Blue Raster Celebrates GIS Day with Washington-Lee Students

On November 20th, we celebrated GIS Day by inviting GIS students from Washington-Lee High School to visit Blue Raster. Led by teacher, Ryan Miller, Washington-Lee offers several technology classes linked to James Madison University.  For the second year, Blue Raster has hosted the class, giving them some insight into how GIS professionals are making a positive impact in the world today.

GIS Day at Blue Raster

Our developers invited the students to use Instagram to connect to other GIS Day celebrants around the world, and created a GIS Day Global Map.  Students immediately saw the future prospects of geospatial technology.     Mr. Miller said:

Stephen, Michael and the rest of the Blue Raster Team once again volunteered to spend time during GIS Day 2013 with the high school students in my GIS class. Blue Raster provided an exceptionally strong experience that enriched my student’s perspective of the capabilities and potential impact of GIS analysis on the enrichment of peoples’ lives.

GIS Day Instagram Experiment

The Blue Raster Dev team shared real-world GIS success stories through a round of lightening talks on ongoing projects, and then challenged the students’ analyst skills with a fun Geography Challenge.   We wrapped up with a talk about GIS Careers and enjoyed some pizza and prizes.
Mr. Miller said:

To see the impact of GIS, and Blue Raster’s work, assisted each student in making that essential connection between what we learn in the classroom and what is happening concurrently in the real-world.   As a teacher, I’m so grateful for their time and their willingness to reach out.

You can try the map challenge yourself.


Blue Raster is pleased to announce the launch of the Spatial Data Repository (SDR), a  new open data tool that provides geographically-linked health and demographic data from the USAID funded MEASURE Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) project and the U.S. Census Bureau for mapping in a geographic information system (GIS). This new resource offers:

  • National and subnational boundaries of DHS regions can be visualized over time.
  • More than 1,500 DHS indicators and U.S. Census population estimates in GIS format.
  • Users without GIS software can make interactive maps of DHS indicators at STATcompiler.

Blue Raster leveraged the power of ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online along with custom Python scripts to deliver all MEASURE DHS data in spatial formats (shapefiles and file geodatabase). Users can select indicators of interest (from more than 90 countries) and SDR will create custom data packages for download data .

Visit Spatial Data Repository for access to USAID’s first public and accessible global health dataset.

Spatial Data Repository

Clara Burgert, GIS Coordinator, MEASURE DHS explains,

The Spatial Data Repository has been innovative from the start, being the first time that global health was shared in a GIS format. This new version of the website continues that innovation with new tools and abilities which Blue Raster, a key partner on this activity, was a driving force in implementing. I am particularly pleased with the ability to select and download your own data packages and also visualizing the DHS regions over time. MEASURE DHS has such a wealth of data and resources – we are excited by the opportunities that the new website brings in opening the data to the geographic community.

The Spatial Data Repository is supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) effort to provide data for decision making and improve knowledge and understanding of the impact of HIV worldwide. Blue Raster partnered with ICF International to deliver this new open data platform for USAID.

Esri Names Blue Raster ArcGIS Online Specialty Partner

Blue Raster is honored to be one of the first companies granted the ArcGIS Online Specialty distinction by Esri.  Blue Raster has successfully implemented ArcGIS Online for more than 10 clients and established the ArcGIS Online Accelerate program to onramp organizations into the best practices of online/cloud mapping rapidly with a custom approach to each organization’s needs.

“ArcGIS Online is transforming the way organizations manage and share their spatial data with internal stakeholders and external customers,” said Esri president Jack Dangermond. “The ArcGIS Online Specialty allows us to recognize and collaborate with our partners that have embraced ArcGIS Online and are helping users succeed.”

Learn more about ArcGIS Online Accelerate and contact us to get started.

ArcGIS Online Specialty

MEASURE DHS Mobile Featured in Adobe PhoneGap Success Story

Blue Raster is excited to announce the Demographic and Health Surveys – MEASURE DHS mobile application is featured in a new case study publication by Adobe. Leveraging Adobe PhoneGap and Adobe PhoneGap Build, Blue Raster developed and deployed the application which enables users worldwide to access key demographic and health survey data provided by MEASURE DHS surveys. Since launching, the application has already achieved more than 1,000 downloads. See how Adobe PhoneGap and Blue Raster made it possible Get the app for your iOS or Android device today!

MEASURE DHS Mobile Adobe PhoneGap Success Story

Aqueduct – Mapping Water Risk Around the Globe

Blue Raster and the World Resources Institute (WRI) recently launched the latest version of Aqueduct Atlas, helping businesses around the world understand the impacts of a sustainable water supply.

The platform creates customizable, multi-variable maps that display twelve indicators of water risk in a given area, including groundwater stress levels, drought intensity, and flood occurrence. It also considers less obvious risks like legislation and regulatory limits to water access.

This information helps companies, investors, and other decision-makers:

  • Prioritize investments that will increase water security
  • Learn how water stress will affect their operations
  • Assess risk and target new opportunities worldwide

To map their priorities, users can adjust the weight of the water risk variables. The maps also have settings for nine water-intense industry sectors, including energy, agriculture, and chemical. Geocoding allows users to plot facilities, suppliers, and potential new market locations.

Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas

Built on ArcGIS Server 10.1, the tool takes advantage of the new “dynamic layers” capability to allow rapid rendering of more than 25,000 polygons to depict the topology of catchment areas.

Major companies around the world are already using Aqueduct to inform operations:

  • McDonalds is requiring hundreds of its suppliers to use Aqueduct to assess local water risk
  • Procter & Gamble used Aqueduct to understand how water risk may affect its global facilities
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch used Aqueduct to illustrate water risks and opportunities for investors

“Recent history is littered with companies that failed to anticipate emerging threats. Water scarcity is one such threat,” said Andrew Steer, President of WRI. “Thankfully, forward-thinking business leaders are starting to get it. They understand that water risk is one of the top issues that they face.”

Aqueduct has received extensive media coverage, including in the New York Times, The Guardian, Fast Company, Bloomberg, and Greenbiz.

Aqueduct allows users to easily see water risk around the world. Come check out this new decision-support tool.

Mapping the Global Adoption of Digital Media

The explosion of digital media has created new ways to distribute news and information with global audiences. Events in almost any location can be shared immediately with citizens in the remote corners of the developing world.  Although this digital revolution holds promise for organizations that support freedom of expression and balanced news coverage, it also presents challenges, such as bridging the digital divide between prosperous and impoverished communities.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) at the National Endowment for Democracy partnered with Blue Raster to develop an interactive map featuring 10 digital media indicators from Open Society Foundations‘ Mapping Digital Media project. The project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project includes data on how these changes affect news about political, economic, and social affairs.

Using this interactive web map, visitors can view indicators of digital media penetration and usage by country.  Selected indicators include television consumption, digital broadcasting, internet penetration, broadband, mobile phone and social media usage.  The indicator data is drawn from the Mapping Digital Media project reports, which were researched and written by teams of in-country academics and journalists.  Users can quickly view all 10 indicators from these reports or compare specific indicators across countries of interest.  The tool also encourages users to share new information via social media.  By making the Mapping Digital Media tool available to the public, CIMA hopes to expand the conversation about its mission to strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of independent media development throughout the world.

The application, accessible on both desktop and mobile devices, was built utilizing ArcGIS Online, the Esri JavaScript API and HTML5.  Blue Raster also used Adobe PhoneGap to create an iPad version of the map, which is available for download from the Apple App Store.

CIMA - Mapping Digital Media


U.S. National Arboretum Launches Botanical Explorer for Tour Planning and Research

With over 440 acres of trees, shrubs and plants, as well as a massive collection of plant records and specimens, the U.S. National Arboretum can be an overwhelming place for first-time visitors and skilled researchers alike.  Beginning this month, however, guests can plan their Arboretum visit in advance using a new web mapping application developed by Blue Raster.  Arboretum Botanical Explorer (ABE) will allow visitors to investigate the Arboretum grounds and collections through a searchable database and interactive maps.

Working with the National Arboretum and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Blue Raster replaced the Arboretum’s legacy system with an ArcGIS Server geodatabase to manage their collection.  A custom application was then developed that enables users to access and display information from the Arboretum’s botanical collection, maintained in BG-Base, and its photo repository in Asset Bank.  The collection includes more than 30,000 plant records and information on more than 60,000 specimens (plant leaf or cutting).

“The National Arboretum is excited to offer a web-based application that makes its extensive collections searchable online for the first time,” said Education and Visitor Services Unit Leader, Nancy Luria.  “ABE brings together the Arboretum’s plant records and image databases into a single, user-friendly system that  researchers and visitors alike can use to map specific plants and to plan a visit.  It provides a rich platform for sharing information and images with the public that will greatly increase the Arboretum’s outreach efforts.”

To prepare for their trip to the Arboretum, visitors and researchers can use the application to create maps that show the location of specific plants on the grounds, as well as points of interest, dedicated trees and benches, special collections and amenities.  Visitors can explore the interactive maps of the Arboretum’s featured tours of cherry trees and herb gardens, and learn details about each plant on the tour.  Researchers, horticulturists, and visitors can use the application to create reports with photos and attributes of the specific plants they are studying.  To view the National Arboretum’s Botanical Explorer, visit

Blue Raster Hosts Young GIS Enthusiasts to Mark GIS Day

In Blue Raster’s continued effort to promote technology education, the company hosted an event in recognition of GIS Day.  The annual celebration takes place on November 14th to salute geospatial technology, and was started in 1999 by Blue Raster partner, Esri.  GIS Day is marked globally with events that aim to educate others on geography and the uses of GIS.

Blue Raster welcomed twenty-three students from Washington-Lee High School who are participating in the James Madison University Geospatial Semester, a college-level GIS class.  The program which is offered at several high schools across Virginia is for seniors and provides college credit upon successful completion of the course.

Class instructor, Ryan Miller, who has been teaching the course for five years, notes that it gives students “a hands-on experience learning GIS,” and sees the value in taking students outside the classroom to view real-world applications of the course concepts.  “What we were able to accomplish today — establishing rapport between the GIS professional community and GIS students — truly represents the essence of GIS Day,” shares Miller.  “Bridging the gap between those that know GIS well and those learning it, benefits our entire community.  We are most thankful for the opportunity Blue Raster provided here.”

The day’s agenda included presentations of various Blue Raster GIS projects, a geography challenge and a Q&A session for students seeking an understanding of working at a GIS firm.  Blue Raster principal, Michael Lippmann, felt an overall sense of pride in having taken part in GIS Day.  “It has been very rewarding to share our work with students and learn about their enthusiasm for GIS.  These eager minds are getting a jumpstart on their careers, and we look forward to maintaining our connection with the next-generation of GIS developers through internships and mentoring in the future.”

Supporting Sustainable Palm Oil in Indonesia

The World Resources Institute (WRI) is launching two powerful online mapping applications that offer unprecedented capabilities to support industry and government efforts to achieve more sustainable palm oil production in Indonesia.  The Suitability Mapper helps users find potential sites for sustainable palm oil production, using a customizable map. It empowers companies and government planners to use a standard, easily replicable method to find potential sites for sustainable palm oil production and plan field assessments for further investigation.  The Forest Cover Analyzer allows users to view change in forest cover over time in areas of their choice, using up-to-date satellite data.  It provides a unique set of monitoring tools to help buyers, investors, and governments strengthen incentives for avoiding deforestation when developing new plantations.

“Palm oil holds tremendous opportunities for people and business in Indonesia—and should be produced in a way that avoids destruction of vibrant lands and forests,” said Andrew Steer, President of WRI. “These dynamic new online tools will enable companies to better identify the best places for palm oil production and assess deforestation and other factors that are critical for long-term sustainability of this industry.”

IUCN Threatened Species Now Available via ArcGIS Online

Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Keynote Speaker at the 2012 Esri International User Conference in San Diego, announced the immediate availability of species data on ArcGIS Online.  Aligned with their mission to “influence society to conserve nature and natural resources in an equitable and sustainable manner”, IUCN has collaborated with Esri and Blue Raster to release species range data for their collection of over 32,000 species.

Anyone can search ArcGIS Online for a species, view the scientific taxonomy, and see the species range map as published on the IUCN Red List.  ArcGIS Online is directly linked to IUCN’s interactive mapping application which now provides the ability to download the species range data in GIS-ready format.