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 Online

A Look at the Ohio River: Past, Present, and Future

Ohio River

Image is courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The satellite image captured March 2018 flooding at the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash rivers.

Blue Raster partnered with The National Geographic Society, Lenfest Institute, and seven nonprofit newsrooms on a project entitled, Good River: Stories of the Ohio. The Ohio River runs 981 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cairo, Illinois, where it joins the Mississippi. It provides drinking water for five million people, and is also a thoroughfare of business, supporting jobs and communities. But it is also commonly cited as the most polluted river in the United States. For this project, PublicSource and six other participating newsrooms are producing a series of stories about the environment, economy and culture of the Ohio River watershed.

Good River Newsroom Partners

Ohio River StoryMap

To give readers a sense of how big the Ohio River watershed is, Blue Raster created a series of map graphics for the site’s landing page. The maps touch-upon topics including population concentration and impaired waterways. To create the maps, our team used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and leveraged ArcGIS Pro to style the map graphics.

In the series, journalists share the beauty of the Ohio River and threats facing the region. To take readers on an interactive tour of the Ohio River, Blue Raster produced a StoryMap called Highlights of the Ohio for the project launch. The StoryMap features points of interest along the river and the watershed region.

The Good River News Partners will be publishing multiple stories from November 2019 through January 2020. To follow along with the project and share stories or questions, text OHIO to 412-528-6575. Additionally, you can follow #OhioRiverStories on social media.

Good River: Stories of the Ohio is a series about the environment, economy, and culture of the Ohio River watershed, produced by seven nonprofit newsrooms. To see more, please visit ohiowatershed.org.

 

To learn more about StoryMaps, you can start here.

Blue Raster Wins Esri’s StoryMap Challenge

 

Last week, Blue Raster attended and presented at the Esri Federal Business Partner StoryMaps Challenge and Open House at the Esri R&D office in Arlington, Virginia. Two of our team members, Rachel Stock and Andrew Patterson, visited the R&D center for the day long competition. Our StoryMap about mapping America's wine regions was selected as the winner. This provided our team a chance to present about the making of the StoryMap at the Esri Open House.

Behind-the-scenes look at producing the StoryMap:

Making of the StoryMap pictures

The Geography of Wine focuses on Blue Raster's work digitizing over 270 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In addition to this work, we made the maps explorable to the public through the AVA Map Explorer application. The app allows users to view current and proposed AVAs, as well as submit proposals for brand-new AVAs.

StoryMap photo of a vineyard

Blue Raster’s story map about our TTB work highlights the importance of AVAs and features some of the most geographically unique AVAs from around the country. Additionally, it points out that, with GIS, we can provide location intelligence to the American Wine Industry.

View the winning StoryMap about mapping America’s wine regions, and learn more about our TTB work and creation of the AVA Map Explorer.

Mapping America’s Wine Growing Regions

Wine Country

Have you ever wondered where your wine comes from? Did you know that there are hundreds of distinct wine regions in the United States? Since 2017, Blue Raster has been working with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to map over 270 of America’s Viticultural Areas (AVA) in GIS. Blue Raster then developed the AVA Map Explorer, a web mapping application to view, compare and download AVA boundaries.

Viticultural areas are designated grape-growing regions with distinguishable geographic features with boundaries defined by TTB. TTB is part of the U.S. Treasury and overseas regulation and tax collection on the sales of alcohol and tobacco. A map library with thousands of marked-up USGS topographic maps to written boundary instructions called the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 27 CFR Part 9 is the official record and only way to view an AVA.

Example of CFR entry.

Working with SJ Technologies, the team started the conversion from paper to GIS by creating points for each CFR description in a Viticultural Area. Then, using industry-accepted national datasets including U.S. Census administrative boundaries and roads, and USGS contours and the National Hydrography Dataset, the connected CFR points form viticultural boundaries.

TTB_Digitizing

Larger viticultural areas may be drawn on over forty separate paper maps in the maps library. In digital format the number of paper maps is no longer an issue. The new approach allowed for the team to provide an extremely detailed product to TTB that was easily consumable. The ability to zoom in on complex areas or view an entire viticultural area on one screen had previously been impossible.

AVAs boundaries can be extremely detailed, but might not seem so when viewing at the full extent.

Zoom in to see just how detailed the AVA boundaries are.

Boundaries follow hydrographic and contour lines.

AVA Map Explorer

With over 270 AVAs mapped, Blue Raster developed the AVA Map Explorer. This easy to use application helps TTB staff with wine labeling, vineyards petitioning for inclusion in an existing or proposed AVA, and the public to learn more about where their wine comes from. Additionally, users can search AVAs by name, address, State and County filters, or simply by panning around and exploring. Because many AVAs have overlapping boundaries, the ability to compare AVAs was critical. Contained within a popup is information about overlapping AVAs, effective dates, and geographic extent. From the popup users can also link to the CFR, which is still the official record, view the public docket of petitions and rulings, and download the shapefile of the AVA.

More than just Napa and Sonoma counties in California, wine growing regions exist all across the United States.

Zoom in to see just how detailed the AVA boundaries are. Popups show how AVA's contain and overlapp with others.

In places with heavy overlap, it’s possible to add AVA's to a list to compare boundaries.

Learn more about wine in your area with the American Viticultural Area Map Explorer. Cheers!

Global Forest Watch Fires: New Fire Monitoring Capabilities

Thousands of fires are burning in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil - the most intense blazes for almost a decade. Global Forest Watch Fires (GFW Fires), an online platform for monitoring and responding to forest and land fires, provides a near real-time view into the current fire activity. Additionally, users can view fire reports and compare historical data on regions all over the world.

GFW Fires Report

New Updates to GFW Fires

Blue Raster recently worked to add new features and capabilties to the Global Forest Watch Fires application. Want to see details for a specific area on the map? Draw or upload a shapefile to calculate fire counts and subscribe to alerts. Users can select specific areas and see the calculated numbers of VIIRS and MODIS Alerts in the past 24 hours. Next, users can click on the drawn or uploaded shapes on the map to subscribe to alerts for that area.

Global Forest Watch Fire Reports provide robust insight into fire history, cumulative fires to date, and a statistical analysis by administrative boundaries within a country or around the world. New to GFW Fires, users can now view charts of unusual fire activity. The report compares fires from the current week to the same week in the previous 16 years. In addition, new charts analyze fire activity in Palm Oil Concessions and Wood Fiber Areas.

Global Forest Watch Fires Report
Fire alerts in the Amazonas region of Brazil.

In addition to the basemap imagery, Global Forest Watch Fires now provides an option for Sentinal Imagery. The latest satellite imagery is available from Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8. Sentinel-2, operated by the European Space Agency, has global coverage in 10-meter resolution, and can obtain updated imagery every 10 days.

Global Forest Watch Fires Sentinal Imagery

By using the latest geospatial technology, Global Forest Watch Fires allows anyone to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world. Users can monitor fire activity, sign up to receive alerts, or share their own stories on GFW's blog. Explore this interactive map today.

Using GIS to Inform Workforce Development


We recently worked with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to produce a national-level work-based learning map. Built using ArcGIS Online and the Esri JavaScript API, the map can be custom-tailored to specific state or local agency leadership teams. Using these customized maps, teams can better contextualize their workforce development initiatives and refine their understanding of resources and socioeconomic distribution across their region.

Workforce Development with GIS

Nearly five decades of research has demonstrated that the places where individuals live and learn have a dramatic impact on their opportunities and life outcomes. These place effects—the advantages and disadvantages that one inherits by simply living in a particular location—have a particularly strong impact on one’s access to high-quality education, workforce training, and employment, which are the key ingredients to upward economic mobility. It is vital that leaders in state and local education agencies are mindful of place effects as they help districts and schools to develop work-based learning (WBL) systems across diverse contexts.

Through this application, AIR can more easily identify areas of improved workplace development and analyze the factors that lead to this outcome. This could include factors such as education opportunities, health benefits, or a variety of social factors.

How do I use it?

Users are able to activate different layers that fall under categories such as Education, Health, and Social Factors. By looking across states and the country as a whole, we are able to understand which communities are at a disadvantage when it comes to these factors. As we explained earlier, these factors are vital to spark upward economic mobility. When viewing these different layers, we can have a higher understanding of where these lacking communities are located, and where resources need to be more readily available.

Here is a demo of the application in action.

You can view and use the application here.


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