Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Position: GIS Librarian - Greensboro, NC, United States

GIS Librarian - Greensboro, NC, United States

Perhaps there is more to this position than stated in the description, but this position does not have the librarian actually managing electronic GIS data, let alone actual GIS software. I think they are really looking for an amateur archivist, or a bookkeeper (map keeper) than an actual GIS Librarian.

Here is the description:
GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Librarian to file and maintain hardcopy segment folders, support materials, technical publications, photography, maps, etc. The library is composed of a combination of filing systems to include high-density files, lateral file cabinets, vertical file cabinets, flat file cabinets, storage cabinets etc. to safely store materials in an organized and systematic manner in support of the National Resource Inventory program.
Note: Please do not confuse this job description with the functions of professional GIS and Map Librarians.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Position: GIS Librarian - General Dynamics - Herndon, VA

GIS Librarian - General Dynamics - Herndon, VA

Just about 2 months since I last posted this position. Seems to be available only through an employment agency, and the turnover must be fairly high. Nice thing about this position is that it seems to provide a way for librarians to break into GIS as they will provide on the job training.

Here is the job description:
Performs data entry and cataloging support as well as entry level Geographic Information Systems support to include scanning maps, georeferencing, image manipulation, metadata capture and editing in support of map library. Must be a US citizen, on the job training provided.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Step-By-StepTutorial: Open Source Web GIS

Just came across this great tutorial published last week in the International Journal of Health Geographics, called Web GIS in practice IV: publishing your health maps and connecting to remote WMS sources using the Open Source UMN MapServer and DM Solutions MapLab, by Maged N Kamel Boulos and Kiyoshi Honda.

The title sure is a mouthful, but this nicely laid out tutorial makes me want to explore, really for the first time, alternatives to ArcIMS. Exploring is fun and this tutorial takes a lot of the hard work out for you. Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
"By following the accompanying step-by-step tutorial instructions, interested readers running mainstream Microsoft® Windows machines and with no prior technical experience in Web GIS or Internet map servers will be able to publish their own health maps on the Web and add to those maps additional layers retrieved from remote WMS servers."
I found it especially interesting that all of the screenshots as you go through the tutorial show a Mac running Windows applications. I'll try this on a Windows PC and see whether this tutorial works as smoothly as it seems.

In case you can not find it, here is the link for the tutorial, called Additional File 1. Took me a few moments to find it.

A Gathering of Geo-Geeks

As I stated earlier in my post about Geographic Edutainment, I wanted to see whether the various geography and GIS folks on campus (geeks?) would enjoy coming together to view an ESRI Live Training Seminar together in a social environment.

Well, the first test was yesterday as I invited the campus community to attend a joint viewing of 'Spatial Statistics in ArcGIS 9'. More folks attended (and really enjoyed it) than I anticipated for this first test. With no more promotion than an email across the GIS@listserv.uta.edu listserv, eleven people attended, including faculty, students, and university staff. I was hoping for 3 to 5 people to attend, and wanted to grow this number as word of mouth spread.

I was blown away by how interested everyone was and how excited they were to meet eachother We had folks from real estate, geology, biology, urban planning, and mathematics, all sharing names and numbers with eachother and with me. Many of us stayed in the classroom for another 45 minutes discussing spatial statistics. It was fantastic.

Click here for a photo of 4 of us talking (after the seminar) about spatial statistics, ArcGIS extensions, GeoDa, and STARS. (I am in the blue shirt.) I have never used STARS (Space-Time Analysis of Regional Systems) before, but it is an "open source package designed for the analysis of areal data measured over time." Sounds great to me. I will play around with it the first chance I get.

What did I think of the seminar?? I was very, very impressed. The presenter and the woman answering the Q/A sessions (forgot both names, sorry) were both extremely good at taking complex and often inter-related issues and breaking them down nicely. Students attending who are new to GIS and/or statistics were able to follow along and understand easily. I especially liked their explanation and use of the z-score.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Great New Batch of Geography-Related Theses

There is a whole great new batch of geography/GIS-related Masters theses that have caught my eye.

Here are the prvious theses/dissertations posted: (Nov. 29, 2005) (Jan. 5, 2006)

A good way to keep up with the latest geography/GIS-related publications is to monitor GIS News: Publications.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Three More Firefox GIS/Mapping Extensions

A few new mapping/GIS-related Firefox extensions have come out since I last posted about them. Here are the three new extensions:
  • Map This
    • Not as flexible as Map It! (my favorite mapping extension), but it will locate a selected address on Google or Yahoo! Maps.

  • GeoLocateFox
    • Originally blogged about by Spatially Adjusted
    • This is a really cool extension. It will detect if you navigate to a webpage that supports GeoLocation (lat/long in meta tag), and show you the location of the webpage on a small Yahoo! Maps popup.

  • Freeway Driving Directions
    • A driving directions extension that requires users to configure home or starting addresses on their website. This bothers me. Especially with great extensions such as GDirections, which allows users to store multiple starting addresses much easier.
    • Works with Expedia, MapQuest, and Yahoo! Maps.
View the previous list

Friday, January 20, 2006

ESRI Training Opportunities

Of course ArcGIS is far from free, but I really appreciate all of the training opportunities that are being made available. There are great ways that students (or any other ESRI user) can learn or increase their GIS skills.

So...No more excuses!! If you have access to ArcGIS and a desire to learn to use it, here are your free options:
This burst of aggression is actually my way of yelling at myself ;)
  • Live Training Seminars
    • These are entirely free
    • I especially appreciate the extensive archives

  • Podcast Feeds
    • The new service from ESRI is great for audio learners and folks who work at their desks and are tired of music and have already listened to this week's dose of AVSP.
    • I hope these feeds are updated often.

  • ESRI Virtual Campus: Free Training
    • Many of these courses listed here have only a handful of free modules, but there are lots of free courses as well.

  • ArcGIS Documentation (books)
    • While these books are not freely available over the net to everyone, PDF versions are included with the ArcGIS 9 installation CDs.
    • I mention these books because they are extremely useful. These are the books that I used when I first learned GIS (self-taught), and they are fantastic. I like the way each book starts out with an overview exercise that leads you through many of the simple and complex uses of the software and then subsequent chapters explain the procedures in more detail. I am a big fan.

Workshops: To Catch a Thief

As I previously stated, I am very excited about the workshops planned for this semester. Click here to see the official schedule, or here to see my original blog post describing the three workshops.

The workshop that I am most excited about is To Catch a Thief. Here are the details:
Title: To Catch a Thief
Time: Thursday, March 2, 3pm - 5pm
Location: Central Library, Room B-20
Description: Use state-of-the-art GIS (geographic information systems) to analyze crime patterns, predict potential targets, and try to track down the burglar. These fictitious burglaries all take place in Tarrant County, Texas. This is a hands-on demo with no GIS or criminal justice experience required.

Play to Win!
Each Friday during the month of February (Feb. 3, 10, 17, 24), we will be releasing evidence about these ongoing fictitious burglaries. The burglar might strike once or even twice during the week. Eye witnesses might report a seemingly irrelevant piece of information which might be critical. These clues will be released on flyers around campus, on the Libraries'’ website, and in on the University Calendar. If you can figure out the means of transportation taken by the burglar (how he is getting around) during the burglaries, email it to gislib@uta.edu. Faculty, students, or staff who send correct answers will be in a random drawing during the workshop, held on March 2. The deadline to guess is midnight (CST) on March 1. Winners will receive one free poster-sized print job by in the Library's Digital Media Studio.
I will be releasing the clues simultaneously here as well. Should be lots of fun.

In addition, next Thursday we are sponsoring the first of our geographic edutainment events, an open showing of the ESRI Live Training Seminar, Understanding Spatial Statistics in ArcGIS 9. We'll see how many folks join us...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Position: Social Sciences Librarian. Swarthmore College

Social Sciences Librarian. Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Granted, GIS is not in the title, but they do state "...working with the campus Information Technology Services department to support GIS applications for the college."

I like the sound of this position. Listen to this snippet: "...has responsibility for supporting government and nongovernmental data in multiple formats and for assisting users in the access, manipulation, and analysis of the data." Also, I have been to this part of Penn. before, right outside of Philly, and it is beautiful. They do not mention the salary.

Yeay! - Paper Shipped Off

Here is the paper: PAPER

As I mentioned here, I am co-presenting a paper with a political science professor at the American Political Science Association Teaching and Learning Conference next month. Well, the deadline for presenters to submit the paper is tomorrow, so we are getting this in just under the wire.

Here is the abstract:
This paper demonstrates how the integration of quantitative datasets and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) into an undergraduate political science course increases studentsÂ’ familiarity with quantitative and geographic datasets while enhancing their understanding of the political science subject matter. At the University of Texas at Arlington, collaboration and planning between a political science faculty member and a GIS librarian enabled students in an undergraduate survey course to analyze when and where in the 254 Texas counties, Latino voters will constitute the majority of those eligible to vote and have the potential to win all local seats. Using demographic projections obtained from the Texas State Data Center and Office of the State Demographer and Census 2000 (SF3) data , students were able to examine the demographic patterns of the Latino voting eligible population in Texas counties through 2040 both in geographic and tabular format. They were also able to discover the tipping point in selected counties, where Latino voters would comprise the potential voting majority. When used as a classroom project by students they learn about Mexicans and other Latinos, U.S. Census data, population estimates, demographic projections, geography and history of Texas counties, push and pull factors of immigration and out migration, GIS mapping capabilities, and its use in other applications.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

ArcIMS Services Viewer: e-MapNet

e-MapNet is a freely available map viewer that supports ESRI's ArcIMS services. Created by e-Soft, an Italian company.

Came across this ArcIMS services viewer via comp.soft-sys.gis.esri.

It is a bit buggy, but it works as reported. It does not support WMS protocol, but the website states that this will be available in the next version. Another downside is that it is developed in .Net, and so will only work on Windows.

What I really do like about this little application is its size (546 kb unzipped) and that it runs without an installation requiring user permissions. At any time, students, professors, or even I can download this little app and run it from any of the computers on campus. For me, this makes it worth remembering.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Teaching an Intro to GIS Course: Focus on the Data

I want to take this moment to flesh out some ideas about how I feel an introduction to GIS course should be approached (by the teacher).

As I mentioned earlier I am teaching two courses this Spring semester. I am teaching (1) Understanding Geographic Information Systems (see syllabus), the first course in the Earth & Environmental Sciences SIS certification program, and (2) Advanced Real Estate Market Analysis, a graduate course that simultaneously introduces students to both the principles of market analysis research and GIS.

I have taught 3 graduate GIS-focused courses in the past and co-taught 1 more, so I am not coming at this with years of experience.

Nonetheless I have come to the conclusion that the crux of any intro to GIS course should be a heavy focus on the datasets and sources of data. This should include:
  • finding/obtaining data

  • evaluating data

  • bringing together various datasets that perhaps were never originally intended to play nice
From what I have seen, these skills are not taught emphasized during the intro to GIS courses. Here are four reasons why I am making this the focus of the Introduction to GIS course this semester:
  • This will provide students with the greatest flexibility to apply the GIS concepts that they learn in this course (and future GIS courses) in other subject areas. At this university, GIS is really taking off and students from various departments (see here) are flooding to all available GIS classes.

  • I think in a very linear fashion, A-then-B-then-C-then-D-then... When I first learned GIS, I was relentlessly frustrated about not knowing where to get my hands on my own GIS data to duplicate the exercises in the textbook.

  • It is empowering for students to confidently complete a GIS exercise entirely from scratch.

  • Hey, I am a librarian, so I would naturally emphasize the data sources, right?
Here is the syllabus for the Understanding GIS course this semester. 50% of the grade is made up of one project where students need to collect 16 different data sources, project the datasets, clip/extract/join/intersect, and everything else to prepare for a GIS analysis. The analysis? Well, that is where the intermediate & advanced GIS courses come in... I'll blog about this in May and then we'll see how well this strategy goes.

Why I Blog...

Vector One's (Jeff Thurston's) blog entry 'On Blogging' prompted me to set pen to paper (tips to keys) about how I would classify this blog and my reasons for blogging.

Looking through the five categories in the 'On Blogging' entry, this blog fits into number three, as the content here is almost entirely original. However, I am uncertain that the description provided ("Strives for original content, links to existing content in exceptional circumstances to support original content. Opinionated. Perceptive.") fits this blog as well as it fits Vector One. I think my blog also serves as a professional journal/diary of major activities that I am a part of. A running memoir?

That was easy, but why-o-why do I blog? This is a theme that has been thrown around quite a bit throughout the library blogosphere (for example). I enjoy blogging immensely, sure, but why?

[After some thought...] For me it must be the sense of self and purpose that is the greatest benefit of socializing...and of course this is what I am doing here. Sure I am quite shy and reserved in both the real world and the electronic, but writing this blog and reading countless other blogs is my way of communicating with all of you (and if you have actually read this far down, we sure are communicating, and how...). By shouting out all of my ideas right here on the public net, I feel validated. It is very satisfying. Each day I look forward to squeezing out some space in which I can sit and read some blogs and perhaps even write a blog entry myself.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

2 Dissertations & 1 Scholarly Article

Continuing my previous post about theses and dissertations that caught my eye, here are 2 intriguing dissertations and an article that have...once again...caught my eye.

Social Events: Free Geographic Edutainment

I enjoy free GIS seminars, such as the ESRI Live Training Seminars, and podcasts such as Very Spatial and Where It's At.... I suppose there must be other folks (other geeks?) on campus here at UT Arlington who do or would enjoy this as well.

So, I figure let's all hang out and enjoy these snippets of free geographic edutainment together...right?

Well, I am starting off with the next ESRI Live Training Seminar, which is focused on spatial statistics. This is perfect as the number of folks from a variety of disciplines on campus needing to test/adjust for spatial autocorrelation is growing every semester.

I reserved one of the classrooms in the library with 27 PCs, all loaded with ArcGIS 9 and two mounted projectors. This way the screens can display the video and the room's speakers can pump out the audio, while everyone can either follow along on their own PCs (muted) or even play around with the concepts during the seminar.

I think this should be a lot of fun and hopefully this will help to bring the diverse GIS-dabbling folks on campus together. And if it's just me...well, hey I'll have the best seat in the house.

Should this be successful, I want to test this out with the Very Spatial podcast. Of course there is no video, but if there is something else going on at the same time, such as a geography game/contest, food, or something, perhaps it will be more enjoyable than just sitting and listening. Pizza, beer, and GIS...lovely isn't it??

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Paleomap Project & Geoprocessing Script

Been super-busy and so have not posted in quite some time. There are a number of things that have been occupying my time, but let's start with the Python script that I have been developing.

The Paleomap Project, developed by Dr. Chris Scotese, is designed to display the evolving Earth as tectonic plates have shifted through time. This project is recognized worldwide as a resource for students and teachers of Earth history. A nice overview can be found here. (Oh, and did you catch the reference to Chris and his work on Very Spatial Episode 21?)

Well, I have been helping him to integrate the Plate Tracker program that Chris wrote in VB6 into ArcMap. Put quite a bit of effort into this, but as always with such efforts, I sure learned a lot. The program allows users to view how different polygons on the Earth's surface would look in a given time period of Earth's history (measured in millions of years).

I will not post the code, but here is the logic of the script:
  • Convert polygon to table of XY coords

  • Launch Plate Tracker (VB6 executable) which shifts the coords according to the time period selected

  • Python once again takes over and converts the shifted coords into a new polygon feature class
I used VBA to direct the activities of the Python script and Plate Tracker. A single VBA button launches a form where users can select from any of the layers currently in the ArcMap project. The VBA then calls the Python script by creating a geoprocessing object within the VBA instead of the more traditional method of invoking a geoprocessing tool from a button on a toolbar with parameters. This is because the VBA code is then forced to wait for the geoprocessing object (in this case my script) to complete before finishing with the next command. The script then calls the Plate Tracker program, waits for this to finish, and then resumes to put the shifted pieces back together again.

Works like a charm. The two biggest hurdles that I had to overcome were (1) handling multipart and donut (inner circles) polygons, and (2) Ensuring that the resulting polygon contained the same attributes as the original file. Solving these hurdles taught me a lot about lists and sublists in Python. Special thanks to all the folks over at ArcView-L for helping me out with the donut polygon problems. This is a great listserv where folks will definitely get back to you.