installation dates.  I figured that not only could I visualize the depth of the rigs, but I could also display the data temporally.  And as suspected, what I found was that the deepest rigs were installed most recently.  And the Deepwater Horizon is NOT the deepest rig we have out there.  In describing the data and map to my wife, she suggested that I show an animation of the installations.  And I believe this is the most effective (and terrifying) way of displaying this information.  Okay, no more words…here are the maps:

Vimeo link or YouTube link

Paint by Numbers – SF Addresses

May 13, 2010

Andy Woodruff has a great post called Paint by Numbers (go take a look!) on his Cartogrammar blog.  Patterns emerge based on addresses, hinting at some city planning at work.  Something he mentions is the idea of displaying all addresses in a city by number, color ramped.  The problem he talks about, and rightly so, is that the huge range of numbers assigned to different streets muddles the data, and makes it difficult to consistently visualize a city’s addresses all at once.  But I gave this a try anyway, to see what resulted for San Francisco.  I grabbed address data from DataSF (great resource), and set to work.  Actually, it makes a beautiful map, and where you don’t necessarily see citywide patterns, there are some fantastic neighborhoodwide patterns.  Click on the image below to see a larger version and a clearer view of these patterns.

One pattern that sticks out to me, is the influence of Market Street, the diagonal line in the northeast.  For streets that branch off to the west from Market (though at different western locations, because of the diagonal nature of Market, make sense?), each street starts at 1.  What this means, is that if you were to walk halfway down Market, then turn to the north, the cross streets will be different blocks.  So the addresses would be 1, followed by 100, followed by 200, etc.  Makes for some interesting navigating.

“Geo”referenced photographs

February 15, 2010

This series of photographs was georeferenced in ArcMap, exported as individual images, then animated using Windows Live Movie Maker.  What I wanted to try to do was reference images to themselves, not other geographic data, and what results is a gigapixel-like zoom on one small feature.  In what other ways can we push GIS software besides mapping and geographic analysis?


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