Tag Archives: ArcGIS
GIS is often used to help us understand the world as it is, or was in the past, or model what it could be like in the future. But it can also be used to explore what could have been. Take the case of North Dakota and South Dakota. These two states were carved out of the Dakota Territory in 1889. President Harrison did not want to show favoritism when he signed the documents in terms of which state was admitted first, so they are listed alphabetically, with North Dakota listed as the 39th state and South Dakota listed as the 40th state. In many ways, the manner in which the two states were divided, by an east-west line near the 46th Parallel, made sense. Yet what if the territory had not been divided into North Dakota and South Dakota yet as East Dakota and West Dakota?
Several geographers over the years have speculated about the physical and cultural ‘divide’ that persists to this day. Many residents of the two states use the term “East River” to refer to lands east of the Missouri River, and “West River” to refer to lands west of the Missouri River. To me, this is the perfect lesson whose value is enhanced with the use of GIS, and specifically, the creation of data within ArcGIS desktop and the serving and sharing of that data on ArcGIS Online.
Using ArcGIS desktop, I created my two states using county lines that followed the Missouri River. What to do about the Bismarck? I left Mandan, on the west bank of the Missouri, in WD, in part because when one departs Bismarck on I-94, it really does feel like one is entering the “west”. Northwest of Bismarck, where the river turns west, I included the counties in northwestern North Dakota as part of West Dakota. The reason is that I considered that they have more physical and cultural characteristics in common with the west than the east. I highly enjoyed my next task: Selecting my two capital cities: Rapid City, “WD” and Sioux Falls, “ED”. I considered Fargo for the ED capital but settled on Sioux Falls for several reasons. Thus, Sioux Falls, ED is like Cheyenne, WY: Tucked into the corner of a vast territory. After my work in ArcGIS desktop, I shared my states on ArcGIS Online so others can use it as part of an educational lesson.
East Dakota has 79 counties. Its population rose from 637,720 in 1900 to 979,147 in 1950 to 1,119,642 by 2010. West Dakota has 40 counties. Only 65,604 lived there in 1900, in large part the miners who were still combing the Black Hills) but by 1950 it still only contained 289,571, and in 2010, 367,229 lived there. Thus, my East and West states are more lopsided in population than are the north and south states. Interestingly, over the past few years, my West Dakota is growing more rapidly than East Dakota with the expansion of the energy sector near Williston.
This activity, anchored squarely in the “what if”, helps students think spatially about physical geography, cultural geography, and history.
What sorts of “what if” scenarios can you create with a GIS?
Ten new hands-on activities that accompany the Esri Press book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data book that Jill Clark and I authored have been posted to the web, along with the data and the answer keys, on the Spatial Reserves site.
Look in the section “exercises and data for the book.” The activities are available through Scribd or through Google Docs. The data for the exercises are stored on ArcGIS Online. We contribute to the blog weekly, expanding on issues raised in the exercises and the book, such as data sources, data quality, data formats, fee vs. free, legal issues, volunteered geographic information, cloud GIS, and much more.
The activities cover a wide variety of scales, themes, and issues, and include:
Activity 1: Assessing the Impacts of potential climate change on coasts, ecoregions, population, and land cover, globally.
Activity 2: Siting an internet café in Orange County, California.
Activity 3: Siting a fire tower in the Loess Hills, Nebraska.
Activity 4: Analyzing floods and floodplains along the Front Range, Colorado.
Activity 5: Assessing potential hurricane hazards in Texas.
Activity 6: Analyzing land use and sustainability in Brazil.
Activity 7: Creating a map for an ecotourism company in New Zealand.
Activity 8: Assessing citizen science portals and analyzing citizen science data in invasive species.
Activity 9: Investigating 3 hazards of 2010: The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, and the Haiti earthquake.
Activity 10: Selecting the most suitable locations for tea cultivation in Kenya.
How might you use these activities, blog, and book in your teaching GIS and learning GIS?
Back in 1998, I and my colleagues were thrilled with the arrival of Terraserver. While maps and images for use in GIS on the web today are commonplace, back then it was revolutionary. Suddenly, thanks to an agreement between the USGS and Microsoft, the GIS community had access to USGS topographic maps and aerial photographs down to 1 meter spatial resolution for the entire USA. Two additional features made this service extra special. First, these images were georeferenced, meaning that they could be easily used within a GIS environment. Second, these images were online: No CD-ROMs or other physical media were required! After downloading the maps and aerials for our area of interest, we could read these maps and images into our ArcInfo or ArcView GIS software. True, the header files often needed to be edited first, but this resource gave us a huge leap forward because we had terabytes of data at our fingertips via http://www.terraserver-usa.com, later becoming http://msrmaps.com. Even better was when some enterprising folks at Esri wrote programs to automatically stream these images to ArcGIS.
Now, 14 years later, Terraserver was recently retired. As the National Atlas recently wrote, “We note its passing and salute all those who developed the service. Many people were involved in this groundbreaking effort. Still, there were three individuals who largely provided the vision and hard work that resulted in this remarkable service: Tom Barclay (Microsoft), Beth Duff (USGS, deceased), and Hedy Rossmeissl (USGS, retired). The National Atlas switched over to services provided by Esri so that Atlas users can continue to link from our maps to large-scale topo maps and aerial views. This takes us full circle. The National Atlas Map Maker was the first on-line, interactive mapper offered by the Federal government. It was partially developed under a joint research effort by the USGS and ESRI
A plethora of base maps, topographic maps, satellite images, and aerial photographs are now available to the GIS user and the general public such as via ArcGIS Online. Times have changed but the need for good base data lives on. While I don’t long for those days of tinkering with header files, I salute the early pioneers who made it all happen, and look forward to the future. The evolution of GIS data, and discussion about data sources, quality, and related issues are detailed and blogged weekly about in the book that Jill Clark and I wrote, entitled The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data.
I and my colleagues frequently need old aerials for land use change studies, however, and therefore, I wish Terraserver had remained online. Why couldn’t it have done so? What are now the best sources for old aerial photographs?
- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager, Esri
Central to the interest of the GIS community is spatial data: Where to find it, how to use it, how to gauge its quality, its scale, format, and resolution, privacy issues, copyright and licensing, the policies that govern the use of data, the role of data in the evolution of spatial data infrastructures, fee vs. free issues, cloud vs. desktop, downloading vs. streaming, crowdsourcing and citizen science, and a host of related issues. I am pleased to report that a book that Jill Clark and I co-authored on this subject has been published by Esri Press, entitled The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data.
This book [website] is accompanied by a blog that we update weekly with data sources and news on the issues explored in the book. The book is also accompanied by 10 activities free to use that involve the access and use of public domain data to solve problems. These problems range from selecting the most suitable locations for tea cultivation in Kenya, investigating the Gulf Oil Spill, siting a café in a metropolitan area, assessing citizen science portals, creating an ecotourism map in New Zealand, analyzing sustainable land use in Brazil, analyzing floodplains in Colorado, and much more. These activities are linked to the concepts presented in each chapter, and are accompanied by quizzes and answer keys, designed for easy use by an instructor, students, or the individual GIS practitioner. All of these resources are linked to the Spatial Reserves site and reside on ArcGIS Online. Our goal for the text and the activities is to provide GIS practitioners and instructors with the essential skills to find, acquire, format, and analyze public domain spatial data.
“This book fills a very big gap in the literature of GIS and brings together for the first time discussions of issues users of public domain data are likely to confront,” says Michael F. Goodchild, professor of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and director of UCSB’s Center for Spatial Studies. “It will prove useful to GIS practitioners in any area of GIS application, including students anxious to learn the skills needed to become GIS practitioners and data producers who want their data to be as useful as possible.”
How might you use this book and its associated resources in your own GIS journey or instruction?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
This being the time for Independence Day in the USA, wouldn’t it be interesting to use GIS to investigate if place names having “Independence Day” origins have a spatial pattern? Ask your students what names come to mind when they think of Independence Day. I chose four—Liberty, Independence, Freedom, and America (I even have a niece named Liberty!).
I started ArcMap and added the world street base map from ArcGIS Online. I then loaded the most comprehensive American cities shapefile I could find, with 23,435 cities. I used Find tool to locate all cities with Liberty, Independence, Freedom, or America in any part of the name, saving them one at a time into individual layers. Liberty was the most popular with 29 place names, the largest of which was Liberty, Missouri. Independence came in second with 10 instances with Independence, Missouri, topping the list with 112,301 people. Was Missouri the site of most of these 4th-of-July names? The maps showed Missouri to have a few, but the names were scattered from the mid-Atlantic states to the Midwest, 4 Liberties in eastern Iowa, a few names in the deep south and far west; nothing in Alaska or Hawaii. Was this pattern what you expected?
This exercise shows how easy it is to perform tasks in ArcGIS. I used the Find tool, highlighted place names matching the criterion, and then used Select because it allowed me to find all instances of the place name, wherever the chosen place name appeared, in any field. Second, using Selection -> Create Layer from Selected Features provided a quick way of creating new layers without having to create layer files or exporting the selection to new shapefiles or feature classes. Third, one can easily use standard symbols in nonstandard ways; the ovals I chose came from the Businesses symbol set. Finally, this exercise shows the ease of using ArcGIS Online data as a base map.
What other place names could you use in similar ways to investigate patterns?
Originally published, Jul 2, 2009
For the last several years now, every spring and fall, I volunteer to help the local Girl Scout council, not unlike many you GeoMentors. We plan and implement a large geocaching event. The event, now called “The Geocache Party” typically has 100 to 300 Girl Scouts involved. If you have ever planned a sizable geocaching (or Open Caching) event with several activities, you know placing, tracking, and reclaiming your caches can be a real nightmare. For a single event last year, we placed nearly 100 caches across 175 wooded acres. Just try to remember where all those caches are when you pick them up, at the end of an event!
Like many outdoor geo-activities, geocaching can be enhanced by using GIS. To support individual (traditional) geocaching or large geocaching events, I have assembled my seven ideas for leveraging GIS – to plan, manage, or even evaluate your caches and performance.
- Map your geocache coordinates before you leave home with the ArcGIS Online map viewer. Explore the geographic features, hazards, and public lands wherever you are headed. You can even add real-time weather to your map.
- Track and record your geocache finds in your own map at ArcGIS.com. This allows you to tell your geocaching stories, your way.
- Preparing a geocaching event? Use a GIS to map and manage your caches. Cache type, location, activity or purpose fields help explain where and why a cache is placed. (image below)
- Print out your GIS map and take it with you for reference while geocaching. Selecting the best base map can often lend helpful data to your hunt!
- Report out! Add your GPS track, routes, and waypoints to your geocache coordinate map to see how well you did finding caches – in ArcGIS Online. (first image)
- Report out! Take all the photos and video you want while geocaching. You can place media in “notes” and geotag to document your trip.
- Learn GIS career skills while enjoying a great geo-hobby!
By the way, both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts now offer Geocaching badges, each at certain age levels.
- Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager
Looking for ways to engage high school seniors with geospatial problems? Trying to find ways to bring geospatial technologies into the curriculum? Want to explore a state-wide site license for GIS? Searching for different ways to engage students with Geography?
The Geospatial Semester is a collaborative effort between James Madison University (JMU) and Virginia school districts (part of the Virginia-Esri state-wide site license). Students take a semester- or year-long course in geospatial technologies and pursue an extended, locally-based project. Faculty from JMU support the high school teachers and provide technical and project support. Best of all, students can earn JMU credit for their efforts.
Currently in its 7th year, the Geospatial Semester has provided opportunities for students to get engaged with geographic thinking and geospatial technologies. In this webinar, we’ll share details about the Geospatial Semester, examples of student work, and discuss how you can get the Geospatial Semester started in your locale.
A new book from Esri Press entitled Tribal GIS: Supporting Native American Decision Making, will be published in June 2012. In it, tribal leaders tell their stories about implementing and using GIS to address their unique challenges as sovereign Nations. The book covers applications in natural resources and the environment, transportation, cultural and historical preservation, economic development, health, public safety, agriculture, and perhaps most interesting to the GIS education community, two chapters on K-12 and higher education. Showing how tribal governments responsible for the stewardship of their land and resources and the health and well-being of their People use enterprise GIS to make decisions, Tribal GIS supports tribes new to GIS and those with GIS experience. It also will be useful for the general GIS community, showing the many scales and disciplines in which GIS can be applied.
It was an honor to work on this book with so many visionary people who are making a positive difference in the lives of people, in their communities and on their lands, and beyond. The book includes dozens of stories written by educators, scientists, administrators, managers, and others, showing the diversity of their backgrounds but also a common vision for the benefits that spatial analysis and GIS bring to their everyday decision making. Editors of the book include Anne Taylor, who coordinates Esri’s Tribal program, David Gadsden, who coordinates Esri’s nonprofit organization program, Joseph Kerski, who serves in Esri’s education program, and Heather Warren, who is the marketing coordinator for the federal government industry at Esri.
The education chapters include stories such as students at the Alamo Navajo School collecting water well location and water quality information for the tribal government, students at Santa Fe Indian School measuring soil erosion and analyzing land use, students at Haskell Indian Nations University researching the geology of Antarctica and developing an accessibility map for their own campus, and much more.
Space does not permit me to say too much here, but the stories speak for themselves. Pick up a copy of the book, read these stories, and share them with your students. How have the spatial perspective and GIS made a positive difference and aided with decision making? How might you be able to use these stories to generate ideas for your own GIS-based projects?
–Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
So many map, image, video, and data sources exist along with GIS tools these days that it is tempting to think we can “get by” without doing any fieldwork. Indeed, in these days of educational funding constraints when fieldwork involves high costs, permissions, and effort, these technological resources are extremely welcome and valued as virtual field trip substitutes. But are they truly substitutes?
We on the Esri education team work closely with the education community to promote active fieldwork. Our collaboration with National Geographic on the 2011 Geography Awareness Week promotion is just one example. We have collaborated with the American Geosciences Institute on Earth Science Week and with those promoting “No Child Left Inside” initiatives; we make use of the resources from the Place Based Education Initiative, and we promote the use of probes, GPS, and even smartphones to gather primary data to map and analyze within a GIS environment. Watch my video to examine why fieldwork is important. Even if you cannot get away from campus, you can still collect data right on your own school grounds. Dr Herb Broda’s book SchoolYard Enhanced Learning provides excellent ideas on how to do just that.
One activity out of many that incorporates these elements is entitled “Get Outside With GPS”, where I use key science, math, and geography content standards in a series of 22 questions to get students racing to see who can log the fastest speed with GPS, who can find virtual geocaches, who can most quickly calculate the Earth’s circumference, how long it would take to walk around the Earth from one’s current location, and calculating sunrise and sunset times based on the current latitude and time of year.
There is no shortage of things on which to collect data in your local community—pH and conductivity in streams and ponds, tree height and species, litter type and quantity, building age and condition, or something else. Create a spreadsheet in text, CSV, or XLS format and map it with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Desktop. Hyperlink images, text, and videos that you create at each of these points, save your maps, share them, and analyze patterns. How does water quality compare between local streams and lakes? How does tree height and species vary across a mountainside? What is the distribution of litter or graffiti in your community? Equally important as the “what” and “how” questions are the “why” questions. The spatial perspective and GIS represent a powerful framework and toolkit in which to examine your local community through your own locally-collected data.
How can you incorporate fieldwork, spatial analysis, and GIS so that you are making every day of the year one of “Geography Awareness”?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
Just outside of our Esri office in Colorado, a large condominium complex just broke ground. To the spatial thinker, its construction invites consideration of scale, change, and geography. On a local scale, the hilltop site in Broomfield was chosen because of the excellent views its residents will have of the Colorado Front Range, which were formerly enjoyed by my colleagues on the north end of our building. Regionally, construction occurs here as part of population growth fuelled by the combination of high-tech industries, including GIS, and amenities such as the nearby universities and the mountains, making Colorado one of the fastest growing states over the past 30 years. For centuries, communities changed very little, and indeed, some communities today undergo very little change. Yet in most communities, changes in infrastructure, total population, and the makeup of that population are commonplace. Therefore, this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme of “The Adventure in Your Community” is quite relevant, and community changes can be examined spatially by using a Geographic Information System (GIS).
One way to do this is to start examining regional scale changes by comparing historical to recent Landsat imagery by using the Change Matters website. At a local scale, use ArcGIS Online and add three types of basemaps: Bing imagery, the ArcGIS Online imagery, and the USGS topographic maps layer. Toggle the layers on and off and/or make them semi-transparent so that you can compare and contrast them. These three sources were created on different dates, with the USGS topographic maps usually being the oldest, and thus they provide an easy and powerful way to examine changes in local communities. Another way to analyze change is through demographic shifts. Open the “USA Demographics for Schools” map in ArcGIS Online, and study the amount and location of population change from 2000 to 2010, and the median age, income, ethnicity, and neighborhood lifestyle indices for your neighborhood. Collaborate with other educators and students or youth clubs across your city or across the country and compare your community’s characteristics with those. Why do differences exist?
Where do you suppose this neighborhood is? What clues exist that help you determine its location? Go outside and take pictures and videos around your local community. Write text about what you see. Revisit the same sites during different weather events and in different seasons, or in the case of my Esri neighborhood in Colorado, after the construction is completed. Link these photographs, videos, and text to points on your maps in ArcGIS Online. What changes are occurring, and why? What will your community look like and be like in 5 years? In 20 years? What can you do to influence your community in a positive way?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager