Archive for the ‘Geography’ Category

Antrophogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

[Editor’s note: The new “anthropocene” age has been detailed by the likes of The Economist, National Geographic Magazine,  The New York Times, and Wired. While much has been made of miles of road and general interconnected transportation network,  population density, and other measures,  I’m most captivated by this newish map showing “years of intensive use”. Get your Jared Diamond out and study this map. Thanks Hugo! More maps at Ecotope, thanks Andrew!]

Perhaps the most obvious mark we’ve made to the planet is in land-use changes. For millennia, humans have chopped down forests and moved rock and soil for agriculture and pastureland—and more recently, for construction.

Antrophogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere

CREDIT: ERLE ELLIS, ADAPTED FROM E. ELLIS, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A, 369:1010 (2011) From the Science article “A global perspective on the anthropocene” DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6052.34

VPRO: Custom Cartography and The Netherlands From Above (Stamen)

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

[Editor's note: My first big project at Stamen is live! Team includes: Geraldine, Eric, Mike, Shawn, Sean, and Zach with Jasper and Frederik at VPRO providing the data. Pretty labels powered by Dymo in zooms 7 to 10, open source auto label power!]

Republished from Stamen.

Working closely with Dutch broadcasting heavies VPRO, yesterday we launched Nederland van Boven (“Netherlands from Above”), an interactive map of the Netherlands to accompany the forthcoming broadcast of a series of shows about this fascinating tiny country. As my friend Ben Cerveny is known to say: “New York started gentrifying in the 1970s, but Amsterdam started gentrifying in the 1790s,” and the opportunity to design custom maps for a country that’s essentially all infrastructure was one that we leapt at gladly.

The show runs in a series of episodes starting later this month, each addressing a different aspect of life in Holland. It starts with mobility, answering questions like “where can I live, if I work in Amsterdam and want to be able to finish the newspaper by the time I get to work on the train?” or “How far can I travel in two hours by public transport from Vlissingen?”

Upcoming episodes will deal with other ways of looking at the environment around you: examining the natural environment by comparing distances from buildings, open space, and the density of wild animals, the landscape of danger by examining rates of lightning strikes, flammable locations and the arrival times of ambulances, and the contours of the air around the country, looking at the density of birds, flght paths of planes and the highest places in the Netherlands.

The cartography for the project is custom-made for VPRO, designed to complement the channel’s rich visual branding. Cities fill in based on a custom compilation we derived using a combination of NaturalEarthData and GeoNames sources, and and at lower zoom levels roads become visible and are drawn using data sourced from OpenStreetMap. On the most detailed zoom all roads are drawn and the arterial streets receive names. With roads come more place labels, now from OpenStreetMap and sized by population. Water bodies (black) are drawn using data from VPRO, as are park lands (black stipple pattern), airports, farm locations, pancake restaurants, neighborhood names, and zipcode shapes (the locations of pancake restaurants being as important to the Dutch as the locations of airports and farms, apparently).

The highlight layers are orange, because that’s the national color of the Netherlands. Also, did you know that carrots are orange because that’s the national color of the Netherlands; “in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence.” So: orange maps over custom OpenStreetMap cartography, a client who wanted to tell a story and was willing to stretch what it means to design a map, and a country made of canals and land claimed from the sea. Hoera!

Technical bits:

We used open source software, some authored by Stamen, to draw the reference cartography and cache the data files. Web maps are made of small, 256 px by 256 px images, stacked next to each other in a grid and displayed in the browser as a slippy map, allowing the user to pan and zoom. The application logic in Flash allows us to speedily update the map (using the GPU) when the data filters are adjusted. Software utilized includes TileStache, Cascadenik, Dymo, ModestMaps, Mapnik, QGIS, OGR, and GDAL. Much of the data provided by VPRO was generated in ArcGIS in-house and and partners. The place search is powered by the Yahoo! geocoder.

Interact with project »

WhereCampDC ignite spatial videos

Friday, June 24th, 2011

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I helped organize WhereCampDC in Washington, DC, earlier this month on the 10th and 11th of June, 2011. Hosted at National Geographic and The Washington Post, around 275 geo nerds came together to talk about the latest technology and techniques to build maps and engaging spatial storytelling. Big thanks to both organizations for sponsoring, as well as our many other sponsors including the USGIF.

The key to the event’s success, like Practical Cartography Day during the NACIS annual meeting, was focusing on practical tools and workflows to help solve everyday problems; bringing people looking for solutions together with the programmers who build them in a social environment where making lasting personal and professional connections is emphasized to grow the community.

All told, we had 375 attendees (some overlap between Friday and Saturday but still ~275 uniques). That’s $60 a head for costs, all paid thru sponsorships and in-kind donations. We had generous sponsors and splurged on a few budget items. My guess is you could hold one of these for as cheap as $30 a head. The attendance and sponsorship logistics was managed thru EventBrite. The president of NACIS (my professional association), Tanya Buckingham (U. Wisc. at Madison), attended and it looks like we’ll hold another of these where camps in Madison with our annual meeting and in Portland in 2012.

Playing the spirit of WhereCampDC forward, a new DC meetup has formed and already has 85+ members who plan to meet regularly the upcoming year. Since both Kate Chapman and I are now moved out of the DC area, it’ll be up to the meetup folks to organize the next unconference ;) Check them out at: http://www.meetup.com/GeoNerds-DC

Powerpoint and keynote slides from the Ignite Spatial are up, as well as short video clips: http://www.wherecampdc.org/2011/04/friday-ignite-spatial/

Pictures from Saturday’s unconference are here: http://www.wherecampdc.org/2011/04/saturday-unconference-scene/

Here’s one of the videos featuring Javier de la Torre of Vizzuality talking about crowd sourcing “Old Weather”:

Please join me in June for WhereCampDC

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

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WhereCampDC is an unconference on June 10th and 11th, 2011 for people fascinated by place and the intersection of geography and technology. Please join us for our first event in the nation’s capital hosted at National Geographic and The Washington Post! We are an eclectic crowd ranging from geospatial professionals, open source developers, imagery analysts, urban cartographers, open data/gov hackers, locative media artists, augmented reality developers, and modeling theorists. The event is free to attend and participation is strongly encouraged.

Please RSVP your attendance to one or both days:

An unconference is a conference planned by the participants and created on the spot. It’s about having a low threshold for participation, bringing ideas into the open, and hearing all voices. It is like the 20% of a traditional conference where the best parts happen. You meet people, make relationships, and get down to what’s important to you. Please share your ideas!

Friday’s evening’s Ignite Spatial lightening talk session is an open-mic style opportunity to share your latest work and interests. We will also announce a special keynote speaker.

Saturday morning we’ll gather at 10 am to plan the day’s topics, demos, activities and start having fun. Sessions are held in multiple breakout rooms simultaneously. Lunch is provided thanks to our sponsors.

Find out more over at WhereCampDC.org . . .

A recap of Where 2.0: The conference for all things location-aware

Friday, April 29th, 2011

[Editor’s note: Expanded version of my post for The Washington Post’s @innovations blog.]

We use maps to show readers the “where” in our stories. But beyond simply locating the places mentioned in text, maps can create a larger narrative by adding context and showing trends (or animating the path of Friday’s royal wedding parade).

Krissy Clark, a reporter for KQED Public Radio in Los Angeles, summed up the “where” from the journalist’s perspective in her plenary talk at the Where 2.0 Conference last week in Santa Clara, Calif., “Stories Everywhere”:

The Where 2.0 Conference bills itself as a source for all things location-aware, or geo. Sessions explored the intersection of location technologies and trends in software development, business strategies and marketing.

The buzzword this year was “serendipity” — using customers’ locations, especially with mobile apps, to create experiences that delight them by providing them with relevant, unexpected information based on their locations (to paraphrase Jeff Jarvis).

More nerdy details after the jump.

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New Flickr shapefile public dataset 2.0 (find the esri type .shp here)

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

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An updated version of the Flickr shapefile public dataset (2.0) was released last week. From nils official post:

… We haven’t completely forgotten about shapefiles and have finally gotten around to generating a new batch (read about Alpha Shapes to find out how it’s done). When Aaron did the first run we had somewhere around ninety million (90M) geotagged photos. Today we have over one hundred and ninety million (190M) and that number is growing rapidly. Of course lots of those will fall within the boundaries of the existing shapes and won’t give us any new information, but some of them will improve the boundaries of old shapes, and others will help create new shapes where there weren’t any before. Version 1 of the dataset had shapes for around one hundred and eighty thousand (180K) WOE IDs, and now we have shapes for roughly two hundred and seventy thousand (270K) WOE IDs. Woo. The dataset is available for download today, available for use under the Creative Commons Zero Waiver.

True to it’s claim, the version 2.0 release brings added fidelity on existing shapes (they are becoming more conformal to the features’ true geographic shape as more human sensors perambulate) and surveys some more cities and significantly more neighborhoods. From a data analytics perspective, I wish the new version had the summary photo count and centroid XY per feature of the 1.0 version. But very excited to see a new version released! Image above by Aaron Straup CopeMore coverage of things Flickr on Kelso’s Corner »

While the dataset is distributed in GeoJSON format, that isn’t accessible to everyone so I’ve mirrored an ESRI Shapefile version of the Flickr Shapefile Public Dataset 2.0 with this blog post (~60 mb). Details on how I did the conversion after the jump.

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7 Billion People in Kinetic Typography

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Very cool motion graphic promo for National Geographic’s new year-long series, via Kat and seen at BrainPickings.

Ascension Island: Like Easter Island, Ascension Island has lessons for the planet—cheerful ones (Economist)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

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[Editor's note: Fun geo writeup of that spot of rock in the Atlantic near St. Helena. Thanks Derek!]

AT THE top of Green Mountain, the central peak of Ascension Island, there is a small pond, dotted with lilies, shadowed to one side by the fronds of a pandan tree. It is the only open body of fresh water on the island—and for a thousand kilometres in any direction. Around Dew Pond grows a grove of towering bamboo, beyond which the trade winds blow incessantly from the south-east. Within the grove the air is still and damp.

Along the trailing ridge of the summit are fig trees, Cape yews and a garland of remarkably vigorous ginger. Below, on the mountain’s lee side, trees and shrubs from all parts of the world spread down the hillside to a landscape of casuarina trees—ironwood, or she-oak—and thorny chaparral around its base. Even on the bleaker windward slope, grasses and sedges are dotted with Bermuda cedar and guava bushes. Above, the bamboo scratching at their bellies, are the clouds the trade winds bring; some days they cover the mountain top.

Once seen as too dry to be worth inhabiting, Ascension Island is becoming greener at an increasing rate. People are responsible. In part, their contribution was unwitting: the thorny mesquite that anchors a lot of the island’s scrub was introduced for a landscaping project just 50 years ago. But the forest on the peak of Green Mountain represents a deliberate attempt to change the island’s climate to make it more habitable. It is the centrepiece of a small but startling ecological transformation which is part experiment and part accident, part metaphor and part inspiration.

Ascension was discovered by the Portuguese in 1501. Just to the west of the mid-ocean ridge that separates South America’s tectonic plate from Africa’s, it is the top of a volcano which rises steeply from abyssal plains more than four kilometres below the surface of the ocean. The volcano made it above that surface only a million or so years ago, since when the island has grown to about 100 square kilometres. Before people arrived it was home to just a flightless bird, a land crab and no more than 30 species of plant, none as big as a bush. It was so barren and isolated that during the following three centuries of assiduous empire-building neither the Portuguese nor any other nation bothered to claim it. When Captain Cook passed by in 1775, Georg Forster—later to become renowned for his accounts of exploration—wrote it off as a “ruinous heap of rocks”, drearier even than Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island. But Forster’s naturalist father Johann saw something more promising:

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

“Joy of Stats” from BBC4 featuring Hans Rosling

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Now on YouTube! This hour long documentary “takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power they have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.” BBC4

What if the largest countries had the biggest populations?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Created by Reddit user JPalmz, this cartogram-like graphic uses the country shapes from a normal world map but relabels them according to population ranking. Click on image for larger version.

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