Workshop

The ASTHO Summit on Climate and Health

During the last week of May I traveled to the island of Oahu in Hawaii to participate in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Insular Area Climate and Health Summit. It was a small intimate meeting organized by ASTHO. It was held at the Ala Moana Hotel with representatives from most of the U.S. territories including:

  • American Samoa
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guam
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico
  • Marshall Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Hawaii Department of Health 
  • Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA)

The ASTHO Summit on Climate and Health group photo

The first afternoon was focused on the impacts of climate change, preparedness and building resilience. There were great presentations on climate change (Capt. Barry Choy - NOAA), an overview of the tools and programs available from the CDC (Paul Schramm), and issues around vector-borne diseases and mosquitoes (Janet McAllister). 

Then there were some very humbling and sobering presentations on current issues people are having in the Mariana Islands, Micronesia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sea level rise and hurricane recovery were the main topics. I heard first hand, stories of people dealing with climate change impacts now. This was nothing hypothetical. These were real people dealing with catastrophic current impacts. Compounding this were stories of how many islands have such small populations that they frequently fall off federal priority lists.

For example, in Micronesia they are working on a salt water tolerant taro variety. They hope this will help farmers produce food, even with rising seas. The Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico were hit by back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes last September: Irma and then, two weeks later, Maria. Many there are still in survival mode. They used to think of being ready for a week long disaster. They are now planning on months. They need to know basic things, like where all the backhoes are. Climate change is here and the people dealing with the biggest early impacts had very little to do with the cause.

The first afternoon

The second day focused more on tools and resources which was why I was invited. There were more detailed talks given by the CDC on vector control, especially from mosquitoes. That afternoon I taught a 3.5 hour Community Health Maps Train-the-Trainers workshop to a group of health officials from each territory. The idea was that they could train their colleagues once back on their islands. We went through the entire CHM workflow: A) how to design a data collection form using Fulcrum, B) how to collect data using smartphones, C) how to make a map in Carto and D) how to bring the data into QGIS.  

Onasai'i Aulava & Ruta Ropeti from American Samoa learning to use Fulcrum

John Tagabuel from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands learning to use Fulcrum

The last morning I taught a second Community Health Maps workshop open to everyone. I had about 30 attendees and again went through the entire CHM workflow.

The week was a reminder of how those of us working with technology day-to-day sometimes take it for granted. Everyone was super excited to have this training. It was also a lesson in how resource rich we are on the continent. One of my goals with Bird's Eye View is to use technology to help make the world a better place. (Thus my focus on conservation, public health and education.) One of the goals of the Community Health Maps program is to empower people with technology. This week fulfilled both and was very gratifying.

Most of the trainees had little to no GIS training yet instantly knew how mapping could apply to their work and lives. They want to map everything related to hurricane relief, salt water resistant taro farms, infrastructure related to mosquito outbreaks etc. A benefit of having the community do this is that they can be in charge of their own data and it helps build community relationships. 

One afternoon the officials from American Samoa wanted to see how well the basemaps available in Carto and in QGIS via QuickMapServices represented their home. I opened up OpenStreetMap and zoomed to Pago Pago, American Samoa. It was pretty feature rich and they were surprised and excited. 

2018-06-25_141334.jpg

During the closing session the ASTHO organizers went around the room and asked people to give their closing thoughts. I was amazed to hear person after person say they wanted more training from Kurt. It was great feedback. There seems to be a lot of potential for CHM, and FOSS4G generally, to help U.S. Territories and ASTHO deal with the immediate and long-term health issues related to climate change.

It felt like making real connections with people was easy. That's the way the best meetings/conferences feel. I hope to travel to some of these islands and teach more in depth workshops to get people really up and running with QGIS. I also plugged FOSS4G Oceania and hope some take advantage of the travel grant program!

Farewell shot with my new friends from American Samoa

Mapping King Tides in Post-Irma Miami

In the last three weeks I've flown to Miami twice, each time for the Community Health Maps (CHM) project. This is a project I've been working on for years. The goal is to empower underserved populations with low cost, intuitive mapping tools. The work is funded by the National Library of Medicine.

I went to Miami specifically to support an already established coalition of organizations working to document the impacts of king tides and help the communities being impacted. The focus was on one particular community, Shorecrest, who's residents are feeling the effects twice a day. "King tide" is basically a popular term for the highest tides of the year. It is sea level rise in action. The groups involved include: New Florida Majority, Florida International UniversityResilient Miami, and Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida.

We had been planning these two trips since summer to coincide with the September and October king tides. The plan was to support the community by training them in how to map these king tide events and their impacts. Then Hurricane Irma hit. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it be more useful to help people document the effects Irma had on their neighborhoods?  Would people even have time to deal with the king tides in the aftermath of Irma?

When I first landed on September 17th it had only been six days since Irma had blown through. On the surface things looked almost normal. There was very obvious little structural damage. The visible damage from the street was piles of brush and debris on everyone's curb. The hotel was full of relief workers, mostly tree trimmers. Packing for these workshops were also a little different. I expected the water to be polluted, and it was also hard to know what the power situation would be in the neighborhoods I would be visiting. So I brought rubber boots, gloves, a face mask, portable chargers and a water purifier. 

We ended up going ahead with the initial plan. Collectively it was decided that there are often numerous variables involved in king tides such as storms. So the data would still be useful and it would be good practice for the community. Plus we might learn if there was more bacterial contamination resulting from the hurricane.

I thought this effort would be a perfect use of the new Fulcrum Community accounts. So Susan Jacobson from FIU applied for an account. It was immediately granted and we ended up using that. Jacobson and Tiffany Troxler from FIU, and Jan Booher from UU had already developed a water sampling protocol. They had refractometers for measuring salinity and bottles for collecting water samples. The bottles had a reagent in them that would tell us whether the samples were infected with bacteria such as coliform.  They also had yard sticks for measuring flood depth.

A King tide data collection kit

Two days ago I returned from the second trip to Shorecrest. Over the two trips I conducted several workshops with: people living in Shorecrest, students at FIU and community leaders. Using Fulcrum Community allowed me to focus on data collection with the community members. The only tech piece involved showing them how to use the Fulcrum app on their phones. That allowed our team to spend more time teaching about the actual water sampling protocol. Following that I taught a more involved workshop to the community leaders. There I showed how to manage the data and map it via QGIS and Carto. Going forward it will be their project to manage and I'll just serve in a support role. On October 7th there were dozens of people out collecting data!

Residents mapping and sampling King tides

The interesting thing about King tides is that they can come up via storm drains. The Shorecrest neighborhood we worked in is close to the coast, but not right on the coast. However, it is in a particularly low lying portion of Miami. During these king tides water comes up through these storm grates two times a day, flooding the streets, driveways and yards up to 2-3 feet in depth. The water is saline and initial water samples show that most has some level of bacterial contamination. The video below shows the flooding on October 7th at the intersection of NE 78th & 10th streets. 

Recently there have been some heavy rains saturating the soil and creating minor flooding in low lying areas. On October 7th the twice daily tidal flooding just added to it. The king tide water came up through the storm drains, cracks in the asphalt and the ground. The water rose up to knee level in a little over an hour. It flooded the Little River Pocket Park, streets, peoples driveways and yards. Trash piles from Irma are still there and are now potential sources of bacterial pollution. Most residents are also still dealing with mold and flood damage from Irma. It is not a good situation. Below are some before and afters that show the situation: 

Little River Pocket Park - before

Little River Pocket Park - during king tide

Before...

During king tide

Before...

During king tide

It was really powerful to be dropped into this community of Shorecrest, meet real people with real problems, and be able to help in some small way. My goal has always been to use the technology to help make the world a better place. I've also always been an activist. This work felt good from both perspectives. Disasters always affect poor areas the most and this is no different. It's a pretty grim situation that isn't getting much press. I'll be following up with some results in the near future, building on the initial map below.

Another Wonderful QGIS Conference/Hackfest/Developer Meeting in Denmark!!!

There's something notable in Nødebo. From August 2-10 The third QGIS User Conference, Hackfest and Developer Meeting was held in Nødebo Denmark at the University of Copenhagen – Forest and Landscape College (Københavns Universitet Skovskolen). I was fortunate to attend, as I did in 2015. The first two days were the users conference, then there was a 3 day hackfest followed by 4 days of workshops.

It was another intimate meeting with 120 people from 29 countries and 6 continents! My wife and I were the only Americans to attend the user meeting. It was really nice to have my wife and business partner along. This in fact became a theme of the meeting. Many brought their spouses/partners and kids. It felt more like a QGIS family gathering than a "conference".

Since we are all staying on a small campus and eating all our meals there, it creates a real bonding atmosphere. There were numerous opportunities to connect with others throughout each day. It is the best community building atmosphere I've experienced at a conference. The QGIS family is very warm and inviting. I think this is part of the reason QGIS is such a successful project. I got to catch up with old and dear friends/colleagues and meet many new ones.

Many of the talks were given by developers and we were updated on the state of QGIS. Topics included QField (Matthias Kuhn and Marco Bernasocchi of OpenGIS.ch), a native QGIS 3D renderer (Martin Dobias of Lutra Consulting), the InaSafe plugin (Tim Sutton of Kartoza), QGIS Web Client 2 (Andreas Neumann). There were some short workshops in this section including a nice overview of LASTools by Martin Isenburg. Then Nyall Dawson (North Road) gave a truly memorable presentation Exploring the Depths of Madness with QGIS Symbology that I'm still trying to wrap my brain around.  Interspersed throughout the program were many presentations  highlighting local initiatives involving QGIS and several research projects. Tim Sutton just authored a much more complete accounting of the talks at the conference with video clips. You can find it here.

The environment at the Skovskolen is full of the feeling of Danish hygge. This is largely due to the hard work and gracious hosting of Lene Fischer. The meals are better than any I've had at any other conference by a large margin, and the local staff and students are warm and welcoming. We had a chatted with students Asbjørn, Ras and Frederik. Each night there was a gathering at the local watering hole Flaeken, with nail game challenges and fuzboll. I miss the nail game. It's a Skovskolen tradition involving pounding nails into a large stump. 

On the final day I taught a full day workshop on Cartography and Data Visualization in QGIS. The attendees were from 9 different countries. What I gave was a tour of the many great data visualization tools available in QGIS.

Data Visualization and Cartography with QGIS

I covered the print composer introducing some tips and tricks along the way and a section on Atlas generation. I then covered the many renderers now available, highlighting the 2.5D, Geometry generators, point displacement and showing some use cases for the popular inverted polygon shapeburst fills. I also covered some plugins such as QGIS2ThreeJS and the Time manager and use cases for different Blending modes. 

I sadly missed the group photo taken near the end of the hackfest taken by Maryanne Dawson. Sarah and I took some days in the middle to have a holiday. We rented a place in Copenhagen and flew to Oslo one day to visit the Viking Ship Museum. 

QGIS 2017 Group Photo by Maryanne Dawson

To top it off, on the final night Sarah and I were taken to a performance of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle. This is the castle that was the model for Elsinore in Hamlet. The performance was phenomenal including some interesting modern elements like cell phones and helicopters. If that weren't enough it was staged right next to the moat outside the castle complete with swans and full moon rising. There was nothing rotten in Denmark and I cannot wait until next time! From there we flew to Boston to attend FOSS4G. I'll report on that next!

A QGIS Workshop at the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS)

Last Sunday I taught a full day Introduction to QGIS workshop at the 2017 SCGIS conference in Pacific Grove, California. While I've taught this course many times before, this class was particularly unique because SCGIS, although an independent non-profit organization, is heavily sponsored by Esri. In addition, Max Wright with Conservation International, also taught a QGIS workshop entitled An Introduction to Predictive Land-use Change Modeling using Open-source Software, making 2 of the 4 workshops at SCGIS QGIS based. Certainly a first! 

 A QGIS workshop at an Esri sponsored conference?!

A QGIS workshop at an Esri sponsored conference?!

My workshop was sold out with a waiting list and I eagerly anticipated meeting the participants. Almost universally attendees were either:

  • Mac users and/or
  • Looking for work and wanting some new skills

I expected there to be some ArcGIS power users from established conservation organizations who were just curious about QGIS, but there wasn't anyone who fit that description. 

Overall QGIS was very well received. During the morning session I introduced FOSS and QGIS, showed how to add and style data and create a map. At lunch one attendee said,

"I have about 10 pet peeves with ArcMap, and you just answered 7 of them with QGIS!"  

During the afternoon session I covered plugins, geoprocessing, the Graphical Modeler and how to get help/resources. If you missed it, all the workshop materials can be downloaded here.

One of the most interesting aspects of SCGIS is their International Scholar program. In attendance were a couple dozen scholars from around the world. I met people from Barbados, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Brasil, Columbia, The Gambia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Zambia. It was really fun connecting with people from such different places working on conservation.

Then there was the location. We were at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on the Monterey Peninsula. The waves on the beach could be heard from our room and each night I went out to the beach to enjoy the sunset. I also had time to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and go on a whale watching tour!

One thing I realized is that many don't seem to look far beyond the Esri ecosystem for geo-tools. I've been an Esri user for 20 years, I get it. There are some great products in the stack. However, I hope more SCGIS'ers eventually venture to a FOSS4G conference. I think it would be immensely helpful to their work. The set of FOSS tools discussed there is so broad and interesting. Afterall GIS is just a tool, why not have a bigger set of tools to work with? Certainly having two QGIS workshops at SCGIS is a step in the right direction. 

I had some discussions with another SCGIS attendee about doing a workshop next year on how to work with LandFire products with QGIS. I'll keep you posted on that.  Next up is the 3rd QGIS User Meeting/Hackfest/Developer Meeting in Nødebo Denmark where I'll be teaching a full day workshop on Data Visualization and Cartography in QGIS!

Teaching QGIS is a Labor of Love

I love teaching QGIS and FOSS4G and I've been doing it a long time. I developed and taught my first semester long Intro to Open Source GIS course in 2009 featuring QGIS v1.0 Kore. In 2014 I co-authored the GeoAcademy curriculum and that led to opportunities to publish several QGIS books. In the last few years I've developed a FOSS public health curriculum with the National Library of Medicine (Community Health Maps). 

I've taught for a lot of schools both face-to-face and online. Plus I've taught countless of workshops all over the U.S. In fact because of the books and the GeoAcademy I have so much material I can assemble a workshop pretty quickly. Teaching...I think I'm pretty good at it. I truly love turning students onto QGIS, especially after they've been indoctrinated into the world of geospatial via Esri. Seeing those light bulbs go off is awesome. Lately my favorite demo is showing students a street reprojecting race between ogr2ogr and ArcMap. It blows minds. Spoiler alert: ogr2ogr wins.

For better or worse I always need to temper my teaching schedule. First of all, it is a lot of work to maintain and update material, and that part is always volunteer. More importantly though, my bills are paid with consulting. Teaching takes time and I need to have enough time to do my consulting work. Plus I like 'doing' more than teaching. There are various ways to teach: there are face-to-face courses at the local colleges and universities, there are online courses on various platforms, there's authoring books, and there are professional training workshops. I've done a little of each.

The local colleges and universities just don't pay part-time instructors well enough. While I wish it were different, I've known this is the reality for a long time and accept it. But I do occasionally teach courses. When I go into teach at a school I just focus on the material and the students. It feels like an act of service. Giving back to the community. I'm cool with this aspect of it. I never wanted to be a full time academic.

Now there are platforms like Udemy where you design a course and make $10 per student. If one went viral you might get a small income, but I'm not sold on that model. Authoring books is good for street cred, but they are a lot of work and have a really short shelf life.

Recently I've been interested in helping agencies and organizations migrate to a FOSS/hybrid workflows. I'm well positioned knowing Esri and FOSS equally well. It's here that I've noticed something interesting. My local State and Federal agencies seem willing to fork out whatever Esri demands for training. However, when it comes to learning QGIS people seem to just want it for free, or close to it. Recently at a local GIS meeting I had a casual conversation with someone wanting to learn QGIS. He then actually said, "You'll come teach us at our office for free right?" 

Part of my work with the Community Health Maps project is teaching a Fulcrum/QGIS/Carto workflow to public health workers. These workshops are all free as they are subsidized by the National Library of Medicine. I've taught dozens all around the nation. People get really excited and afterwards they often talk about getting more training. However, when it comes to signing an actual contract they balk, and believe me I'm a good deal. I'm not trying to get rich. Meanwhile I continually hear about local agencies signing up for Esri workshops costing them hundreds or thousands per student. 

This trend exists for both face-to-face or online training. The GeoAcademy courses have always existed for free online. When we attempted to teach instructor led GeoAcademy courses online we couldn't get anyone to enroll unless courses were offered for $25 or less. The school wasn't even breaking even at that rate. So needless to say the offering didn't last long. I guess when a Udemy course goes for $10 it's a hard sell. But these were instructor led courses where a teacher was available to answer questions, provide feedback and grade labs. 

There seems to be some dynamic, at least in the States, where people know the software is free of charge so they shouldn't have to pay to learn it. I think the open source business model still confuses mainstream GIS users. It also tells me that people see little value in being able to teach it. I know teaching has never been a lucrative profession. However, the fact that people seem willing to pay Esri so much for training makes me wonder what's going on. For now l see it as a labor of love.

Coffee, Community Health Maps & My Favorite Coffee Shops Visited in 2016

For the last couple of years I've been working on a project called Community Health Maps for the National Library of Medicine. The goal is to empower public health organizations working with underserved and at risk populations with mapping technology. We aim to help people who don't have backgrounds in computer science or geospatial technology, and don't have budgets for ArcGIS licenses. I've helped develop a program to show these people how they can 1) use Fulcrum to map their communities with smartphones, 2) map that data with Carto and 3) go even further with QGIS. 

 Coffee Brewers

Coffee Brewers

This work takes me all over the country teaching half-day workshops. I've got it down at this point. In 3-4 hours I can teach 20-40 people who have never done any kind of map work how to collect data and map the results in Carto and QGIS.

I'm also a coffee geek. I've been hooked by the third wave coffee bug.  I take my coffee seriously as evidenced by my collection of brewers! My wife also compiled the video below of coffee roasters we tried in 2016.

For each training location, I assemble local data from OpenStreetMap and/or local sources. I always include a layer of the local coffee shops to try. After all, I'm going to try them anyway. It's a hobby of mine. Plus it makes it a little more fun, after a few hours of training, to have them open up a QGIS map showing the training location and some coffee shops to try. I usually google 'pour over' coffee in the area, and am sure to exclude all the Starbucks. To me one key to a quality coffee shop is the length of their menu. The shorter the menu the better. For example, I love this menu from Ninth Street Espresso in NYC.

In the last year or so I've been to Charleston 3 times, Seattle twice, along with Spokane, Honolulu, Lawrence, Washington DC and Salisbury MD. I've also been to NYC, Raleigh NC, Portland OR and Denver CO for other business trips. I finally got around to compiling a map of the best coffee shops I've been to in the last year. There are some good ones not on here, these are just the best of the best.

Of these Milstead and Co in Seattle is my favorite. They aren't a roaster but it is simply the best coffee shop I've ever been to. They make each each cup of coffee individually via AeroPress and offer an amazing selection of coffees to try. They are followed closely by Coava in Portland, Toby's Estate in Brooklyn, Black Tap in Charleston, and Boxcar in Denver.  Below are some shots from these coffee shops. Coffee and GIS were made for each other!

 

Black Tap - Charleston

Milstead & Co - Seattle

Toby's Estate - Brooklyn

Boxcar Coffee Roasters - Denver

Coava Coffee - Portland

If there isn't a good coffee shop I'll bring my Porlex mini grinder, some good beans an my Aeropress. Makes a great cup o' joe in my hotel room! Try it!

A Trip to Maryland to Teach Three Mapping Workshops

Last week I traveled to Maryland. I taught two workshops at the Prince Georges County Department of Social Services for people working on homeless issues. As with most Community Health Mapping workshops, all attendees were novices to mapping technology. However, in the first hour they all built a data collection form in Fulcrum and went outside to collect some data around the building.

 Prince Georges County Community Health Mappers

Prince Georges County Community Health Mappers

The attendees represented a variety of organizations including many working with YouthREACH Maryland. REACH is an acronym standing for Reach out, Engage, Assist, & Count to end Homelessness. It is an effort to obtain accurate, detailed information on the number, characteristics, and needs of unaccompanied homeless youth in Maryland. Other organizations represented at these workshops included:

  • Maryland's Commitment to Veterans
  • Maryland Department of Planning
  • Prince Georges Community College
  • St Ann's Center for Children, Youth, and Familes
  • Maryland Multicultural Youth Center
  • So Others Can Keep Striving (S.O.C.K.S)
  • Sasha Bruce Youthwork
  • Lifestyles of Maryland.

In the final two hours of the workshops attendees learned how to map the data they collected in both Carto and QGIS. We also had time for a brief discussion about how CHM could be used in their projects. There were a lot of ideas shared about how the technology could help community engagement.

 The afternoon workshop attendees feeling accomplished after completing their Carto maps!

The afternoon workshop attendees feeling accomplished after completing their Carto maps!

After the two PG County workshops, CHM traveled across the Chesapeake Bay bridge to Salisbury University on the eastern shore.

The following morning I taught a workshop geared towards social work students at Salisbury University. Attendees went through the CHM workflow and were introduced to FulcrumCarto and QGIS. Below is a map of data collected around the student center in Carto.

 Salisbury University Data Collection in Carto

Salisbury University Data Collection in Carto

The workshop concluded with a short introduction to working with data in QGIS.

 Salisbury University Data Collection in QGIS

Salisbury University Data Collection in QGIS

That afternoon I'd hoped to catch up with Art Lembo who wrote How Do I Do That In PostGIS? I realized at the last minute that the author of this little book I've had on my bookshelf works at Salisbury University. Unfortunately he was under the weather. FOrtunately I had time to drive to the Delaware shore for a quick beach walk.

The next scheduled workshop for the Community Health Maps team will be at the Teaching Prevention 2017 Conference in Savannah, Georgia. That conference takes place from April 5-7th. If you are interested in learning this technology this workshop will be a great opportunity!

Bird's Eye View Conducts a Training in the South Carolina Lowcountry

Recently Kurt Menke headed to Charleston, South Carolina to train several groups how to map their communities. This was part of the Community Health Maps project with the National Library of Medicine. This region is also known as the ‘lowcountry’ due to the flat, low elevation geography. The training was hosted by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and included people from Communities in Schools – Charleston (CISC) and the MUSC School of Nursing.

MUSC Community Health Mapping Training at the School of Nursing

First everyone learned how collect GPS field data with iPads. For this we used a new app named iForm. This app was used in lieu of EPI Collect, which no longer supported on iOS.  iForm is an app very similar to the Android app ODK Collect, allowing a custom data collection form to be developed. To practice we collected bike rack locations  and seating areas around the MUSC campus. The afternoon was spent working with everyone’s  data. GPS data points were brought into QGIS and shown against some local Charleston GIS data layers.

MUSC Data Points in QGIS

The points were also uploaded to CartoDB. CartoDB is another new component of the Community Health Mapping workflow. It has become more intuitive than GIS Cloud and worked really well. (Note: There will be a post on using CartoDB soon too.)

The following day I visited CISC’s Derek Toth and three of his students at St. John’s High School on John’s Island, SC. Over a working lunch Mr. Toth showed students how easy it is to collect GPS points with their iPhones. We collecting several points while walking around the campus.

Mapping the St. Johns Campus

Afterwards we went back inside and showed them how to upload the points into CartoDB and make a map. The figure below shows the results of 45 minutes worth of work! Click on the map to open the live version.

St Johns High School Data Points in CartoDB

This spring these three juniors will be leading the charge to map their island!  They will be presenting their work to the National Library of Medicine later this spring. I look forward to seeing their work!

The St. Johns High School Mapping Team from left to right: Jocelyn Basturto, Khatana Simmons, Candace Moorer (MUSC), Corrieonna Roper & Derek Toth (CISC)

Low Cost Tools for Mapping Community Public Health

The past week was spent conducting training sessions on how to use a low cost workflow for public health mapping in minority communities. Trainings were conducted at two sites. The first site was the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle, Washington. They are monitoring noise pollution in urban indian populations. The other Papa Ola Lokahi in Honolulu, Hawai'i. They are working on a community public health assessment. The workflow starts with data collection using iPhones/iPads, moves into working with the the data in QGIS and finally data presentation via GIS Cloud.

Taking GPS and decibel readings in Seattle.There is an ever expanding ecosystem of geospatial apps for iOS. For this project we are evaluating EPICollect and GIS Pro. EPICollect is a free app designed to collect point data with a custom form. GIS Pro is a very expesive app. However, with the price comes a very intuitive and robust data collection system. 

An assortment of mapping apps for iPad

Once data is collected QGIS is used to combine the data with other organizational datasets, conduct spatial analyses and prepare maps. GIS Cloud is being used for final online presentation.

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 Educatorsat 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.