Disease Mapping: GIS Helps in Pandemic Preparation

…from Western Australia Today

“New technologies will allow corporations to gain a much better understanding of how a pandemic would affect the smooth running of their businesses. Interestingly, a technology known as geographic information systems being developed for use by modern corporations to understand where disease clusters are located has its origins in the 19th century.

““Disease mapping developed during the 1830s cholera outbreak in the UK. Post-epidemic, information from doctors about the number of cases that presented at their surgeries was collected, which was used to develop maps with dots representing cholera cases. The maps tracked the spread of the illness over time and clearly showed disease clusters around ports like Liverpool and Manchester, and also accounted for ancillary factors such as how the disease spread through the British canal system,” explains Francisco Urbina, manager of business development strategy at location intelligence company, ESRI Australia, which develops GIS solutions.

“Although GIS technology has come a long way since the mapping techniques used in the 1830s, the principles behind disease mapping remain the same.”

Greenprint Priority for Microsoft Surface: New Demo from ESRI’s Application Prototype Lab

“The following demonstration uses the Surface to display a map of an area and instructs a remote mapping server to perform intensive suitability analysis.  The parameters for the analysis are on the right hand side of the screen and the results are displayed on the left.  This demonstrates how the Surface can be used to perform “what if” environmental analysis.”

“Earth Science, Web 2.0+, and Geospatial Applications” to be Presented at ScienceOnline2010

sol_logoJacqueline Floyd and Chris Rowan will co-chair a session titled “Earth Science, Web 2.0+, and Geospatial Applications” at the ScienceOnline2010 conference at Research Triangle Park, NC, which will be held 14 to 17 January 2010.  “We will discuss online and mobile applications for earth science research, including solid earth, ocean, and atmosphere subtopics. Current topics planned for discussion are Google Earth for geospatial applications, iPhone and other mobile applications, collaboration tools such as Google Wave, and cloud computing platforms such as Amazon’s EC2 for computationally intensive applications such as seismic tomography or climate modeling. Also, we’ll discuss web analytics: defining and measuring what makes a science website or online application successful.”

Cartogram of Global CO2 Emissions in ArcGIS

…reposted from the ESRI GIS Education Community blog

Cartograms, because they distort our normal view of things, are wonderfully rich research and teaching tools. A distance cartogram shows relative travel times and directions within a network. An area cartogram is a map in which some variable is used instead of the land area in each polygon to compute the size of that polygon. Many of us remember using graph paper to make rectangular area cartograms as undergraduates (but perhaps I am dating myself). Today, one can use Web GIS and desktop GIS to create cartograms. For example, nearly 700 variables can be mapped on www.worldmapper.org, and the data can be downloaded as Excel spreadsheets and analyzed within ArcGIS.

To dig deeper and make your own cartograms, with the ability to do bivariate analysis within a GIS environment, use the ArcScript cartogram tool that Tom Gross in the ESRI Applications Prototype Lab created, on: http://arcscripts.esri.com/details.asp?dbid=15638. How can a GIS, which focuses on the accurate spatial representations of features, be used to create cartograms? Try this script and find out!

Once you install the cartogram tool, inside ArcMap, access ArcToolbox. Create a toolset, add the cartogram tool, and run it. The intuitive interface allows specifying input and output, and even comes with a nice assortment of international population and other variables to practice on. You can distort the base layers so that your cartogram can include the distorted layers for reference. I did this for cities, a 30-degree world grid, and a satellite image of the Earth to see these reference layers overlaid on my cartogram.


In this example, I chose to map the total CO2 emissions by country in 2004, in millions of metric tons, from the US Energy Information Agency. What patterns do you notice?

The cartogram map layer has to be written into a geodatabase, but otherwise, the tool has few restrictions. I am very pleased cartographically with the results, and the methodology of how the cartograms are generated is well documented.

What other variables and scales could you map and analyze as cartograms?

Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

Virginia Space Grant Consortium Project to Build Geospatial Technology Web Portal

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium has been awarded a grant of $894,228 by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program (NSF-ATE) for the Geospatial Technician Education through Virginia’s Community Colleges (GTEVCC) project.  Project partners include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), John Tyler Community College, Tidewater Community College, Virginia Western Community College, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program at Virginia Tech.

The vision of the GTEVCC project is to establish academic pathways in geospatial technology (technologies such as geographic information systems/global positioning systems/remote sensing) at three community colleges in the VCCS that will provide Virginia employers with a larger pool of skilled geospatial technicians. These academic pathways will serve as model programs for other community colleges.

The GTEVCC project will include educational materials development, adaptation, and implementation, and will provide professional development and mentoring for faculty and high school teachers. Each college will develop a certificate program in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and update their existing GIS courses and programs to better reflect the employer’s needs. The curriculum developed through the GTEVCC project will be driven by the needs of business and industry in the Commonwealth.

The project team will create and maintain a geospatial technology web portal to serve as a repository for pathway models, curriculum, professional development materials, career awareness materials and other resources.  The project team will also develop geospatial technology career awareness resources and materials to be shared statewide.

“We’re delighted with this NSF grant that will allow our colleges to remain at the cutting-edge of an exciting and growing field, “said Dr. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.  “It’s yet another example of the partnerships that our colleges build with one another, business and industry, and higher education institutions.  Most importantly, this continuing partnership with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium will lead individuals to jobs, and it will reap increasing rewards and workforce development opportunities for communities and businesses across Virginia,” said Dr. DuBois.

Chris Carter, VSGC Assistant Director, states, “The VSGC is honored to lead the GTEVCC effort on behalf of the VCCS, the partnering community colleges, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program.  The VCCS has a strong commitment to geospatial technology education and meeting the needs of employers across the Commonwealth. Virginia is lucky to have such a large and dedicated group of professionals and educators in the geospatial technology field. I am very proud of the collaboration and effort of the GTEVCC team that has already accomplished so much through our planning grant.  I look forward to the next three years working with this team.”

The benefits of this partnership are recognized by business and industry representatives. Russell Minich, Principal with the Timmons Group has been a participant on the project since the planning team first met several years ago.  “The NSF-funded GTEVCC project is GREAT news for the partnering community colleges, the VCCS and the Commonwealth.  I really look forward to serving on the advisory committee and providing the business community prospective. We are the major consumers of the community college product, a trained workforce,” Minich stated.

NSF’s ATE program supports the development of technicians in emerging fields, recognizing the need to inspire, motivate, and empower students to develop and achieve career goals. NSF funds ATE projects that focus on developing partnerships between community colleges, other higher education institutions and employers to provide workforce development and education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels.

[Source: Virginia Space Grant Consortium announcement]

College of William and Mary Professor Receives National Science Foundation Grant

…from The Flat Hat

“College of William and Mary Associate Professor of sociology Salvatore Saporito recently received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a database of school attendance boundaries for the country’s largest school districts.

“The database, called the School Attendance Boundary Information System, will receive two years of funding from the grant. Saporito and his team of student researchers are working closely with Stuart Hamilton, program director for the Center for Geospatial Analysis, to map out school boundaries for hundreds of school districts in the U.S. using Geographic Information Systems, a digital mapping system.”

University of Texas at Austin will Use GIS to Study Climate Change and Political Stability in Africa

“The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law has been awarded a $7.6 million grant by the U. S. Department of Defense, the largest single award dedicated to social science research The University of Texas at Austin has received.

“The five-year grant will fund the Strauss Center’s Program on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS), which will identify how climate change could trigger disasters in Africa that undermine political stability. The program will explore strategies for building African state capacity and assess global aid efforts while developing partnerships with the Africa policy community in the United States, Africa and elsewhere.

“”CCAPS utilizes the most rigorous methods available to social scientists,” said Catherine E. Weaver, Strauss Center distinguished scholar. “It combines extensive qualitative fieldwork in Africa with the sophisticated use of quantitative analysis and Geographic Information System (GIS) software to better understand the complex relationship between climate change risks, political vulnerability and international aid activity.””

Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources Receives Award for GIS Use

esricanadaNational Non-Profit Uses ESRI Technology to Improve Environmental Risk Management of First Nation Fuel Storage Tanks and Waste Sites

ESRI Canada today presented an Award of Excellence to the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) for leveraging geographic information system (GIS) technology to establish an environmental risk reporting system and promote the use of GIS within First Nations. The award was presented at the 2009 ESRI Regional User Conference in Winnipeg.

“ESRI Canada’s solutions have been helping organizations in public and private sectors for 25 years to make more informed environmental decisions and achieve sustainability,” said James Wickson, Vice President of Sales and Professional Services, ESRI Canada. “We commend CIER for its leadership and vision in using GIS technology to monitor, protect and preserve First Nation resources and increasing collaboration among communities and governments.”

CIER is a First Nations environmental non-profit charity established in 1994 by First Nation leaders from across Canada to develop and implement sustainable solutions to address environmental issues affecting First Nations lands and resources. CIER initiated the Fuel Storage Tank and Waste Site Inventory Assessment Project in 2007 focusing on First Nations in Ontario, with federal funding from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). The goals of the project are to: obtain a complete assessment of fuel storage tanks and waste sites in First Nations in Ontario; assess the environmental risk and dollar value associated with this risk for fuel storage tanks and solid waste disposal sites; draft management policies on storage tanks and waste sites; and establish 3- and 10-year action plans to meet these policies. The project commenced in Spring 2007 and will be completed in Spring 2010, with all 135 First Nations in Ontario having been investigated for inclusion in the inventory.

CIER required a comprehensive GIS to collect global positioning system (GPS) points and add spatial data for fuel storage tanks and waste disposal sites in each First Nation and its respective reserve. CIER chose ESRI ArcGIS technology because it delivers a complete suite of GIS software that provides a scalable platform for spatial analysis, data management and mapping.  It also supports the sharing of geographic information and GIS capabilities on servers, desktops, mobile devices and over the Web.

CIER partnered with Map It Out Inc. and KGS Group to develop the necessary tools, and used ArcGIS to build an inventory collection and risk-reporting system. This involved gathering spatial, qualitative and quantitative data, conducting data quality assurance testing, entering spatial information into a Web-based application powered by ArcGIS, and assigning symbols representing each site’s condition. The resulting application supports the prioritization and development of action plans for site remediation and replacement of at-risk fuel storage tanks.  All of the data collected is accessible to INAC and First Nations through a website, providing pertinent and current information that can be used to support decision-making related to the management of these sites.

“Being able to make decisions based on spatial data has significantly enhanced decision-making in our organization,” said Steven DeRoy, Research Associate and GIS Specialist, CIER. “ESRI GIS has improved our capacity to help First Nations understand, analyze and act on the environmental issues affecting them.  The success of this project opens up many opportunities to apply GIS in other areas of our operations.”

ArcGIS has also enabled CIER to automate data entry, significantly reducing the costs of site inspections from $7,000 to $3,500 per site.

The fuel tanks and waste disposal sites assessment project has become a model for future CIER projects to draw upon in the areas of housing, drinking water and wastewater management. CIER also plans to expand the geographic scope of site inventories to enable risk monitoring of First Nation reserves across Canada using a single GIS application.

[Source: ESRI Canada news release]

LizardTech Introduces Free MrSID Plug-in for ArcGIS 3D Analyst

LizardTech, a division of Celartem Inc. and a provider of software solutions for managing and distributing geospatial content, announced the release of the MrSID Plug-in for ArcGIS 3D Analyst at the GEOINT 2009 Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, hosted by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) October 19-21, 2009. LizardTech is exhibiting in booth #517.

Until now, LizardTech’s customers, who widely use ArcGIS 3D Analyst, were not able to load point cloud datasets that were compressed to MrSID Generation 4 using LiDAR Compressor into ESRI’s 3D Analyst product. However, with the release of this free plug-in, 3D Analyst users can load point cloud datasets compressed to MrSID Generation 4 to create surfaces for use in line-of-sight and terrain modeling, visualization, and spatial analysis.

“LizardTech’s goal is to give customers tools for using their point cloud data compressed with LiDAR Compressor in the applications they use every day,” said Jon Skiffington, LizardTech director of marketing. “Many of our customers use ArcGIS, but were not able to use it with MrSID files created in LiDAR Compressor. Now our customers can easily load point cloud datasets compressed to MrSID Generation 4 into ESRI’s 3D Analyst product.”

The free MrSID Plug-in for ArcGIS 3D Analyst is available for download here: http://www.lizardtech.com/MrSID.html

Computer Science Corporation Wins Information Technology Contract from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Computer Science Corporation (CSC) announced today that it is one of seven companies awarded a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) for information technology (IT) support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The BPA has a seven-year performance period and an estimated maximum total ceiling value of $955 million for all firms. Awarded to CSC during the company’s second quarter fiscal year 2010, which ended on October 2, 2009, this contract follows and is incremental to the Information Technology Solutions EPA contract CSC has held since 2002.

Under the terms of the agreement, CSC will compete for task orders to provide services, including server and storage management, high-performance computing, geospatial support, IT security, call center operations, telecommunications and video conferencing.

“We understand that cost-effective IT infrastructure support is crucial to the EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said Tom Anderson, president of CSC’s North American Public Sector Civil and Government Health Services Group. “CSC has a 30-year track record of successful service delivery to the EPA and an ongoing commitment to innovation. We look forward to playing an instrumental role in helping the agency increase efficiency, effectiveness and integration, while reducing IT services costs.”

For more information about CSC’s environmental solutions, visit csc.com/environment.

[Source: CSC news release]