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News

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.

Identifying Connectivity Across US Communities

Blue Raster recently collaborated with New America on a story map highlighting city and community connectedness across the US. The story map looks at 25 different community focused networks working to help cities and counties solve a wide-range of challenges including climate change, criminal justice, and homelessness. The story map was developed in conjunction with a larger publication by New America focusing on the contribution that community networking makes to renewal and revival.

New America Story Map

To better understand the factors that contribute to a city’s overall connectivity, New America asked our team to enrich their data with indicators such as population, Tapestry Segmentation, and MSA to determine if there were patterns and trends among the most networked communities. Population turned out to be one of the biggest contributing factors to a city’s overall connection.

Top 10 Most Connected Metro Areas (2018)

To visualize connectivity of both cities and communities simultaneously, the Blue Raster team used a combination of heat map cartography in addition to point and polygon data to show where overlaps occur between cities, communities, counties, and states.

Our team also built customized pop-ups through ArcGIS Online. Using SQL Query syntax we were able to make pop-ups that are customized to each network depending on the type of data in that network, whether it be cities, communities, counties, or any combination of geographies..

Check out the story map, and see how well connected your own community is by reading New America’s full report!

Story Map Delivers #ProtectOurCoast Campaign

In January 2018, the White House proposed opening nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling. On the East Coast, governors are speaking out with concerns about the risks offshore drilling would pose to the coastal environment, economy, tourism, and quality of life. Out of 22 U.S. coastal states, 15 governors stated opposition to drilling. Additionally, over 140 local communities along the Atlantic Coast have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling, seismic testing, or both.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) launched a public messaging campaign to elevate the voices of local communities opposed to offshore drilling when the previous administration released its proposed drilling plan in 2015, and has continued these efforts in light of the current administration’s plan to reopen the possibility of drilling in the Atlantic. Working in six states throughout the Southeast, SELC has over 70 attorneys and nine offices dedicated to clean water, healthy air, mountains and forests, and coastal protection. A nonprofit organization, they work at all levels of government and with all three branches to strengthen laws, hold government accountable and stop environmental abusers.

For the #ProtectOurCoast campaign, SELC worked with Blue Raster to develop a Story Map outlining the major concerns of offshore drilling in their region. SELC was interested in creating an interactive story-telling tool to better inform communities about the threats of offshore drilling and to drive public comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The Story Map highlights state and local opposition, incompatibility with existing military training areas, impacts of drilling infrastructure, and threats to coastal economies. SELC also draws attention to the region’s abundance of natural resources, including habitat for species like the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, dozens of National Wildlife Refuges, National Seashores, state protected areas and ecologically important marine areas, where a single oil spill would devastate the healthy waters and clean beaches that are critical to wildlife and coastal communities.

Learn more about the risks of Offshore Drilling at the campaign page and Story Map!

 

Working with Blue Raster has allowed SELC to provide users with the ability to learn the core concerns of opening the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling, and the power to interact with the data on their own terms. The assemblage of marine and coastal ecological data, compatibility of military operations, industrial footprints, and community opposition created a set of stories, difficult to communicate through print maps alone. Blue Raster helped SELC transform an ArcGIS Desktop workflow into a multi-faceted geospatial tool with Web App Builder, Story Map Templates and ArcGIS Online. The result-an interactive, engaging experience for users to explore the impacts of the proposed drilling plan by showing what’s at stake for communities, environmental resources, economies, and quality of life along our coast, and how these factors overlap and interplay.

Jovian Sackett, Senior Geospatial Analyst, Southern Environmental Law Center 

New Paper Identifying Emerging Hot Spots of Deforestation

Blue Raster is proud to have worked with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Esri Big Data Team to co-author the study, Using Spatial Statistics to Identify Emerging Hot Spots of Forest Loss.

Published in Environmental Research Letters, the study lays out the data-analysis workflow Blue Raster developed to identify trends in tree-cover loss in Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 2000 and 2014. Using Esri’s emerging hot spot analysis and big data analysis techniques, Blue Raster identified persistent, accelerating, and new hot spots of tree-cover loss, as well as cold spots of diminishing loss. New forest policies such as logging moratoria and incentives were linked with reduced forest clearing, whereas timber harvesting, road-building, and agricultural land clearing were associated with hot spots.

Techniques identified in the study will help decision makers, technical experts and the broader public better understand trends in deforestation and improve forest monitoring going forward. While the article focuses on Brazil, Indonesia, and the DRC, the methodology can be scaled for larger or smaller regions, as well as for different windows in time.

Accompanying the paper, Blue Raster produced maps of intensifying, sporadic, and new hot spots of deforestation for each area of interest. The visuals indicate a broad range of trends including:

  • Shifting spatiotemporal patterns of loss in Brazil, with forest loss significantly diminishing within the Amazonian states of Mato Grosso and Rondônia and intensifying within the cerrado biome;
  • New and statistically significant hot spots of forest loss in 2013 and 2014 in West Kalimanta, Indonesia; and
  • The emergence of vast areas of DRC as significant new hot spots of forest loss, with intensified loss radiating out from city centers such as Beni and Kisangani.

The release of the article coincides with the World Economic Forum, an event where 20 of the world’s largest commodity producers, traders, manufacturers, consultants, and retailers launched a new partnership with research institutions and banks to monitor deforestation and manage sustainability from farm to customer. The partnership, led by WRI’s Global Forest Watch team, will focus on building an online global decision-support tool that builds on the GFW Commodities platform to increase transparency and traceability across supply chains.

Read the full publication by WRI, Blue Raster, and Esri online at IOP Science.

Local Students Celebrate GIS Day at Blue Raster

Arlington School Students at Blue Raster GIS DayOn November 16th, 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 fifth year, Blue Raster has hosted the class, giving students insight into the connection between what they learn in the classroom and the work GIS professionals do in the world today.

The Blue Raster team shared real-world GIS success stories through a round of lightning talk presentations on ongoing projects and then invited the students to use their GIS skills with a fun Collector for ArcGIS challenge. After collecting and mapping data on transportation in their county, students saw the application of GIS in a new meaningful way.

Ryan MillerIt’s such a tremendous asset to be able to link my high school GIS students with the professionals at Blue Raster. Blue Raster’s willingness to dedicate time, effort and resources, into a GIS day collaboration, benefits my students as they get to observe incredible GIS work and potential career opportunities. The students and I are so grateful to Mike, Stephen and to the entire Blue Raster team.

  — Ryan Miller, Teacher @APSVirginia and Meteorologist @ABC7NEWS

gisdaycompiled

We wrapped up the day with viewing their data collection in the Operations Dashboard and enjoying some pizza and desserts.

blue-raster-gis-daygis-day-group-picture-crop


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