Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Open Registration for Spring classes at AB Tech

Several GIS classes are being offered at AB Tech this spring and open registration is now! Classed begin Monday, January 14th, 2008.

GIS 111 - Introduction to GIS is being offered in 4 sections.

  • GIS111 YD1 - Meets M/W from 10 - 11:20. This class is a hybrid format meaning students will have 1 hour of online work per week in addition to outside time spent on homework assignments.
  • GIS111 LD1 - Meets M/W from 2:10-4:00pm. Late start class. Class begins January 23rd.
  • GIS 111 O1 - Online section. If you know you like online learning this one is for you. If you don't know if you like it or not ... a couple words of advice - it is MORE WORK than taking a traditional seated class, but it is more flexible.
  • GIS 111 WN1 - Meets Thursday nights 6:00pm -9:50pm. Web supplement accompanies course.
GIS 121 - Georeferencing and Mapping - one section
  • GIS 121 D1 - (prerequisite - GIS 111 or equivalent) - Meets M/W from 8:00am-9:50am.
GIS 215 - GIS Data Models - one section
  • GIS 215 N1 - (prerequisite - GIS 111 or equivalent) - Meets Tuesday nights from 6:00pm - 9:50pm
If you have any questions or would like to sign up for one or more of these classes, contact Pete Kennedy at 828.254.1921 x289 or email pkennedy(at)abtech.edu.

You can learn more about the GIS Certificate and ABTech by following

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Buncombe County Preliminary FEMA Map Review

I thought I would post this for anyone who is interested in the process of the floodplain mapping.

From the Asheville-Citizen Times (http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200771128023)

New Buncombe County flood insurance rate maps available for public review

by staff reports

published November 28, 2007 9:59 am

Raleigh – Three meetings are scheduled in Buncombe County for residents and the business community to review and ask questions about preliminary copies of newly updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps developed for the French Broad River Basin.


The meetings are:

Black Mountain - Tuesday, December 11th. Maps will be on display beginning at 6:00 p.m.; a presentation on the material will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Black Mountain Public Safety Building, 106 Montreat Road, in Black Mountain.

• Enka - Wednesday, December 12th. Maps will be on display beginning at 12:30 p.m.; a presentation on the material will begin at 1:00 p.m. at the A-B Tech Enka Campus, in the Haynes Building, Room 200, 1459 Sand Hill Road in Enka.

Asheville - Thursday, December 13th. The maps will be on display beginning at 6:00 p.m.; a presentation on the material will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Asheville Public Works Building, large conference room (Room A109), 161 S. Charlotte Street, in Asheville.

Digital versions of the three Buncombe County preliminary maps are currently available for public review by contacting your local planning department or searching the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping website at www.ncfloodmaps.com.

County and municipal officials will be on hand at each of the three sites to help residents locate particular properties on the maps and determine their level of flood risk. Representatives from the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program and North Carolina Floodplain Management will make short presentations on the map production process, features of the new maps, how they can be used to reduce future losses due to flooding, and their connection with flood insurance and floodplain management. Attendees may also see a demonstration of the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Information System. Following the presentation, state and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives will be available to answer questions about the mapping process, flood insurance coverage, and floodplain management topics.

The three meetings provide an opportunity for residents to see the results of the advanced digital technology used to create the new flood maps. Black Mountain residents should go to the presentation in Black Mountain, Asheville residents to the Asheville meeting and county residents to the Enka meeting

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WNC GIS Gathering this week!

When: Thursday, Dec. 29th - 5:00pm - until
Where: Asheville Pizza Company - Downtown on Coxe Ave.

Come visit and see what's going on with the world of GIS

Madison County GIS Day POSTPONED

The Madison County GIS Day WILL NOT BE HELD THIS SATURDAY (DEC. 1). It will be rescheduled for sometime in January. Check back for details.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Other GIS Day events

If you haven't seen all the great GIS Day events going on in the mountains, Greg Dobson did a great job of summarizing them all on http://mrgac.blogspot.com. Check it out - see you Friday!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

GIS Day schedule of events

For Friday, November 9th - hosted by AB Tech with tons of great participants.

Check the schedule of events here!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

GIS DAY 2007 - Celebration of all things GIS in and around Asheville

Start planning now to come see what's going with GIS in and around Asheville on Friday, November 9th. The event is being held at the AB Tech Asheville campus and promises to be exciting. Thanks to all the sponsors and demonstrators who are making this happen. They include:
  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College – GIS Certificate Program
  • Buncombe County - GIS Department
  • City of Asheville – GIS Department
  • ESRI - Scott Wolter (Charlotte Office)
  • FGDC / GeoMaxim – Linda Wayne
  • NC Center for Geographic Information and Analysis
  • Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI)
  • Resource Data Inc. - Neil Thomas
  • UNC Asheville - National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC)

We'll have presentations of all the latest internet-based GIS applications from the City and County, the NC CGIA will be on hand talking about state level GIS coordination, Linda Wayne from GeoMaxim and FGDC will be talking standards and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure and cross-organizational geospatial collaboration, ESRI will be represented by Scott Wolter, Neil Thomas will be here showing some of his exciting work at Resource Data Inc., NEMAC will be here with the GeoDome and RENCI emergency response van and much much more.

WHEN? Friday, November 9th, 2007. 9:00am - 2:00pm

WHERE? AB TECH Asheville Campus - Balsam Building

WHAT? Open House event with lots of demonstrations. Come drop in or stay all day!

More information - see http://gis.esri.com/gisday/detail.cfm?id=9093

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Monthly GIS Gathering

Did anyone see last week Gmaps became easily embeddable into your website or blog? With our monthly meeting coming up this Thursday (thanks Leo and Neil for keeping those email announcements coming) I thought I'd put a little map here in case people don't know where the Asheville Brewing Company is (not the one on Merrimon Ave.) Come join us to talk about what's going on in the world of GIS or anything else that comes to mind!

View Larger Map

Friday, August 3, 2007

The GeoWeb and Geospatial Standards or Huh, What's That?

Here at the City of Asheville we've focused a lot of energy on enhancing our online GIS offerings.

Several months back I ran across across some information for the GeoWeb conference that occurred last week. I decided to skip my usual trip to the ESRI conference this year and instead learn a little bit more about the GeoWeb. This concept of a GeoWeb means a lot of different things to a lot of different folks. I think the focus of the conference is best summed up as the convergence of geospatial information, emerging web technologies, and standards. The conference was amazing. Keep an eye on their web page for the proceedings to be posted.

I'd like to share some of this experience with our local/regional GIS community...

Being in a small venue with only 150-200 people and hearing folks like Jack Dangermond (owner ESRI), Vincent Cerf (co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet), Michael Jones (CTO Google Earth), and Vincent Tao (director Microsoft Virtual Earth) was pretty cool. To hear Vincent Cerf and Jack Dangermond politely debate points and to be able to watch Michael Jones' facial expressions at the same is a great opportunity for insight on the industry!

The breathtaking pace of standards based innovation is what made the most lasting impression on me. Anybody here know what GML, WMS, WFS, WFS-T, WCS are? Your organization may have a WMS service that feeds NCOneMap but I challenge you to see if it is up and running... More than half of the services listed in NCOneMap catalog appear to be inaccessible. I'll use my own organization to make my point. Until this morning the WMS service that we thought was feeding NCOneMap was down and has probably been down for over a year. Unfortunately, standards have not been on the forefront of our ESRI-biased minds. I'm determined to change that. Important efforts like NCOneMap and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure rely on standards. Check out the Open Geospatial Consortium for loads of good info on standards that should be important to us.

Speaking of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, SDI is about become an acronym that we should all be familiar with. GIS finally meets IT in the mainstream.

Bunches of great opensource geospatial tools out there these days... my staff grimaces at the prospect but I have a vision of creating a separate opensource/standards-based application stack to handle our web mapping needs. Take a look at OSGeo for the latest happenings in that realm.

I'll get off my soapbox in a moment but I'd like to draw your attention to a sweet little free download from the Carbon Project : Gaia 3. This application will allow you to pull in map services (standards based) from just about anywhere you please and overlay them on the fly (one big downside: no re-projection). You can pull in Google Earth KML files, Microsoft Virtual Earth imagery, Yahoo! transparent roads, local goverment data, federal data, etc. It's a real quick and easy way to mash-up content from just about anywhere. Just think what might be possible if all of us in our local/regional GIS community implemented OGC standards and could quickly mash-up up our data on the fly... large-scale disaster response is what first comes to my mind but the possibilities are truly limitless. Download Gaia and an example file that I've posted here and check it out.

If ya can't tell, I'm pretty excited about some things that I've learned recently!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The WNCGIS Gathering July 26, 2007

The WNCGIS July Gathering took place at the Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Ave in downtown Asheville. We had a robust turnout and more interesting conversations than I could keep track of. We had a few new people join in the fun, including the esteemed Eric Ringler (from Polaris Maps) and Sherry Ingram (who recently started an Environmental Consulting Company). We also got the news that Danitza Earl has a new job with a Land Trust. She might make a blog post soon about the details. In other news, the URISA and GITA conference is coming up in Charlotte on September 5th. It sounds like it will be a packed conference; Neil Thomas and I should be presenting some of our work there.

Monday, July 23, 2007

New GIS Certificate underway at AB Tech

Interested in how you can use GIS to better do your job or just wondering what all the buzz is about? Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College is now offering a 4-course certificate in GIS. The current course offerings can be seen below.

GIS 111 - Introduction to GIS
GIS 121 - Georeferencing and Mapping
GIS 215 - GIS Data Models
and one of the following other courses:
CIS 110 - Computer concepts
CIS 115 - Introduction to Programming and logic or
DBA 110 - Database Concepts

AB Tech is taking a unique approach to teaching Geospatial Technology by offering classes in the Computer Information Technology Department. This approach will allow GIS, GPS and other related technologies to be taught in the broader context of information systems while capitalizing on existing programs and certificates already at the college in Web Technologies, Database Technologies, and Interactive Multimedia. This certificate provides a strong foundation in Geospatial Technologies with more classes planned in the Database, Web and Multimedia programs.

Come take GIS from ESRI Authorized Instructors and Trimble Certified Trainers at AB Tech!

See the fall schedule of GIS classes below -

For more information.... see our blog below

or you could always call, email or stop by with any questions!
pkennedy (at) abtech.edu
828.254.1921 x289

Monday, July 2, 2007

Hawth's Tools

So this is probably not new and exciting to everyone else, but I recently ran across the Hawth's Analysis Tool Set available at http://www.spatialecology.com/. This is an extremely useful set of tools for anyone doing any type of ecology work with ArcMap as it expands Arc's functionality in this area.

So far the features that I have found most useful and the biggest time savers are the ability to generate random points and the ability to create evenly spaced grid shapefiles. It also has other features which I have yet to exploit including animal movement simulation.

Perhaps the most attractive part of this tool is that it is completely free and it easily installs and integrates with the Arc products. Please don't let me limited review deter you, this is definitely something worth checking out.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

JAVA / GIS Contract job

Hi all,

I had someone inquire about a good JAVA programmer with some GIS experience for a 3 month contract job. I thought I would post it here to see if there is any interest. Please pass along to anyone you can think of that may be able to do this kind of work. This is the kind of work that would be great to keep in our local pool of talent without having to outsource.

Java Programmer With GIS Experience

Lab Escape is looking for an experienced Java programmer with GIS experience to add geographic mapping capabilities into our visual analysis software. Experience with GeoTools is a plus. This is a contract position for 3 months. Development firms with relevant experience may apply. If interested, please contact Trevor Lohrbeer at resumes@labescape.com.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The May 30th WNCGIS Gathering

The May Gathering at Dirty Jacks in downtown Asheville was another fun time for everyone in our GIS community. We got a chance to look at the maps for the Map Contest, and everyone put in a vote for their favorite. Although all the maps were very nice, I'm pleased to announce that the ever-industrious Josh O'Conner had the most votes. He won a coveted Malaprops Gift Certificate. To the left you can see him proudly displaying his prize.

A Big "Thank You" goes out to everyone who participated in the Map Contest. We hope that we will continue to get support and entries for the contest, so that we can select a winner or two bi-monthly. As you may recall, having a theme of some kind for each contest cycle was one idea, so if anyone would like to see a particular theme for the next contest, let us know.

Friday, June 1, 2007


I thought I would post some information on the CommunityViz software package and some of its more useful features. The package functions as an extension for the ArcGIS products. It allows for the creation of dynamic data that allows for scenarios to be created in a sort of "What if?" analysis.

I have just been toying with it a little over a week and I intend to use to construct some data correlating Hemlock die back with stream temperature increases. The program seems to be primarily designed to use in community planning operations but can be extended for more ecological centered uses.

In order to learn the basics of the program I began toying around with average parcel slope data in Buncombe county. I then set a dynamic threshold on allowable slope percentage within the parcels (so that it would be easy to understand the volume of parcels that would be affected by various limitations on development in sloped areas). The first map is set with a maximum allowable slope of somewhere around 20% (yes, low, I know). Using the slider bar with the variable constructed in CommunityViz, the map can be updated dynamically to show what would happen should an ordinance be proposed that barred development on in parcels with slopes that are greater than 45%.

In order to understand how CommunityViz could perform with weighing two variables within a single map I constructed a similar analysis that factored in parcel slope and distance to a city. Say in case a developer was looking for a location to build a retirement community and wanted to select land that wouldn't be too steep, thus deterring older occupants; at the same time this developer would want to build within reasonable proximity to the cities of Flat Rock or Hendersonville because of their notoriety among retirees. The first map shows both factors with equal weight. The second shows what would occur if the developer became less concerned with parcel slope but really wanted to cash in on people heading toward Flat Rock or Hendersonville.

One last feature worth noting is the seamless integration with the Google Earth platform. Following the analysis of the Buncombe County slopes, I exported the data to Google Earth so that it could be made accessible to a wider user base (this is with the data with maximum slope set at 20%).

Clicking on the thumbnails will yield better pictures and I will post more as I play with the program more.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Workshop on Photogrammetry

Janet Lowe has been in contact with Gary Thompson at NC Geodetic Survey (Gary.Thompson@ncmail.net) about offering a workshop on photogrammetry for those who will be working with or running ortho projects for their organization. Instructors have been assembled from across the state to help teach local governments more about the photogrammetry process, new technologies, standards, etc.

Dates and locations of the workshops will be as follows:
1. July 18: Asheville, NC at the City of Asheville Public Works building.8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Contact Janet Lowe (janet.lowe@buncombecounty.org) or Jason Mann (JMann@ashevillenc.gov)
2. August (first or second week): East Carolina University, GIScienceCenter (Greenville, NC). 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Contact Karen Mulcahy(
MULCAHYK@ecu.edu or mulcahyk@yahoo.com)
3. October 2-3: Raleigh, NC (in conjunction with the NCPMA conference).Contact Gary Thompson (

1. Lunch is NOT provided, -- although if someone wants to help provide, that'd be wonderful.
2. Agenda: Draft agenda is listed below. If you have suggestions on othertopics that may be of interest, please contact Gary Thompson.
3. Photogrammetry concepts: collinearity, orientation, resection, intersection, and aerotriangulation
4. Photogrammetry systems: film cameras, scanning, digital frame cameras, and digital time dependent cameras
5. Geodetic control: NCGS GPS CORS, ground GPS surveys for photo control and check point control, GPS IMU systems for cameras, and NAD 83(NSRS2007)
6. Elevation data: LIDAR compilation vs. LIDAR-photogrammetric compilation
7. Orthophoto production processes: rectification versus orthorectification, mosaicing, tiling, and pixel resolution
8. Image formats and techniques: TIFF, MRSID, compression, overviews, and tiling
9. Data storage options
10. Quality Control (QC) concepts: geometric accuracy, elevated structure distortion, edge match, and tone balance Selection processes: Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) vs. bidding

Attendance: Hosts of the meeting will work with Gary Thompson to ensure that you receive credit as needed (certificate of attendance) for ongoing professional education. This seminar will count as 6.5 PDHs. Please contact hosts to let them know of your attendance, so we have an accurate head count.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Pix from the April 26th WNC GIS Beer Meeting

Our meeting on April 26th was a lot of fun, and we chose a random winner for the Trivia Contest. Gene was the lucky winner and he was presented with a brand-new copy of the acclaimed book The Ghost Map. Here you can see Gene (with Jason) to his left) joyfully opening the book's wrapping. The other photo of the whole group captured most of the people who turned out at the Asheville Brewing Company. Thanks to everyone who joined us!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Focus Group Needed

So as a continuation of my first post... I am in need of some assistance on the Campus Mapping project I am working on. After having it reviewed by members of the UNCA campus community, I realize that it is in need of review by people that aren't as emotionally attached to certain aspects of the campus or particular viewing perspective. If anyone could do me a huge favor and take a look at the map and give me their feedback I would greatly appreciate it. I am open to any suggestions at all. This particular map is a print map for first time visitors to the campus and maybe a tool to some of the students who may not be familiar with more obscure buildings.

Here's the link. The map images are on the left and you can click on them to enlarge them to print-size.

My e-mail is JoshDOTOConnerATgmailDOTcom (substitute appropriate symbols for bold text)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reader survey: open source tools

Hi folks,

I'm interested in hearing about what, if any, open source GIS tools are being used by members of the WNC GIS group. It was clear at the NCGIS conference in March that there is a vibrant open source GIS community in the state -- is the same true for our group? If you are using open source tools, please post a reply comment to this posting and let us know what you are using and why.

Neil may think this is a blatant 11th hour attempt to boost my chances for today's book drawing (and okay, so maybe it is), but I really would like to know more about any open source efforts out there....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Haiti: The Salt of the Ocean

We continue to track the efforts of Demeter Russafov (once from Asheville) and his associate Ewan Bloomfield who are both with AMURT in Haiti. (Great Volunteer Opportunity - Mapping Haiti Salt Ponds ) As you may remember Ewan has initiated a GIS/GPS study as part of AMURT's effort to redevelop salt ponds in Haiti. Today I had an email from Ewan and he has put together this update on his project. If you have interest in spending 4 or 5 weeks in Haiti to help on this project please contact Ewan.
Dear Neil
I am sorry that I have not written for a while, but have been bogged
down with other things.

The first WFP food arrived and we have been trying to start the work on the first new salt production methods. I have finally been able to write something for the blog about the salt production and our plans. I would also like to write something about the irrigation canal project which also has a GPS aspect and will do this when I have time. Unfortunately the lady from WFP has been away for quite a while, and although I have been pressurizing her about the database project she has still not been able to come up with anything - I will persist though!!!

Hope all is well with you and the GIS beer evenings are going well.
Best regards

The Salt Ponds in Haiti--a brief history
Although salt has been produced in the north west of Haiti for a long time, it has always been produced using a very archaic method, which is generally now not used in many parts of the world. The main area of salt production is in the coastal region of the north-west Artibonite, in the north west of Haiti, which consists of flat-lying mudflats, with high clay content (see GE photo above). The surrounding area is very dry and desertified, having undergone extensive deforestation in the recent and historical past, and is now only able to support limited agriculture, often only in areas close to natural water sources, which are very limited. The coastal areas have particularly harsh living conditions, with limited opportunities for commercial activity, thus making solar salt production a highly attractive financial activity. Basins, approximately 40 metres by 50 metres, are dug to a depth of 2 to 3 metres, and filled with salt water through channels. The basins are then left for between 3 to 6 months until the brine reaches a high enough salinity level where crystallisation can start to take place, and the salt can be collected by hand.

In October 2004 Hurricane Jeanne hit the north west of Haiti, which caused widespread devastation and destruction, including great loss of life. The hurricane greatly intensified the already high level of poverty, and the effects are still being felt today by the local population. The vast majority of the salt basins were also destroyed by the Hurricane when the soil from the inland areas became liquefied and flowed towards the ocean, often completely filling them. Only the more wealthy salt producers who had some form of savings, or who live or have family overseas, were able to rehabilitate their salt basins. The vast majority of the basins still currently remain out of production.
AMURT-Haiti started a food-for-work programme, funded by the WFP, in 2006, which resulted in the successful rehabilitation of 40 salt basins, which are now producing salt. A second food-for-work programme has just begun and work will hopefully begin during April, 2007. The second programme, which is much more extensive, will focus on both the rehabilitation of the salt basins as well as on the introduction of a more modern method of solar salt production, called the rational, or modern, method. The plan for the new six month project is to form a cooperative system in each of the four main salt production villages. Each cooperative system will involve the rehabilitation of a group of basins to form a complete integrated, rational method production system. The rational method requires the introduction of the brine from the sea and then the subsequent transfer from one basin to the next in systematic circuit, with the brine successively increasing in salinity. The rational method also involves the division of the basins into three types, with the largest reservoir basins, the intermediate concentrator basins, and finally the much smaller crystalliser basins, where the salt is collected.
As well as allowing the more regular production of salt, approximately every two weeks, the rational method also produces a significantly higher quality of salt. This cleaner salt does not need to be washed by the consumers, as is happening at present, and means that the salt can start to be iodised. The added iodine adheres to the outside of the salt grains, so when it is washed the iodine is removed. Haiti is a country which has been identified as suffering from iodine deficiency, which can result in such medical conditions as goiters, cretinism and brain damage. The iodisation of all salt produced in Haiti will hopefully significantly reduce, or even eliminate this condition. Many international medical groups are committed to making sure this happens in the near future (UNICEF, WHO, WFP, MI).
One aspect of the next project is the possibility of producing a GIS database. At present very little is known about the solar salt production industry, apart from that it is mainly produced in the north west of Haiti. It is not know how many basins have been constructed, how many basin owners or producers there are, or even how much salt is produced each year or what happens to the salt. The intention of creating a database is to define the outline of every basin, and then link this information to the owner, the producer and the current capacity of each basin. This will help define the current production, as well as to estimate the potential future production, and increase the efficiency of production, transportation and distribution of the salt. As there are many interconnected aspects to the solar salt production, the idea is to produce a database that can be kept up to date, and can trace the development of the salt production zone over time, including such things as the rate of iodisation of the salt, and rate of incorporation of the new rational method of salt production.
Contact info:

UNCA Campus Mapping Project

Hi, I'm Josh O'Conner a student of UNCA/NEMAC and Haywood Community College. I
just wanted to make a quick post about the Campus Mapping Project at UNCA being conducted by the UNCA Transportation Department and NEMAC.
The original maps used by the campus were incorrectly oriented and weren't spatially accurate. The intent behind the project was to be able to offer maps that were spatially accurate as well as providing the framework for GIS data that could benefit the UNCA transportation department. The hope was to be able to provide a GIS solution that would not only produce the map needed currently, but would allow the transportation department to be able to generate maps independently for specific needs.

The map was created using existing data available in CAD formats and then digitizing missing information from the 2002 orthographic photos. Due to the evolution of the campus from 2002 to present additional orthos were integrated by georeferencing some of the Google Earth imagery. The framework of the map is very near completion and ideally we will be able to offer the map to UNCA faculty and staff through the ArcReader software. The ArcReader application will include certain attribute information useful to the campus staff. Other plans for the map include web applications for visitors and a possible overlay for Google Earth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

WNCGIS Gathering: THURSDAY, April 26th

WNCGIS Gathering is a casual gathering in a GIS atmosphere

Date: Thursday April 26th, 2007
Where: Asheville Brewing Company, 77 Coxe Avenue, Asheville
NC 28804, Telephone: 254-1281
Time: ~ 5:00pm until 7:00. Stay as long as you like.
Topic of the month: Whatever is on your mind
Edibles: Munchies are free. Buy your own drink.
Transportation: Walk, Take a bus, Take a taxi. Designate a driver. Drink responsibly

Answers to the Map Trivia Quiz, April 2007

If you submitted an answer to the Map Trivia Question you are now in contention for the prize: The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson generously provided by Malaprop's Book Store. You can still enter the drawing by showing up on Thursday at the WNCGIS Gathering.

Random drawing will occur at the WNCGIS Gathering, April 26th at Asheville Brewing at 77 Coxe Avenue, Asheville (down from the post office)

For Buncombe County, NC:

1) Approximately how many "private" acres have been converted from Rural to Developed Lands since the end of 1990?

~45,630 acres

2) What is the approximate rate of change (acres/year) over the past 16 years from "private" Rural Lands to private Developed Lands?

~2,85o acres/year

3) How many years will it take to convert the remaining "private" Rural Land to Developed Land if the rate of change continues at its current pace?

~61 years

It must be assumed that the same rate of change will apply into the future--big assumption!

Welcome to the suburbs!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

WNCGIS Map Trivia Contest Rules!

If you read the Blog regularly, or if you contribute to the Blog, you have a pretty darn good chance of becoming one of the monthly “Wieners.”
Here is the way this near-random drawing/competition works.
1) A “Did you know?” Map Trivia question is presented on the Blog early in the month.
2) You should
a. Check the Map Trivia question on the Blog
b. Assess the question,
c. Review the reference info if you have time and
d. Submit your guess or answer to wncgis@gmail.com.
Trivia Contest Entries
1) If your answer to the question IS CLOSE, your name is entered into the drawing (single entry). “IS CLOSE” is defined as anyone who submits any answer. This ain’t rocket science.
2) If your answer is “EXACT” (the same answer as we have) you get two entries into the drawing. Sometimes there may not be an exact answer so if you are hovering around the same answer we have, that answer is EXACT, This is the judge’s call. This ain’t rocket science.

Blog entries.
3) If you also contribute a MEANINGFUL blog entry, you receive an additional entry in the drawing for each posting
4) To qualify you have to be on the email list. Those people on the review team are excluded.
Only first guesses count.

If you submit several guesses, only the first guess will count. You have to use the email address that we have on the mailing list.

At the end of the month at the WNCGIS gathering someone in the crowd will select a “wiener.”

So at this moment David Abernathy is in the lead with his single Blog posting. Actually he will have to make a guess at the Map Trivia Question before he becomes a contestant.

The Map Trivia Contest Prize: a book from Malaprops Bookstore

If Abernathy wins this month he will get a copy of the book, The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson ($26.95 value). This book is donated by Malaprops Bookstore. These folks are great! I like Abernathy a lot, but I would hate for him to win the prize from just one blog entry.
Statistical chances are pretty good.
At this point Abernathy has a great chance of winning the first book. He has no competition. However, there are over 60 people on the email list. Abernathy’s worst nightmare is that everyone on the list submits an answer and a blog entry. But the reality is that for this first month, the chances may be more like 1:10 or 1:25.

Contest Entries
Send your answers to The Map Trivia question to wncgis@gmail.com. I will collect your responses to the Map Trivia Contest question. And remember
If you are close you get 1 entry.
If you are exact, you get 2 entries.
If you post a Blog entry we will pull your name from the Blog.
If you show up at the WNCGIS Meeting Thursday, April 26th, then you get one additional entry.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Did you know?

The WNCGIS Map Trivia (not a rocket scientist) Contest

Answer the 3 questions below and submit your answers to WNCGIS@gmail.com by April 24th and you could be the winner of the book, The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, courtesy of Malaprop's Bookstore! (See separate posts about our contest sponsor, and the Map Trivia Contest Rules)

Buncombe County is a little over 422,000 acres in size. Approximately 58,000 of those acres are held in Public Lands. About 190,480 acres are Developed Lands (developed = less than 10 acres in size) at the end of 2006. We also know that at the beginning of 1991 there were 219,151 acres of Private Rural Lands (parcels greater than or equal to 10 acres in size) according to our parcel density calculations. Now we would like to see how things are changing.

1) Approximately how many acres have been converted from Rural to Developed Lands since the end of 1990?

2) What is the approximate rate of change (acres/year) over the past 16 years from Rural Lands to Developed Lands?

3) How many years will it take to convert the remaining Rural Land to Developed Land if the rate of change continues at its current pace?

Clue #1: Total Acres = Public Lands + Private Rural Lands + Private Developed Lands
Clue #2: Change in Rural Lands = 1990 Rural Lands – 2006 Rural Lands
Clue #3: The time period between 1990 and 2006, between data collection dates, is very close to a full 16 years.
Other clues may be found elsewhere in the blog.

1. Raw data for this quiz was gathered from Buncombe County Land Records at various points since the end of 1990.
2. Urban-rural acres are extracted via parcel density calculations.
3. Public lands are delineated by the NC Natural Heritage “Managed Area” data from early 2006. Most of this land is public. For this exercise, we are assuming this acreage is 100% public but we know small amounts are private landowner conservation easements.
4. This method overestimates Private Rural Land acres because road rights-of-way are included in this sum. For example, larger interstate interchanges such as those located on I-40, I-240 and I-26 will show up as rural land.
5. Rural and Developed Lands definitions mirror NRCS size classes in their NRI Rural and Urban & Develop Lands classifications.

Answers to these questions will be posted on the Blog on April 26th. The drawing for the book will happen at the WNCGIS Gathering on that same date. Please submit your best guesses to these questions by April 24th to WNCGIS@gmail.com in order to enter the contest. You may be the lucky winner. You do not need to be present to win.

Malaprop's Bookstore, Our Sponsor for the Map Trivia Contest

Malaprop’s Bookstore is now our official WNCGIS Map Trivia Contest sponsor. Malaprop’s has been in business about 25 years, an independent bookstore located at 55 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville.

As a sponsor of the WNCGIS Map Trivia Contest, Malaprop’s is (1) donating a book each month to our regional mapping community to be distributed through the WNCGIS Map Trivia Contest (Please read the WNCGIS Map Trivia Contest Rules for instructions on how to enter the contest). Also (2) each book we review on the blog will be offered at Malaprop’s for a month at a 10% discount in the bookclub section.

Emoke B’Racz, Malaprop’s owner, is committed to making Malaprop’s the “best little bookstore in the land” and is doing a great job of it. The bookstore is a mainstay in the downtown, my favorite meeting spot. “I wanted Malaprop’s to be a place where poetry matters, where women’s words are as important as men’s, where one is surprised by excellence, where good writing has a home, where I could nurture my addiction to literature, and play, enjoy, and entertain people drawn to quality books” she explains.

I met Emoke when Malaprops first opened in 1982. My wife and I were running a dorm at Warren Wilson College. Emoke visited our dorm with slides and stories of her travels around the southern tip of South America. Many of the dorm-kids who heard the stories went on to work at Malaprop’s over the years and many were inspired to travel overseas for extended periods.

Emoke left Hungary as a political exile. Her experiences during this period have strongly influenced her views of the world and the goals for the bookstore. “I cannot overemphasize my passion to provide a space where freedom of expression is supported, where important literature ‘from authors backed by major publishers to those who self-publish’ is available to all, where censorship has no place, where respect and service are practiced daily, where women feel safe, where all are welcome, and where the books are the stars.

The bookstore is a beacon in the community and dedicated to promoting the well-being of our community. Malaprop's supports organization like the Women’s Shelter, the Rape Crisis Center, the YWCA, and the local NPR stations to name a few. The local TV and newspapers staff visit the bookstore regularly to conduct interviews and opinion polls to capture the pulse of the Asheville community.

See you down at Malaprop’s!
Look for our WNCGIS selection with the other bookclub books.

The Ghost Map, A Book Review

TITLE: The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World
AUTHOR: Steven Berlin Johnson
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Books
RELEASE: October 19th 2006

The Ghost Map links a deadly cholera epidemic in 1854 London to a contaminated drinking water source. The empirical evidence assembled by John Snow and his associates clash with the accepted scientific beliefs of the time. The descriptions of the sewage drains, the cesspools and basements full of human excrement provide a vivid image of the times. You can almost smell the conditions.

Convincing the establishment of the causal relationship was difficult even though the puzzle pieces are fit together relatively quickly. The cholera maps served to arrange the pieces into an image that strongly suggests a linkage between the cholera and the water pump. Snow’s Voronoi diagram, separate from Snow’s point/bar map, illustrates the distance from each home to a water pump in time. Both maps represented important mapping techniques in epidemiology of the times. (See reference to paper by Tom Koch, below)

The more frightening aspects of the book are the author's (Steven Johnson) musings in the Conclusions and Epilogue. Though technological advances proceed at a thundering rate, infrastructure development continues to lag behind the needs. We can certainly pack more people into smaller spaces with the appropriate infrastructure and management. But in an evolving urban environment it is hard to know what infrastructure and management are needed. And when things go wrong within a densely populated area, the impacts can be devastating.

As population increases globally and locally, the demand for better management of our public health and safety increase. There is a significant lag time between our scientific understanding and the implementation of public safeguards that reflect and address these understandings as is evidenced in the cholera epidemics of the 1800’s. Since the western NC floods of 2004, we still have not acknowledged the basic relationships between impervious surface, storm water runoff and increased flooding. TVA published a report in 1962, Floods on the Swannanoa and Flat Creek, Vicinity of Black Mountain and Montreat North Carolina, outlining the long history of flooding in the Swannanoa Valley. Dunne and Leopold published their definitive summary of hydro-studies, Water in the Environmental Planning text in 1978, which is still used in classrooms today. The Coweta Hydrologic Labs and NOAA’s National Center for Climatic Data Center—centers of flood modeling and data—are located in our back yard. But in spite of the well established science, local resources and history, winning over the majority of our decision-makers may require one or more additional insults to the public’s health and safety; perhaps another slope failure, another flood, a hazardous materials accident or spill in a densely populated area.

Western North Carolina, like the rest of the world, is urbanizing quickly. If the subdivision rates continue as it has over the past 16 years, Buncombe County’s private lands will be fully urbanized in 61 years (all private parcels will be less than 10 acres in size). Macon County will reach the same point in 30 years. The additional infrastructure and regulation to protect the public’s health will follow.

Planning for the future may well be more desirable scenario than crisis management stimulated by some disastrous event. While observing the London of today, we may be seeing into our own future in western North Carolina. “The average Londoner can expect to be caught on surveillance video hundreds of times daily. After the (July 7, 2006 tube) bombings, investigators reviewed well over 6,000 CCTV tapes.” We have a lot more to lose in western NC that just our mountainsides as we are continue to shift from a rural to an urban landscape.

The Author
Primary Map of Water Pumps and Deaths
UCLA Dept of Epidemiology, The Maps, Great Site…
National Geographic Site on John Snow
Tom Koch, The Map as Intent: Variations on the Theme of John Snow
Cartographies of Disease-ESRI Press

Today’s Infrastructure Advances, Video Surveillance
CSO, The Resource for Security Executives

Steven Berlin Johnson, the author, talking about the book

Thursday, April 5, 2007

GoogleMaps implements MyMaps

The social computing and GIS revolution continue to racing foward today with Google releasing a new 'My Maps' tab on Google Maps. This new feature allows users to easily create and share geo-specific content using their mapping API. Over the past 2 years, thousands of mash-ups have been created using Google Maps and now it has become even easier. There are tools for creating point, line and polygons on your map as well as saving to a URL, KML, emailing and printing. Of course your maps can be made public or private. Go give it a try!


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Did You Know?

Idea #3 .

"Did You Know?" is a great place to post bits and pieces of the trivia (and sometimes more important statistics) that you work with every day. It is a great way to amuse your WNCGIS friends and associates. People will start asking, "--do you really do this all day?"

Did you know that there are 1257 non-profit organization registered in Buncombe County, NC as of March 2007? Eighty seven (87) new non-profits have been registered since June of 2006. Mapping the functional and geographic overlap of these non-profits must be a constant interest of the county and regional grant-makers!

Dear Ms/Mr GIS, Can you help me please?

Idea #2
Got a technical geo-question that you can't answer? Use the Blog to get your questions out to the WNCGIS community. Community members can respond via blog comments or by making a new posting. You may be surprised at the number of people who will empathize with your situation, help solve your problem, or who will appreciate your knowledge. We have numerous GIS educators in the group. Below is one of my technical issues. If you have any ideas please respond.

I would like to use cellphones as a data collection tool for a research team. The team will be documenting a variety of environmental conditions across western NC. To do this the cellphones must first have the capability to take photographs (most do). Most cellphones also contain some type of GPS and time function. With this, the researcher should be able to email a photo with a time stamp and GPS coordinate soon after the photo is taken.

Does anyone have any experience with or knowledge of how to extract the GPS coordinate and the time stamp with the photo image? If you have any answers or ideas please leave a comment, or post your answer to the blog.


Make a Post to the WNCGIS Blog

We need your input, your thoughts, and your ideas. Everybody comes to the GIS World from a different place, either in time, space or concept. Some folks are nuts about hardware, some are driven by software and programming, some are application-focused, and some just have a different drummer altogether. And nobody knows it all.

You ideas are important! Your projects are important. Your knowledge and skill sets are important–not just to you but to your WNCGIS community.

We will be posting BLOG Ideas over the next few weeks. If you find a heading of special interest, perhaps you can be the advocate for that topic and work to keep the conversation going. That is what it is all about, building the community and maintaining a lively dialog.

Contact Pete Kennedy and he can get you started posting your thoughts and ideas to the BLOG.

Idea #1. Showcase your pet GIS project, new grant, or Web-based application on the WNCGIS blog. Post a discussion, images, hyperlinks, reviews or other info about the project. Jason Mann and Dave Michelson from the City of Asheville loaded their entire mapAsheville API on the blog. David Abernathy from Warren Wilson College posted his most recent $100,000 grant.

The WNCGIS community is far from boring. We know that Southwings' has its Mountaintop Removal info featured in Google Earth's Featured Content. SAHC is working on a geo-based parcel ranking system. The Madison 4-H GIS/GPS club is geo-caching the Buncombe Turnpike, NEMAC is modeling hydrology in Biltmore Village. And McConville's 3-D visualization dome I hear is awesome. The WNCGIS community is this and more.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Warren Wilson receives grant for GIS project in Panama

Warren Wilson College and an environmental conservation organization in Panama have been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Panamanian Secretaria Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion (SENACYT). The grant will be used by the college and the organization Conservation through Research, Education and Action (CREA) to research and implement ageographic information system (GIS) and wireless sensor network on the 1,000-acre Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama. The reserve is part of the largest contiguous rainforest in Central America.

"I'm excited about the project because it focuses on both sustainability and cross-cultural education," said Geography Professor David Abernathy,who coauthored the grant application with Michael Roy, CREA executive director. Abernathy anticipates "some type of student exchange so that WWC students can work in Panama and hopefully a Panamanian student can workand/or study at Warren Wilson."

Abernathy said another focal point of the project will be the use of "green computing" techniques. The computing equipment not only will be designed to minimize power consumption, but also will be operated by solar power.The creation of a GIS and wireless sensor network database in Cocobolo Nature Reserve is a vital part of CREA's intent to help meet the sustainable development goals of Panama. CREA intends to utilize the reserve as the testing center for a system that would combine the following: traditional knowledge system of local farmers and landholders; research on sustainable agriculture and natural resource protection from higher education institutions and non-governmental organizations; and the latest technology for collecting, analyzing and disseminating environmental data in the form of a comprehensive system for managing and distributing geographic and environmental data.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Map Design Survey - North American Cartographic Information Society

How good are you at designing maps? How much about designing maps did you learn on your own? Did you have classes in map design? How about graphic design in general? With geospatial technologies and mapping in general creeping in to the hands of just about everyone, are maps getting better or worse?

These are the kinds of questions the North American Cartographic Information Society are trying to answer with their Map Design Survey.

Take 5 minutes to complete the survey and help our profession grow!

I stumbled onto this survey while browsing one of my favorite sites...


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Announcing the WNC GIS Map Contest

Some of us involved with the monthly WNC GIS meetings have been brainstorming an idea for a contest that we hope will allow a variety of people to show off their personal projects, showcase their mapping talent, and raise awareness about important issues in the WNC area. This email is intended to provide the information needed to get you, your students, or colleagues engaged in the contest. If possible, I intend to follow-up soon with a phone call to see what you think.

Purpose and Process

The idea is for people to submit an original map product to the WNC GIS Users Group for review. A panel of map experts (your peers) will review the submissions. Initially the odds of winning are probably pretty darn good because our mailing list is not very long. In order to become eligible you must be on the WNC-GIS’s mailing list (email me, Leo Klausmann, at leklausm@yahoo.com to join). The larger goal is to develop a WNC-GIS Map Calendar for 2008. The map will be sold through any sponsors we can muster and online. Any income generated from the sales will pay for the production of the calendars and feed back into contest prizes.

The first submissions will be due May 10th, 2007. A winner will be selected during the May WNC GIS Beer Session (most likely occurring on May 24th). That will give you almost 2 months to get something together. By letting everyone get a chance to look at the various maps that were submitted, hopefully further ideas will be sparked and friendly feedback will be exchanged. Assuming the interest in the contest is there, one approach would be to move to a bi-monthly contest with a rotating volunteer "review board" of perhaps five people.

The Shiny Prizes

Every contest cycle (that is, maybe every two months) two winners will be selected, and they shall win a twenty dollar gift certificate to Malaprops Bookstore, the ego-boosting honor of seeing their map printed in the calendar, as well as a copy of the calendar.

Map Themes

Map themes will evolve around the interests of the review panel but currently there are a few guidlines.

· Some essential and dominant theme or aspect of the map ought to have a regional focus. You can include a larger map area of for example, the Southern Appalachian Region or all of North Carolina.

· How many times have you generated a map whose natural patterns are simply beautiful? Aerial photo patterns, elevation model patterns, soils patterns can be beautiful. If you’d like to, why not abstract them a step further to discover their full artistic potential.

· Cartoon maps or spoof maps are great. Subtle or not so subtle sarcastic maps are fine. Map puns are fine. Any kind of map humor is great. We certainly will accept conventional WNC map themes, but creativity and local/regional themes will help make you a winner.

· The eventual goal of compiling our best maps into a calendar to sold to the general public means that by submitting your map to the contest, you release copyright limitations.

For the first contest cycle, a theme (such as environmental issues, historical perspectives, urban characterization, etc) will not be specifically defined so as not to limit what people can submit. If after the maps are reviewed at the May Beer Session meeting, we all want to decide on a theme for next time, then that theme will be announced.

How do you Submit your Map?

Export your map to a PDF file (very easy to do in ESRI products) and set your DPI to about 300. The filesize of maps varies widely, often because complex rasters or photo material can take up lots of disk space. If your map turns out to be about 10MB or less, then just email it to me, Leo Klausmann, at leklausm@yahoo.com. We want the submitted maps to be of high resolution so that we may easily scale them to fit our calendar, so if your map filesize turns out to be larger, just contact me and we’ll work out a way to transfer it, perhaps by CD-ROM. We hope to bring printed versions of the all the maps to the May Beer Session for all to see. Do keep in mind that people have a range of skill levels and experience, so the maps don’t have to be cartographically perfect.

A Final Word

The organization of this Map Contest so far has been the result of a few brainstorming sessions. The contest is likely to evolve as more people become interested. If you have any ideas on how we could organize it differently, we are more than open to suggestions.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Participatory Sensing Networks: Numerous possibilties

Participatory urban sensing tasks everyday mobile devices, such as cellular phones, to form interactive, participatory sensor networks that enable public and professional users to gather, analyze and share local knowledge. http://maillists.uci.edu/mailman/public/cpcc/2006-November/000056.html

In our recent history we have seen how people-based sensing can impact business-as-usual, through people-based data collection and reporting, from the Rodney King videotapes to Saddam Hussein's execution that was captured with cell phone videography. YouTube is one of many examples of internet outlets that promotes people-based data collection and reporting. Google Earth is another technology allowing one to georeference community data-collection information. Geocaching is a great way to get people into the field to see some specific aspect of the environment. Wikipedia is the web encyclopedia that makes use of the human Internet masses to collect and report information on just about everything. These are only a few of the thousands of free data collection and distribution resources on the WEB.

David Abernathy (Warren Wilson College) passed on several references to Urban Sensing projects at UCLA that have captured and refined this process. David is investigating these methods for use in his own projects. There is incredible value in this low-cost data collection process locally as a data collection tool. The people in-the-field collecting the data are also participating in a self-education process. You can compare the REMAP LA process discussed below with an ongoing community visioning process.

"REMAP will conduct a series of discussions, workshops, and training sessions in association with community organizations throughout Los Angeles. These processes will facilitate citizens' own mapping of their urban networks with personal digital technologies, such as mobile phones, global positioning system (GPS) devices, digital cameras, and geographic information systems (GIS). Their discoveries- expressed in maps, photography, audio and video recordings, and written documentation- will continually update a historical database already being established, and serve as the source materials for collaboratively-created indoor and outdoor media installations, performances and other cultural works…"

We are considering some aspect of this human sensing concept to help put the face on the data for several different projects. What does 60% slope really mean in the report? With a combination of people-sensed data from the site, geocaches that lead you to the site, and Google Earth tours that provide a bird's eye view, the face of the data begins to emerge very clearly.
These applications are some of the most stimulating ideas I have seen coming out of the Internet. There are a zillion uses for these tools locally. As we build our WNCGIS user base across western NC we will be in a great position to test some of these methods within this group.
If anyone knows how to extract and link GPS coordinates to cellphone photos please respond please post a response with some clues.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

shapefile to Google Earth and other useful tools

Thought everyone might be interested in this blog, which has a useful collection of utilities for file conversion and data manipulation.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

mapAsheville API

This post is just a quick demonstration of the mapAsheville - API. Actually, it's our first test of using the API in an existing webpage outside of our own domain... seems to work OK after some trial and error on my part.

As you can see below, we've developed the ability to embed a functional mapAsheville service into an existing webpage. We've got some formative ideas about how this may be able to benefit the community at large and we're already realizng some internal operational benefits from this 'mashup' approach to handing web services.

We've got a long ways to go but I'm excited that it actually works on this blog! Props to Dave Michelson for all of his past and ongoing work on this project!

Give it a try... zooom in, pan around and ID a parcel.

More to come later explaining the mapAsheville efforts...

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Book Review Format for Blog Postings

The Book Review Format for WNCGIS Blog Postings

Below is the format for book reviews that we would like to suggest. Fill in the Title, Author, Publisher, Release Date and Review Submitted By: information as shown below. The LABEL will either be “Review Book” or “Review Technical Book” If you want to review an organization, school, program, project or some other "non-book," you will have to come up with your own format. Use the same labeling scheme as above such as "Review Xxxxx."

Then paste your review and comments about the books. It is also possible to add a picture here as well. WEBLINKS are encouraged. Feel free to link to the author’s web page, the publisher’s web page or some other pertinent review or related information source. We also encourage you to add WEBAUDIO links of interviews with the author or other related discussions.

Google Earth (GE) Links are an option. We are experimenting with the GE animation now, collecting and organizing points related to places in a book. At this time you must include a link in your review to the KMZ file on your FTP site, or send us your KMZ file and we will post it on an FTP site and link it to your review. Try the GE link on The Worst Hard Time book review.

There are a number of scripts on the ESRI site that may help you convert ESRI to KMZ and vice versa.

I will try to get a posting up specifically on how to develop a GE links soon. If you already have experience with this, please make your own post on this topic.

As usual, contact Pete Kennedy, pkennedy@haywood.edu for Blog Posting access. If you have any specific issues with the Book Review process, need help posting your Book Review or need to upload a KMZ file to our FTP site, please contact me. Neil Thomas, rdi@resourcedata.net .

Book Review Format
TITLE: Name of the book
AUTHOR: Author
PUBLISHER: Publisher
RELEASE: Last Date Released
LABEL: Choose either “Book Review” or “Technical Book Review”

Your Review and Discussion of the book goes here......




The Worst Hard Time

TITLE:"The Worst Hard Time"
AUTHOR: Timothy Egan
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin

This book covers a period between 1930-1940 in America's Midwest--the dust-bowl days. The book is a National Book Award Winner. I heard about the dust bowl and the wind-related soils erosion growing up, but this story told by Timothy Egan is nothing I could have ever imagined.

"That was Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, day of the worst duster of them all. The storm carried twice as much dirt as was dug out of the earth to create the Panama Canal. The canal took seven years to dig; the storm lasted a single afternoon. More than 300,000 tons of Great Plains topsoil was airborne that day. For weeks afterward, eight-year-old Jeanne Clark could not stop coughing. She was taken to the hospital, where dozens of other children, as well as many elderly patients, were spitting up fine particles. The doctor diagnosed Jeanne with dust pneumonia, the brown plague, and said she might not live for long. Jeanne's mother had trouble believing the doctor's words. She had come here for the air, and now her little girl was dying of it."

North Carolina and Asheville already have a history in the development of the US Forest Service and the first school of forestry. Continuing in this vain, a North Carolinian, Hugh Hammond Bennett, began the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in 1937, under President Roosevelt's administration. The SCS was created primarily to address the dust bowl conditions. Bennett was from Anson County, North Carolina.

"After more than 65 years, some of the land is still sterile and drifting. But in the heart of the Dust Bowl now are three national grasslands run by the Forest Service."

How many more years of water are left below the ground before another dust bowl occurs? The consequences of a dry aquifer in the future may prove much more catastrophic than the dust bowl impacts of the 1930's. After you read the book, you may wonder how anything can be worse until you consider the current populations depending on the Ogallala aquifer for water.

In the epilog Egan explains, "So cotton growers, siphoning from the Ogallala, get three billion dollars a year in tax-payer money for fiber that is shipped to China, where it is used to make cheap clothing sold back to American chain retail stores like Wal-Mart. The aquifer is declining at a rate of 1.1 million acre-feet a day-that is, a million acres, filled to a depth of 1 foot with water."

I used Google Earth to find many of the place names described in the book. A lot of crop irrigation circles showed up on the map. I emailed Egan to see if he may have used Google Earth or some of the other current technology in the development of his book. If I get a reply I will post his response to the Blog.

Houghton Mifflin
National Book Awards
NPR interview with Timothy Eagan about this book. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5128581

Google Earth Links:

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

TITLE: The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
AUTHOR: Simon Winchester
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins

We have come a long way in our GIS world since Smith’s map of England’s geological formations was published in 1815. The map was over 8 feet tall and six feet wide and it took William Smith 2 years to print and color the 400 original maps. Smith would have been excited with the 3-D plotters demonstrated at the NCGIS conference last week.

Smith “noticed that the rocks he was excavating were arranged in layers; more important, he could see quite clearly that the fossils found in one layer were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following the fossils, one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped and rose and fell -- clear across England and, indeed, clear across the world.”

Smith's effort was not an easy professional or personal path. His geological observations butted against the cornerstones of Christianity. The Geological Society of London snubbed Smith because of his socio-economic status. Others tried to plagiarize his work. As Smith’s financial status unraveled Smith found himself in debtor’s prison. Upon leaving prison he was homeless in northern England for about 10 years. In 1931 Smith’s condition improved, finding greater acceptance and support for his work which included a generous lifetime pension offered by King William IV.

"Krakatoa, The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883" is another of Winchester’s books. I read it a year before the tsunami devastated the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and other surrounding shorelines. Winchester’s scientific reconstruction of the evidence surrounding the Krakatoa event was fascinating.

My next Winchester read will be "The Crack in the Edge of the World." Winchester is a master of the scientific non-fiction genre. Anyone who can write an interesting book about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary ("The Professor and the Madman") and still obtain another contract from the same publisher must be a great writer!

Winchester’s Web Site
Audio Interviews with Winchester
NPR Audio lists

Google Earth Links:
None created.