Registration for the Summit on America’s Climate Choices Now Open

Public registration is now open for the Summit on America’s Climate Choices, being held March 30 and 31 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Speakers and participants, including business leaders, members of Congress, Administration officials, and federal, state, and local leaders, will present their perspectives on what is needed to respond effectively to climate change. Space for the event will be limited and registrations taken on a first come, first served basis.  Click here to register. The event will be video webcast. The Summit agenda will be posted on the America’s Climate Choices website in early March.

Opportunity for Public Input at D.C. Town Hall on February 24, 2009

The public is invited to a Town Hall meeting to provide input to America’s Climate Choices on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 from 4:00-5:00 at the National Academies Keck Center in Washington DC.  There will be a 10-minute presentation about the study and then the floor will be open for questions and comments.  Email to RSVP for the event.

AAG Meeting in Las Vegas, March 24, 2009

There will also be a Town Hall Meeting on America’s Climate Choices held at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, March 24, 2009, in Las Vegas, NV.  More information.

GISCA’09 Conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Under the theme of ‘GIScience for Environmental and Emergency Management in Central Asia,’ GISCA’09 will be held 27-28 August 2009 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

“The main objectives of this conference are to bring together GIS academics, researchers and practitioners in the Central Asian countries and encourage international cooperation and knowledge exchange in GIS education. It is the right time for GIS academics to think and keep up with the demand and development of the technology.” This is the third GISCA conference, following successful conferences in 2005 and 2008.

Online Mapping of California’s Marine Environments

…from the Los Angeles Times web site, February 16, 2009

marinemap“You can help map out what regions of California’s marine environments should be designated for conservation, recreation and commercial use., an online mapping application created by UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute with Farallon Geographics, allows anyone who visits the site to view maps of marine-related features in and around California waters. Users can log in and draw proposed MPAs (marine protected areas — coastal or ocean areas where certain uses are regulated to protect natural resources or biodiversity) and specify what regulations will apply there. Users can then share their reports with one another or export the shapes to Google Earth so others can view it.

“The interactive tool is meant to engage the public in protecting the local environment.

“View a demonstration of MarineMap here.”

More info on the project from the web site.

Five Questions about GIS and Science

I’m starting a series of short interviews with working scientists who use GIS. Each interview will consist of the following five questions:

  • Who are you and what do you do?
  • How did you get started with geospatial technology?
  • How does geospatial technology help you do your job / scientific work?
  • How important is a formal process/methodology (for example, the scientific method; the geographic approach) when using geospatial technology in your scientific work?
  • What features or capabilities would make geospatial technology even more valuable for scientific work?

Over the coming months I will be emailing these questions to working scientists, and will post the results on this blog. If you are a scientist working with geospatial technologies and would like to participate, send me an email. Also feel free to forward this to other scientists you know who are using GIS.

A Conversation with Bern Szukalski about Geospatial Visualization, Part II

In Part I of my interview with ESRI’s Bern Szukalski, he talked about the long history of geospatial visualization tools at ESRI. In Part II, he talks in detail about ESRI’s current flagship visualization tool, ArcGIS Explorer, and looks towards the future.

How did ArcGIS Explorer come about?

It was really driven by Euan Cameron and Mark Bockenhauer at its inception. They were the lead development and product engineers respectively on the ArcReader and ArcGIS Publisher effort. ArcGIS Explorer evolved out of many ArcReader concepts, and was also influenced by ideas introduced with other non-ESRI products around that time, like the “virtual globes.” Some of the same drivers for ArcReader and ArcGIS Publisher became the drivers for ArcGIS Explorer, but in a different context. But clearly it was a natural evolution of existing products and ideas with some new thinking based upon past experiences and user wants and needs, and the evolving ESRI product landscape too.

Mark, among other things, is now the lead product engineer on the ArcGIS Explorer project. Euan is now the overall ArcGIS Desktop lead development engineer. I stepped into the picture on Euan and Mark’s invitation after the project was already underway, and prior to its first release with ArcGIS 9.2.

It’s been out for a while then.

Yes. That first release was ArcGIS Explorer 340, which shipped with 9.2 in November of 2006, but was quickly evolved over a number of follow-up releases throughout 2007. A rapid development and release methodology was adopted, enabling a quick response to user needs and the evolution of the product.

Bern Szukalski shows us how to create notes in ArcGIS Explorer.

Has the thinking about where it fits into the ESRI user landscape changed?

Yes and no. Just like with other ESRI products, we’re always learning from users where their needs and wants are. And there are lots of other drivers too. ArcGIS Explorer sits within a context of evolving ESRI products, with ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Server all continuing to gain new capabilities and evolve, and ArcGIS Explorer having tightly coupled relationships with all of those. So the evolution of those products certainly has played, and continues to play, a strong role in where ArcGIS Explorer goes. It’s not a “standalone” product, or the only product that ESRI develops, of course. So it really compliments other ESRI products, and fits into an overall implementation landscape for users.

Is ArcGIS Explorer making a difference for the scientific user community?

I think that the scientific community, and I am using that term broadly, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of ArcGIS Explorer. They’re the professionals that have a strong need to use GIS data and perhaps GIS tools, but aren’t necessarily GIS professionals themselves. But they need to use geographic information, and may want to combine other geographically based information they have, and be able to explore, visualize, and communicate with others. I think of these as ‘geographic information users’. They’re the planners in a local government, the commanders at an emergency operations center, or the archaeologists, biologists, geologists, or conservation group members. Oh, and I can’t forget the education community.

What’s the common ground there?

They all have a strong need to use GIS content, but aren’t GIS experts themselves. They also represent a target community for existing GIS users with ArcGIS Explorer and even Web applications that leverage their content, but for a non-GIS audience.

Bern Szukalski shows us how to e-mail a map in ArcGIS Explorer.

So why ArcGIS Explorer over a Web application?

It depends on the target audience. The best GIS Web applications, even though they may be public facing, have a targeted public user in mind. So I may be someone that needs to find out about zoning in my neighborhood, or crime, or I may be a business user looking to move my business to a new location. All of these are public users, and there are many great examples of ArcGIS Web-based applications that target these needs or workflows specifically.

I think ArcGIS Explorer users are somewhat similar in some respects, but also different in others. A lot of GIS organizations use ArcGIS Explorer to deliver access to GIS data and tools to a broad audience. Sometimes that also means they want to control the user experience, and choose which tools and data they present to those users, so that’s why ArcGIS Explorer is customizable, and you can take control of the application through your own home site.

ArcGIS Explorer users also go “outside the application,” to add some additional content, or add their own GPS locations, or photos, videos, and reports, and place them in a geographic context. Once they’ve finished assembling things, they also want to be able to share and present their information with others. These are distinguishing characteristics that I think ArcGIS Explorer delivers uniquely.

What’s ahead for ArcGIS Explorer?

Quite a bit, and we’re very excited about this next release. We’re ramping up to go beta here very soon with ArcGIS Explorer 900, and there have been many changes based on what we’ve learned, and what users are telling us they want. The main thing users will notice is a new ribbon-based user interface. The ribbon really helps in working with all the various types of data that ArcGIS Explorer supports, and exposing in an intuitive way the appropriate tools for working with those different types. There are a lot of other things that are new to this release, but specifically in terms of visualization we’ve added an integrated 2D and 3D display. You just toggle between the two whenever you choose. In 2D everything is flat, of course. But in 3D mode if you have extruded features you’ll see them pop up. A lot of users have 2D data, or don’t want to visualize the whole globe. So 2D will be a great choice. But then there’s full 3D mode, so you chose your visualization mode depending on what you’re doing or want to look at.

ArcGIS Explorer 900 Preview.

So where do we go from here regarding visualization?

That’s a good question, and I think a lot of answers are still evolving. I think when we consider visualization we have to consider the whole stack of technology that comes together in someone’s visualization experience. That includes everything from the user interface and the various technologies used to implement that, how we deliver the visualization experience in the form of desktop, Web, or mobile applications, and even how we can present the data cartographically, taking into consideration 2D and 3D use, and local versus global content. And we also can’t forget the device platforms that the next generation of visualization technologies will evolve upon. Whether it is mini or mega devices, I think we’ll have a very broad spectrum of choices that will bring GIS visualization into our daily lives.

Thanks, Bern!

GIS, Citizen Science Reveal Global Warming Threat to Bird Populations

In a press release today from the National Audubon Society, the impact of global warming on North American bird populations was analyzed thanks in part to the spatial analysis capabilities of GIS.

“Detailed GIS maps produced using the California research project where the birds are likely to be in 50 to 100 years. Findings will help policymakers and land managers augment efforts to mitigate the severity of global warming impacts with better habitat conservation investments to address changes that can’t be avoided.”

The study also a good example of how Citizen Scientists can assist in important projects.

“Analyses of citizen-gathered data from the past 40 years of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) reveal that 58 percent of the 305 widespread species that winter on the continent shifted significantly north since 1968, some by hundreds of miles. ‘Citizen Science is allowing us to better recognize the impacts that global warming is having here and now. Only citizen action can help us reduce them,’ said Butcher.”

Geostatistics: An Interview with Konstantin Krivoruchko, Part II

In Part I of this interview, Konstantin shared some background on the development of ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst, and introduced us to his forthcoming book, Introduction to Spatial Statistical Data Analysis for GIS Users. In the conclusion of our interview, he discusses what he brought back from the recent GEOSTAT2008 conference in Santiago, Chile, and what we might expect to see in future releases of Geostatistical Analyst.

Last month you attended GEOSTAT2008, the major geostatistical conference, in Santiago, Chile.

Yes, during the conference I met with many leading scientists to discuss Geostatistical Analyst, attended sessions on geostatistical theory and applications to learn about modern tendencies in the science, and introduced many of the attendees to Geostatistical Analyst software. I spoke at length with several of the best modern geostatisticians on the current state of the art and what can be done for large audience of GIS users in the near future.

Were attendees of the conference already familiar with ESRI’s work in this field?

All attendees use one or more geostatistical software packages in their work, but a large number of the attendees were not aware of our geostatistical analysis software package. The need to better promote the existence of Geostatistical Analyst to the scientific community clearly exists.

What are some of the current trends in geostatistics?

Based on the conference, the tendencies in modern geostatistics are non-Gaussian kriging models; a preference by a majority of researchers for simulations over predictions; and rapidly growing interest in space-time and Bayesian geostatistics.


Modeling with Geostatistical Analyst.

Is the geostatistical team addressing these in future releases of Geostatistical Analyst?

In general, we are following modern tendencies in Geostatistical Analyst 9.4. In particular, we are working on several non-Gaussian kriging models including areal interpolation for binomial data (epidemiological, crime, etc) and gamma disjunctive kriging (for interpolation of data with positive values). We are also providing several enhancements to the recently released Gaussian geostatistical simulation geoprocessing tool. For example, users will be able to specify measurement error for each datum, which is often known or can be estimated. You can hardly find such option in other geostatistical software.

I have developed some recommendations for future functionality of Geostatistical Analyst based on what I learned during the conference. They include Bayesian kriging, space-time series using functional kriging, and copula-based spatial regression.

Your book is called “Spatial Statistics…”, and the product is called “Geostatistical Analyst.” Does Geostatistical Analyst address all types of spatial statistics?

No. Spatial data are divisible into three main categories according to their location:

  • Discrete point data: data that consist of locations of events. Applications of point pattern analysis include forestry, epidemiology, and criminology.
  • Regional data (sometimes also known as aggregated, polygonal, or lattice data): data that are associated with areas and that typically include counts of an event within a polygon. Regional data occur in epidemiology, criminology, agriculture, census, and business-related applications.
  • Geostatistical or continuous data: data that can be measured at any location in the study area but are known only at a limited number of sample points. Geostatistical data occur in meteorology, agriculture, mining, and environmental studies, for example.

And the Geostatistical Analyst product focuses on the models for the third data type, continuous data?

Primarily, yes. The Geostatistical Analyst team is small and our focus is limited to models for continuous data at this point in time. However, many models and tools in Geostatistical Analyst can be used for exploration of the other two types of spatial data; in other words, for the data summary. In practice, researchers are often interested in the data summary only, at least at the initial stage of the data analysis. Data modeling and prediction may or may not follow the spatial data exploration stage.

Are there other statistical software packages out there that integrate with GIS, and address discrete points and regional data modeling?

Yes, these include R, WinBUGS, and SAS. The usage of these software packages in conjunction with GIS software is discussed in my book in detail. Integration between these packages and ArcGIS is possible through geoprocessing tools, but at the moment the researchers are simply exchanging data between programs. Just as I mentioned in the beginning of our talk, creation of a set of geoprocessing tools for running external statistical software packages is much easier than explaining clearly where and how statistical models should be used and when statistical models may produce wrong results.

Can you explain more about the value of simulations?

With conditional geostatistical simulation, instead of using just one input surface in geoprocessing, you can use many surfaces with the same statistical features—say 1,000—and then produce 1,000 outputs. The resulting distributions of possible values at specified locations or areas show how uncertain the result of your analysis, and this is extremely important for good decision-making. Areas with relatively frequent extreme values may be the most interesting part of the data analysis. In applications such as geology, mining, and environmental science, there is a big advantage in having a distribution of possible values as opposed to just one (most probable) value. I believe that the number of GIS researchers who could benefit from using simulations will grow. Note that Bayesian statistical modeling is essentially based on simulation methods.

Thanks, Konstantin, for taking the time to share some of your experience with the readers of my blog.

No problem.

Internship Opportunities on NASA’s GIS Team

Langley Research Center in partnership with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium is offering the Geographic Information Systems Internship Program to provide student support to the NASA GIS Team. The GIS Internship Program is open to community college, undergraduate, and graduate students majoring in the fields of geography, technology, and civil engineering. Experience in geospatial technology or an interest in developing skills in spatial data technology in support of NASA’s mission is a plus. Exceptional and highly motivated high school students with at least a 3.3 GPA are also eligible. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in entering a field such as geography, urban planning, civil engineering, or related area. The primary duties of the selected interns will include supporting the development, maintenance, and data input in GIS for NASA’s Langley Research Center. Interns will also perform updates to building floor plans and assist with modifying center spatial data and Web interface. Students from outside the Hampton, VA, area are responsible for their own lodging. Student interns will receive a stipend and are guest researchers of NASA’s Langley Research Center. Paid internships during summer, fall, and spring are available each year. Applications for summer are due March 7, 2009. For more information, visit Please e-mail questions about this opportunity to Chris Carter at