Two centuries of map-making – from William Smith’s survey to satellites

Today’s maps boast incredible detail and accuracy - but Smith’s were pretty good. Ordnance Survey, CC BY
Today’s maps boast incredible detail and accuracy – but Smith’s were pretty good. Ordnance Survey, CC BY

John Howell in  30 Jan 2015

This year marks the 200th anniversary since William Smith published his life’s work, a geological map of England and Wales, in 1815. While “Strata Smith” and his map are well-known among geologists, this humble man and his amazing map do not receive the attention or wider recognition they deserve. Smith’s achievement was arguably as significant as Darwin’s, yet he resides in relative obscurity.

Smith’s achievement was remarkable for a number of reasons. He made the scientific leap that the rocks of the Earth’s crust could be overlaid onto a basic topographic map, in doing so giving birth to the science of geology. He also did this in the face of considerable social prejudice – at a time when the scientific community were landed gentry and gentlemen of leisure the idea that Smith, a lowly surveyor, could come up with such a revolutionary concept was derided. His work was plagiarised and he was bankrupted, spending time in debtor’s jail, before his eventual vindication just before his death in 1839. The fact that he single handily managed to map the whole of England and Wales, in his spare time, to produce a map that is remarkably accurate even today is to any modern geologist truly breathtaking.  Click here to read more.

27th International Cartographic Exhibition

Call for Participation, International Cartographic Exhibition 2015

The U.S. National Committee (USNC) to the International Cartographic Association (ICA) is pleased to announce the Call for Participation for the International Cartographic Exhibition 2015. The exhibition is open to all United States cartographic products, including maps, atlases, globes, digital products, educational cartographic products, digital services, and “other products” produced or modified after August 2013. Entries will be exhibited at the 27th International Cartographic Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, August 23-28, 2015. The deadline for submitting to the USNC is March 20, 2015.

FAA offers framework to legalize commercial — but not delivery — drones

Ben Fox Rubin for  15 Feb 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration took an important step Sunday toward legalizing and regulating routine use of commercial drones — though don’t expect a delivery drone to bring you a fresh pizza anytime soon.

The agency released its proposed requirements for unmanned commercial aircraft, saying the drones must weigh less than 55 pounds and be operated in daylight within the line of sight of the drone’s operator. Additionally, the drones must fly under 500 feet, no faster than 100 miles per hour, and away from manned aircraft. They must never fly over people except those directly involved with the flight.

The FAA for now doesn’t allow for regular use of commercial drones, so Hollywood studios and others have needed to gain special waivers to use the devices today. While the new rules provide for broad use of drones to shoot TV shows or movies, survey agricultural land or inspect a bridge, they nix the potential use of delivery drones, like those being developed by Amazon and Google, an FAA representative confirmed. However, the rules are still subject to change before being finalized.

In response, Amazon released a statement Sunday, saying it’s not giving up on its goals for its “Prime Air” drone-delivery service.  Read more here.

Paid Internship Program: NASA DEVELOP

The NASA DEVELOP Program is open for current students, recent college graduates, and career transitioning professionals including veterans of the Armed Forces.

This is a great opportunity for individuals who are interested in practical applications of remote sensing and GIS, specifically in the field of Earth Science. Our projects focus on addressing local and international community concerns while utilizing NASA’s Earth observations. Participants work in teams, with guidance from NASA and partner science advisors, to demonstrate to partner organizations how NASA remote sensing imagery can be used in water resources, disaster management, ecological forecasting, and other applications to address environmental community concerns. DEVELOP’s projects are interdisciplinary in nature, so applications are welcome from all academic backgrounds.

Details about the internship and how to apply can be found at The summer online application deadline is February 27th.  The summer program dates are June 1 – Aug 7, 2015. Fall and spring internships are also available, and the term dates and application windows are updated on the “Apply” page of the DEVELOP website. In addition to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD; many other locations across the United States host students and can be viewed on the website.

Responsibilities will include: literature review, data processing and analysis, composing of deliverables including a technical paper, presentation, and video. Previous GIS or remote sensing knowledge, while beneficial, are not required for acceptance.

Applicants must have excellent communication and writing skills, and be able to work in a fast-paced environment. Days of the week are flexible, but applicants should be able to commit to 20-30 hours per week for the summer term. Paid positions are funded as consultants using a rate determined by application type, education level, and location.

Kiersten Newtoff

Center Lead | NASA DEVELOP National Program

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Greenbelt, MD 20770 | (301) 614-6707


February 2015 Webinar

Date and Time: February 18 @ 2 pm EST


Speaker: Cynthia McCoy

Affiliation: FEMA Region III

Title: HAZUS – MH: Program Methodology, Real World Applications and How to Get Involved

Abstract: Hazus-MH is a GIS based modeling tool. It was developed by FEMA to provide a tool, useable by people with modest to comprehensive scientific knowledge and technical skills, to create a credible risk assessment for their community. The maps, tables and reports that it generates can help a community to better comprehend its risk. It comes complete with population data, information about the built environment, and a variety of other data for the entire USA in a format that can drive the model. It generates estimates and reports commensurate with the precision of the data that is fed into it. When used properly, Hazus-MH is an effective tool for quantifying the economic and social impacts of certain natural disasters (riverine and coastal floods, earthquakes, and hurricane) on a community. It serves as a catalyst for the planning effort by providing a risk assessment that can be an additional reason for convening the “right” people on the planning team, focusing them on the “right” issues and prompting the “right” questions. This presentation will cover the HAZUS-MH methodology and an explanation of how data inputs to play a large role in the value of the final risk assessment. Additionally, this presentation will cover applications of HAZUS-MH in the Emergency Management cycle. Finally, information will be provided to explain how the participants can get involved with the HAZUS community.


USGIF Scholarship Program Deadline April 20th

2015 Scholarship Program flyer

  • Students studying geospatial intelligence or any related field are encouraged to submit their applications by the April 20, 2015 deadline.
  • Graduating high school seniors, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students can download applications at
  • Scholarship recipients are chosen based on their academic and professional excellence in a field related to the geospatial intelligence tradecraft.

Last year the Foundation awarded $101,000 to 22 recipients and plans to award at least $100,000 for the 2015 program. High school recipients are awarded $2,000 per scholarship and all others are awarded $5,000 each.  Since 2004, USGIF has awarded $792,000 in scholarship funds to promising students in the geospatial intelligence field.

Students studying in fields such as geography, political science, physics, computer science, engineering, biology, anthropology, sociology or any field in the natural and social sciences are encouraged to apply. Through the USGIF Scholarship Program, the Foundation strives to communicate to students the breadth and power of GEOINT in serving national, global and human security interests.

The USGIF Scholarship Program endeavors to support students with innovative ideas for problem-solving within geospatial science and technology. Please share information about this scholarship program with your students.

For more information on the USGIF Scholarship Program or to download applications, please visit:  Deadline to apply: April 20, 2015 


Young Professionals Unite

Join fellow young professionals in the federal government and Washington DC area for a special program at the Esri Federal GIS Conference, February 9-10, 2015. This is an opportunity to learn about the latest technology your peers use to create a more resilient nation. You’ll hear success stories, tips, and trends. Geospatial innovators will be available to answer your pressing questions.

The program for the Young Professionals Group includes a focused lunch, workshop, career development panel/social and networking happy hour. Close out the conference at the Young Professionals Lounge during the Networking Reception at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Registration is complimentary for federal employees, contractors and tribes; non-profit organizations; and International Organizations. Other members of the Young Professionals Program will  get a registration discount on the conference and the Esri DevSummit DC, which follows a day later.

Register now and sign up for the Young Professionals Group.