Category Archives: GIS

What’s my new job?

Since the summer, I have been working for UCGIS, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, as their Executive Director.  Translation: I manage the business-related operations of a small non-profit that’s focused on advancing and supporting the research and education ideas of the GIS-teaching faculty at its 50+ member institutions.  Today, Directions Magazine printed an interview I did with them about UCGIS and some of its upcoming activities.  And, it’s International GIS Day! Woo-hoo!

new article linking spatial thinking with multiple school topics

Temple University’s Nora Newcombe is well-versed at writing about spatial thinking in a way that makes the topic accessible to lay audiences. New to me: a piece called Seeing Relationships (pdf) in the Spring 2013 American Educator. Now she can share the results of the large meta-analysis recently completed, that documents our mind’s capacity to become more skilled at spatial tasks.  She’s still firmly grounded in her own disciplinary perspective, cognitive psychology, but here she ventures into examples involving geographic space and geospatial technologies, not only mental rotation in abstract space. This piece includes call-outs to the Geospatial Semester program at James Madison University and Stanford’s Orbis project.

Nora’s oft-cited, oft-shared 2010 American Educator piece, Picture This, is still available too.

model for professional development at UVM

In the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Vermont, faculty are involved with a year-long initiative to learn more about maps and mapping. I had a chance to be part of their August 2013 workshop and share ideas about teaching and learning supported with geospatial technologies. Members of the department of geography are leading this effort, and though they’re disciplinary experts in this field, they themselves are learning from the new perspectives and novel projects being designed and developed.  A way to spread opportunities for spatial analysis and geographical inquiry.

Documenting Slum Space in Kenya

A great story this morning on NPR about mapping projects in urban slum areas of Kenya, both involving collecting data on roads, housing, community structures, open spaces, and where people are conducting their activities of daily life.  One project using GPS, the other traced over a satellite image to make a draft map.  I liked how he referred to the “rectangles” of houses; as he said that, my mind instantly translated to “polygons.”  Like those instantaneous translators working at the United Nations.

The story made for a driveway moment for me.  So great to have these mapping stories becoming more common.

new Holocaust Geography site

I’ve been following the various projects that research the Holocaust through its geography, often using GIS.  I’m most familiar with the work of Anne Knowles (video), connected in one part to the Spatial History project at Stanford.   The US Holocaust Memorial Museum also maintains a collection of geographically-based exhibits.

Today I learned about a new site, Exploring the Vilnius Ghetto.  The map interface is the standard organization framework to arrange geotagged media. Nicely designed.

H/t to Heather King.

DePauw virtually reconstructs its former campus with geospatial tools

A team at DePauw University used SketchUp to recreate what they believe their campus to have looked like historically, building-wise.  Apparently a challenge because whole buildings have come and gone with little archival imagery captured?  Seems like a good way to involve staff and students in a project that can engage alumni and highlight the fun of flying (Google Earth-wise) around.  Mental images of Harry Potter on his broomstick whizzing past Hogwarts’ buildings.

Nice work, Beth!

H/t to All Points Blog.

GIS and University Administrators

From our new website,, we published a White Paper today that focuses on how to talk to university administrators about GIS.   First, make sure they know what GIS is, and what it’s not (i.e., GPS).  After that, it all depends on your intentions.  Different messages for different expectations.  Build some connections, share some stories, offer some statistics, anticipate and mitigate the tensions.  Figure out what your favorite GIS video, book, or website is, and send it to your Provost or Dean, just to say hi.

Atlas of Urban Expansion, documenting growth for 120 cities around the world

New to me, a global Atlas of Urban Expansion, from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  Global coverage from 120 cities, looking at land use / land cover changes over the period of 1990-2000, plus 30 cities with more detailed data from the 1800s!

It’s not just my natural tendency to grasp at any (seemingly authentic, authoritative, research-based, value-added, FREE, downloadable) GIS data that I appreciate from this site.  I also like their documentation of their attributes of urban expansion and description of their metrics, so we can see how these data were derived.

Thank you, LILP, for making your work available to us!



geographer earns Smithsonian’s Ingenuity Award

I learned this week that Anne Kelly Knowles has won one of the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Awards, for her work on Visualizing Gettysburg.  Fantastic, Anne!  I love the artsy interview with her too.  It is curious that it was the Gettysburg work being heralded now, since the Smithsonian looks for work that’s taken place in the last year and this is some of Anne’s older work. She’s moved far beyond this now, to the Holocaust and to her iron work.  Stay tuned for great publications from those endeavors too.

more examples of linking geography and history via maps, some digital

My friends at the UVa Scholar’s Lab shared with me their new Neatline project earlier this week. I don’t know much about Omeka, but I always trust these guys to do good work with a wide range of OS tools. I do like the interface, the rapid loading of georeferenced maps, and the additional interactive functionality on the main screen. If I can figure out more about this, I have a stack of projects ready to try!

In Time & Place is oriented to secondary school learning. This will be a good resource for my Spatial Literacy students, and I’ll see about modifying things for my higher ed students too.  Not sure how I wandered across this site this week. I need to click on fewer windows to make h/t’ipping easier.

Conflict History is a Google Maps mashup. I like the timeline and the thorough “info” available.  This interface and collection really highlights the disparity between how few military conflicts we’ve had on US soil versus the rest of the world, and how relatively high Europe and Asia are. Not news, but interesting to see it in this way.  H/t to Google Maps Mania.