Archive for October, 2015

New CIESIN Data Layers on Hazardous Waste, Emissions, Population, Wild Areas, and More

October 25, 2015 1 comment

One of the longest lasting and richest geospatial data depositories has been Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), which we describe and praise in our book, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data. CIESIN recently published six new data layers in on the Landscape for Contributors group in ArcGIS Online.  These layers contain information on hazardous waste sites, the “global human footprint”, emissions, roads, population, and the world’s remaining wild areas.  These data sets are free to use.  To find these six layers easily in the three pages of listings in this Group, to the group’s link above, and search (control-F in most browsers) on the term “Columbia”, because Columbia University is the owner’s name for these layers.   The six layers might also be housed on page two or another page in the group, so be sure to check those pages too.  Because the layers reside in the ArcGIS Online library, this data can be used as layers in ArcGIS Online web maps, or downloaded, where they can be used in ArcGIS Desktop or in other packages.

According to CIESIN, they will be publishing additional data in the Landscape for Contributors group in the upcoming months!

New data layers from CIESIN published

New “landscape for contributors” data layers from CIESIN published.

Categories: Public Domain Data

Spatial Agent: Highlighting Public Domain Datasets

October 19, 2015 1 comment

The World Bank recently announced the release of a new Spatial Agent app for iOS and Android (web version also available). The app curates an already impressive collection of public domain spatial datasets in a variety of formats from over 300 web services, with the developers promising to add more iconic datasets. App users can choose between the following data sources:

  • Indicators (for example % of female employees in agriculture or % of forested land areas)
  • Map layers
  • Other (for example the Nepalese major river system or hydro power plants in Malawi)

The data can be displayed against a back-drop of one of four base map sources:

  • Shaded relief (NOAA)
  • Street map
  • Topographic map
  • World imagery

with the option to set the area of interest by Country, Basin or Region.

In this example a layer of CIESIN’s earthquake hazard frequency and distribution data is displayed against a backdrop of world imagery.

Spatial Agent: Earthquake Hazards

Spatial Agent: Earthquake Hazards

Each dataset is accompanied by a short description of the source and intended purpose and as the datasets are public domain, they may be shared through email and/or social media.

The World Bank hope that the app will help spread the news about public domain data and go some way to organising the ‘current big data cosmos’.









No Place Else I’d Rather Be: Troubles and Triumphs of Prairie Restoration

October 10, 2015 Leave a comment

By Sarah Hagan
Spatial Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy, Illinois, USA

It’s a sunny midsummer morning in south central Wisconsin. From my position on the bluff overlooking a large prairie and wetland complex, I can hear several varieties of songbirds in the trees above me. To my right, high up in the old, gnarled burr oaks, I hear the squawking and drumming of a flock of red-headed woodpeckers. The scene above and below me is lush and green and idyllic, but that’s not what I’m thinking about.

I’m thinking about how it’s not even ten in the morning and the temperature has already risen above 85°F. I’m thinking about how I just slid down a 60+° slope through a patch of poison ivy for what feels like the thousandth time in the past two hours. I’m thinking about how I can still feel the cuts on my legs from my trek through the honeysuckle and blackberries. I’m thinking about the chemical burns on the side of my neck that I was rewarded with when I failed to dodge a wild parsnip as it careened toward my face a week ago. I’m hot and I’m tired and I’m dirty and I still have six hours of this ahead of me before I climb into a car, drive 45 minutes back to my apartment, take a shower, eat a mountain of food, and fall asleep by 10:00 p.m. while my roommates head out to have all the fun that summer in Madison can offer. At 6:00 a.m. my alarm will ring and I’ll wake up and do it all again.

The Work--and the Rewards--of Prairie Restoration

The Work–and the Rewards–of Prairie Restoration.

Prairie restoration, as with most forms of conservation and land management, is rarely as glamorous as friends and family may think it is. It requires long hours in long sleeves and long pants under the blazing summer sun with little to no cover to speak of. It requires trekking through sometimes difficult terrain to places inaccessible by vehicle, shovel slung over your shoulder as you climb up hills and through brush—most of which has some manner of thorns—while insects buzz around your head and climb at your feet. The summer I spent working in prairie restoration in southern Wisconsin was one of the most difficult of my life. While friends were staying out late and sleeping in and celebrating their recent completion of undergraduate study, I was waking up early and collapsing into bed, sunburnt and aching and exhausted, a few hours after I arrived back home. Never a morning person, I grumbled at the 6:00 a.m. wakeup call and the prospect of another day of grueling work under a relentless sun.

That summer was also one of the most rewarding of my career. I learned more about ecology—bird and plant identification, care of the land, the history of the land—in a few short weeks on the prairie than I did in four years of top-rate university education. I had more wholly rewarding experiences standing amidst the grasses than I did anywhere else that my travels had taken me. I still recall the day that, while pulling garlic mustard deep in a forest, I stumbled upon a fern grove. It was the sort of magical place that you picture in your mind while reading old fairy tales. I half expected gnomes and sprites to be running about beneath my feet. I remember uncovering a nest of newly hatched wild turkeys, the little ones all striped and fuzzy as they peeped and scurried about until their mother returned. I remember the calls of the Sandhill cranes as they flew gracefully over my head. I remember the rare orchids and the flocks of red-headed woodpeckers becoming an almost commonplace daily fixture.

Prairie restoration is difficult. You’re hot and tired and dirty for long hours, day after day. There’s always more work to be done. It’s easy to give up on the grasslands, to decide that it’s hopeless. It’s easy to wonder why you’re doing this anyway. But for every day I felt miserable and sorry for myself, there was a moment where a rare breeze blew around me and I put my shovel down for a moment, looked at the seemingly endless fields of big bluestem waving in the wind, listened to the birds singing all around me, and thought, “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”


Authors:  This week’s post is guest written by The Nature Conservancy’s Landfire team, which includes Kori Blankenship, Sarah Hagen, Randy Swaty, Kim Hall, Jeannie Patton, and Jim Smith. The Landfire team is focused on data, models, and tools developed to support applications, land management and planning for biodiversity conservation.

If *you* would like to guest write for the Spatial Reserves blog about geospatial data, use the About the Authors section and contact one of us about your topic.

Global Imagery Donation From Planet Labs

October 5, 2015 1 comment

Planet Labs, an US based imaging company that operates a constellation of miniature satellites, recently announced a new collaborative project with the United Nations and a number of private institutions and NGOs. The initiative, known as Open Region, will see the publication of $60 million worth of global imagery under a Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) license.


Planet Labs Color Images

The data will be available online through the Planet Labs imaging platform and accessed using web-based tools and/or an API for developers. The hope is easy and open access to the new data sets will provide a platform to help meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include tackling climate change, promoting sustainable use of resources and eliminating poverty.