Senator Tom Udall Requests $1,000,000 in Funding for the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Situational Awareness

Senator Tom Udall has requested $1,000,000 in funding for the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Science at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM.  “The project will continue operations of the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Science in collaboration with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  NGA provides intelligence analysis, maps, remote sensing of war zones, and geospatial analysis of Human Terrains for war fighters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations.  The Department of Geography, Department of Surveying Engineering, and Physical Science Laboratory (PSL) at NMSU are conducting this work.  Continuing funding is requested to support NGA’s workforce development goals in geospatial analysis and Intelligence studies.  The project will deliver education, training, equipment, and student scholarships for those seeking careers with DoD, NGA, and in the Intelligence Community.”

[Source: Senator Tom Udall’s web site]

Don Beck and Ravi Shankar: A Brief History of the Imaginary Map

…from MungBeing

“Nobody really knows why there is no patron saint of cartographers. Even the meanest human professions have one: criminals can turn to St. Dismas and drug addicts to St. Kolbe for comfort, but nobody offers the honest, hardworking cartographer solace against the misfortunes of an inaccurately drawn coastline or a spilled ink pot. Not so for navigators (and how far would they get without a map?) who have no less than four patron saints, including the queen of hearts of the patron saint deck, the Virgin Mary herself, and the indefatigable St. Francis Xavier who, in between conducting 40,000 baptisms, managed to find time to dine with head-hunters, raise the dead, and calm the occasional storm. It appears a patron has been set aside for every profession imaginable — except for cartography.

So spare a thought for the younger sibling of cartographers, the ‘fantasy cartographer’, who draws maps not of our real world, but of imaginary places. The chances of this small community of ever being bestowed their own patron saint must be smaller than the finest dot of a crow’s quill pen, although as this brief history of this obscure subculture of mapping shows, there are no shortage of candidates for the Patronus Sanctus Mappi Imago, or Patron Saint of the Fantasy Mapper.

In the beginning there was really no distinction between fantasy and factual cartography at all. Our understanding of the Earth and everything on it was sketchy to the point that beyond the next village, geographical fact often merged into fantasy. Blank spaces on maps are not good for the cartographer’s business, so to provide money’s worth to their customers, cartographers filled out the empty spaces on their maps with invented countries and fantastical creatures, including that old standby margin filler: ‘Here be Dragons’. Factual and fantasy cartography diverged in the 18th Century when exploration and map-making greatly improved and more reliable information edged the unicorns, gryphons, and dragons towards the borders of modern maps until they disappeared altogether. But during the same period, the birth of the mass produced printed picture created a large demand from a still largely illiterate population for illustrations of popular stories, including maps of fictional places. The public was keen to see an illustration of Dante’s nine circles of Hell (perhaps thinking that by memorizing a street map of Hades they could find their way out if they were unfortunate enough to be cast there in the afterlife) or the journey of Christian in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ — a road map to salvation which if followed meant that Dante’s map would not be required.”

Ethnographic maps built using cutting-edge technology may help Amazon tribes win forest carbon payments


“A new handbook lays out the methodology for cultural mapping, providing indigenous groups with a powerful tool for defending their land and culture, while enabling them to benefit from some 21st century advancements. Cultural mapping may also facilitate indigenous efforts to win recognition and compensation under a proposed scheme to mitigate climate change through forest conservation. The scheme—known as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation—will be a central topic of discussion at next month’s climate talks in Copenhagen, but concerns remain that it could fail to deliver benefits to forest dwellers.

“Much of the Amazon rainforest remains occupied by tribal groups. While few of these live as conjured in the imagination, the state of the forests in their territories is a testament to their approach to managing lands. But like the Amazon itself, these groups face new pressures from the outside world. For the indigenous, the lure of urban culture is strong—cities seem to offer the promise of affluence and the conveniences of an easy life. But in leaving their forest homes indigenous peoples are usually met with a stark reality: the skills that serve them so well in the forest don’t translate well to an urban setting. The odds are stacked against them; they arrive near the bottom of the social ladder, often not proficient in the language and customs of city dwellers. The lucky ones may find work in factories or as day laborers and security guards, but many eventually return to the countryside. Some re-integrate into their villages, others return in a completely different capacity than when they departed. They may join the ranks of miners and loggers who trespass on indigenous lands, ferreting out deals that pit members of the same tribe against each other in order to exploit the resources they steward. As tribes are fragmented, and forests fall, indigenous culture—and the profound knowledge contained within—is lost. The world is left a poorer place, culturally and biologically.”

Science Digs Into Civil War Sites: High-tech forensic tools help archaeologists uncover Atlanta history

…from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Just north of I-20 on Moreland Avenue in Atlanta sits an intersection on a low hill. There’s a gas station and a liquor store and some other businesses, but not much else.

“Though you would never know it from the unremarkable view, thousands of men died here 145 years ago in one of the fiercest fights of the Civil War.

“Confederate Private Sam Watkins, wounded in the battle that July day in 1864, recalled bodies, horses, wagons and cannon “piled indiscriminately everywhere” and “streams of blood.””

Gamma Theta Upsilon: The International Geographic Honor Society

“Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) is an international honor society in geography. Gamma Theta Upsilon was founded in 1928 and became a national organization in 1931. Members of GTU have met academic requirements and share a background and interest in geography. GTU chapter activities support geography knowledge and awareness.

“GTU’s Goals are:

“1. To further professional interest in Geography by affording a common organization for those interested in the field.

“2. To strengthen student and professional training through academic experiences in addition to those of the classroom and laboratory.

“3. To advance the status of Geography as a cultural and practical discipline for study and investigation.

“4. To encourage student research of high quality, and to promote an outlet for publication.

“5. To create and administer funds for furthering graduate study and/or research in the field of Geography.

“6. To encourage members to apply geographic knowledge and skills in service to humankind.”