2009 Indigenous Mapping Network Conference

imnlogo_guardian2Hosted by Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
June 13 – 16, 2009

Native American / Indigenous / Aboriginal / tribal attendees and supporters of mapping efforts on aboriginal territories welcome. Let’s learn, share, and grow together – find new ways of using mapping tools to solve sovereignty, environmental, and cultural issues.

Previous ideas resulting from this conference include supporting and training indigenous people who may have little experience with modern mapping technologies. Efforts also are made to keep abreast and inform the UN, governments, academics, and the technological world about traditional “mapping” technologies.

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin welcomes conference attendees, speakers, and vendors to Green Bay, WI, for the 2009 Indigenous Mapping Network Conference. We hope to provide an educational and fascinating conference for everyone. We will also share a brief look at Oneida culture and what life is like in Northeast Wisconsin.

New NSF Report Sets Forth Principles of Earth Science Literacy

earth_literacy1_fEarth’s rocks and other materials provide a record of its history. Our solar system formed from a vast cloud of gas and dust 4.6 billion years ago. Earth’s crust has two distinct types: continental and oceanic.

These and other concepts are the major ideas of Earth science that all citizens should know, according to a newly released report–Earth Science Literacy Principles: The Big Ideas and Supporting Concepts of Earth Science–funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI).

Even modest changes to Earth’s systems have had profound influences on human societies and the course of civilization, according to the report. Understanding these systems and how they interact is vital for our survival, the report states.

“The Earth sciences have never been more important than they are today,” says Robert Detrick, director of NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences. “It’s important that every citizen have knowledge of the fundamental concepts of Earth science such that he or she may make informed and responsible decisions about public issues–from climate change to energy, from natural resources to earthquake hazards.

“The Earth Science Literacy Initiative is a very important effort to convey this information about Earth science to the general public.”

Earth science literacy is especially important at this time in history, echoes the report: “There are many challenges facing humanity–dwindling energy and mineral resources, changing climate, water shortages–directly relating to the Earth sciences. There are many difficult decisions that governments, local and national, will have to make concerning these issues. How well humans survive the twenty-first century will depend on the success of these decisions.”

Earth Science Literacy Principles provides a summary of the major ideas in earth science for policy makers, educators, students and the general public.

The report complements the efforts of ocean, climate and atmospheric scientists, educators and others to define the ideas and concepts essential for a geoscience-literate public.

Earth Science Literacy Principles was developed through an online workshop held in May 2008, and a writing workshop held in July 2008.

The workshops brought together scientists from across the earth sciences, including mineralogists, petrologists, sedimentologists, paleontologists, geophysicists, geomorphologists, biogeochemists, volcanologists, geohazards specialists and hydrologists, among others.

The document has undergone review by leading scientists on each of the topics.  Major geoscience and earth science education professional organizations have endorsed the report.

“Because of its validity, authority and succinct format, Earth Science Literacy Principles will be influential in a wide variety of scientific, educational and political domains,” says Michael Wysession, chair of ESLI and a geoscientist at Washington University in St. Louis. “New textbooks and curricula are already being developed using the report.”

As principle 9.9, the final one of the report, states, “An Earth-science-literate public, informed by a current and accurate understanding of the Earth, is critical to the promotion of good stewardship, sound policy and international cooperation.”

For humans–and the planet on which they live–earth science literacy is a prerequisite to a successful future.

GIS Helps Teach Climate Information to Public Health Decision Makers

overview_1…from AlertNet

“Starting this week, 12 public-health professionals and climate scientists from ten countries are visiting Columbia University’s Lamont campus, where the International Research Institute for Climate and Society is based, to learn how to use climate information to make better decisions for health-care planning and disease prevention. They’re taking part in the second Summer Institute on Climate Information for Public Health, organized by IRI, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the Mailman School of Public Health.

“The students face an intense daily schedule, packed with lectures and exercise sessions meant to introduce them to computational tools that integrate epidemiological data with the wide variety of available climate, population and environmental data.

“For example, students will learn the fundamentals of using geographic-information-systems (GIS) to conduct spatial analysis. ‘GIS allows us to see where people live, the social, economic and physical conditions they confront and their level of exposure to potential health threats,’ says instructor, associate director of CIESIN’s geospatial applications division. ‘Using a GIS-based model, we can look at the coincidence of regions at high risk of malaria and areas of high population density to design a more effective control program for example,’ he says.”

Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association Seeks Feedback

The Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association (GSDI) Council is made up of delegates from organizations spread across the globe that are members of the GSDI Association. The GSDI Association will soon vote on the possible creation of a new membership arm for individuals and we want your advice.

It is currently possible to join the GSDI Association as an individual member but one receives currently few benefits by doing so. The Board would like to attract to the new individual membership category practitioners and academics that have substantial GIS or related experience that could aid peers in advancing standards based spatial data infrastructure developments across the globe as well as learn from each other.

The benefits for individuals in joining the new individual membership arm would include:

  1. ability to become a visible and identifiable member of an international society of such specialists,
  2. the president and vice-president as elected by the individual members through electronic voting would serve automatically as delegate and alternate on the GSDI Council influencing the GSDI agenda and the president would serve on the GSDI Board of Directors,
  3. each member would receive an automatic invitation to join the Geographic Information Knowledge Network (giknet.org) allowing you to communicate with other members of the network, record a professional profile among your geospatial community peers, record a profile for your geospatial business, organization or agency, and manage your own account,
  4. each member would be able to make announcements on the GSDI Association web site front page (with RSS feed to subscribers),
  5. gain increased opportunities to aid and consult with others in advancing standards based spatial data infrastructure developments,
  6. acquire a membership card and certificate, and
  7. gain additional benefits as advocated and developed by the membership over time.

To inform the GSDI Council as to whether they should create such a new arm of the association for individual geospatial specialists, please take a few minutes to answer three quick questions. Each question also provides a space for comments. The Board and Council will make a decision on whether to create this new arm of the organization at the GSDI 11 Conference in Rotterdam in mid June.

Advances in GIScience: Proceedings of the 12th AGILE Conference

agile_procCan’t attend the The 12th AGILE International Conference on Geographic Information Science in Hannover, Germany next week? The conference Proceedings are now available for purchase in both hard copy and PDF forms here.   Papers include:

  • Identification of Practically Visible Spatial Objects in Natural Environments
  • Extraction of Features from Mobile Laser Scanning Data for Future Driver Assistance Systems
  • Automatic Revision of 2D Building Databases from High Resolution Satellite Imagery: A 3D Photogrammetric Approach
  • Accuracy of High-Resolution Radar Images in the Estimation of Plot-Level Forest Variables
  • Assessment of Solar Irradiance on the Urban Fabric for the Production of Renewable Energy using LIDAR Data and Image Processing Techniques
  • Enhancing 3D City Models with Heterogeneous Spatial Information: Towards 3D Land Information Systems
  • Matching River Datasets of Different Scales
  • An Approach to Facilitate the Integration of Hydrological Data by means of Ontologies and Multilingual Thesauri
  • Applying Instance Visualisation and Conceptual Schema Mapping for Geodata Harmonisation
  • Transferring Segmented Properties in the Conflation of Transportation Networks
  • Detecting Hotspots in Geographic Networks
  • Estimating Spatio-Temporal Distribution of Railroad Users and Its Application to Disaster Prevention Planning
  • Rasterizing Census Geography: Definition and Optimization of a Regular Grid
  • Towards Semantic Interpretation of Movement Behavior
  • Three-Valued 9-Intersection for Deriving Possible Topological Relations from Incomplete Observations
  • Modeling Land Use Change: A GIS Based Modeling Framework to Support Integrated Land Use Planning (NabanFrame)
  • Monitoring System for Assessment of Vegetation Sensitivity to El-Niño over Africa
  • A Storage and Transfer Efficient Data Structure for Variable Scale Vector Data
  • Line Decomposition Based on Critical Points Detection
  • Generalization of 3D Buildings Modelled by CityGML
  • 3D Wayfinding Choremes: A Cognitively Motivated Representation of Route Junctions in Virtual Environments
  • Towards Geovisual Analysis of Crime Scenes – A 3D Crime Mapping Approach

Jack Dangermond on Realizing Spatial Intelligence on the GeoWeb

At the Where 2.0 Conference last month in San Jose, California, ESRI president Jack Dangermond gave a presentation titled “Realizing Spatial Intelligence on the GeoWeb”.  The main idea behind Dangermond’s talk was that geographic knowledge created in GIS environments is increasingly being made available to Web 2.0 users.


ESRI is primarily focused on GIS technology and GIScience, and support its user community.  Users of ESRI and other GIS technology have made an enormous contribution of knowledge to the GeoWeb in terms of base maps, thematic data sets, and other geographic information.  “What drives GIS users is integration of geographic knowledge into human action,” said Dangermond.  “Using (geographic knowledge) can make a huge difference; it impacts business and government, but also helps create a more sustainable world.”

What Is ‘Geographic Knowledge’?

Dangermond says that “geographic knowledge” is much more than just data, and defines it in terms of six components:

1)      Data models that structure the data;

2)      The data itself;

3)      Models and analytic environments that show predictions, or suitability; where different layers of information are combined and interpreted;

4)      Encapsulation of cartographic expression—what he called “that thing that cartographers do, like color ramps, symbology sets”;

5)      Geospatial workflows; and

6)      Metadata, which describes the first five components and is key to sharing, discovery, and access.

Geographic knowledge is changing how we abstract our world.  It is also changing how we reason, both in the professional world and in broader society, by introducing spatially-integrated thinking.  “People are beginning to think about relationships between this and that,” said Dangermond, “relationships between disease and environmental situations that may support it.  Or people are asking the question, ‘If I locate this here, will it support it?’  The good work of Google and others in getting people spatially aware has consequences beyond simply looking at maps.  It’s causing them to do more spatially integrated thinking, and we’re right in the midst of that today.”

Shared geographic databases in concert with the Web 2.0 environment are also changing how we organize and communicate between different agencies and organizations.  “I would assert that this is actually introducing a new approach for problem solving and thinking,” stated Dangermond.  “And I would say it’s just the beginning.  It’s going to go way beyond simple visualization and mapping; it’s going to embrace all types of knowledge and ultimately become kind of a societal infrastructure for human behavior and human action.”

Sharing Geographic Knowledge on the GeoWeb

At the heart of this evolving infrastructure is Web 2.0 GIS servers or “geoservers” that make geographic knowledge directly available for mashing up and integration.  “People author the knowledge, they drag and drop it onto a server, and then it’s accessible on other desktops or in browsers or on cell phones or virtually anything,” said Dangermond.

“The fundamental difference between this (Web 2.0) world and the worlds I’ve experienced in GIS before is that the web is the platform, and it’s transforming access to this knowledge base, making it orders and orders of magnitude more available and usable and collaborative,” said Dangermond.  “So the GIS user community is basically supporting this notion of transforming their data sets into services and those published services can be mashed up with other web services in all sorts of forms and made available for new communities to leverage.”

Jack and his ESRI colleague Jeremy Bartley stepped through several examples of sharing geographic knowledge on the GeoWeb, ending with the State of Maryland’s “StateStat” web application.  “This is a very powerful idea about having government open up not just their GIS data, but their data, using web mapping as a framework to make government more transparent and more accessible, and a new chapter of democracy opening up,” said Dangermond.  He told the Where 2.0 audience that this was an opportunity for them to get engaged in building these kinds of web sites to help open up government, to look at “the financial dimension of where we’re making investments, and where we need to make investments.  When I show this to political people, well, they get nervous—but they also get very excited…because suddenly they can look at government transparency and accountability.”

GIS servers are integrating geographic knowledge—data models, data, models, cartography, workflows, and metadata—with the GeoWeb.  They are easy to use, standards-based, collaborative, and will leverage the billions of dollars already invested by the GIS community in developing base maps, thematic data sets, and other geographic information.  Web GIS also promises to extend the vision of e-government.  “Sometimes I like to call it g-government,” said Dangermond, “because it’s all about a geographic or map framework for making more transparent government policies.  And this is a good and healthy thing.”

GIS and Earth Systems Modeling

An ever-growing number of models currently exist for abstracting, simulating, and understanding complex details of physical, biological, and social systems and subsystems.   The domains of the individual modeling packages vary widely, from soils to hydrology, from socioeconomics to land-use transportation.  While much progress has been made in recent years to develop models to help us to better understand our world, there is still much more to be done—especially in the area of integration.  As we gain more detailed understanding of different granular systems and their components, the challenge in addressing complex issues such as global climate change is coupling these models together to gain a more complete picture.  The combination of powerful hardware, sophisticated software, and increased human knowledge have all contributed to better models and more accurate simulations, but a GIS-based framework for integrating these disparate representations of past, present, and future states is key to understanding the whole earth.

The Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) is an open source collaborative project co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The goal of the ESMF project is to build “…high-performance, flexible software infrastructure to increase ease of use, performance portability, interoperability, and reuse in climate, numerical weather prediction, data assimilation, and other Earth science applications.”

A key component is definition of an architecture for coupling together of disparate modeling systems, as well as providing support of new, framework-complaint models.  A core principle of the ESMF framework is the deconstruction of complex models into small components defined by standards such that they can be quickly and easily assembled in different ways to create new models.

One of the key tenants of ESMF is interagency collaboration—the framework streamlines and simplifies dialog and model/code sharing between analysts and modelers across a wide range of U.S. government agencies.  The end result is much more comprehensive model views of climate impacts.   However, ESMF is primarily focused on sharing of code and models, not data and workflows.

Integrating Models with GIS

GIS itself is an incredibly valuable tool for spatial analysis and modeling, but there are a many standalone models available designed for highly specialized, domain-specific modeling, analysis, and problem solving.   Most domain-specific models are not yet and probably never will be fully implemented in a GIS framework; however, the spatial display, analysis, and data management capabilities of GIS can still be utilized to greatly streamline almost any modeling workflow.  The diagram below shows an example of how GIS provides a comprehensive framework for a highway noise modeling workflow.


Using GIS for noise model workflow management and post-modeling support.

The diagram below shows a more comprehensive modeling framework where GIS is used for workflow management and post-modeling support for multiple domain-specific models; in addition, outputs from multiple models can be compared, analyzed, and modeled within the GIS system itself.  Such a GIS-based framework offers a comprehensive environment for modeling across complex earth systems.


A GIS-based framework integrating multiple domain-specific models and performing multidisciplinary modeling.

Creating a framework that successfully brings together and manages a plethora of data sources and modeling systems to tackle the most pressing environmental issues of our time is surely a monumental challenge, but it is a challenge for which GIS is well suited.  Once the data and technology framework is in place and a clear workflow is established, the challenge then becomes organizing a large group of people to do the work of modeling multiple complex scenarios in order to identify the best of possible design futures for the planet.

What Is Needed

Because most domain-specific models are implemented in a GIS framework, yet they are instrumental to the success of an earth systems modeling and global design framework, a complete accounting of available models, how they work, and how they integrate with GIS is essential.

  1. Maintain a Knowledge Base of Earth Systems Models. In support of earth systems modeling and global design framework, we need an open, wiki-like knowledge base cataloging environmental and earth systems models at all scales.
  2. Share Best Practices on the Use of Models in a GIS Framework. The models knowledge base should include best practices information on how each model integrates with GIS, in terms of data models, data management, display and visualization, and analysis.