Monthly Archives: April 2010

Examining Land Use and Sustainability in Rondộnia, Brazil, Using GIS

A new lesson in the ArcLessons library invites you to analyze the spatial pattern of land use and consider issues of sustainability in Rondộnia, Brazil using GIS.

The problem statement in the lesson reads as follows: After reading about development and deforestation in Brazil, with your new-found GIS skills, you decide to use GIS to investigate the situation on a deeper level and on a spatial level. Your goal is to make an assessment about the pattern and reasons for development in one of the most widely known parts of the rainforest, the state of Rondộnia, Brazil.

Skills integrated in the lesson include downloading and formatting data from an international public domain data source for use in a GIS. This source is Brazil’s Institute for Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE)). This agency, which operates in part as a national statistics agency, a land management agency, and an environmental agency, is a rich source of data in many tabular and spatial forms. One of my goals in writing the lesson was to help students realize that agencies outside the USA are also placing their spatial data online, and while language and bandwidth may pose challenges, many of these resources are worth pursuing.

Another skill nurtured by the lesson is downloading, formatting, and symbolizing Landsat satellite imagery data for use in a GIS, from the Global Land Cover Facility at the University of Maryland. The Landsat image makes it clear what the development pattern has been in the state, how roads have been a precursor to that development, and how land use has changed over time. In terms of GIS management, a skill that runs throughout the lesson is the integration of multiple sources and different scales and spatial extents into a GIS-based project. Finally, while it is important to download and integrate these spatial data sets, the most important skill developed in the lesson is helping the student to analyze spatial data in a problem-solving environment.

I look forward to your feedback on the lesson and also how you have modified the lesson or the idea behind it to meet your own instructional needs.

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Examining Land Use and Sustainability in Rond?nia, Brazil, Using GIS

A new lesson in the ArcLessons library invites you to analyze the spatial pattern of land use and consider issues of sustainability in Rond?nia, Brazil using GIS.

The problem statement in the lesson reads as follows: After reading about development and deforestation in Brazil, with your new-found GIS skills, you decide to use GIS to investigate the situation on a deeper level and on a spatial level. Your goal is to make an assessment about the pattern and reasons for development in one of the most widely known parts of the rainforest, the state of Rond?nia, Brazil.

Skills integrated in the lesson include downloading and formatting data from an international public domain data source for use in a GIS. This source is Brazil’s Institute for Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE)). This agency, which operates in part as a national statistics agency, a land management agency, and an environmental agency, is a rich source of data in many tabular and spatial forms. One of my goals in writing the lesson was to help students realize that agencies outside the USA are also placing their spatial data online, and while language and bandwidth may pose challenges, many of these resources are worth pursuing.

Another skill nurtured by the lesson is downloading, formatting, and symbolizing Landsat satellite imagery data for use in a GIS, from the Global Land Cover Facility at the University of Maryland. The Landsat image makes it clear what the development pattern has been in the state, how roads have been a precursor to that development, and how land use has changed over time. In terms of GIS management, a skill that runs throughout the lesson is the integration of multiple sources and different scales and spatial extents into a GIS-based project. Finally, while it is important to download and integrate these spatial data sets, the most important skill developed in the lesson is helping the student to analyze spatial data in a problem-solving environment.

I look forward to your feedback on the lesson and also how you have modified the lesson or the idea behind it to meet your own instructional needs.

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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2010 SkillsUSA Championships for High School and Post Secondary

Official Demonstration Contests

The following events has been approved as Official Demonstration Contests for the 2010 SkillsUSA Championships, with all states invited.

Geospatial Technology
The Geospatial Technology contest measures a participant’s skills and project management capabilities related to all geospatial technologies and is suited for students studying GIS, RS, and GPS. Contestants will prepare a project in advance for presentation at the national competition. Complete instructions and documentation will be provided. At the national competition, contestants will defend their GIS project, as well as take a written technical knowledge test and an application test that measures the ability to answer questions well-suited for GIS.

http://skillsusa.org/compete/demos.shtml

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The Nature Conservancy Launches Atlas of Global Conservation

<IMG height=319 src="http://downloads2.esri.com/blogs/images/info_6836.jpg" width=216 align=right

In time for Earth Day 40, I recently received a copy of the Nature Conservancy’s new Atlas of Global Conservation. It is an amazing synthesis of geographic data from a myriad of authoritative, scientific sources. The volume explores terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregions/realms and then dives into habitats ranging from forest to cave to deep ocean. The narratives and global maps examine the distribution of plants and animals, and then bring us into the picture through a lens of population and changes that humanity, knowingly and unintentionally, is bringing to the planet, its realms, and its living things.

If my description of the document ended with the above paragraph, it might give rise to the sense that the atlas is a picture of gloom and doom. This is not the case. The book devotes ample coverage to actions being taken on an individual to global scale, deeds that are making a difference, and some of which have been spearheaded by the Nature Conservancy through its conversation and outreach efforts (an organization that I’m proud to say I have been a member of for nearly 20 years.)

This does not mean that all is well. Hardly. The conclusion provides a succinct summarization of the three broad drivers testing the present and the future: population growth, overconsumption, and climate change, and importantly it speaks to the atlas’s subtitle: “Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference.” I particularly liked the importance the summary places on having geographic data and the maps the volume presents in helping us decide our future. Here’s a bit of the text.

The situation is serious and the future can look bleak, but this atlas holds another lesson. The maps can be seen in many ways as a series of symptoms and a diagnosis…Today we stand at a unique point in history, where we understand what is happening. We can even model and predict consequences of future actions…we now have the capacity to drive change in a positive direction.

As I was examining the book, I spied a note indicating that there is a companion Web site, http://www.nature.org/tncscience/maps/. Once on the site, to my delight, I discovered an ArcGIS Server Silverlight (requires plug-in) application which presents interactive versions of atlas maps. (Note: The site indicates that more maps are to come.) Here are a couple of the maps.

As the atlas concludes, “What will these maps look like in the future? It’s ours to decide.” I hope you take actions that help change the maps in a positive way.

George Dailey, ESRI Education Program Manager

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Earth Day: GIS Is Green Technology

What do Earth Day and GIS have in common? Earth Day began in 1970, with one of its goals to help people take steps to ensure that sustainable practices are followed to protect the environment. I like to think of Earth Day as incentive for what we should be thinking about and doing the other 364 days of the year. GIS also began around the same time, during the 1960s, and like Earth Day, its disciplinary roots are older. ESRI began the year before the first Earth Day, in 1969, as an environmental and land use consulting firm. Despite the changes that have taken place since then in how Earth Day is celebrated, and also how GIS is used, they both have empowered people to understand Planet Earth and to do something positive as its inhabitants.

How can GIS be used to benefit the environment? Examine a sample of papers given each year at hundreds of local, regional, nationwide, and international GIS conferences (such as at the ESRI User Conference), books, journals, and articles listed on the ESRI GIS bibliography, and the annual ESRI Map Books. Look at how GIS is used daily by organizations from local to global scale, including departments of natural resources, the Nature Conservancy, and the United Nations Environment Programme. Review the “best practices” booklet showing how GIS is green technology, in which GIS is described as helping site optimal locations for wind turbines and roofs for solar panels, maintaining tree inventories, and improving wetland habitat. But dig deeper than simply topics labeled as “environmental”: When GIS makes vehicle routing more fuel efficient or when GIS restructures city operations so that underground cable upgrades are done before the street over those cables is repaved, those operations are also “green” because they save resources.

All environmental issues have a spatial component. GIS is used for these green applications because it provides a unique, spatial perspective on those issues, promoting creative problem solving. Most of us want a career where we can make a positive difference in the world. Using GIS is not only interesting and marketable—it brightens the future for all of us.

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Icelandic Volcano and Ash Plume: A GIS Education Event Showstopper

For the past five years around this time, ESRI colleagues and I have met somewhere in Europe with education counterparts from ESRI distributors. Among other things, we gather to discuss and share ideas about education user best practices, new software and data resources, the latest in curriculum development, and ways of advancing GIS education. With a rich 3-day agenda, we were set to begin Wednesday, April 21…that is until the
Eyjafjallajokull
volcano in Iceland sent an ash plume across European skies bringing air travel to a halt for days such as depicted by the New York Times ash cloud-airport map. Here’s the picture as of April 19:

While some of our international colleagues might have been able to depart from Portugal, Spain, and Norway, the destination was Paris. Next add to the mix the backlog of travelers with canceled flights over several days and even when things reopen, that crush of stranded passengers means a holding pattern for more recent cancellations, like mine on Sunday April 18. The earliest I could make it in would be Sunday April 25, two days after we were to end. The meeting has been rescheduled for early June.

What a geography lesson—earth processes (volcanism and atmospheric patterns) we cannot control clashing with human transportation invention, demographics, and economic interdependence. I have appreciated stories about various types of global air cargo (e.g., cut flowers from Africa and asparagus from California) not making it to European locations and other goods vice versa. It makes you wonder about how things might be altered to ameliorate these interdependencies…or can we?

It’s also worth noting that Eyjafjallajokull is not a newcomer on the scene. Its previous major eruption was during the age of sail and also was an inspiration to at least one noted English landscape painter, JMW Turner. Some of his famed sunsets gracing the Tate Britain and other galleries were a result of that event. Climate change experts are using these snapshots to understand the past.

We have experienced other remarkable volcanic ash plume events such as Mt Pinatubo in the early 1990s and Krakatoa in 1883. It’s worth noting that both were in South Pacific. Not in unpopulated areas by any means but in areas where atmospheric patterns and population may have not come together quite like what we are seeing today from Iceland. However, both and other events like them around the globe have affected the local geography and have had global effects…I just saw a story indicating the current seemingly eastward drifting ash cloud has arrived in North America at Newfoundland.

We live on a global system and we should not forget it. Remember Earth Day on April 22…it’s the 40th.

By the way, to discover more about international efforts to bring GIS to education, visit the ESRI EdCommunity for key links.

- George Dailey, ESRI Education Program Manager

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Fun with GIS #46: Club GIS

Last week I visited an after-school club that has been doing GIS. This is a club in Montana, with a story that will be visible in the soon-to-be-released Winter 2010 edition of GIS Educator. (Check back soon if it’s not posted yet.)

The club idea is great! While it’s nice to see people using GIS in school for instructional and administrative purposes, club activities are, by definition, for the fun of it! This club has been mapping caves, analyzing their data, and coming up with some recommendations for the National Park Service about management of the caves.



L: On the way to a cave, the teacher/club leader points out some neat geology.
R: The cave zone, in oblique view, using ArcGIS Explorer‘s “Topo” base map.

The team’s geomentor is a GIS analyst for the county, and got the teacher started with GIS about two years ago. The team has put together some unique data, gathered through some pretty exciting trips. One of the seniors said “I used to do sports after school, but when the club began, this combination of outside and inside, trips and computers, was just more fun, and useful. So I do this now.”

Several of us talked with the students that day, and they drank in everything we presented about GIS. Meanwhile, the work the club is doing is making a difference, to the community, the park staff, and the team itself. Sometimes, I have to write about disheartening subjects. But this was truly a day for me to have fun with GIS!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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Examining Historical and Current Flood Hazards Using GIS

A new lesson in the ArcLessons library invites you to assess flash flood risk using GIS, historical and current flood records, imagery, and vector spatial data using local public domain spatial data.

Floods are a problem in mountainous areas in part because runoff from rainfall and snowmelt is constrained to narrow river valleys. Many cities at the base of mountain fronts were founded at the places where the rivers flowed onto the plains. Denver, Boulder, Loveland, and Fort Collins, Colorado, were founded at these places on the South Platte, Boulder, Big Thompson, and Cache la Poudre Rivers, respectively to provide settlers and miners access to the mountains and to provide access to water sources for irrigating crops and watering livestock. However, the sites chosen were continually vulnerable to flash flooding from these same rivers. These communities have a record of flash floods that did not end with the construction of dams and reservoirs, but continues to be a threat to the present day. Loveland suffered from the Big Thompson Flood in 1976, in which 139 people died, and in 1997, five people died and several buildings on the Colorado State University campus were destroyed in Fort Collins.

This lesson begins with the following scenario: The City of Boulder, Colorado, has hired you to assess flash flood hazards for the city. You will use historical and current aerial imagery, floodplain data, building data, streets, zoning, historical accounts of floods, stream gage data, ground photographs, and other data in a GIS environment to do your research and to make your final assessment. Skills involved include: 1) Downloading and formatting data from a local government public domain data source for use in a GIS.
2) Analyzing vector and raster data in a problem-solving environment. 3) Integrating historical documents and ground photographs into GIS-based analysis.

The lesson also may help raise awareness of flood hazards—natural ones and those exacerbated by human impact. For example, what do you think is the flood-related problem with the culvert pictured above? It’s not simply that the gully under the bridge would be underwater in a flood—it is a “deeper” issue!

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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ESRI Student Contest at AAG Conference: #AAG2010

ESRI Social Media Challenge

Analyzing Volunteered Geographic Information: An ESRI Sponsored Social Media Challenge for Students

Students attending the 2010 AAG Annual Meeting are invited to join the challenge to collect and analyze socially-derived spatial data. This data describes social interactions between you and your colleagues during the meeting (who you speak to, where, when, and about what). Data is based on profiles so your personal details are not revealed. After the meeting, you will be given access to the collective dataset formed by all challenge participants, to conduct a creative analysis project.

Learn more now.

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Fun with GIS #45: 4th Grade GIS

I’ve had the great fortune to visit a handful of schools in the last month. Most recently was an elementary school, in Waterville, WA. This is the school that was on stage at the ESRI User Conference in 2005, and profiled in Edutopia. They are still working with the NatureMapping program.

Waterville is as inconspicuous a place as you can find. The entire town is smaller than some high school classes. The district, composed of one school, has only 270 students, K-12. Like so many schools, this one makes do with insufficient resources.

They also jump in and do what makes many schools hesitate: they use GIS, and they do it in fourth grade. The students do scientific research on the Horny Toad lizard. They work with an outside mentor, and engage the farmers in the community to help them in collecting data. These students go about their day as if using GIS is nothing special … because it’s not! It’s simply a powerful tool that allows them to do research on their subject, and helps them prepare and present their findings to the school, the community, and the scientific world.



Fourth graders use GIS to collaborate in their research

The teacher (“Diane”) readily confesses that she is not nearly as good on the computers as her students are, but she also knows that she doesn’t need to be. She just needs to know how to choreograph the introduction, which she tackles with an outside mentor and with students from the previous year. The students pick up the technology with stunning speed, and use it to do significant geographic analysis, seeking patterns within the data about their critter.

With few resources beyond a mentor, a supportive principal, and a recognition that her students need to use GIS to integrate, analyze, and understand data in order to address important issues, Diane demonstrates the most critical attributes of a teacher today: a vision of a world that is evolving at lightning speed, and a passion to prepare kids to be good scholars, workers, and citizens who can build a better world, starting today.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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