Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monitoring the 2011 Japan Tsunami Debris Field

 Photo: ninemsn

Typically, when a natural or man-made disaster creates a debris field, the clean up effort has fairly well defined beginning and ending points in time.  Not so for the debris field created by the March 11, 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  Although clean up efforts in many places on land are coming to a close, huge volumes of debris washed out to sea will go largely un-recovered, and troublesome for years to come.  Of specific concern, experts estimate there is somewhere between 20-25 million tons of significant debris currently adrift at sea.

To understand the dimensions of a situation involving objects as large as cars, boats and houses, several institutions have turned to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to predict where the remnants of this disaster will wash ashore.  Notably, recent modeling completed by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, places the first wave of debris on U.S. beaches (Wake Island and Midway Island) later this year.

  • For a time-sequenced display of the debris field's advance up until today, click here  (Hawaii, lower right corner, Midway Island at roughly 180E)
  • For a time-sequenced display of the debris field's projected advance well into the future, click here
  • For stills of this last sequence as part on an article by the Mail Online, click here
  • For NOAA's Japan debris website, click here 

Comment: In 1983, I had the opportunity to walk the shores of Wake Island.  If that thought leaves you thinking about a remote speck of land in the middle of the Western Pacific with pristine beaches, you would be wrong.  Unfortunately, even ~30 years ago, beaches on the island were already covered as far as the eye could see with "routine maritime pollution" from the intense use of the ocean off the Asian mainland.  Items on the beach included fishing buoys, scraps of lumber, gnarled wads of garbage plastic, tennis shoes set adrift from container ships en route to the U.S., and countless other man-made objects with little chance of natural decomposition - an experience few other U.S. beaches have ever seen.  However, given the dimensions of the added pollution headed toward Hawaiian and U.S. mainland western shores from the horrible events the Japanese nation experienced last year, we will have to work very hard using every tool - especially geospatial - to keep the disaster in Japan, from becoming a disaster in the USA.     

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Next HIFLD Meeting: April 3-4, 2012, Silver Springs, Maryland

Here are the details for the next Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data Work Group (HIFLD) meeting:

Date:  3-4 April, 2012
Where:  NOAA HQ Auditorium, 1301 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD (note the location of the auditorium in the diagram) 

  • Support to Hurricane and Flooding Response 
  • Identification, acquisition and use of common geospatial infrastructure data and applications for shared use among HIFLD WG members
  • Full meeting announcement: Click here 

Questions: Casey Perry, 703.377.9684, and/or the HIFLD Support team at

Comment: Unique to this meeting, a FEMA Table Top discussion focusing on "request For Information (RFI) management/tasking and dissemination of RS/GIS products" will be held on the day after the main meeting (April 5).  This is a wonderful addition to the overall event program and would be great to see as part of every HIFLD meeting going forward.

Monday, February 27, 2012

University of Wisconsin Uses GIS to Plan for Disasters

Chemical spill scenario for UW-Madison Campus

In keeping with similar efforts at some other major universities across the nation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) has been using a two year FEMA grant to develop a campus response plan for natural and man-made disasters.  However, of specific interest to the UW's plan to create a Disaster Resistant University (DRU), two entities with strong geospatial capabilities have been placed in lead roles.  First is the Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility (LICGF), which is serving as the campus focal point for the project, and second is the Polis Center at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), which serves as FEMA's center of excellence for its HAZUS flood, earthquake, and hurricane modeling software. 

According to UW campus newspaper The Badger Herald,
Staff at the LICGF center on campus are integrating spatial information and databases from different sources, including campus structures, demographics and hazard locations on campus using Geographic Information Systems. These GIS layers are helping the planning team model potential disaster scenarios and estimate risks.
The UW plan is expected to be one of the first in the nation when it is completed later this year.

To learn more about this effort:
  • Click here to visit the LICGU DRU project information page
  • Click here to visit the UW background document from a outreach meeting in late January, 2012

Comment: In many ways, the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007 have left many administrators of higher education with a myopic focus on campus security when planning for "a disaster".  As this project highlights, the reality is there is far more that could happen and should be planned for. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012


For more than a year now, the United Kingdom's Home Office has been hosting a website called POLICE.UK.  According to the description on the site, this map driven outreach and awareness effort provides individuals residing in England and Wales with, "helpful information about crime and policing", for the area where they live.  Indeed, the site offers several interesting features including an option to learn all about the officer(s) responsible for a particular location.  To give it a go, click the link below.  Then type in "Fishborne" (or any other city you might know in England or Wales) to see results for a small town.  Results for a larger town can be seen by panning over to Chichester.

Comment: Initially, this effort got off to a rough start when it was released to the public.  First, it crashed under the load of 18 million hits an hour as citizens investigated their neighborhoods.  Second, many individuals complained crime data was inaccurately portrayed.  (For more, click here for a Guardian article from last year).  However, with time there appears to be fewer reports of bugs and the Brits deserve credit for tackling such a mammoth project.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another Cell Phone Tracking Discovery

Late last week, researchers at the University of Minnesota revealed they had discovered another unique way to track cell phone location.  Using techniques and equipment available to the general public for about $60, the approach leverages the following concept:
By simply calling the target's mobile number and monitoring the network's radio signals as it locates the phone, the attacker can quickly confirm if the person is located in what's known as the LAC, or Location Area Code. Attackers can use the same technique to determine if the target is within close proximity to a given base station within the LAC.
For more on this development, the following recent articles may be of interest: 

Comment: Once again, here's proof that location driven technology has gotten ahead of policy.  In the hands of law enforcement, this technique could be a tool for good.  In the hands of criminals, this technique could be a tool for evil.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Google's HUD Glasses

Long a fixture of military aircraft, and now some commercial aircraft, a "Heads Up Display", or HUD, is a system that displays navigation and situational awareness information for an aircraft on the windshield in front of the pilot.  This approach to flight management enhances safety and situational awareness for aircrew by allowing them to simultaneously monitor aircraft performance, navigation and visual positioning during critical phases of flight such as landing in bad weather.  On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, the New York Times reported Google's X Team has been working on a project that will place a GPS driven virtual world onto the lenses of a pair of Oakley style sunglasses by the end of the year.  Effectively, anyone who wants a personal HUD, can have one for between $250 and $600.  To learn more, click here.

Comment:  The potential for the Emergency Response Sector is endless.  Sure enough, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) has been working on a similar concept.  However, since it IS the Department of Homeland Security, they get to have a longer acronym: Helmet Embedded Conformal Augmented Display (HECAD).  Go here to learn more.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bird Flu Research is Too Dangerous to Publish - For Now

As previously mentioned on this website (see links below), late last year researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, were able to create a mutated version of the H5N1 virus commonly known as "bird flu".  Of concern, the mutation facilitated the airborne human-to-human transmission of a pathogen that, to date, has had a mortality rate of 60%.   Then, when it was announced the teams were planning to disclose their findings and methods in Nature and Science magazines so others could easily duplicate their work, a firestorm of controversy followed focusing on the research's potential use for terrorism.

In an effort to address the dual issues of "right to publish" and potential use of bird flu research for terrorism, last week a meeting sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) was held in Geneva, Switzerland.  Findings of the meeting were released immediately:
"... consensus that delayed publication of the entire manuscripts would have more public health benefit than urgently partially publishing."
To learn more about the twists and turns associated with this situation, use the links below:

  • Reuters background piece on the meeting, click here,
  • Full WHO announcement per meeting findings, click here
  • Washington Post coverage of the WHO announcement, click here
  • LA Times piece on how the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) wants to be involved in future decisions on research publication, click here
  • Wisconsin State Journal article on lab security concerns at UW-Madison, click here  

Comment: Obviously, the themes of censorship and terrorism make this series of events a hot topic in the press.  There is, however, an underlying issue - the nation and world have failed to prepare for pandemic influenza by fully leveraging a technology that already exists: geospatial.  For more, see:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The LA Police Department "War Room"

Earlier this month, CBS News in Los Angeles (LA) did a piece on the LA Police Department's Real-Time Analysis Critical Response Center (RACR).   Touted as a model for police departments across the nation, the facility features an impressive range of capabilities.  RACR operates as part of the LA EOC that was opened in August of 2009.  You can learn more about this facility by:

  • Reading a background story provided by CBS News Los Angeles: click here
  • Taking a tour of RACR by way of an excellent You Tube Video: click here
  • Reading the city's information piece on the EOC: click here

Comment: On May 1, 2007, the LAPD experienced one of its worst days when a protest march terminating in MacArthur Park started becoming disorganized and chaotic.  With neither the LAPD command or crowd control elements having any meaningful form of real-time situational awareness, the situation then quickly spiraled completely out of control.  When the dust eventually settled on that day, the city found itself paying out over $13.0 million to settle claims for excessive use of force by the deployed officers.  Consequently, it is little wonder why LA is now home to this state of the art facility.  It's the reality of that old saying, "You can pay me now, or pay me a whole bunch more later....."  From the looks of the information available about RACR, it's pretty apparent LA is serious about using the technology that's available now, to keep from paying big bills later.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Save a Heart With Your Cell Phone

The concept is simple.  Various organizations have made Automated External Defibrillators (AED) available, but no one has mapped out where they are all located.  Consequently, that potential life-saving location information is not available for use on modern smartphones.  The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is out to change that in Philadelphia with its "My Heart Map Challenge".  Modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) 2009 red balloon challenge, here's how the program works:
Armed with a free app installed on their mobile phones, contest participants will snap pictures of the lifesaving devices -- which are used to restore cardiac arrest victims' hearts to their normal rhythm – wherever they find them in public places around the city. Participants will use the app to geotag the photos with their location and details about the device like its manufacturer. Then, they'll send them to the research team via the app itself or the project's web site. The data collected will be used to create an updated app linking locations of all public AEDs in the city with a person's GPS coordinates to help them locate the nearest AED during an emergency.
The person or team that finds the most AEDs during the month long contest, wins $10,000.
  • To read the news release on this effort, click here.
  • To go to the My Heart Map Challenge website, click here.

Comment: There's only one word for this effort: Brilliant!  


Monday, February 20, 2012

National Pipeline Mapping System

As a result of the San Bruno, CA pipeline explosion of 2010, a great deal of reflection has been taking place about pipeline safety and the Emergency Services Sector's (ESS) ability to respond to these types of incidents.  Unfortunately, one of the issues that has come to light is paper field notes and drawings created many years ago during original construction, may not have been accurately converted into modern electronic geospatial databases (See: Pipelines, Black Swans, and Data Governance).  Additionally, because of various access issues, many police and fire departments have been responding to pipeline incidents with only basic understanding of what's in a particular pipe and how it's routed. 

In an effort to focus the firefighter community's attention on this issue and what can be done about it, recently ran an extensive article entitled: "Pipeline Emergency Planning & Response Tools".  Featured in the article is the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), a system which provides geospatial data about the nation's pipeline systems on three different levels: public sector, responder, and government agency.  To read more about these capabilities, go here

Comment: Although the online viewer is as basic as it gets, a really nice feature of the system is the ability to quickly generate point of contact information for pipeline operators by political boundary or zip code. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

UAV (Drone) Mania


In the weeks after the U.S. Congress passed a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding bill with a provision for the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's)/drones in U.S. airspace (see: Commercial Drones to be Added to U.S. Airspace), there has been a flood of topic related information released in the industry and commercial media.  So much so, the only way to comprehend the fast pace of developments and degree of attention is to view some of them as a "Sunday paper".  So here we go:

Photo: senseFly

Swinglet CAM: It's the "Autonomous Airborne Imaging and Mapping Sensor in a Suitcase".  For a visit to the senseFly website to learn all about this one - click here.

 Photo: New York Times

Drones For Hire: A New York Times video showing how the real estate business in Southern California has been using drones to promote home sales.  To watch - click here

Drone Shot Down - By Hunters: Hunters armed with guns, versus an animal rights group armed with a light weight UAV - guess who won.  To read the article - click here.

Photo: Wikipedia

Drones: Who Is Watching You?  An ABC News Nightline piece that explores the privacy and safety issues that lie ahead with the impending boom in UAV technology use.  To view - click here (sorry, there is no way around the 30 second advertisement at start of the clip).

U.S. Drones In the Skies Over Syria: It's a humanitarian disaster, and it's being watched from the sky.  To learn more - click here.

Comment: The impending UAV/drone invasion of the skies is one of the most pronounced ways in which the Geospatial Revolution is going to be visible to most Americans.  The trends above, taken together with developments like the ability to locally produce UAV's on a mass scale using 3D printers, means a Titanic paradigm shift is underway.  Airborne imagery that once took years and bucket loads of money to obtain, will soon be available from platforms that can provide real-time collection for very low cost.  Those in the geospatial community and Emergency Services Sector with their heads down on this issue, are going to be left behind to their own detriment.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NOAA Satellites Helped Save 207 Last Year

Last year, satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) materially contributed to rescue operations that saved 207 individuals from life-threatening circumstances in the United States and surrounding waters.  This NOAA system of satellites known as Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System (SARSAT) operates as part of the much larger international COSPAS-SARSAT system headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. Operationally, this constellation of satellites picks up the locations of emergency beacon distress signals and then relays that information to responders.  Since 1982, the COSPAS-SARSAT system has been used in more than 30,000 rescues around the world.  To learn more, go here.

Comment: As noted on NOAA's SARAT information page, because these satellites pin-point the location of a soul in peril, they take the "search" out of Search and Rescue (SAR)!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Smartphone Navigation for the Visually Impaired


Within the past year, researchers have been demonstrating some promising new ways to help the visually impaired navigate based on technologies originally developed for the greater geospatial community.  One of these efforts is hand-held sonar.  Another is leveraging the diverse and powerful capabilities inherently available in modern smartphones. 

Within this last area of research, the University of Minnesota Center for Transporation Studies has been hard at work on a system that seamlessly integrates multiple smartphone features such as GPS, Wi-Fi, and digital compass to provide visually impaired pedestrians with enhanced safety at street intersections.  To learn more about this development, use the links below:

Comment: This is a fabulous use of technology that overcomes the issue in the past of the visually impaired having to carry multiple bulky systems to achieve the same results.  For more on this point, consider comments of Dr. Joshua Miele in a 5:00 minute video produced by

Thursday, February 16, 2012

...Down goes LightSquared, down goes LightSquared, down goes LightSquared...

Photo: Sports Illustrated

After more than a year in the boxing ring, LightSquared has just experienced a series of knock-out punches that have put it on the mat for the final time.  First came the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) release of three reports on February 14, 2012.  These reports clearly show, "...LightSquared's original and modified plans for its proposed mobile network would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers."  This development was quickly followed by a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) news release which stated:

NTIA, the federal agency that coordinates spectrum uses for the military and other federal government entities, has now concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time.  Consequently, the Commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared. The International Bureau of the Commission is proposing to (1) vacate the Conditional Waiver Order, and (2) suspend indefinitely LightSquared’s Ancillary Terrestrial Component authority to an extent consistent with the NTIA letter. A Public Notice seeking comment on NTIA’s conclusions and on these proposals will be released tomorrow.
In essence, the above verbiage means LightSquared's efforts to use its assigned spectrum, with its current design, is dead.  And true to its word, on February 15, 2012, the FCC began the formal process of rescinding LightSquared's conditional waiver to operate

For a more expansive review of the story behind this now defunct threat to GPS, click the link below to read an article from the New York Times:

Additional information is also available on this blog at:

Comment: Defeated boxers are always looking for their next opportunity for redemption.  Expect no less from LightSquared.  Until that happens - here's the call for this bout, by the one and only Howard Cosell.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Predicting Meth Labs Before They Open

A recent article in Fast Company highlighted how cutting edge work by Max Lu, a professor at Kansas State University, and Jessica Burnum could be used to predict locations of new meth labs.  Go here to read the article.

Comment: This article is a worthwhile read both from the standpoint of the geospatial concepts described, and from the standpoint of gaining understanding about how little most of the world knows about geospatial technology.  In reference to that last point, the article has at least two obvious errors.  First, the writer associates "Google Maps" with the analytical processes described, when Google Maps has nothing to do with the technology beyond display.  Second, the article tends to describe some elements of geospatial technology that have been around for years, as just invented. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finding an Amercian Red Cross Shelter

 Graphic: VisionLink, Inc.

Early last year, the American Red Cross (ARC) began deploying a variety of geospatial applications to provide information about its shelters.  There are three that update location information every 30 minutes:

With no sites open at the time of this posting, the operational sense of these interfaces is limited. However, the important thing to know is this information exists and how to access it before disaster strikes. 

Comment: This effort is a significant step forward for the ARC.  Previously, the organization kept information about its shelter system on a paper product that was primarily restricted to internal use.

Monday, February 13, 2012

FBI Curtails GPS Tracking

As a direct result of the January 23, 2012, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that put limits on the use of GPS tracking by law enforcement pesonnel (see: GPS Tracking: Bad Guys 1, Good Guys 0), an unnamed source at the FBI has confirmed the ruling has had a major impact on the agency.  For more on this story as reported by USAToday, go here.

Comment: It will be interesting to see how many "closed" cases get reviewed for possible appeal based on the Supreme Court ruling.  Given the indication above that the ruling has had significant impact on the FBI, it may be substantial.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Using LIDAR to Understand Earthquakes

Photo: crosby_cj

Scientists have been using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to study an earthquake zone in Mexico's Baja peninsula.  Ultimately, it is hoped these efforts will one day lead to creation of an analytical tool that can be used to predict earthquakes.  For more on this story as reported by MSNBC, go here

Alternately, an in depth review of this effort by Science magazine is available here (fee to read).

Comment: While the MSNBC article mentions the most well known fault zone in the U.S.A., the San Andreas, the potential technology as described would also be of value for the fault zone that lies to the south of Minnesota - the New Madrid.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sierra Club v. Orange County, California

Think $475,000 is a little steep for a county's GIS parcel database?  So did the Sierra Club, and they decided to do something about it - they took Orange County, California to court.  Now, they are fighting a battle for the entire nation, and their case will soon be ruled on by the California Supreme Court.  At issue: who owns the geospatial information created by government. To learn more, use the links below to read:

Comment: On its face, this situation would seem to have little to do with the Emergency Services Sector (ESS).  In reality, it has EVERYTHING to do with the ESS.  Without an administrative environment where units of government are willing to share their geospatial data without an eye on the cash register, the flow of information is severely limited and the ability to build accurate situational awareness across political boundaries is virtually nonexistent.  And in that situation, forget about ever seeing the ESS community's operational holy grail: a Common Operating Picture (see pages: 33, 34, 49, 50, 55, and 56).

Friday, February 10, 2012


In an effort to harmonize various predictive geospatial modeling efforts related wildfires, members of a public-private collaborative group have been working to create LANDFIRE.  As described in official publications:
LANDFIRE (also known as Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools) is an interagency vegetation, fire, and fuel characteristics mapping program, sponsored by the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) and the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.  LANDFIRE produces a comprehensive, consistent, scientifically credible suite of spatial data layers for the entire United States.  
Key goals of the LANDFIRE Program are to update and improve the data products completed by the LANDFIRE Project in December 2009. The program is a long-range initiative to periodically update LANDFIRE data to sustain the value of the original project investment and to ensure the timeliness, quality, and improvement of data products into the future.
To explore the wealth of geospatial information available from the LANDFIRE program, click the link below:

Comment: You are strongly encouraged to "rummage around" while investigating this website.  In some cases, items that may be of use to you are buried down several layers in the website's structure.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Not So Fast - Crime Push

Earlier this week, several news organizations ran stories about Crime Push, a just released smartphone app for reporting crimes. Based on the idea that the typical call to 9-1-1 fails to use many features of modern smartphones, Crime Push is attempting to change that by offering an easy to use reporting menu that will allow users to add pictures, video, and detailed location information about a crime they just witnessed. To learn more:

Comment: Although you have to give the inventors of this app credit for "thinking outside the box", shortly after this app was released folks started realizing this invention was only part of the solution. In order for information like this sent from a smartphone to be of value, there has to be a way to receive and use that information. To that end, remember three words: Technology - People - Policy. Take away any one of them and geospatial implementation in support of the Emergency Services Sector will not work. The Technology exists to do what these developers have envisioned, but the People (training) and Policies (implement the Technology) are not there to make it possible.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Geo-tracking Comes to a Cow Near You

The Federal government is the final stages of preparing to implement the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) which will use livestock ear tags (primarily Radio-frequency identification (RFID) type), instead of branding, to denote ownership. A driving factor behind this effort - the tags will facilitate the rapid geo-tracking of livestock in the event of disease outbreaks such as bovine brucellosis, tuberculosis and mad cow. To learn more, click the link below to read an article from the New York Times:

Comment: As citizens of one of the Nation's leading agricultural states, where livestock health is worth more than $4.5 billion to the state's annual economy, Minnesotans will have significant interest in how this development plays out. While the disease tracking intent is well placed, many have concerns about the program's affordability for small farmers, as well as civil liberties related issues.

Also of note:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Peacemaker Comes to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

The Fort Lauderdale Police have recently deployed remote sensing in a very unique way - in a large armored van that gets parked near crime hot spots.  Referred to as the "Peacemaker" by law enforcement personnel, the van is home to a bank of remotely controlled cameras that officers at department headquarters can use to scan the area where the van is parked.  For additional information:

Comment: In keeping with privacy concerns expressed about highway cameras and drones, look for civil liberties groups to add the Peacemaker to their list.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The FEMA Map Service Center


The FEMA Map Service Center serves as FEMA's distribution node for flood information maps supporting the National Flood Insurance Program.   Data related to these maps comes in five basic forms:
  • Flood Information Rate Map (FIRM, or just "Flood Map"): Is the official map of a community on which FEMA has delineated both the special hazard areas and the risk premium zones applicable to the community. It is a paper map, typically covering a large area.

  • FIRMettes: A FIRMette is a full-scale section of a FIRM that individuals can create online and is formatted to fit on printers commonly found in offices.

  • Digital Q3 Data:  Q3 Flood Data is a digital representation of certain features of FEMA's FIRMs, intended for use with desktop mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. Digital Q3 Flood Data has been developed by scanning the existing FIRM hardcopy and vectorizing a thematic overlay of flood risks. The vector Q3 Flood Data files contain only certain features from the existing FIRM hardcopy.

  • Digital Flood Information Rate Map (DFIRM): This FEMA GIS database stores the digital data used in the map production process, as well as the backup engineering data for the floodplain studies. This database provides a standard, systematic method for FEMA to distribute comprehensive details of its flood studies to the public in a digital format.

While most items above are available either through an online viewer or desktop application, only NFHL data can be incorporated into Google Earth, or brought into another mapping application as a WMS.
  • To visit the FEMA Map Service Center - go here

  • USGS publishes a complementary modeling program called the National Streamflow Statistics (NSS) program which can be found here.

Comment: The above dizzying collection of links and information are reflective of the massive change taking place at FEMA as it transitions from hand drawn paper flood maps to digital data that can be modeled and analyzed. While they have made great progress, there is still a long way to go.   

Sunday, February 5, 2012


A recent news release by the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) highlighted the hard work that organization's GISCorps has been doing around the globe.  Starting from humble beginnings in 2003, GISCorps has grown into a substantial volunteer group that provides onsite geospatial assistance to world-wide humanitarian efforts - almost always in underdeveloped countries, and often after disasters. In the article, URISA noted that 25 GISCorps volunteers recently deployed on nine new missions in seven different countries.  Those missions include:

  • Data cleansing of health facilities in Libya,
  • Support to an OSM/HOT project in Indonesia,
  • Assistance to a three phase disaster simulation in Samoa,
  • Geo-coding of Sierra Leone NGO locations,
  • Application testing for a non profit organization,
  • Deployment to a project with UNOSAT, and
  • A mission with the South Luangwa Conservation Society - Zambia.

Additional details about these missions can be found here.
The GISCorps home page is located here.

Since inception, GISCorps has had a total of 88 projects in 42 countries with 272 deployed volunteers.

Comment: If you're sitting in your climate controlled space reading this story thinking, "Wow, that's pretty cool.  I'd like to do something like that but (fill in the excuse)."  Well then, at least think about sending GISCorps a donation so their volunteers can swat bugs, eat bad food, watch the electricity flicker, and sleep on air mattresses, all in the name of using GIS to make the world a better place.  They'll take a wide variety of stuff - from cold hard cash, to airline miles.  Click here to find out how you can help them, help others.