Responding to COVID-19 through our partnership with Esri – Get Live Maps, Data and Resources

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.


Emerging Hot Spots and Tracking Global Forest Loss: A New Chapter in GIS for Science

Deforestation impacts the environment in many ways. Habitat loss, desertification, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change are just some of the negative effects. In an effort to understand trends in deforestion, Blue Raster collaborated with the World Resources Institute and Esri to publish a study about using spatial statistics to identify Emerging Hot Spots of forest loss. We are excited to announce that this work is part of a new publication.

GIS for Science

Featured in the new Esri Press book, GIS for Science, “Tracking Global Forest Loss” explores the study and the use of advanced geospatial tools to analyze and monitor forest loss throughout Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia.

GIS for Science: Applying Mapping and Spatial Analytics, Volume 2 will officially be released in October 2020, but the pre-release volume is available digitally at this year’s Esri User Conference.

Using Esri’s Emerging Hot Spot Analysis, Blue Raster helped develop a workflow for mapping changes of deforestation through time and visualizing the impact of environmental policy across the world. The Emerging Hot Spot Analysis tool detects trends in data by analyzing new, intensifying, diminishing, and sporadic hot and cold spots. When analyzing for deforestation trends, Blue Raster worked to identify continual trends for hot spots of tree cover loss and cold spots of diminishing loss.

Tracking Global Forest Loss: Emerging Hot Spot Analysis

As the threat to our environment grows, scientists are working with cutting-edge GIS technology to help decision makers, technical experts and the broader public better understand trends in deforestation and improve future forest monitoring. With the ability to quantify deforestation loss over time, governments and other interest groups can create more effective policy over time.

COVID Response Dashboard

Over the past few weeks Blue Raster has been working to assist State and Federal Government agencies in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Providing a means to present accurate, up to date data to the public is essential to the success of mitigation efforts across the country. Blue Raster has been actively working to create Esri Operations Dashboards to do exactly that.

Virginia COVID-19 Social Distancing Dashboard

With Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS Online, Blue Raster created an interactive COVID response dashboard using Johns Hopkins University’s county level COVID-19 case data and Unacast’s Social Distancing Index to present crucial data in an easy to understand and consumable format. By using this data in a map-centric dashboard format with relevant figures, it allows for decision makers to view and understand the current situation and guide informed decision making.

Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard has been used globally to track the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak since it was first recognized in early January. In the past weeks, the University has been able to release more granular county level data for the United States to improve tracking of the virus. The JHU county level data updates often with the latest case reporting from across the country.

Unacast’s Social Distancing Index, now available as a dataset in the Living Atlas and as a standalone map viewer application hosted by Esri, aggregates the average travel distance of residents in a county and their average visitation to non-essential locations. Additionally, it assigns each county in the US a letter grade to represent how well its residents are adhering to the CDC Social Distancing Guidelines.

Customizable Dashboard Template

The decision to use publicly available data allowed for the rapid turnaround of personalized dashboards for the state of Nevada and Virginia based off of the same core datasets available in the Esri Living Atlas. Key information from these datasets are then presented in an easy to understand operations dashboard to summarize the current situation of a state. This has also allowed Blue Raster to create a template based off of these dashboards. We can quickly configure and deploy this template for an organization's internal and external use. As a result, State and Local agencies can also use these dashboards as a collaboration tool to aid in decision making.

Ready to find out more?

Contact us today to get started on your own COVID response dashboard.

GIS Day at Blue Raster

GIS Day is a day dedicated to showing, teaching, and inspiring others. For the eighth year in a row, Blue Raster hosted students from Washington-Liberty High School and demonstrated real world applications of GIS. Led by teacher Ryan Miller, the students have the chance to learn about geospatial technologies through a program called Geospatial Semester.


The Blue Raster team shared real-world GIS success stories through a round of lightning talk presentations on recent and ongoing projects. Despite the cold November weather, we ventured outside and collected temperature data from around the Arlington area. Then, the students collaborated on an Esri Operations dashboard to visualize the data.

GIS Day Dashboards


We wrapped up our day with a pizza lunch and ice cream from the Penn State creamery. We look forward to next year and a new group of students!




Read more about Blue Raster's past GIS Day activities here.

ArcGIS Training at Blue Raster: Teaching the Fundamentals of Esri ArcGIS

Recently, a nationally recognized professional services firm approached us with a need for customized training on the fundamentals of web and desktop GIS. The Blue Raster team developed a customized agenda and led a 3 day training at our Arlington office focusing on the ArcGIS Platform and its capabilities. The goal of the training was to teach the basics of GIS workflows in both ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro.

Training group

The training began with a two-day session on Desktop and Web GIS, data mining and data curation, and Esri Story Maps. The goal after the first two days was to create a story map focused on areas of highest vulnerability within a country, and areas that could use infrastructure investment.

Training Fundamentals

  • GIS Core concepts
  • An in-depth introduction to ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro
  • Finding and loading data into ArcGIS Pro
  • Symbology and Data visualization
  • Data prep, cleaning, and management
  • Basic GIS Operations such as queries, filtering, configuring popups, and field calculations
  • ArcGIS Pro to ArcGIS Online Integration
  • ArcGIS Online Groups, item sharing, and publishing permissions
  • And of course, ArcGIS StoryMaps.

After the initial two day training, the group presented their ArcGIS StoryMap to their larger team in order to gain insight and feedback on what more they would like to see. Also, before returning to the Blue Raster office for the third day of training, they gathered questions and ideas from their team about what other functions and capabilities the Esri ArcGIS platform could offer.

This second round allowed for the group to ask these and any other questions from working on their own time, as well as practice any workflows they wanted to master. The Blue Raster team focused the final day of training on additional Esri tools and offerings including WebApp Builder, Operations Dashboard, and ArcGIS Solutions and the ArcGIS Solutions Deployment tool.

The afternoon was used for lab and hands on practice training. The training group also used the final hour of the day to invite the rest of their team to the Blue Raster office to present a full 1 hour demo of what they learned over the course of the training, showing their team how to source data, load it into ArcGIS Online, and then analyze and visualize the data to show trends.

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  • GIS

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.


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!

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