Archive for October, 2011

Google recently announced that Google Earth has been downloaded one billion times. While some news reports mistakenly equate this to it being downloaded by one billion people (I’m probably responsible for at least 100 downloads), it is certainly the closest thing to a ubiquitous resource in the geospatial community.

Virtual globes like Google Earth provide an intuitive way to learn about earth system processes. Michael Goodchild, a leading geographic information scientist at the University of California-Santa Barbara, once advanced a “ten-ten rule” when speaking of virtual globes – it takes a ten-year old about ten minutes to master the workings of virtual globe software.

In order to celebrate passing the one billion mark in just six years, Google created a website titled One World. Many Stories. It includes an interactive timeline that shows how Google Earth is used for the following topics

  • Cartography for All (exploring the world in a new way)
  • Community Stories (protecting resources, traditions, citizens, and the environment through mapping)
  • Armchair Archeology (combining traditional archeological methods with the power of technology)
  • Teach the World (expanding knowledge through geography)
  • Protect the Earth (driving awareness of environmental issues)
  • Mapping for Good (aiding humanitarian relief and disaster response)
  • Virtual Travel (seeing the world from the comfort of home), and
  • Off the Map (developing unique perspectives of the world)

The stories include a date, geo-coordinates, a link to a KML file.

My favorite story is about GoogleLitTrips – a web site that features Google Earth applications that provide a different perspective on great works of literature. The site was established by Jerome Burg when he was teaching English at a high school in California. I met Jerome at the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association’s 2009 Spring Conference in Madison. Check out the Google Lit Trips for Paddle-to-the-Sea and The Big Two-Hearted River that I developed with the help of my children.


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The Fifth International Symposium on GIS/Spatial Analyses in Fishery and Aquatic Sciences was held in Wellington, New Zealand  on August 22 to 26, 2011. Though it was a small conference (about 47 attendees), many applications of interest to Sea Grant and NOAA types were presented. Below are a few.

Robert O’Conner, a Fishery Information Specialist with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, presented AquaMap, an experimental benthic mapping tool that “links sonar hand-sets to surface-based GPS measurements, allowing divers to map underwater with the ease and accuracy of a GPS unit.” The development of this tool resulted from the NOAA HPCC IT Incubator Program.

Dale Keifer, a Professor of Biology  at the University of Southern California, demonstrated the Pelagic Habitat Analysis Module (PHAM), a set of software tools “designed to assist fishery managers, scientists, and researchers examine and predict the habitat for pelagic ocean biota utilising presence/absence or abundance data for the biota combined with environmental datasets such as satellite imagery, bathymetry, survey cruises, and ocean circulation models.” PHAM is a component of the Environmental Analysis System (EASy) GIS that was developed specifically for marine applications.

Suzanne Rizor of Blue Leaf Environmental showed how her company used GIS to evaluate the approach and passage behavior of salmonid smolts at a hydroelectric project on the Mid-Columbia River in Washington. The aim is to design better bypass structures to increase fish passage survival.

Michael Hinton, senior scientist with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, talked about the use of GIS for habitat mapping of tuna species from satellite imagery to improve management. He also is collaborating on Fishscape, a geospatial model of the international fishery targeting tropcial tunas in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Be sure to be on the lookout for the Sixth International Symposium. The event serves to highlight and promote GIS and spatial analysis in fishery and aquatic science, which have lagged behind those in terrestrial sciences.

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