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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.

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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.

Using StoryMaps to Celebrate Arlington County’s 1920 Centennial

Up until the end of the American Civil War, both present-day Arlington County and Alexandria County were included under the Alexandria County name. Then, in 1870, Virginia's re-written Constitution called for the state’s many incorporated cities to become independent from their respective counties. Thus, Alexandria City separated from the County of Alexandria, which was renamed to “Arlington County” to avoid confusion.

Blue Raster partnered with the Arlington Historical Society to create a StoryMap celebrating Arlington County's centennial anniversary. This StoryMap highlights 115 points of historical significance throughout the county, as curated by the Arlington Historical Society. The map displays a diverse range of feature types, including bridges, farmhouses, mansions, schools, and more. Each location also features a high-quality picture, modern-day address, and informative site description.

Arlington Centennial StoryMap

Arlington County Centennial StoryMap

This StoryMap also features a custom basemap, created from scratch by Blue Raster’s GIS and design teams. This basemap gives viewers a better view of what Arlington County looked like in 1920, including historic street and community names. In addition to a view of the past, this basemap also contains elements of the present. Zooming in activates a layer showing current-day building footprints that can help the viewer relate present locations to historical points of interest.

Since our inception in 2002, Blue Raster has been headquartered in Arlington County, Virginia. We always love working with local businesses and organizations, and we look forward to celebrating the county’s centennial anniversary with this StoryMap.

Let Blue Raster create your organization’s next StoryMap. Contact us today to get started!

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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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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!


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