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The Magic of Maps: Presenting Esri StoryMap Beta

Blue Raster recently had the opportunity to create and present a StoryMap using the new ArcGIS StoryMaps (currently in Beta) for Esri’s “The Magic of Maps: How to Engage and Inspire Your Community” event. At this event, we were able to introduce our own thoughts on the new platform, as well as give advice on how organizations are able to utilize these tools successfully. The StoryMap itself, titled Measuring Success, goes into detail on how some of Blue Raster’s nonprofit partners are tracking progress of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It addresses five of the seventeen SDGs and encompasses the work of The Demographic and Health Surveys Program, UNICEF, and The Nature Conservancy.

 

The Magic of Maps

The Magic of Maps

The presentation focused heavily on how organizations can be successful in the creation and utilization of their StoryMaps, including knowing the target audience, recognizing the potential of a successful StoryMap, and creating a concise and engaging design. Additionally we were able to showcase the features included in the new beta version of ArcGIS StoryMaps. With the new, modern platform users are able to pick and choose distinct elements to piece together, rather than having to select a set template. Uniform text and font size options also help to eliminate the complexity of styles and reduce design workload. Dynamic media types such as maps, videos, and images can be seamlessly integrated into a number of StoryMap features to further engage the audience. Most importantly, the new builder has a simplistic user interface that allows anyone regardless of prior experience (or lack thereof) to produce a professional-caliber StoryMap.

Special thanks to the members of the Blue Raster team who collaborated to create and present this StoryMap: Project Manager Christina Phang, UI/UX Designer Rachel Stock, GIS Intern Kelly Motzko, and GIS Intern Joe Nadonley.

You can view the slides and listen to the presentation here.

Sustainable World Conference in Geneva: Collaborating for a better world

The GIS for a Sustainable World conference in Geneva, Switzerland is an opportunity to develop long-term and collaborative relationships with global organizations interested in corporate sustainability and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). As a proud a sponsor of this Esri and UNOSAT event, we had the chance to share some of our GIS work that is making an impact on global sustainability efforts. This year’s conference theme focused on applying GIS to people, planet, prosperity, and peace, and how intelligent maps and apps can accelerate efforts to implement the SDGs.

GIS for a Sustainable World

Sustainable Business Panel Session

The Sustainable Business panel session provided an opportunity for participants to hear from experts in specific thematic areas and discuss issues pertaining to their use of GIS. During this session, Michael Lippmann presented our work with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) funded India Water Tool. This tool helps users understand their water risks and plan interventions for water management in India. Other presenters in the panel included Tijs Lips from Bunge, Adam Romo from ISEAL Alliance, and Michael Marus from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Interactive Breakout Sessions

In addition to hearing about sustainability challenges and successes from the many global organizations in attendance, Blue Raster Program Manager Phil Satlof had the opportunity to participate in a World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored Map-a-Thon. The “Map-A-Thon for Good” event gave participants a chance to learn important workflows for data validation, all while creating an open data set to share with the humanitarian community and beyond.Activity at the GIS for a Sustainable World ConferenceWe also participated in the interactive field GIS mobile data collection exercise. In this session, attendees got hands-on experience using the latest in Esri field mobility software. The Exploration Team collected data from around the conference venue, then viewed it on the Operations Dashboard.

Additionally, the Blue Raster team visited with clients at the World Health Organization (WHO) and enjoyed the sites around Geneva. Before heading home, the team visited Chamonix and Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps. GIS for a Sustainable World

Blue Raster sightseeing in Geneva

To read more about the conference, visit the information page.

 

Using Drones to Advance Turfgrass Science at Green-Wood Cemetery

Last month, Blue Raster’s drone capabilities took flight. In a new initiative with Green-Wood Cemetery, Cornell University, and a group of turfgrass experts from across the United States, Blue Raster is using drones to help advance the science for confronting climate change in an urban landscape.

The issue at hand is the rapid spread of warm-season invasive grass species that impacts the aesthetics of the cemetery. This results in adaptive preventative maintenance practices and high costs to keep the cemetery looking beautiful. The group is studying alternatives and strategies that put Green-Wood on the cutting edge of urban climate change mitigation. This research is also applicable to any urban parks, public gardens, cemeteries and golf courses.

"Turf Guy" Dr. Frank Rossi of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and Christopher Gabris from Blue Raster looking at high resolution drone imagery captured the day before

“Turf Guy” Dr. Frank Rossi of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and Christopher Gabris from Blue Raster looking at high resolution drone imagery captured the day before

To study the spread of invasive grass throughout the year, Blue Raster flew a series of drone missions over the sprawling 478 acre cemetery. When additional missions fly for comparison, the data capture will provide high quality imagery that will identify invasive grass for measurement and monitoring throughout the year. Visit our Facebook album for more of the amazing aerial pictures.

Green-wood drone pictures

Using Esri’s Drone2Map and ArcGIS Online Web Scenes, Blue Raster was also able to deliver some 3D products, including the iconic gateway entrance and some large mausoleums.

Drone 3D imagery of iconic entrance

Stay tuned for updates on the project, the analysis, and the results of this very exciting turfgrass study!

Following the Student Journey: Education to the Workforce

The TalentED Story Map brings community college students to the forefront of job opportunity and workforce development. In California, Blue Raster, the Community Coast College District (CCCD) and LearningCurved presented a hands-on workshop exploring the use of geographic maps as a tool to transform career exploration. Additionally, the team presented ways to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping for story telling, decision making, and collaboration.

The workshop brought together over 35 attendees from local community colleges and industries, each with unique experience working directly with students and the platform. Attendees explored topics such as:

    • Maps for Smart Decision Making
    • Effective Use of Story Maps
    • TalentED Demonstration
    • User Feedback & Panel Discussion

The TalentED platform provides interactive career exploration by focusing on key concepts which are important to students. Priority Industry Sectors introduce nine growing industries in Southern California, for example Biotechnology and Advanced Transportation. Dig into each Industry Sector to learn more about occupations and wages. In addition, students can explore companies that have careers in those industries and hear testimonials from professionals who followed a similar path.

Community Feedback

The TalentED Development Team worked vigorously to get student feedback and understand ways to improve the platform. For example, the Development team conducted a Pilot Program Survey, where 595 Students and Staff from nine different colleges were invited to get a first look at TalentED. Participants had the opportunity to provide an evaluation of the platform and reflect on their experience navigating the platform. Further, the participants helped us understand if they thought the platform was effective in career exploration and if it was something they would share with their peers. As a result, the TalentED team can hone in ways to make a more effective platform for the students. The positive feedback from the users was tremendous and several respondents spoke directly about their experience at the workshop. Watch the feedback given by users through personal testimonials below.

Saving Wilderness Areas with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

African elephants

At the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), staff are using the Global Forest Watch MapBuilder platform to show their global impact. WCS works to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 16 priority regions. Their new MapBuilder platform is a powerful mapping tool for analyzing data in priority conservation areas.

WCS’ platform combines the use of remote sensing and GIS to visualize and monitor top priority regions for conservation. Through a combination of interactive mapping, data visualizations, and analytical reports, the platform provides staff with access to information on the current state of WCS protected areas around the world.

WCS' goal is to conserve the world's largest wild places in 16 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the world's biodiversity.

The platform incorporates a breadth of data on priority landscapes and sea- and coastal- scapes (known as “scapes”). In addition, it visualizes key project areas where WCS is working to have a conservation impact on species. By centralizing this data all on one platform, users can visualize overlap and patterns. For example, staff can overlay forest fragmentation, infrastructure development, and conservation areas to quickly see if wildlife movement is blocked between and within protected areas. This is especially important in Africa, where species like elephants, giraffes, and zebras travel long distances between wet and dry seasons to survive.

WCS Mapbuilder Platform

In addition to the data on the platform, the site also contains powerful analytics powered by MapBuilder’s custom functionality. Through a unique workflow built by our two teams, WCS can connect their API with the Global Forest Watch API to return time-series statistics within the application. This enables users to run specialized analyses to answer questions such as:

  • Which protected areas have experienced the greatest forest disturbance in recent years?
  • How have species population trends changed over time?
  • Where are the last unbroken swaths of intact forest?
Visualizing Results

WCS can also visualize their impact. For example, thanks to conservation efforts, Nouabalé Ndoki National Park is free from logging and contains no roads within its borders. The park covers more than 4,000 square kilometers of contiguous rainforest and is a stronghold for iconic species including forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, and chimpanzees.

 

 

WCS’ platform is built with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, ArcGIS Enterprise, the Global Forest Watch API, and Google Earth Engine.

Check out the WCS MapBuilder platform today!


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