The mapping process: musings at the end of 2014

Here are some evocative words about mapping from an unlikely source: in her astounding and engrossing book Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel has Thomas Cromwell say:

But the trouble is, maps are always last year's. England is always remaking herself, her cliffs eroding, her sandbanks drifting, springs bubbling up in dead ground. They regroup themselves while we sleep, the landscapes through which we move..."

Lovely stuff! and a great holiday read (or re-read, or re-listen). It reminds us that mapping is a continual effort, a continuous process. All that we map changes: crops are harvested and fields are replanted, cities evolve, forests burn and re-grow, and people move across the face of the earth leaving traces. Our task is to capture in virtual space the key functional elements of space and time - through maps, through spectral reflectance and lidar, through text and discussions - so that we can find answers to to the key questions facing society today.

Excerpt From: Mantel, Hilary. Wolf Hall. Henry Holt and Company, 2009. iBooks.

GIS Day 2014!

Discovering the World Through GIS

November 19, 2014, 5PM-8:30PM

UC Berkeley, Mulford Hall

GIS Day took place in Mulford Hall Wednesday Nov 19th from 5-8:30pm. We had about 200 attendees who participated in workshops, listened to talks, saw posters, and networked with other like-minded GIS-enthusiasts.

Some of the activity at 2014 GIS Day in Mulford Hall

See the agenda here:

Web mapping of high res imagery helps conservation

One of our collaborators on the Sonoma Vegetation Mapping Project has sent work on how web mapping and high resolution imagery has helped them do their job well. These are specific comments, but might be more generally applicable to other mapping and conservation arenas.

  1. Communicating with partnering agencies.
    • In the past year this included both large wetland restoration projects and the transfer of ownership of several thousands of acres to new stewards.
  2. Articulating to potential donors the context and resources of significant properties that became available for purchase.
    • There are properties that have been identified as high priority conservation areas for decades and require quick action or the opportunity to protect would pass.
  3. Internal communication to our own staff.
    • We have been involved in the protection of over 75 properties, over 47,000 acres. At this time we own 18 properties (~6500 acres) and 41 conservation easements (~7000  acres). At this scale high quality aerial imagery is essential to the size of land we steward and effective broad understanding. The way it is served as a seamless mosaic means it is available to extremely experienced and intelligent people who find the process of searching and joining orthorectified imagery by the flight path and row cumbersome or inefficient.
  4. Researching properties of interest.
    • Besides our own internal prioritization of parcels to protect, I understand that we receive a request a week for our organization’s attention towards some property in Sonoma. Orienting ourselves to the place always includes a map with the property boundary using the most recent and/or high quality imagery for the parcel of interest and its neighbors.  This is such a regular part of our process that we created a ArcGIS Server based toolset that streamlines this research task and cartography. The imagery service we consume as the basemap for all these maps is now the 2011 imagery service.  This imagery is of high enough resolution that we can count on it for both regional and parcel scale inspection to support our decisions to apply our resources.
  5. Orienting participants to site.
    • Our On the Land Program uses the imagery in their introduction maps to help visitors on guided hikes quickly orient to the place they are visiting and start folding their experience and sense of place into their visit.
  6. Complementing grant applications.
    • Grants are an important part of the funding for major projects we undertake. High quality imagery facilitates our ability to orient the grant reviewer and visually support the argument we are making which is that our efforts will be effective and worthy of funds that are in short supply.
  7. Knowing what the resources on a property are is an essential part of thoughtfully managing them.
    • In one example we used the aerial imagery (only a year old at the time) as a base map for botanists to classify the vegetation communities. These botanists are not experts in GIS, but by using paper maps with high resolution prints in the field they were easily able to delineate what they were observing on the ground on features interpreted in the photo.  We then scanned and confidently registered their hand annotations to the same imagery, allowing staff to digitized the polygons that represent the habitat observed. These vegetation observations are shared with Sonoma County and its efforts to map all the vegetation of Sonoma County.
  8. Conservation easement monitoring makes extensive use of aerial imagery.
    • In some cases we catch violations of our easements that are difficult to view on the ground, for example unpermitted buildings by neighbors on the lands we protect, illegal agriculture or other encroachment. It is often used to orient new and old staff to a large property before walking their and planning for work projects that might be part of prescribed management.
  9. The imagery helps reinforce our efforts to communicate the challenge to preserve essential connectivity in the developed and undeveloped areas of Sonoma County.
    • In the Sonoma Valley there is a wildlife corridor of great interest to us as conservation priority. Aerial imagery has been an important part of discussing large land holdings such as the Sonoma Developmental Center, existing conserved land by Sonoma Land Trust and others, and the uses of the valley for housing and agriculture.
  10. Celebration of the landscape cannot be forgotten.
    • We often pair this high quality aerial imagery with artful nature photography. The message of the parts and their relation to the whole are succinctly and poetically made. This is essential feedback to members and donors who need to see the numbers of acres protected with their support and have the heartfelt sense of success.

We look forward to the continued use of this data and the effective way it is shared.
We hope that future imagery and other raster or elevation data can be served as well as this, it would benefit many engaged in science and conservation.

Thanks to Joseph Kinyon, GIS Manager, Sonoma Land Trust

NEW VTM Reshoot!

Take a look at this awesome VTM reshoot from the folks over at Geographic Resource Solutions (GRS), photographed during a recent mapping project of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Yet another great example and an incredible testament to lasting power of the VTM dataset. This particular photo was taken near the Chaos Crags Jumble in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Thanks to Ken Stumpf and GRS for sharing!

Albert Wieslander (October 1, 1925): Looking N 35 degrees W from 1/4 corner 16/17 T 31-4. Foreground dwarf timber on glacial deposit. Slope in background, section 7 and 8 Tyler Brown of GRS (September,2011): At Accuracy Assessment Site 091646 located in the Chaos Crags Jumble in Lassen Volcanic National Park

In a similar vein I recently stumbled upon another meshing of historical and contemporary photographs. The project features reshoots of the Grand Canyon and resulted in a 2012 book titled: Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe

Published by University of California Press. You can see a few of the photographer’s recent projects on their website. Historical photos are just the best!


OakMapper Mobile Updated (v2.4) - available now at the App Store

OakMapper Mobile has been updated (version 2.4) to take take advantage of the latest iOS interface design and requirements. It is available for download at the Apple App Store. Existing OakMapper Mobile users are encouraged to update to the latest version.

In the last 6 months, the site receives over 1,100 visitors, resulting in over 1,450 sessions this period, which is consistent with the same period last year. Visitors come mostly from the US; and within the US states, California dominates. There are 14 new registered users from the community. Participation from the community includes 4 new SOD submissions (721 total), 1 new comment about SOD, 6 new questions/feedback, and 2 new votes on whether they have seen the reported SOD cases.

Our paper published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers has been cited 17 times according to Google Scholar.

Connors, J. P., S. Lei & M. Kelly (2012): Citizen Science in the Age of Neogeography: Utilizing Volunteered Geographic Information for Environmental Monitoring, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(6): 1267-1289

NASA challenge announced: Open NASA Earth Exchange 2014

President Obama has announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution and promote sound science to understand and manage climate impacts for the U.S. 

Following the President’s call for developing tools for climate resilience, NEX is hosting a workshop that will feature:
  1. Climate science through lectures by experts;
  2. Computational tools through virtual labs; and
  3. A challenge inviting participants to compete for prizes by designing and implementing solutions for climate resilience.

An particularly exciting part of this initiative is the possibility to win cash prizes for innovative research ideas. You can find more information about labs and lectures here at
and to participate in the challenge, you can go directly at

Pay attention! Especially grad students and young researchers! The first part of the challenge is the ideation challenge which will close on the 31st of July, 2014 and will follow up with another solvers challenge based on the ideas as selected form the ideation challenge. This will run through October so ample time to participate and win prizes.

Berkeley Food Institute's new grants announced

The new Berkeley Food Institute has released its crop of funded projects from its first seed grant program. Our project Making the Road by Mapping: Informing Food System Transformation through Participatory Mapmaking was selected for seed funding. This project, led by Kathryn DeMaster includes graduate students Adam Calo (ESPM) and Sarah Van Wart (Information), Darin Jensen (Geography), Tapan Parikh (Information), Kaley Grimland-Mendoza (Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association), Amber Sciligo (Post-doc, ESPM), Christy Getz (ESPM), and Jennifer Sowerwine (Jepson Herbaria). We look forward to digging in.

Our participatory mapping research project has four primary purposes: First, we explore participatory mapping as a way to collaboratively generate new food system knowledge with scholars, practitioners, and producers. Second, through a process we term “communitysourcing,” we aim to illuminate overlooked caches of community-based knowledge and engage community members, agricultural producers and scholars in collaborative efforts to map a particular food system supply chain (small-scale organic strawberry production in the Salinas Valley). Third, we aim to integrate the interdisciplinary community-based participatory research with specific understandings of the way that certain agricultural policies either facilitate or restrict sustainable small-scale organic strawberry production in the Salinas Valley (with a particular focus on water quality and food safety policy/regulations). Fourth, we will present our findings in novel, innovative, and visually captivating ways that will: (a) Inform specific policies/regulations and; (b) Provide small-scale producers with easily accessible caches of community generated knowledge to inform their practices.

Citizen science: key questions explored in a new report

In a recent article published in the Guardian, Michelle Kilfoyle and Hayley Birch discuss the widespread use of citizen science initiatives. They recently produced a report (pdf) for the Science for Environment Policy news service, in which the authors review a number of citizen science case studies, and explore the potential benefits of citizen science for both science and society, especially given the advent of new mobile technologies that enable remote participation. They also ask interesting questions about who really benefits the most from these developments: the amateurs or the professionals?

Key questions addressed and highlighted in this report include:
  1. How could new and developing technologies help citizen science projects feed into environmental policy processes?
  2. Is environmental data produced by citizen scientists as accurate as environmental data produced by professional scientists?
  3. How can citizen science benefit environmental monitoring and policymaking?

Help to Validate Global Land Cover with GeoWiki and Cropland Capture

Courtesy of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

This creative project from GeoWiki seeks to get croudsourced feedback on crop types from participants around the world. They say: 

By 2050 we will need to feed more than 2 billion additional people on the Earth. By playing Cropland Capture, you will help us to improve basic information about where cropland is located on the Earth's surface. Using this information, we will be better equipped at tackling problems of future food security and the effects of climate change on future food supply. Get involved and contribute to a good cause! Help us to identify cropland area!

Oh yeah, and there are prizes!

Each week (starting Nov. 15th) the top three players with the highest score at the end of each week will be added to our weekly winners list. After 25 weeks, three people will be drawn randomly from this list to become our overall winners. Prizes will include an Amazon Kindle, a brand new smartphone and a tablet.

ANR Statewide Program on GIS

Mission Statement: IGIS aims to support high-priority programs to advance research and extension projects that enhance agricultural productivity, natural resource conservation and healthy communities into the future by providing Informatics and Geospatial Information Systems tools and applications.

ANR Recently announced the development of a new Statewide Program called the Informatics and GIS (IGIS) program. The new program aims to over the next five years become the nexus for ANR’s rich and diverse geospatial and ecological data, research information, and resources for academics and the public who rely on geospatial and informatics data, analysis and display.  Through data capture, information sharing, and collaboration, we aim to increase our ability to make meaningful predictions of the agricultural, ecosystem, and community response to future change, to increase our understanding of California’s diverse natural, agricultural and human resources, and to support research and outreach projects that enhance agricultural productivity, natural resource conservation and healthy communities into the future.

The IGIS team needs your input to design this resource to be an efficient and helpful delivery of information and GIS support. If you are affiliated with ANR, please take a few minutes to complete the Survey of Informatics and GIS Needs, Knowledge and Data Availability.  This is a short and comprehensive survey that will assess GIS, data and information needs, evaluate your level of informatics and GIS expertise and use of geospatial tools and data.  Your response will be of great assistance toward building a successful State-wide program.

The 21st century map: it involves citizens and the web

Check out this neat article about how research will likely increasingly use the web, mobile apps and the citizens who love them, in gathering data and in sharing information.

Rawiya Kameir says, in the article entitled "Researchers must harness powers of web and citizen science, experts say": As the web and web-based apps become more and more sophisticated, the role played by citizen science is growing in scope and size. And as the scientific process evolves, citizen involvement - especially in scientific endeavors that require large data sets - will become a cornerstone of research.

As the web and web-based apps become more and more sophisticated, the role played by citizen science is growing in scope and size. And as the scientific process slowly evolves, citizen involvement - especially in scientific endeavours that require large data sets - will become a cornerstone of research

Read more:
Researchers must harness powers of web and citizen science, experts say

Read more:

GIS Day 2012! November 14th, Mulford Hall

Please join us for GIS Day 2012, November 14, 5:00 pm to 8:15 pm.
UC Berkeley, Mulford Hall

A list of speakers and topics are available on the event site.

GIS Day is free, but we encourage you to register, so that we know how many people to expect.  We still have room for posters, if you’d like to display a poster (project, map, imagery) just sign up online.

This year's event is co-hosted by the Bay Area Automated Mapping Association (BAAMA) and Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF), with support from the Northern California Region of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS).

Tag clouds from Fall 2012 GIS class

In class today, I asked everyone to share what they thought of as the 2 big challenges facing the world, 2 possible GIS-related methods that could be used to examine the challenges, and 2 possible data products or output products that might be used in the process. Here are the results!

Challenges facing us in the 21st century:

created at

Data used and products created:

created at

Cool stuff! On with GIS Fall 2012.

Apple mobile mapping software? coming soon!

We mac users are all a-twitter about the news of an impending Apple mapping software. Here is a sample from NPR:

There's been speculation for months that Apple will try to elbow Google's popular Maps app aside on the iPhone and unveil its own map app, and some of the best evidence yet comes from Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.  The paper looked into the reasons for the impending switch and the broader implications it would have for the smartphone market.  The article continues...

The new software is rumored to be leaner, meaner, and packing a rad 3D visualization capability. It will be unveiled as soon as next week at the annual Apple developer conference in San Francisco.

troubling report of OSM vandalism

From Sarah. This is a troubling story from ReadWriteWeb reporting that someone at a range of Google IP addresses in India has been editing the collaboratively made map of the world in some very unhelpful ways, like moving and deleting information and reversing the direction of one-way streets on the map.

Update: Google sent the following statement to ReadWriteWeb on Tuesday morning. "The two people who made these changes were contractors acting on their own behalf while on the Google network. They are no longer working on Google projects."

A Google spokesperson told BoingBoing on Friday that the company was "mortified" by the discovery - but now it appears the same Google contractor may be behind mayhem rippling throughout one of the world's biggest maps. Google says it's investigating these latest allegations.

Weed Day 2011 comes to UC Davis July 14

Weed Day 2011 comes to UC Davis July 14

The latest developments in weed control will take center stage at UC Davis once again when scores of scientists, students, regulators and more gather July 14 for the 55th annual Weed Day. 

“We look forward to another great turnout with a wide range of weed-control demonstrations,” said Cooperative Extension Specialist Brad Hanson from the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, who is chairing this year’s popular event. “Weed Day provides a great opportunity to see, first hand, weed research being conducted on campus and to find out what we are doing throughout the state.”

Among the presentations will be weed control in fresh-market tomato, residual herbicides in almonds and walnut orchards, symptomology of herbicide drift in row crops, thermal soil disinfestation research, weed-risk assessment for the horticulture industry and many more ongoing projects with other crops and non-crops. For a full agenda, click here or visit

Weed Day is held each July to give pest control advisors, farm advisors, chemical company cooperators, college faculty, students and regulatory officials the opportunity to learn more about current weed science research at UC Davis. The event begins at 7:30 a.m. with registration and a morning bus tour to the campus research fields to view demonstrations and research in terrestrial and aquatic weed control. Lunch and afternoon presentations will be held indoors and will wrap up by 4:30 p.m. Continuing education credits have been requested from the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Cost is $65 for those who register and pay before July 6 and $90 for those register after that date. The cost for students with ID is $20. Class size is limited so early enrollment is always a good idea.

Registration is open:

On-line registration (credit card only)
On-line registration (UC recharge number only)
Print registration form to fax or mail.

For more details, see Weed Day 2011.


London Mapping Festival: 18 months of all things maps + london. Sign me up.

The London Mapping Festival 2011 – 2012, or LMF for short, is an exciting and unique initiative being launched in June 2011 and will run through to December 2012. It sets out to promote greater awareness and understanding of how maps and digital geographic data are being created and used within the Capital.   Through a diverse range of activities LMF will engage with a wide audience of mapping enthusiasts whether they are professionals, enthusiasts or others. We should do something like this for the SF Bay Area. More here.

The volunteer mappers who helped Haiti

Using an image slideshow, BBC News tells the story of how volunteer mappers used OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping platform, to construct a detailed map of Port au Prince in Haiti with layers of geographic information. The geographic information was accessed and used by the rescue personel on the ground. This short slideshow highlights the importance of PPGIS/webGIS, mobile GIS, open source/platform, crowdsourcing, and public participation in a critical situation like the rescue effort in Haiti.

To view the slideshow, please click here.

Orthorectifying for the Masses

In a bit of Tom Sawyer-inspired app making, the New York Public Library has created an online application for rectifying their collection of digital maps of New York City. "Finding control points is so much fun! It is truly an honor to allow you, our special internet browser, to assist us in collecting them." The NYPL Map Rectifier allows you to export the rectified maps as KMLs. They've also added a separate section for maps of Haiti to assist in earthquake relief.