Our Work

Blue Raster helps you tell your story through interactive
mapping technology. Make your message clear, exciting,
and user-friendly for both mobile and web platforms.

ArcGIS Desktop

Maret School: Exploring Inequality through GIS

Using GIS to map inequality is a powerful tool for understanding how inequity and place are inherently connected. Recently, the Maret School and Blue Raster partnered to give students the skills and resources necessary to map historical inequality in DC to deliver valuable resources for the DC community and beyond.

Photo of the Maret School.

Blue Raster developed and delivered basic and intermediate GIS instruction for Maret’s Mapping Inequality in DC class.

Using Blue Raster’s instructions through ArcMap and ArcGIS Online, students learned to:

  • Create, style and update maps.
  • Add Census demographic layers and features to maps.
  • Visually analyze historical patterns in data.
  • Create compelling static maps, as well as interactive Story Maps to illustrate and explore inequality.

Students explored issues such as redlining, health systems, access to public transportation, and other issues relating to inequality.

Students worked in teams to create research questions and then blend demographic data with a digital mapping
program to draw conclusions about patterns of inequity in DC. Students learned to take advantage of available resources, including open data and census portals, in order to produce insightful analysis.

Examples of open data sources that are available to students.
Blue Raster understands that equity and place are inherently connected. We believe that every aspect of a class – researching, learning, analyzing, and communicating – benefits from ArcGIS and spatial thinking.

Arlington Democrats: Organizing Volunteers with Accessible Maps

Have you ever wondered how local political parties organize their army of door-to-door volunteers? Increasingly, these efforts depend on effective and accessible mapping.

Recently, Blue Raster worked with the Arlington County Democratic Committee to update their door-to-door newsletter delivery route maps. These maps direct a group of nearly 500 volunteers from door to door, providing them with vital geographic and demographic information. Displaying 443 routes across 52 voter precincts, the success of the maps depends on being both descriptive and easily accessible.

Comparison of old and new map formatting.

Left to Right: Old Format and New Format

The Blue Raster team processed the data in ArcGIS Desktop to remove unnecessary information and create a streamlined process for updating the maps with annual data. The streamlined process provides clear instructions for updating and troubleshooting data, in a format that can be followed by ArcGIS Desktop users of any experience level. From start to finish, users can manage their maps internally regardless of previous knowledge or expertise. The ArcMap document leverages data driven pages to quickly and easily generate over 400 map routes from a single map document (.mxd).

Alison DentonIt was such a pleasure working with Blue Raster! Carter, Olivia, Christina and the rest of the team helped us to streamline our datasets and bring real efficiency to the Messenger Maps production process. As a volunteer organization, having the professionalism of the Blue Raster team behind us moved us leaps and bounds ahead in creating maps that will truly empower our volunteers to help get out the vote. The Arlington Democrats’ Messenger Maps team is extremely grateful to Blue Raster – thank you!

  — Alison Denton, Arlington County Democrats’ Messenger Maps Team

Blue Raster also optimized the print layout of the maps, reducing printing time and costs without sacrificing content and presentation. The updated maps provide a comprehensive and flexible structure for creating and producing accessible mapping.

 

ArcGIS Pro & ArcMap Training in Austin, TX

Last week, we traveled to Austin, TX to give a hands-on GIS training for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The idea behind the training was to deepen the staff’s proficiency using ArcGIS Pro/Desktop and ArcGIS Online.

Here’s an inside look at the three-day training at AIR’s Austin office.

Day one, we focused entirely on:

  • Building up the TEA team’s skills with ArcGIS Desktop, and Addressing some of their current needs at the agency.
  • Day one started well with an assessment that asked each team member to demonstrate their current proficiency with ArcGIS Desktop.
    This ensured each person had all of the basics down before we moved onto advanced analytics.
  • We spent the remainder of the day diving into toolboxes including editing, data management, and spatial analytics.

Day two welcomed AIR staff to the training. We split into advanced and intermediate groups and marched through a cycle of modules on increasingly sophisticated GIS operations. Everyone used common data sets from TEA’s current work in Texas and had an a-la-carte data menu to choose from as they went deeper. Each individual was asked to explore one of four questions:

  1. What is the impact of teacher tenure on student and school performance?
  2. Does a representative race/ethnic teaching population relate to student performance?
  3. What is the nature of the relationship between educator prep programs and the schools/districts they serve?
  4. Which rural districts are well-positioned to launch a grow-your-own teacher program?

We closed the day by migrating everyone’s maps out of ArcGIS Pro and into ArcGIS Online.

AIR advanced group at the training

The advanced group digging into modules on grouping analysis, point density, similarity, regressions and more.

The last day kicked off with presentations on building web apps and story maps. Each person then spent the afternoon creating an app that told the story of insights they discovered from their previous day of mapping. We wrapped up the training with a gallery walk of the team’s amazing creations with colleagues from TEA and AIR.


Interested in starting a training?

Tell us a little about yourself and your project. 

Solving the Water Balance Equation for California

Drought has been a significant concern throughout much of the western U.S., threatening the livelihood of farmers and communities across several states. When years of drought stretch on, groundwater pumping often becomes the most viable option for the agriculture sector, leading to a negative water-balance and increasingly sparse water availability. Local water authorities are scrambling to recharge the groundwater supplies for their districts’ agricultural needs.

Fortunately, a new tool for their arsenal is now available – the Groundwater Recharge Assessment Tool (GRAT), developed in partnership with The Earth Genome and Sustainable Conservation. Through a prioritized use of dedicated recharge basins, fallow field recharge, and on-farm recharge sites, it may be possible to balance the water budget and reverse the damage caused by years of over-pumping. On-farm recharge is a relatively new approach and requires an understanding of what crops are being grown, and how flood-year waters could be applied during select weeks of the year when high-flow water is available. Currently much of that water runs off the landscape and eventually into the ocean, but on-farm recharge may provide the key to capturing that water by recharging underlying aquifers.

To calculate the best use of on-farm recharge and the impact on the water budget, GRAT allows irrigation districts to run an unlimited number of wet-year scenarios, ranking of field types based on soil and crop characteristics, and detailed cost calculations.

Setting detailed criteria requirements helps to optimize the selection of sites based on an irrigation district’s individual needs. Weighted indexes are calculated dynamically using a number of geophysical variables linked to each criteria.

GRAT allows the automated selection of sites up to a target recharge volume or cost ceiling, and then the manual removal or selection of additional sites based on local expert knowledge.

Advanced, dynamic charting gives real-time updates of groundwater balance and estimated costs based on selected sites. Once the balance has been reached, the option to save the plan can be used to share results with decision makers throughout the district.

GRAT was co-created in collaboration with Madera Irrigation District and Tulare Irrigation District.  It is also now being rolled out to other interested Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in California, to support their Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) reporting requirements.

 

See What’s New with the Texas Water Explorer!

More than a third of the native fish species are at risk in the Rio Grande basin. With rising concerns about water resources, the Texas Water Explorer is delivering data and analysis critical for sustainable management of resources like the Rio Grande. The Explorer is the The Nature Conservancy in Texas’  (TNC TX) definitive source for exploring water health, use, governance, and quality in Texas. Blue Raster worked closely with TNC TX to augment the Explorer this year with a new Ecosystem Health indicator summarizing native fish species diversity and conservation, compiled in collaboration with the Fishes of Texas Project, as well as newly released 2014 and 2015 water use data from the Texas Water Development Board.

Texas Water Explorer Map of Percent Native Fish Species in Conservation Need by basin

Rio Grande Basin has highest percentage of native fish species in conservation need

In addition to the data enhancements, we’ve added a fresh new look for the static content particularly catering to users on mobile devices. We have increased the “scannability” of the wealth of summary information on the website. Scannability was coined in the UI/UX world as the ability to draw in a reader’s attention on a page as they skim over it. Our aim with the new design is easy readability from your phone for the more content-heavy pages.

The Texas Water Explorer has been a very useful tool for The Nature Conservancy in communicating important Texas water issues to a variety of audiences, and we’re excited to enhance its content and usability even more.”             

The Nature ConservancyRyan Smith, Freshwater Ecologist,
The Nature Conservancy in Texas

Visit the Texas Water Explorer to see how data and analysis come together to make a positive impact on statewide water resources.

Redesigned Aquifer Summary Page

Redesigned Aquifer Summary Page


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