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Archive for September, 2016

Connections between Geospatial Data and Becoming a Data Professional

September 25, 2016 Leave a comment

Dr. Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist at Esri, recently shared a presentation she gave on the topic of “A Geospatial Industry Perspective on Becoming a Data Professional.”

How can GIS and Big Data be conceptualized and applied to solve problems?  How can the way we define and train data professionals move the integration of Big Data and GIS simultaneously forward?  How can GIS as a system and GIS as a science be brought together to meet the challenges we face as a global community?   What is the difference between a classic GIS researcher and a modern GIS researcher?   How and why must GIS become part of open science?

These issues and more are examined in the slides and the thought-provoking text underneath each slide.  Geographic Information Science has long welcomed strong collaborations among computer scientists, information scientists, and other Earth scientists to solve complex scientific questions, and therefore parallels the emergence as well as the acceptance of “data science.”

But the researchers and developers in “data science” need to be encouraged and recruited from somewhere, and once they have arrived, they need to blaze a lifelong learning pathway.  Therefore, germane to any discussion on emerging fields such as data science is how students are educated, trained, and recruited–here, as data professionals within the geospatial industry.  Such discussion needs to include certification, solving problems, critical thinking, and ascribing to codes of ethics.

I submit that the integration of GIS and open science not only will be enriched by the immersion of issues that we bring up in this blog and in our book, but is actually dependent in large part on researchers and developers who understand such issues and can put them into practice.  What issues?  Issues of understanding geospatial data and knowing how to apply it to real-world problems, of scale, or data quality, of crowdsourcing, of data standards and portals, and others that we frequently raise here.  Nurturing these skills and abilities in geospatial professionals is a key way of helping GIS become a key part of data science, and our ability to move GIS from being a “niche” technology or perspective to one that all data scientists use and share.

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This presentation by Dr. Dawn Wright touches on the themes of data and this blog from a professional development perspective.

 

OpenAddresses: A global address collection

September 20, 2016 1 comment

An integral part of many successful GIS projects is access to reliable address information, providing a consistent locational context for a variety of phenomena. One such address resource is OpenAddresses, a collection of authoritative address data sources. The address data are ‘open and free to use’ and made available under both attribution and share-alike (ODbl) licences. Although not yet a global resource, for those countries where address information is available, the data sets may be downloaded as a .zip file (.csv and GDAL .vrt files).

OpenAddresses - global coverage

OpenAddresses – global coverage

Anyone interested in contributing an address dataset to the project can either submit a request to have the data added or submit the data themselves to the repository on Github.

Dusting off the spatial data hidden in museum collections

September 11, 2016 2 comments

This installment of Spatial Reserves is authored by:  Shelley James and Molly Phillips. iDigBio, Florida Museum of Natural History.   We thank these authors very much for their contribution!

If you’ve ever had a need to document where a plant or animal species occurs today, or 100 years ago, perhaps the 1 billion biological specimens housed in natural history collections across the USA, and 5 billion around the world can help!  Each of these specimens imparts knowledge about their existence in time at a specific location.  Fish, fossils, birds, skeletons, mushrooms, skins – all with a date and location of collection.  The data, found on the labels attached to the specimens, in field notebooks and catalogues, is being transcribed by museum professionals and citizen scientists alike, revealing information about the world’s living organisms dating back to the 1600’s, some with very accurate spatial data, others much less so depending on the geographic knowledge of the collector at the time.  iDigBio – Integrated Digitized Biocollections – a project supported by the US National Science Foundation – is collaborating with biological collections across the globe to help combine and mobilize voucher specimen data for research, education, and environmental management uses.

All of this biodiversity data is in a format known as Darwin Core, a standardized set of descriptors enabling biological data from different sources to be combined, indexed, and shared.  The iDigBio data Portal allows open access to this aggregated data, allowing filtering for types of organisms, a spatial region using latitude-longitude co-ordinates, polygons or place descriptions, and many other options.  The data is delivered dynamically, and can be downloaded for use.  Currently about 50% of the biological records in iDigBio (over 30 million records) have a geopoint and error, and georeferencing is something the collections community continues to work on in order to improve this valuable dataset.  Any tools or improvements to data the geospatial community can provide would be a great help as iDigBio expands beyond 65 million specimen records, and we invite you to join the conversation by participating in the iDigBio Georeferencing Working Group.

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Pigeons and doves from around the world.  The iDigBio Portal maps the distribution of species and provides specimen record details “on the fly” as filters are applied by the user.  The dataset can be downloaded, or data can be accessed through the iDigBio API.