GIS Health News Weekly

Using 3D to Track Flu

Speaking from her base in California, Ms [Lauren] Bennett [Spatial Analysis Product Engineer] said advancements in mapping technology could provide unprecedented insights into how influenza and other disease outbreaks spread in Australia and who is most at risk.

“For example, in the case of an influenza epidemic, we can now create 3D temporal maps of incidents to identify hot spots where the time of the outbreak provides the third dimension,” said Ms Bennett.

This is from a press release (though you’d not know it since it looks like a bylined article) from Esri Australia.

Where are the Blood Donors in Vancouver?

The Vancouver Sun has the answer (map at right):

 Map shows the share of the population in each Metro Vancouver neighbourhood who donated blood in the past year. Large blue icons indicate the location of permanent blood clinics. Blue dots are temporary clinics. Click on a neighbourhood for more details.

United Way Using Story Map for Campaign

United Way and the Ad Council, in collaboration with the National Football League, have announced an extension of their successful LIVE UNITED campaign, including a new series of public service ads (PSAs) featuring NFL players promoting health and wellness, and ads showcasing the true outcome of United Way’s work in local communities. The new campaign also

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Census PoP Quiz

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How well do you know the states? Do you know the percentage of the population that walk or drive to work in New York? What percentage of people make between $50,000 and $75,000 in St. Petersburg, FL? How many women have doctoral degrees in Sacramento, CA?

Test your knowledge with Census PoP Quiz, a new population challenge about the 50 states and the District of Columbia from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Director’s Blog post | Press release



Screenshots of the Census PoP Quiz application

icon image of App Storeicon image of Google play


  • A fun, engaging experience.
  • Challenges that test your knowledge of population, housing, commuting, and more for all 50 states and the nation’s capital.
  • Social media connections – with each challenge you complete correctly, share your badge on social media.
  • Statistics powered by the American Community Survey, which provides information on more than 40 topics for every neighborhood in the nation.
  • Complete all the states to unlock the U.S. challenge.

The Census PoP Quiz app is just one example of how the Census Bureau is following the Digital Government Strategy by making its statistics more available anywhere, anytime and in any place. The Census Bureau does not collect or retain any information using this application. All information is stored only on your phone.

Mapping Disaster: A Global Community Helps from Space


The Landsat fleet of satellites can tell responders what damage disasters have done, providing timely insight into flood extents, fire boundaries, lava flow directions, road conditions, and oil slick movements. The images from these birds support response to earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, fires, landslides, oil spills, and hurricanes worldwide.

Year after year, somewhere on Earth, natural or manmade disasters cause loss of life and widespread destruction, frequently spawning refugee situations. Though the risk of a disaster is low in any one particular place, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, fires, landslides, oil spills, and hurricanes — when considered together on a global scale — regularly menace people, property, and natural resources.

Major disasters can temporarily make existing maps obsolete, rewriting river boundaries, shorelines, and land features in an instant. When disasters strike and first responders need to understand new situations on the ground, the best source of information often comes from the sky. Satellites, like Landsat, can tell responders what damage disasters have done, providing timely insight into flood extents, fire boundaries, lava flow directions, road conditions, and oil slick movements.

Taking Action

After devastating Hurricane Mitch swept through Central America in 1998 leaving 20,000 dead in its tracks, space agency leaders decided to take action and use their specialized resources to try to lessen the impact of future disasters.

Hurricane Mitch

Hurricane Mitch, a category 5 hurricane, ripped through Central America in 1998 leaving a devastating trail of destruction. This image shows the aftermath of Mitch’s flood damage along the Choluteca River in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The storm spurred the idea for the Charter. Image: NOAA National Weather Service, Debbie Larson. (click for larger image)

In 1999, at the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) in Vienna, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency (CNES) proposed a system to supply free satellite imagery to emergency responders anywhere in the world. The outcome was the creation of the International Charter Space and Major Disasters; “Charter” for short.

You can think of the Charter as a one-stop-shop for impact maps — an essential resource, since in many cases satellite data are the only practical method to assess current ground conditions after a disaster.

Today, 15 space agencies that manage more than 30 satellites are part of the Charter, pooling their combined resources to ensure that spacefaring nations can quickly share their data for a humanitarian undertaking. Since its inception, the Charter has been activated more than 400 times.

U.S. Participation

While the U.S. was not originally part of the Charter, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration — with its mighty fleet of meteorological satellites —soon became a member in 2001. The U.S. Earth-observing satellite fleet, including Landsat, was not officially part of the Charter until the U.S. Geological Survey joined in 2005.

However, Landsat was used during the very first charter activation, in November 2000. After weeks of torrential rainfall, a small landside dammed up the Mangart Stream near the Italian border. The resulting pooled waters worked in tandem with the saturated slopes of Slovenia’s Mount Mangart to cause the mountainside to give way overnight. An estimated 1 million cubic meters (35 million cubic feet) of debris flowed into the Soca River, devastating a small village and killing seven people en route.

The Charter was activated a few days later. Thirteen satellite images were used, including two Landsat images taken before the disaster. All of the satellite images were gathered into a geographic information system (GIS) where the damage was analyzed. Using Landsat and SPOT imagery, a land use map was quickly created. This helped data analysts show responders that, although the majority of damage occurred in areas covered by deciduous forest, there was also significant damage in agricultural and inhabited areas.

In late 2004, a magnitude 9 earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that affected Sumatra, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and southern India, killing more than 200,000 people. The Charter was activated three times to cover the large expanse of damage. Both-medium resolution data (Landsat, SPOT, Disaster Monitoring Constellation) and very high-resolution data (IKONOS, Quickbird) were used to map impacted areas and to calculate damage extent. This gave first responders an overview of the situation on the ground and provided them with information needed to plan relief logistics.

Landsat image

Landsat images, like this Landsat 5 image acquired Sept. 7, 2005, were among the space-based image resources used to monitor receding floodwaters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. USGS/NASA Landsat image. (click for larger image)

The U.S. Earth-Observation Fleet Joins the Charter

After the staggering devastation wrought by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Brenda Jones, a Disaster Response Coordinator with the U.S. Geological Survey, received an email from Charley Hickman, a USGS State liaison in Ohio. Hickman wanted to know why Landsat was not officially part of the Charter. Jones looked into the matter and quickly discovered that the Charter was keen to partner with USGS.

“The Charter was very interested in having USGS join because of Landsat,” Jones recounts.

Thus, in early 2005, USGS became an official participating agency of the Charter. While USGS had joined because of its Landsat resources, USGS membership brought a suite of other valuable satellite data to the Charter, including NASA’s MODIS, ASTER, EO-1, and even photos taken from the International Space Station. Additionally, commercial high-resolution vendors contribute their data through USGS.

Landsat’s combination of spatial and spectral resolution together with its 186-km (115-mile) image width makes its data particularly useful after hurricanes, fires, and volcanoes, and floods.  Click to read more.

The FOSS4Geo Academy Releases QGIS Online Training

Corpus Christi, Texas

The FOSS4Geo Academy Releases QGIS Online Training

The FOSS4Geo Academy announces the launch of its QGIS training courses beginning in September 2014. The five courses will be offered in limited-enrollment, instructor-led online format. The courses are designed to provide concise technical skills to anyone desiring to learn the practical application of QGIS. They are based on the knowledge and skills outlined in the Dept. of Labor Geospatial Technology Competency Modem (GTCM).

Classes begin the first Monday of each month (except December) and run for four week through the last Friday of the same month. The first course begins September 1 and runs through September 26. New sections are added on demand each month. Classes are taught by experienced GIS professionals (some GISP-certified) and university faculty.

The five courses include:

1. GST 101—Introduction to Geospatial Technology Using QGIS

2. GST 102—Spatial Analysis Using QGIS

3. GST 103—Data Management and Acquisition Using QGIS

4. GST 104—Cartography Using QGIS and Inkscape

5. GST 105—Remote Sensing Using QGIS and GRASS The courses are designed to be self-contained complete with all the theory, software instruction, and sample data required to learn at home or office, at your own pace.

A complete set of step by step tutorial videos is included to demonstrate completion of the QGIS lab exercises. The cost is $25 USD per course and a continuing education course certificate is provided upon completion with a minimum grade of 85. A Workforce Certificate in Geospatial Technology (undergraduate continuing education) is available for completing the five course series at 85 or better through Del Mar College.

For more information, detailed course outlines, FAQ answers, schedule of course offerings and registration, visit our website at

Don’t Miss These Resources on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)


FAA and other U.S. Government resources

Professional Resources

The Top Five Things You Need to Know about Drones and GIS


Monday, August 25th 2014
Read More About: droneslidarremote sensinguav
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Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are in the news almost daily. This article by contributing writer Bill McNeill provides a basic overview of the technology and the exploding market potential for UAVs.

The mere mention of “drones” conjures thoughts of bombs and missiles raining down on unsuspecting bad guys. However, most of today’s drones, more accurately described as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are or will be focused on generating data to solve peace-time applications.

UAVs range in size and cost from Northrop’s Global Hawk at $200M, with an endurance of 32 flying hours, to the $40 Powerup paper airplane driven by a small electric motor and controlled from a smartphone using Bluetooth. This article will focus on “prosumer” UAVs, smaller craft used for capturing remotely-sensed information. These aircraft are generally priced under $5,000 and in our opinion will be the game changers with respect to generating data for GIS applications.  Click here to continue reading.

A Glossary of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Terms


2.4 Ghz: The frequency used by digital (spread spectrum) radio communications in our applications, including 2.4Ghz RC, bluetooth and some video transmission equipment. This is a different band than the older 72 Mhz band that is used for analog RC communications. To avoid radio frequency conflict is it often a good idea to use 72 Mhz radio equipment when you are using 2.4 Ghz onboard video transmitters, or use 900 Mhz video when using 2.4 Ghz RC equipment.

AHRS: Attitude and Heading Reference System.

AMA: Academy of Model Aeronautics. The main US model aircraft association. Generally hostile to amateur UAVs, which are banned on AMA fields. But each AMA chapter and field may have slightly different policies, and it’s possible to test airframes and some technology on AMA fields without violating the association’s rules.

APMArduPilotMega autopilot electronics

  • ArduCopter: Rotary-wing autopilot software for the APM and Pixhawk electronics
  • ArduPlane: Fixed-wing autopilot software for the APM and Pixhawk electronics.
  • ArduPilot: The overall autopilot project that ArduCopter, ArduPlane, and ArduRover live within
  • ArduRover: Ground and water autopilot software for the APM and Pixhawk electronics

Arduino: An open source embedded processor project. Includes a hardware standard originally based on the Atmel Atmega (and other 8-bit) microprocessor microcontroller and necessary supporting hardware, and a software programming environment based on the C-like Processing language.  See the official website.

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