Looking for a secure, laid-back, and meaningful job in a growing field? Get into Geography!

This text was first posted as a guest contribution to WhyRyerson?, the Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment blog at Ryerson University. Images were added after the initial posting.

Geography@Ryerson is different. Atlases, globes, and Google Maps are nice pastimes, but we are more interested in OpenStreetMap, CartoDB, and GeoDA. We map global flight paths, tweets, invasive species, and shoplifters. As a student in Geographic Analysis you will gain real-world, or rather real-work, experience during your studies. This degree is unique among Geo programs in Ontario, if not in Canada, for its career focus.

thestar-24May2013_rye-student-flight-paths

Mapping global flight paths.
(Source: Toronto Star, 24 May 2013
)

The BA in Geographic Analysis has a 40-year record of placing graduates in planning and decision-making jobs across the public and private sectors. Jobs include Data Technician, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist, Geospatial Analyst, Mapping Technologist, GIS Consultant, Environmental Analyst, Market Research Analyst, Real-Estate Analyst, Crime Analyst, and many more. You name the industry or government branch, we’ll tell you what Geographers are doing for them. And these jobs are secure: Many are within government, or, if they are in the private sector, they tend to be in units that make businesses more efficient (and therefore are essential themselves!).

And these are great jobs, too. In November 2013, GIS Specialists were characterized as a low-stress job by CNN Money/PayScale. There were half a million positions in the US, with an expected 22% growth over 10 years, and a median pay of US$53,400 per year. In their previous survey, Market Research Analysts had made the top-10, with over a quarter million jobs, over 40% expected growth, and a median pay of US$63,100. The 2010 survey described GIS Analyst as a stress-free job with a median salary of US$75,000.

cdnbusiness-23April2015_best-jobs-mapping-tech

Mapping Technologist, one of Canada’s best jobs!
(Source: Canadian Business, 23 April 2015)

Closer to home, in April 2015 Canadian Business magazine put Mapping Technologists among the top-10 of all jobs in Canada! They note that “The explosion of big data and the growing need for location-aware hardware and software has led to a boom in the field of mapping”. With a median salary of CA$68,640, a 25% salary growth, and a 20% increase in jobs over five years, “this class of technology workers will pave the way”. According to Service Canada, “Mapping and related technologists and technicians gather, analyze, interpret and use geospatial information for applications in natural resources, geology, environment and land use planning. […] They are employed by all levels of government, the armed forces, utilities, mapping, computer software, forestry, architectural, engineering and consulting firms”. Based on the excellent reputation of our program in the Toronto area, you can add the many jobs in the business, real-estate, social, health, and safety fields to this list!

google-img-search_gis-application-examples

Sample applications of Geographic Analysis
(Source: Google image search)

While you may find the perspective of a well-paid, laid-back job in a growing field attractive enough, there is more to being a Ryerson-trained Geographer. Your work will help make important decisions in society. This could be with the City of Toronto or a Provincial or Federal ministry, where you turn geospatial data into maps and decision support tools in fields such as environmental assessment, social policy, parks and forestry, waste management, immigration, crime prevention, natural resources management, utilities, transportation, … . Or, you may find yourself analysing socio-economic data and crime incidents for a regional police service in order to guide their enforcement officers, as well as crime prevention and community outreach activities. Many of our graduates work for major retail or real-estate companies determining the best branch locations, efficient delivery of products and services, or mapping and forecasting population and competitors. Or you could turn your expertise into a highly profitable free-lance GIS and mapping consultancy.

Geography is one of the broadest fields of study out there, which can be intimidating. Geography@Ryerson however is different, as we provide you with a “toolkit” to turn your interest in the City, the region, and the world, and your fascination with people and the environment, into a fulfilling, secure, laid-back, yet meaningful job!

The @RyersonGeo Team at CAG 2015

Blog post by K.W.Forsythe and C.Rinner

The Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) 2015 Annual Meeting is held at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver Campus) from June 1-5. A good number of faculty and students from Ryerson’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies are taking part. The papers and sessions (in chronological order) are as follows, with the first one already running at the time of posting this list:

1) Tuesday June 2, 8:30 – Soil and Sediment Analysis (Harbour Centre 2050, Alan and Margaret Eyre Boardroom) Chair: Terence Day

Christine J. Valancius, K. Wayne Forsythe, Ryerson University; Chris H. Marvin, Environment Canada; James P. Watt*, CH2M
Using Geovisualization and Bathymetry to Assess Lead Sediment Contamination in Lake St. Clair

2) Tuesday June 2, 1:30 (Until 5.00 pm) – Poster Session 1 – The Arctic, Tourism, Conservation (Wosk Centre for Dialogue 320 Strategy Room)

Alexis Robinson, David Atkinson, Ryerson University
Spatially explicit hydrological model evaluation for a High Arctic watershed

3) Wednesday June 3, 8:30 – Vegetation Monitoring (Harbour Centre 2050, Alan and Margaret Eyre Board Room) Chair: Zhaoqin Li

Vadim Sabetski, Andrew A. Millward, Ryerson University
Virtual Daylighting: Enhancing Arboriculture Consulting Practices Through Tree Root Location with Ground‐Penetrating Radar

4) Friday June 5, 10:30 – Geographies of Crime 2 (Wosk Centre for Dialogue 420, Strategy Room) Special Session Organizers: Martin Andresen and Katherine Wuschke, Simon Fraser University, Chair: Martin Andresen

Shuguang Wang, Jarrett Moore*, Ryerson University
A GIS‐assisted analysis of journey‐to‐crime and activity space of offenders

Shannon Strelioff, Lu Wang, Ryerson University
Assessing the Predictive Power of Risk Terrain Modeling with respect to Street Level Robbery in the Regional Municipality of Durham, Ontario

5) Friday June 5. 10:30 – Sustainability and Land Classification Issues (Wosk Centre for Dialogue 470, Hamber Foundation Board Room) Chair: Scott Slocombe

Kaylin Chin, Richard R. Shaker, Ryerson University
Evaluating patterns of sustainability across the contiguous United States: Application of the United Nation’s Indicators of Sustainable Development Report

6) Friday June 5, 10:30 – Volunteered Geographical Information and the City: Sensing urban wellness with user‐generated data (Harbour Centre 2200, RBC Dominion Securities Meeting Room) Organizers: Colin Robertson, Wilfrid Laurier University, Rob Feick, University of Waterloo, Chairs: Colin Robertson and Rob Feick

Victoria Fast, Claus Rinner, Ryerson University
Putting place back into food: Durham’s local food VGI system

7) Friday June 5, 1:30 – “Bringing Housing Back In”: Immigrant Housing and Settlement Experiences in Canadian Cities (Wosk Centre for Dialogue 470, Hamber Foundation Board Room) Sponsorship: Diversity, Migration, Ethnicity and Race Study Group, Organizers of Special Session: Sutama Ghosh, Ryerson University; Carlos Texeira, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Chair: Sutama Ghosh

Sutama Ghosh, Ryerson University
Home as a Paradoxical Space: Experiences of Professional South Asian Mothers in Toronto

__________________________________
* denotes alumni co-authors

These presentations represent ongoing research in Geography, Environmental Studies, and GIScience, and involve students and alumni from our Geographic Analysis and Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) programs in addition to a student in the PhD in Environmental Applied Science and Management. See you all in Vancouver!

 

My takeaways from AAG 2015

The 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Chicago is long gone – time for a summary of key lessons and notable ideas taken home from three high-energy conference days.

Choosing which sessions to attend, was the first major challenge, as there were over ninety (90!) parallel sessions scheduled in many time slots. I put my program together based on presentations by Ryerson colleagues and students (https://gis.blog.ryerson.ca/2015/04/17/ryerson-geographers-at-aag-2015/) and those given by colleagues and students of the Geothink project (http://geothink.ca/american-associaton-of-geographers-aag-2015-annual-meeting-geothink-program-guide/), as well as by looking through the presenter list and finding sessions sponsored by select AAG specialty groups (notably GIScience and Cartography). Abstracts for the presentations mentioned in this blog can be found via the “preliminary” conference program at http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/index.cfm?mtgID=60.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the size and wealth of the industrial and transportation infrastructure in Chicago as well as the volume of the central business district, as seen from the airport train and when walking around in the downtown core.

aag-photo1 aag-photo3

My conference started on Wednesday, 22 April 2015, with Session 2186 “Cartography in and out of the Classroom: Current Educational Practices“. In a diverse set of presentations, Pontus Hennerdal from Stockholm University presented an experiment with a golf-like computer game played on a Mercator-projected world map to help children understand map projections. Pontus also referred to the issue of “world map continuity” using an animated film that is available on his homepage at http://www.su.se/profiles/poer5337-1.188256. In the second presentation, Jeff Howarth from Middlebury College assessed the relationship between spatial thinking skills of students and their ability to learn GIS. This research was motivated by an anonymous student comment about a perceived split of GIS classes into those students who “get it” vs. those who don’t. Jeff notes that spatial thinking along with skills in orientation, visualization, and a sense of direction sets students up for success in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses, including GIS. Next was Cindy Brewer, Head of the Department of Geography at Penn State University, with an overview of additions and changes to the 2nd edition of her Esri Press book “Designing Better Maps”. The fourth presentation was given by David Fairbairn of Newcastle, Chair of the Commission on Education and Training of the International Cartographic Association. David examined the accreditation of cartography-related programs of study globally, and somewhat surprisingly, reported his conclusion that cartography may not be considered a profession and accreditation would bring more disadvantages (incl. management, liability, barriers to progress) than benefits to the discipline. Finally, Kenneth Field of Esri took the stage to discuss perceptions and misconceptions of cartography and the cartographer. These include the rejection of the “map police” when trained cartographers dare to criticize the “exploratory playful” maps created by some of today’s map-makers (see my post at http://gis.blog.ryerson.ca/2015/04/04/about-quick-service-mapping-and-lines-in-the-sand/).

A large part of the remainder of Wednesday was spent in a series of sessions on “Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS“. Of particular note the presentations by Renee Sieber, professor of many things at McGill and leader of the Geothink SSHRC Partnership Grant (http://www.geothink.ca), and Mike McCall, senior researcher at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Renee spoke thought-provokingly, as usual, about “frictionless civic participation”. She observes how ever easier-to-use crowdsourcing tools are reducing government-citizen interactions to customer relationships, and participation is becoming a product being delivered efficiently, rather than a democratic process that engages citizens in a meaningful way. Mike spoke about the development of Participatory GIS (PGIS) in times of volunteered geographic information (VGI) and crowdsourcing, arguing to operationalize VGI within PGIS. The session also included a brief discussion among members of the audience and presenters about the need for base maps or imagery as a backdrop for PGIS – an interesting question, as my students and I are arguing that “seed contents” will help generate meaningful discussion, thus going even beyond including just a base map. Finally, two thoughts brought forward by Muki Haklay of University College London: Given the “GIS chauffeurs” of early-day PGIS projects, he asked whether we continue to need such facilitators in times of Renee Sieber’s frictionless participation? And, he observed that the power of a printed map brought to a community development meeting is still uncontestable. Muki’s extensive raw notes from the AAG conference can be found on his blog at https://povesham.wordpress.com/.

In the afternoon, I dropped in to Session 2478, which celebrated David Huff’s contribution to applied geography and business. My colleague Tony Hernandez chaired and co-organized the session, in which Tony Lea, Senior VP Research of Toronto-based Environics Analytics and instructor in our Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) program, and other business geographers paid tribute to the Huff model for predicting consumers’ spatial behaviour (such as the probability of patronizing specific store locations). Members of the Huff family were also present to remember the man behind the model, who passed away in Summer 2014. A written tribute by Tony Lea can be found at http://www.environicsanalytics.ca/footer/news/2014/09/04/a-tribute-to-david-huff-the-man-and-the-model.

Also on my agenda was a trip to the AAG vendor expo, where I was pleased to see my book – “Multicriteria Decision Analysis in Geographic Information Science” – in the Springer booth!

aag-springer-books

Thursday, 23 April 2015, began with an 8am session on “Spatial Big Data and Everyday Life“. In a mixed bag of presentations, Till Straube of Goethe University in Frankfurt asked “Where is Big Data?”; Birmingham’s Agnieszka Leszczynski argued that online users are more concerned with controlling their personal location data than with how they are ultimately used; Kentucky’s Matt Wilson showed select examples from half a century of animated maps that span the boundary between data visualization and art; Monica Stephens of the University at Buffalo discussed the rural exclusions of crowdsourced big data and characterized Wikipedia articles about rural towns in the US as Mad Libs based on Census information; and finally, Edinburgh’s Chris Speed conducted an IoT self test, in which he examined the impact of an Internet-connected toilet paper holder on family dynamics…

The remainder of Thursday was devoted to CyberGIS and new directions in mapping. The panel on “Frontiers in CyberGIS Education” was very interesting in that many of the challenges reported in teaching CyberGIS really are persistent challenges in teaching plain-old GIS. For example, panelists Tim Nyerges, Wenwen Li, Patricia Carbajalas, Dan Goldberg, and Britta Ricker noted the difficulty of getting undergraduate students to take more than one or two consecutive GIS courses; the challenge of teaching advanced GIS concepts such as enterprise GIS and CyberGIS (which I understand to mean GIS-as-a-service); and the nature of Geography as a “discovery major”, i.e. a program that attracts advanced students who are struggling in their original subjects. One of the concluding comments from the CyberGIS panel was a call to develop interdisciplinary, data-centred program – ASU’s GIScience program was named as an example.

Next, I caught the first of two panels on “New Directions in Mapping“, organized by Stamen’s Alan McConchie, Britta Ricker of U Washington at Tacoma, and Kentucky’s Matt Zook. A panel consisting of representative of what I call the “quick-service mapping” industry (Google, Mapbox, MapZen, Stamen) talked about job qualifications and their firms’ relation to academic teaching and research. We heard that “Geography” has an antiquated connotation and sounds old-fashioned, that the firms use “geo” to avoid the complexities of “geography”, and that geography is considered a “niche” field. My hunch is that geography is perhaps rather too broad (and “geo” even broader), but along with Peter Johnson’s (U Waterloo) comment from the audience, I must also admit that you don’t need to be a geographer to make maps, just like you don’t have to be a mathematician to do some calculations. Tips for students interested in working for the quick-service mapping industry included to develop a portfolio, practice their problem-solving and other soft skills, and know how to use platforms such as GitHub (before learning to program). A telltale tweet summarizing the panel discussion:

Thursday evening provided an opportunity to practice some burger cartography. It was time for the “Iron Sheep” hackathon organized by the FloatingSheep collective of academic geographers. Teams of five were given a wild dataset of geolocated tweets and a short 90-or-so minute time frame to produce some cool & funny map(s) and win a trophy for the best or worst or inbetween product. It was interesting to see how a group of strangers new to the competition and with no clue about how to get started, would end up producing a wonderful map such as this :-)

aag-sheep-map2

My last day at AAG 2015, Friday, April 24, took off with a half-day technical workshop on “Let’s Talk About Your Geostack”. The four active participants got a tremendous amount of attention from instructor-consultant @EricTheise. Basically, I went from zero to 100 in terms of having PostgreSQL, PostGIS, Python, NodeJS, and TileMill installed and running on my laptop – catching up within four hours with the tools that some of my students have been talking about, and using, in the last couple of years!

In the afternoon, attention turned to OpenStreetMap (OSM), with a series of sessions organized by Muki Haklay, who argues that OSM warrants its own branch of research, OpenStreetMap Studies. I caught the second session which started with Salzburg’s Martin Loidl showing an approach in development to detect and correct attribute (tag) inconsistencies in OSM based on information contained in the OSM data set (intrinsic approach). Geothink co-investigator Peter Johnson of UWaterloo presented preliminary results of his study of OSM adoption (or lack thereof) by municipal government staff. In eight interviews with Canadian city staff, Peter did not find a single official use of OSM. Extensive discussions followed the set of four presentations, making for a highly informative session. One of the fundamental questions raised was whether OSM is distinct enough from other VGI and citizen science projects that it merits its own research approach. While typically considered one of the largest crowdmapping projects, it was noted that participation is “shallow” (Muki Haklay) with only 10k active users among 2 million registered users. Martin Loidl had noted that OSM is focused on geometry data, yet with a flat structure and no standards other than those agreed-upon via the OSM wiki. Alan McConchie added the caution that OSM contributions only make it onto the map if they are included in the “style” files used to render OSM data. Other issues raised by Alan included the privacy of contributors and questions about authority. For example, contributors should be aware of the visualization and statistics tools developed by Pascal Neis at http://neis-one.org/! We were reminded that Muki Haklay has developed a code of engagement for researchers studying OSM (read the documentation, experience actively contributing, explore the data, talk to the OSM community, publish open access, commit to knowledge transfer). Muki summarized the debate by suggesting that academics should act as “critical friends” vis-à-vis the OSM community and project. To reconcile “OSM Studies” with VGI, citizen science, and the participatory Geoweb, I’d refer to the typology of user contributions developed by Rinner & Fast (2014). In that paper, we do in fact single out OSM (along with Wikimapia) as a “crowd-mapping” application, yet within a continuum of related Geoweb applications.

Notes from #NepalQuake Mapping Sessions @RyersonU Geography

This is a brief account of two “Mapping for Nepal” sessions at Ryerson University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. In an earlier post found at http://gis.blog.ryerson.ca/2015/04/27/notes-for-nepalquake-mapping-sessions-ryersonu-geography/, I collected information on humanitarian mapping for these same sessions.

Mapathon @RyersonU, Geography & Spatial on Monday, 27 April 2015, 10am-2pm. 1(+1) prof, 2 undergrads, 3 MSAs, 1 PhD, 1 alumnus came together two days after the devastating earthquake to put missing roads, buildings, and villages in Nepal on the map using the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s (HOT) task manager. Thank you to MSA alumnus Kamal Paudel for initiating and co-organizing this and the following meetings.

hotosm-for-nepal_msa-lab_27april2015

Mapathon @RyersonU, Geography & Spatial on Sunday, 3 May 2015, 4pm-8pm. Our second Nepal mapathon brought together a total of 15 volunteers, including undergraduate BA in Geographic Analysis and graduate Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) students along with MSA alumni, profs, and members of the Toronto-area GIS community. On this Sunday afternoon we focused on completing and correcting the road/track/path network and adding missing buildings to the map of Nepal’s most affected disaster zones. Photos via our tweets:

 

My observations and thoughts from co-organizing and leading these sessions, and participating in the HOT/OSM editing:

  • In addition to supporting the #EqResponseNp in a small way, the situation provided an invaluable learning opportunity for everyone involved. Most participants of our sessions had never contributed to OSM, and some did not even know of its existence, despite being Geography students or GIS professionals. After creating OSM accounts and reading up on the available OSM and Nepal-specific documentation, participants got to map hundreds of points, lines, or polygons within just a couple of hours.
  • The flat OSM data model – conflating all geometries and all feature types in the same file – together with unclear or inconsistent tagging instructions for features such as roads, tracks, and paths challenged our prior experience with GIS and geographic data. Students in particular were concerned about the fact that their edits would go live without “someone checking”.
  • While the HOT task manager and general workflow of choosing, locking, editing, and saving an area was a bit confusing at first, the ID editor used by most participants was found to be intuitive and was praised by GIS industry staff as “slick”.
  • The most recent HOT tasks were marked as not suitable for beginners after discussions among the OSM community about poor-quality contributions, leaving few options for (self-identified) beginners. It was most interesting to skim over the preceding discussion on the HOT chat and mailing list, e.g. reading a question about “who we let in”. I am not sure how the proponent would define “we” in a crowd-mapping project such as OSM.
  • There was a related Twitter #geowebchat on humanitarian mapping for Nepal: “How can we make sure newbies contribute productively?”, on Tuesday, 5 May 2015 (see transcript at http://mappingmashups.net/2015/05/05/geowebchat-transcript-5-may-2015-how-can-newbies-contribute-productively-to-humanitarian-mapping/).
  • The HOT tasks designated for more experienced contributors allowed to add post-disaster imagery as a custom background. I was not able to discern whether buildings were destroyed or where helicopters could land to reach remote villages, but I noticed numerous buildings (roofs) that were not included in the standard Bing imagery and therefore missing from OSM.
  • The GIS professionals mentioned above included two analysts with a major GIS vendor, two GIS analysts with different regional conservation authorities, a GIS analyst with a major retail chain, and at least one GIS analyst with a municipal planning department (apologies for lack of exact job titles here). The fact that these, along with our Geography students, had mostly not been exposed to OSM is a concern, which however can be easily addressed by small changes in our curricula or extra-curricular initiatives. I am however a bit concerned as to whether the OSM community will be open to collaborating with the #GIStribe.
  • With reference to the #geowebchat, I’d posit that newbie != newbie. Geographers can contribute a host of expertise around interpreting features on the ground, even if they have “never mapped” (in the OSM sense of “mapping”). Trained GIS experts understand how feature on the ground translate into data items and cannot be considered newbies either. In addition, face-to-face instructions by, and discussion with, experienced OSM contributors would certainly help to achieve a higher efficiency and quality of OSM contributions. In this sense, I am hoping that we will have more crowd-mapping sessions @RyersonU Geography, for Nepal and beyond.

MSA Poster Day 2015

composite-photo_msa-poster-day2015

On Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 22 Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) students presented their research ideas/plans for their major research papers or theses to the Department. The students’ posters represented a mind-blowing diversity of research topics, with the important common denominator of using spatial analysis concepts and techniques. Techniques ranged from self-organizing maps to location-allocation, risk terrain modeling, cluster analysis, and various forms of regression analysis. Proposed tools included ArcGIS, MapInfo, QGIS/PySAL, and R. Finally, the fields of application span sustainable development to informal caregiving, housing deprivation, food access, regional transit planning, road salt usage, traffic injuries, ground-penetrating radar, urban heat island, and book retailing and mall tenant mix. Enjoy studying the following list of all poster titles!

msa-poster-day2015_working-titles

The MSA Best Poster Award 2015 went to Daniel Liadsky for the poster on “Neighbourhood Effects on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in the Toronto CMA” shown below (click to enlarge). Congratulations, Daniel!!

daniels-winning-poster

Ryerson Geographers at AAG 2015

The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies is sending a sizable delegation of researchers down south (or should that be west?) to Chicago, to spread the word about our awesome research in applied and other geographies! The annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) also is the premier venue to pick up research trends and network with colleagues representing the full breadth of the discipline.

Here is the “Ryerson program” in detail, with an update to the “Retail and Business Geography I” session. In all, there are about 14 faculty members and 7 students presenting (not including co-authors), and we are involved in 29 sessions (including organizer, chair, panelist, etc.)!

TUESDAY

Paper Session: Trees in the City 1: Biophysical Conditions
Tuesday, 4/21/2015 at 8:00 AM
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21902

Abstract Title: The Effectiveness of Tillage Radish® to Improve the Growing Medium for Urban Trees
Author(s):
Shawn Mayhew-Hammond, MASc* – Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University
Andrew A Millward, Ph.D. – Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University

Abstract Title: Virtual Daylighting: Enhancing Arboriculture Consulting Practices Through Tree Root Location with Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)
Author(s):
*Vadim Sabetski – Ryerson University
Andrew Millward, Dr. – Ryerson University

Abstract Title: Influence of Organic Mulch on Soil Characteristics in a Forested Urban Park
Author(s):
*Andrew A Millward, Ph.D. – Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University
Todd Irvine, MFC, ISA Certified Arborist – Bruce Tree Expert Company Ltd.

Paper Session: Trees in the City 2: Mapping and Measurement
Tuesday, 4/21/2015 at 10:00 AM
Abstract Title: Enabling Environmental Agents: Can Citytrees Help our Cities Grow?
Author(s):
Nikesh N. Bhagat* – Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University
Andrew A Millward, Ph.D. – Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group, Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=63163

Paper Session: 1457 Geographies of Media III: Multicultural media, international migration, and transnationalism
Tuesday, 4/21/2015, from 12:40 PM – 2:20 PM
Discussant(s): Sutama Ghosh – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=22272

Paper Session: Trees in the City 4: Human- Forest Relationships
Tuesday, 4/21/2015 at 14:40 PM.
Abstract Title: Assessing Urban Forest Ecosystem Change and the Vulnerability of Ecosystem Service Supply in a Residential Neighborhood
Author(s):
James Steenberg* – Ryerson University
Andrew Millward, PhD – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=64090

WEDNESDAY

Paper Session: 2178 Retail and Business Geography I
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Murray Rice – University of North Texas
Chair(s): Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21599

Abstract Title: The Mixed Use Challenge: Turning Tides of Retail Development
Author(s):
Christopher Daniel* – Ryerson University – CSCA
Tony Hernandez, Ph.D. – Ryerson University – CSCA

Abstract Title: The Polarizing Canadian Market: High-end Retail Change
Author(s):
*Stephen Swales – Ryerson University
Wayne Forsythe – Ryerson University

Paper Session: 2184 Biofuels, Bioenergy, and the Emerging Bio-Economy I: Visions
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Peter Kedron – Ryerson University
Jennifer Baka – London School of Economics
Kirby Calvert
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21162

Paper Session: 2284 Biofuels, Bioenergy, and the Emerging Bio-Economy II: Landscapes
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Peter Kedron – Ryerson University
Jennifer Baka – London School of Economics
Kean Birch – York University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21518

Paper Session: Geographies of Activism and Protest II
Wednesday, 4/22/2015 at 10:00 AM
Abstract Title: Indigenous Armed Resistance as Activism
Author(s): Valentina Capurri* – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=61291

Panel Session: 2278 The Huff Model: from origins to modeling legacy
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Anthony Lea
Daniel A. Griffith – U. of Texas at Dallas
Chair(s): Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21725

Panel Session: 2478 Dr. David Huff: a tribute to his contribution to applied geographical and business research
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM
Organizer(s):
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
John Frazier – Binghamton University
Chair(s): Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21724

Paper Session: 2484 Biofuels, Bioenergy, and the Emerging Bio-Economy III: Transitions I
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM
Organizer(s):
Peter Kedron – Ryerson University
Kean Birch – York University
Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen – SUNY-Buffalo
Chair(s): Peter Kedron – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21163

Paper Session: 2584 Biofuels, Bioenergy, and the Emerging Bio-Economy IV: Transitions II
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 3:20 PM – 5:00 PM
Organizer(s):
Peter Kedron – Ryerson University
Kirby Calvert
Jennifer Baka – London School of Economics
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21517

Abstract Title: Geographies of bioenergy from corn to high-tech biofuels
Author(s): Peter Kedron* – Ryerson University

Paper Session: Land Use Change and Ecosystem Services
Wednesday, 4/22/2015 at 17:20 PM.
Abstract Title: Spatiotemporal patterns and landscape metrics on First Nation reserves: The case of southern Ontario
Author(s): Eric Vaz* – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=64724

THURSDAY

Paper Session: Immigrants, ethnicity, gender, race and health disparities in North American Cities
Thursday, 4/23/2015 at 8:00 AM.
Abstract Title: Composition and locational strategies of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in Canada
Author(s):
Lu Wang* – Ryerson University
Jacob Levy – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=63112

Panel Session: 3132 Immigration and Law, Migrant Activism, ‘Citizenship after Orientalism’
Thursday, 4/23/2015, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM
Discussant(s):
Leif Johnson
Harald Bauder – Ryerson University
Pierpaolo Mudu – University of Washington – Tacoma
Sutapa Chattopadhyay – UNU-Merit & Maastricht University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21859

Panel Session: 3178 Faculty Opportunities for Research and Teaching in Location Intelligence
Thursday, 4/23/2015, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Murray Rice – University of North Texas
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Panelist(s): Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Simona Epasto – University of Macerata
William Graves – UNC-Charlotte
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21524

Paper Session: 3276 2nd Special Session Retail aspects in Urban Geography and Urban Planning IV: Spatial impact of key supply and demand trends in retailing
Thursday, 4/23/2015, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM
Discussant(s): Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=22018

Paper Session: Weather, Climate, and Health IV: Interventions and Solutions
Thursday, 4/23/2015 at 15:20 PM
Abstract Title: An analysis of the influence of multi-scalar characteristics of city trees on microclimatic variation within Toronto’s urban forest: a hierarchical approach
Author(s):
Christopher Greene* – Ryerson University
Peter J. Kedron, PhD – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=67177

FRIDAY

Paper Session: 4102 Retail and Business Geography II
Friday, 4/24/2015, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Murray Rice – University of North Texas
Chair(s): Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=22641

Abstract Title: Location Strategies of Foreign Retailers in Canada
Author(s):
Joseph Aversa* – Ryerson University
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University

Abstract Title: Reconstructing Target’s Location Strategy in Canada
Author(s):
*Peter Pavlakidis, MSA – Environics Analytics
Shuguang Wang, Dr. – Co-Presenter

Abstract Title: Rethinking Retail Geography
Author(s): Tony Hernandez* – Ryerson University

Panel Session: 4202 Rethinking Ethnic Entrepreneurship
Friday, 4/24/2015, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM
Organizer(s):
Antonie Schmiz – Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt a.M.
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Panelist(s):
Shuguang Wang – Ryerson University
Zhixi Zhuang – Ryerson University
Felicitas Barbara Hillmann – Free University Berlin
Veronique Schutjens – University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Linda Szabó – Central European University
Charlotte Rauchle – Humboldt-University Berlin, Geography Department
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21603

Paper Session: Food Networks and Politics I: Urban Scenarios
Friday, 4/24/2015 at 10:00 AM.
Abstract Title: Food Consumption and the Retail Food Environment: Examining Toronto’s Food Scapes
Author(s):
Daniel Liadsky* – Ryerson University
Brian Ceh – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=68349

Poster Session: Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIS&T) Poster Session
Friday, 4/24/2015 at 10:00 AM
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=69026

Abstract Title: Conceptualizing Volunteered Geographic Information and the Participatory Geoweb
Author(s):
Victoria Fast* – Ryerson University
Claus Rinner – Ryerson University
Blake Byron Walker – Simon Fraser University

Abstract Title: The Role of Maps and Composite Indices in Place-Based Decision-Making
Author(s):
Claus Rinner* – Ryerson University, Geography
Heather Hart – Ryerson University, Geography
Meghan McHenry – Ryerson University, Geography
Carmen Huber – Ryerson University, Geography
Duncan MacLellan – Ryerson University, Politics

Panel Session: 4437 The Housing and Economic Experiences of Immigrants in U.S. and Canadian Cities
Friday, 4/24/2015, from 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM
Panelist(s):
Margaret W. Walton-Roberts – Wilfrid Laurier University
Wan Yu – Arizona State University
Sutama Ghosh – Ryerson University
John Frazier – Binghamton University
John Miron – University of Toronto
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=22612

Paper Session: Restore Urban River’s Water Quality to Swimmable/Fishable
Friday, 4/24/2015 at 13:20 PM
Abstract Title: Using Geospatial Techniques for Water Research: Disinfection Byproducts in Drinking Water in Ontario, Canada
Author(s):
Brian Ceh* – Ryerson University
Mary Grunstra – Ryerson University
Eric Vaz – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=66101

Panel Session: 4513 Student Opportunities for Study and Career Development in Location Intelligence
Friday, 4/24/2015, from 3:20 PM – 5:00 PM
Organizer(s):
Murray Rice – University of North Texas
Tony Hernandez – Ryerson University
Simona Epasto – University of Macerata
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21527

SATURDAY

Paper Session: Mental Health Geographies
Saturday, 4/25/2015 at 8:00 AM
Abstract Title: Crowd mapping mental health promotion through the Thought Spot project
Author(s):
Heather A Hart* – Ryerson University
Victoria Fast – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=67972

Paper Session: Dialectics in Geography: Opportunities and Limitations
Saturday, 4/25/2015 at 14:00 PM
Abstract Title: Reflections on Dialectics as Theory and/or Method
Author(s): Harald Bauder* – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=61298

Panel Session: 5531 Radical teaching
Saturday, 4/25/2015, from 4:00 PM – 5:40 PM in Columbian, Hyatt, West Tower, Bronze Level
Panelist(s):
Harald Bauder – Ryerson University
Sutapa Chattopadhyay – UNU-Merit & Maastricht University
Pierpaolo Mudu – University of Washington – Tacoma
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=21860

Paper Session: The Role of Geography in Shaping Sustainability Agendas in the Higher Education – session 2
Saturday, 4/25/2015 at 16:00 PM.
Abstract Title: Examining Patterns of Sustainability Across Europe: A Multivariate and Spatial Assessment of 25 Composite Indices
Author(s): Richard Ross Shaker, Ph.D.* – Ryerson University
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=61926

 

Twitter Analytics Experiments in Geography and Spatial Analysis at Ryerson

In my Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) course “Cartography and Geographic Visualization” in the Fall 2014 semester, three MSA students experimented with geospatial analysis of tweets. This post provides a brief account of the three student projects and ends with a caution about mapping and spatially analyzing tweets.

Yishi Zhao wrote her “mini research paper” assignment about “Exploring the Thematic Patterns of Twitter Feeds in Toronto: A Spatio-Temporal Approach”. Yishi’s goal was to identify the spatial and thematic patterns of geolocated tweets in Toronto at different times of day, as well as to explore the use of R for spatio-temporal analysis of the Twitter stream. Within the R platform, Yishi used the streamR package to collect geolocated tweets for the City of Toronto and mapped them by ward using a combination of MapTools, GISTools, and QGIS. Additionally, the tm package was used for text mining and to generate word clouds of the most frequent words tweeted at different times of the day.

Toronto tweets per population at different times of day - standard-deviation classification (Source: Yishi Zhao)
Toronto tweets per population at different times of day – standard-deviation classification (Source: Yishi Zhao)
Frequent words in Toronto tweets at different times of day (Source: Yishi Zhao)
Frequent words in Toronto tweets at different times of day (Source: Yishi Zhao)

One general observation is that the spatial distribution of tweets (normalized by residential population) becomes increasingly concentrated in downtown throughout the day, while the set of most frequent words expands (along with the actual volume of tweets, which peaked in the 7pm-9pm period).

MSA student Alexa Hinves pursued a more focused objective indicated in her paper’s title, “Twitter Data Mining with R for Business Analysts”. Her project aimed to examine the potential of geolocated Twitter data towards branding research using the example of singer Taylor Swift’s new album “1989”. Alexa explored the use of both, the streamR and twitteR packages in R. The ggplot2, maps, and wordcloud packages were used for presentation of results.

Distribution of geolocated tweets and word cloud referring to Taylor Swift (Source: Alexa Hinves)
Distribution of geolocated tweets and word cloud referring to Taylor Swift (Source: Alexa Hinves)

Alexa’s map of 1,000 Taylor Swift-related tweets suffers from a challenge that is common to many Twitter maps – they basically show population distribution rather than spatial patterns that are specific to tweet topics or general Twitter use. In this instance, we see the major cities in the United States lighting up. The corresponding word cloud (which I pasted onto the map) led Alexa to speculate that businesses can use location-specific sentiment analysis for targeted advertising, for example in the context of product releases.

The third project was an analysis and map poster on “#TOpoli – Geovisualization of Political Twitter Data in Toronto, Ontario”, completed by MSA cand. Richard Wen. With this project, we turn our interest back to the City of Toronto and to the topic of the October 2014 municipal election. Richard used similar techniques as the other two students to collect geolocated tweets, the number of which he mapped by the 140 City neighbourhoods (normalized by neighbourhood area – “bubble map” at top of poster). Richard then created separate word clouds for the six former municipalities in Toronto and mapped them within those boundaries (map at bottom of poster).

#TOpoli map poster - spatial pattern and contents of tweets in Toronto's mayoral election 2015 (Source: Richard Wen)
#TOpoli map poster – spatial pattern and contents of tweets in Toronto’s mayoral election 2015 (Source: Richard Wen)

Despite the different approach to normalization (normalization by area compared to Yishi’s normalization by population), Richard also finds a concentration of Twitter activity in downtown Toronto. The word clouds contain similar terms, notably the names of the leading candidates, now-mayor John Tory and candidate Doug Ford. An interesting challenge arose in that we cannot tell just from the word count whether tweets with a candidate’s name were written in support or opposition to this candidate.

The three MSA students used the open-ended cartography assignment to acquire expertise in a topic that is “trending” among neo-cartographers. They have already been asked for advice by a graduate student of an environmental studies program contemplating a Twitter sentiment analysis for her Master’s thesis. Richard’s project also led to an ongoing collaboration with journalism and communication researchers. However, the most valuable lesson for the students and myself was an increased awareness of the pitfalls of analyzing and mapping tweets. These pitfalls stem from the selective use of Twitter among population subgroups (e.g., young professionals; globally the English-speaking countries), the small proportion of tweets that have a location attached (less than 1% of all tweets by some accounts), and the limitations imposed by Twitter on the collection of free samples from the Twitter stream.

I have previously discussed some of these data-related issues in a post on “Big Data – Déjà Vu in Geographic Information Science”. An additional discussion of the cartography-related pitfalls of mapping tweets will be the subject of another blog post.

A Raster-Based Game of Life Using Python in QGIS

Blog post authored by Richard Wen and Claus Rinner

A great way to demonstrate the manipulation of geospatial raster data is Conway’s Game of Life [1]. The “game” starts with a grid (“board”) of binary cells, which represent either alive (populated) or dead (empty) states. Each cell interacts with its eight adjacent neighbours to determine its next state. At each iteration of the game clock, the following rules are applied [1]:

  • A live cell with less than two or more than three live neighbours dies (under-population, overcrowding).
  • A live cell with two or three live neighbours continues to live.
  • A dead cell with three live neighbours becomes alive (reproduction).

The free and open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) software package QGIS [2] offers support for scripting with the Python programming language (pyQGIS module), which enables the use of powerful libraries such as NumPy and GDAL for dealing with raster data. Numerical Python (NumPy) [3] is a package developed for Python that is geared towards scientific computation with support for multi-dimensional arrays and matrices. The Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL) [4] is a library for translating raster and vector geospatial data formats available as a binding for Python.

Using NumPy, GDAL, and pyQGIS, we implemented the Game of Life, where NumPy manipulates the arrays, GDAL handles reading and writing of the raster data, and pyQGIS visualizes the rasters and their relative changes. The source code was written by Master of Spatial Analysis student Richard Wen with input from Dr. Claus Rinner and is available at https://github.com/rwenite/QGIS_RasterArray. The project was inspired by Anita Graser’s visit to Ryerson’s Lab for Geocomputation in October 2014, during which Anita developed a vector-based version of the Game of Life in QGIS (see http://anitagraser.com/2014/11/16/more-experiments-with-game-of-life/).

Our implementation takes an object-oriented approach, in which an object of a Game of Life class is instantiated and the gaming board is updated with the cycle() method using the QGIS python console. The core function is the manipulation of individual raster cells based on a coded algorithm – in this case, the rules defined by the Game of Life.

Let’s start by initializing and cycling a gaming board using default parameters:

# Instantiate a starting board
x = GameofLife()

game-of-life_fig1a

# Cycle the board twice
x.cycle(2)

game-of-life_fig1

The gaming board may be initialized with a random raster, a filled raster, a custom raster, or from a pre-defined raster file:

# The default is a random raster, we can set the width and height as well
x = GameofLife(width=3,height=5)
# Cycle the board
x.cycle()

game-of-life_fig2

# Fill a cells object with 1s
y = Cells(inRaster=1)
# Create a raster with the filled cells object in the directory
y.toRaster("path\\to\\filledraster\\file.tif")
# Instantiate a starting board with the filled raster
x = GameofLife(raster="path\\to\\filledraster\\file.tif")
# Cycle the board
x.cycle()

game-of-life_fig3

# Generate a raster from a list of tuples
y=Cells(inRaster=[
(0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0),
(0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0),
(0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0),
(0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0),
(0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0),
(0,0,0,1,1,0,0,0),
(0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0),
(0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0)])
# Create a raster with the custom cells object in the directory
y.toRaster("path\\to\\customraster\\file.tif")
# Instantiate a starting board with the custom raster
x = GameofLife(raster="path\\to\\customraster\\file.tif")

game-of-life_fig3b

# Instantiate a starting board with a raster
x = GameofLife(raster="path\\to\\raster\\file.tif")

game-of-life_fig4a

Date source: City of Toronto Open Data [5]

Some other interesting features include changing animation speed, jumping cycles, and applying customized layer styles:

# Adjust delay to 3 seconds
x.speed=3
# Cycle 10 times normally
x.cycle(10)
# Cycle 5 times and display every 2nd cycle
x.cycle(5,2)
# Set the style to the defined qml file
x.style = “path\\to\\qml\\style\\file.qml”

This post focuses on the functionality of the program, while its inner workings can be grasped from comments in the Python source code posted at https://github.com/rwenite/QGIS_RasterArray. The code was written and tested for QGIS 2.6; feedback on any issues is most welcome. The use of a NumPy array to iterate through the grid cells was found in an answer by user “gene” on GIS StackExchange [6]. Reading and processing raster data does have its challenges. When dealing with large grids, reading raster data in blocks rather than as a whole is advisable, because there may not be enough RAM to store an entire file at once [7].

The aim of implementing the Game of Life with Python and QGIS is to demonstrate some fundamental concepts of raster data analysis and cellular automata modeling, both of which have important applications in Geography and GIS. Existing QGIS functionality and scripts for raster processing seem to focus more on low-level input/output operations than higher-level analysis functions. For example, we did not find advanced local and focal raster operations in QGIS’ raster calculator. Thus, we envision that the RasterArray code could serve as a basis for expanding raster analysis in QGIS. The code will also be used in a yet-to-be-written lab assignment in GEO641 “GIS and Decision Support” in Ryerson’s BA in Geographic Analysis program.

 

References:

[1] Wikipedia, Conway’s Game of Life
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life

[2] QGIS
http://www2.qgis.org/en/site/

[3] NumPy, Numerical Python
http://www.numpy.org/

[4] GDAL, Geospatial Data Abstraction Library
http://trac.osgeo.org/gdal/wiki/GdalOgrInPython

[5] Toronto Open Data, Regional Municipal Boundary
http://www.toronto.ca/open

[6] How to do loops on raster cells with python console in QGIS?
http://gis.stackexchange.com/questions/107996/how-to-do-loops-on-raster-cells-with-python-console-in-qgis

[7] Chris Garrard, Utah State University, Reading Raster Data with GDAL
http://www.gis.usu.edu/~chrisg/python/2008/os5_slides.pdf

 

Ryerson Geographic Analysis students put restaurants, airports, cities, and cropland on the map!

Blog post authored by Claus Rinner and Victoria Fast

In response to a recent lab assignment in GEO441 “Geographic information Science”, 49 second-year Geographic Analysis students selected a crowdmapping application and actively contributed valuable geographic information.

The most popular choice was the global OpenStreetMap initiative (http://www.openstreetmap.org). From updating the name and hours of their favourite restaurant or adding their local bank to a plaza, to identifying community gardens, adding a newly built hospital or geocoding new condos, the students used their local knowledge of the GTA to update and expand the freely accessible OpenStreetMap dataset.

sdiz-osm-changeset

For example, second-year Geographic Analysis student Stephanie Dizonno added a restaurant, George’s Pizza, to a set of businesses already represented along Toronto’s Dundas Street East.

ksmith-osm-airportSome of the more unusual edits were made by GEO441 student Kyle Smith, who is a recreational pilot. Kyle corrected and added key features to a local airport, such as a taxiway, the airport restaurant, and the apron, which we learned is the paved area used for aircraft parking. An essential part of his contribution was to update “crucial attribute data about the airport’s characteristics using the Canadian Flight Supplement,” writes Kyle.

In addition to OpenStreetMap, other students elected to contribute to Wikimapia, Cropland Capture, Night Cities, and the David Rumsey Map Collection. For example, instead of the point, line, polygon, and/or attribute data added to OpenStreetMap, the Cropland Capture online game (http://www.geo-wiki.org/games/croplandcapture/) has ‘players’ indicate whether or not a given satellite image includes agricultural land. Mooez Munshi highlights the relevance of his contribution: “The geographic data collected will help in building a map that shows all of the world’s cropland.”

dbocknek-historical-maps-overlay

Geographic Analysis student Daniel Bocknek elected to geographically reference a 100-year old map from the David Rumsey Map Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com/view/georeferencer) showing the Aberfoyle area in Scotland. After identifying at least three control points on both the historic map and a contemporary basemap such as OpenStreetMap or Google Maps, the historic map is automatically geo-referenced and can be integrated with other GIS data as shown in Daniel’s screenshot above.

A similar approach is used by the Night Cities application (http://crowdcrafting.org/app/nightcitiesiss/) to geo-locate photographs of world cities taken at night by astronauts on board the ISS. In his GEO441 assignment, Navdeep Salooja explains that this project involves “citizen scientists”, like himself, in research about global night-time light pollution.

Overall, the 49 Ryerson students contributed important bits (and bytes) to the growing body of volunteered geographic information, while experiencing the broad applicability of geographic knowledge and principles of geographic information science to real-world issues.

Thought Spot – Crowdmapping of Mental Health and Wellness Resources

Thought Spot is a project designed by post-secondary students to support mental health and wellbeing among Toronto-area youth. The main feature is the online map at http://mythoughtspot.ca/, which is based on the Ushahidi crowdsourced mapping platform. The Thought Spot project was initiated at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), in collaboration with the University of Toronto, OCAD, and Ryerson. The map allows students to find mental health and wellness resources in ­their geographic area, without the need for an intermediary (parent, teacher, physician). The mapped information originates from ConnexOntario and Kids Help Phone data as well as data that were crowdsourced from members of the target audience.

thoughspot-screenshot

Ryerson Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) candidate Heather Hart took a lead role in designing the Thought Spot map (shown above), bringing unique geospatial expertise to the table of the project’s student advisory board. Through her MSA practicum placement with a different research group at CAMH, Heather got in contact with the Thought Spot team and brought the funding for her own summer position to Ryerson, to devote half of her time to ensuring that the project’s crowdmapping would be successful. Heather’s involvement culminated in co-organizing a Thought Spot hackathon at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone in October 2014, which led to the ongoing development of a mobile version of the Thought Spot map.

photo-thoughtspot-heather

This photo shows Heather at GIS Day at Ryerson on November 19th, 2014, presenting the Thought Spot project to an interested University audience. In collaboration with Environmental Applied Science and Management PhD candidate Victoria Fast, Heather has now also submitted a conference abstract about “Crowd mapping mental health promotion through the Thought Spot project”. The abstract brings together Victoria’s extensive expertise in volunteered geographic information systems and Heather’s on-the-ground experience with the Thought Spot project. Their presentation at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in April 2015 is part of the “International Geospatial Health Research” theme.

It is wonderful to see two enterprising Geography graduate students contribute to supporting mental health and wellbeing on campus, a goal that the University is committed to. At the same time, the Thought Spot project informs Heather’s thesis research on the role of maps in evidence-based health care decision-making and Victoria’s dissertation on crowdmapping of local food resources.