Bird’s Eye View is a full service GIS shop located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We serve conservation and community organizations worldwide.

We help people communicate their ideas and data with engaging and powerful maps, offering  everything from basic cartography to web based applications.

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Sights from the 2012 AAG Conference in New York City

Last week I headed to New York City to attend the American Association of Geographers conference. I conducted a workshop for educators on teaching free and open source GIS (FOSS4G) and sat in on a panel discussion on teaching introductory GIS courses. I also had an opportunity to do a lot of urban hiking and exploring, some of which was lead by Kevin Patrick, an urban geographer from the Indian University of Pennsylvania. The weather was fabulous and the big apple was spectacular. Selected highlights are below.

 The Queensboro Bridge and sight of the famous scene in Woody Allen's 'Manhattan'.

The view north from the Top of the Rock looking at Central Park.


The Dakota on Central Park West.


The old American Radiator Building, built in 1924, with the Empire State Building in the background. This is one of the most magnificent gothic art deco buildings in the city. It's now called the Bryant Park Hotel and is just south of Bryant Park and west of the New York City Public Library.


Grand Central Station buzzing with activity on an early weekday morning.


The Seagram Building at Park and 52nd. A classic modern skyscraper built in 1957 and site of a famous scene from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'.


The famous Flatiron Building at Madison Square Park.


Katz's Delicatessen near 1st Ave and 1st Street in the Lower East side.


The lunch crowd at Katz's Deli.  Site of a famous scene from "When Harry Met Sally'.

The Brooklyn Bridge.


The route of one days walk from the Lower East Side across the Manhattan Bridge into Redhook in Brooklyn.


The view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan Bridge.


Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

There are two factors that stop people from exploring or adopting free and open source (FOSS) GIS software. The first is fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). While it's true that corporations, such as Microsoft, have used FUD as a marketing strategy (purposely spreading FUD about OS software), FUD regarding FOSS GIS software is now commonly spread by GIS users themselves. I don't think this is intentional. Rather, it can be counterintuitive for people who have grown up in a competitive capitalist society to understand why anyone would create and use free software.

Initially people often wonder:

  • How can I make money using FOSS software?
  • Why would anyone create FOSS software, what's in it for them? 

The other main factor is unfamiliarity. Over the last two summers I've taught a semester long course called, Introduction to Open Source GIS at the local community college. The GIS program at my school, like most, is ESRI-centric. A majority of the students are very surprised to learn about the broad array of FOSS GIS software. Once exposed to FOSS software, such as QGIS, they ask, "Why doesn't everyone use it?" It comes down to a combination of these two factors.

In full disclosure, I also use ArcGIS almost every day. However, I also utilize all the leading FOSS GIS software. I consider them all valuable tools in my toolkit. One of the nice features of FOSS GIS software is that it's free. So there is absolutely nothing preventing you from downloading a FOSS GIS package and trying it out. If it doesn't meet your needs just uninstall it. My hope is to inspire people to do exactly this.

This year the FOSS4G Conference is in Denver, CO and very accessible to those of us in the USA. The timing couldn't be better to learn more about FOSS4G. While FOSS GIS software has been around since the 1980's, recent years have seen the software becoming much more mature and user friendly. There are great FOSS GIS products for the desktop, web server, web client, spatial database and mobile GIS. There are now intuitive Windows installers for all the leading packages.

 So, if you have questions like:

  • What is free and open source software?
  • What FOSS GIS software is out there?
  • Is it really free?
  • Does it work?

you should sign up for the Introduction to Geospatial Open Source at this year's FOSS4G conference

Hope to see you there!


HR 1581: The Great Outdoors Giveaway Act

Officially called the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act," HR 1581, recently introduced by Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Pearce (R-NM), would roll back protections from 58.5 million acres of Forest Service roadless areas and another 6.7 million acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas. The bill would nullify the Roadless Rule and eliminate all Wilderness Study Areas. Bird's Eye View created the map below for the PEW Environmental Group to highlight the issue.  Protections would be removed from all the red areas in this map. This has caused a broad coalition of conservation organizations to call it the Great Outdoors Giveaway.

All of these areas represent potential wilderness, and they would all be opened to road-building and off-road vehicle use–impacts. Not only would existing protections for these areas be reversed, but future administrations would be prevented from ever protecting Wilderness Study Areas or unroaded Forest
Service Lands.

For more information go to: PEW Environmental Group


FOSS4G Workshop for Educators at FOSS4G


This fall Bird's Eye View (with the support of the GeoTech Center) will be holding the FOSS4G Workshop for Educators at the Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial Conference (FOSS4G) in Denver, Colorado. This is exciting for at least two reasons. Having the FOSS4G Conference in North America, let alone the United States, is fairly uncommon. In recent years it has been held in Australia, South Africa and Spain. Secondly, the workshop will premier one of the only FOSS GIS curricula in the United States. Entitled Introduction to Open Source GIS and Web Mapping, it is currently being taught at Central New Mexico Community College.

Free and  open source software comprises one of the fastest evolving sectors of GIS. While FOSS GIS software has been around since the 1980's, recent years have seen the software becoming much more mature and user friendly. There are great FOSS GIS products for the desktop, web server, web client, spatial database and mobile GIS. Historically, ease of access and installation has been a major hurdle for those wanting to transition to FOSS GIS software. Now there are intuitive Windows installers for all the leading packages.

The course is expected to become increasingly important to the CNM program. In New Mexico, employers are starting to favor applicants with knowledge of both ESRI and FOSS applications. This is in part due to the economic times. Students at CNM and elsewhere learn GIS in pure ESRI environments. Most are shocked to discover how many capable FOSS GIS software packages exist.

The course sticks to a pure FOSS paradigm. For example, assignments and lectures are provided in Open Office versus Microsoft Office. The students are not introduced to much new GIS material in the course, save web mapping. Rather they are shown how to do things they have learned in other foundational courses using FOSS GIS software. The packages used include: Quantum GIS, GRASS GIS, GDAL/OGR, SpatiaLite, PostgreSQL/PostGIS, and MapServer. They are also introduced to open standards and open data. Midway through the semester they are given a final project assignment. For this they research a FOSS GIS package not being covered in the course lab, and during  the last week of class they present their findings to the class. This exposes the students to a large number of new tools.

The web mapping portion is an introduction to web mapping and the web in general. Part of the overall goal for the course is to make it accessible to students who have completed the Introduction to GIS course. So, this course has no programming requirement. Google maps (although no open source) is used as a gentle introduction to web mapping. Then students move on to labs where they use MapServer to create basic web mapping applications. 

The workshop this fall will target educators wanting to incorporate FOSS GIS into their curricula, or those who are just curious about what FOSS GIS is and what it can do. The course goals, readings, labs and exam structures will be shared. Attendees will also get to try their hand at a lab or two. For more information visit the conference workshop page.


Some maps of the Wallow fire in Arizona

The Wallow Fire in Arizona has now burned more than 300,000 acres and is 0% contained. This makes it the third largest wildfire in Arizona history so far. The smoke plume is spreading past the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico.  Visibility in Albuquerque has been reduced to 1 mile or less several times during the last week. Here are some of the more interesting maps I've seen recently.

From AZ here's a fire progression up to June 6th.  You can click on the link go directly to the site.


From NASA here is a MODIS satellite image from June 4th showing the smoke plume spreading far into New Mexico.  Click on the image to go directly to this NASA site. 


From Wildfire Today here is a map of fire danger across the lower 48.


Society for Conservation GIS Agenda Posted!

The agenda for the SCGIS 2011 Annual Conference is online.  This years conference will be held at Northwoods Resort in Big Bear Lake, California (July 16 -19).

Highlights include a keynote address by ecological niche modeling expert Dr. Richard Pearson (AMNH), and a special symposium on Wildlife Habitat Connectivity.  

The symposium includes talks and technical presentations by Dr. Paul Beier (NAU), Dr. Dave Theobald (CSU) and Dr. Carlos Carroll (Klamath Center for Conservation Research ).  Each of these researchers is on the leading edge of connectivity research for wildlife. If you're interested in this topic this symposium is not to be missed!

The remainder of the agenda is full of great talks and workshops including topics like, climate change, aquatic and marine GIS, technology tips and tricks, collaboration, habitat modeling, and sustainable development. 

I hope to see you there!