Thursday, April 19, 2012

Visualizing Acme Township's Annual Phragmites Surveys

Acme Township has been commissioning annual surveys for invasive phragmites stands along its Grand Traverse Bay shoreline since 2009.  The results of these surveys are used to determine the scope of each year's eradication program.  The first survey in 2009 was carried out by Derek Walton, a biologist and summer intern working for the township.  Specially trained township resident volunteers carried out the second survey in 2010.  The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay carried out the 2011 survey, and is expected to carry out the 2012 survey as well.

Acme Phragmites Surveys web mapEach year, the survey recorded the location of each observed phragmites stand using a portable GPS (global positioning system) unit, together with any relevant metadata for the observation.  The data were then converted to GIS shapefile format to create phragmites location maps for use by the spraying contractor.

I used the three years of available survey data to make a simple interactive web map showing the location of each year's observed phragmites stands.  You can view the map with your browser at:

Hence the phragmites GIS data can serve a dual purpose.  When collected each summer, the data are used immediately for planning the season's eradication campaign.  When used together with other years' data, the data can serve as part of a monitoring and evaluation process, helping to formulate and evaluate key performance indicators for the long-term effort.

This particular map was created using Google Maps API v3.  Each year's phragmites data comprises a separate KML file overlaid onto a Google Satellite View basemap, as does the township outline polygon.  The township 2010 parcel polygons are a Google Fusion Tables layer.  Aren't web maps cool?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Open Source GIS Book Updated ... (yaay!)

There have been precious few books in print that have updated information on how to do GIS using open source software.  One reason for this is the incredibly fast rate at which popular open source GIS packages have been updated.  For example, even as mainstream users fire up QGIS 1.7.4 to do their GIS work, the hard-working members of the world-wide network of developers are working on QGIS 1.9.90 build 110 (as of today).  It's entirely possible that the next major upgrade to QGIS will be version 2.0, skipping public releases of versions 1.8 and 1.9 !!!

(What?  You're not using QGIS 1.7.4?  Go here immediately!)

Geospatial Desktop cover
Last month, a new publisher called Locate Press published a book called The Geospatial Desktop: Open Source GIS & Mapping.  This book is an update of an out-of-print 2008 book called Desktop GIS: Mapping the Planet with Open Source Tools.  It uses more modern versions of open source tools, including QGIS, to teach readers the rudiments of GIS.  It is available from in softcover print (US $50) and kindle (US $29) versions.

I liked the original book, so I will probably be purchasing the Kindle version.  Some of you may have had a chance to look at the original as well.  The author is Gary Sherman, the developer of the original versions of QGIS.  His very informative blog is here.

Gary Sherman also noted in a video interview that he is working on a separate book on QGIS.  If so, this will be the first published "how-to" book (I assume that's what it will be) on QGIS.  (For other QGIS resources --- and there are many, many of them --- see

If you're looking to see what you can do using other, non-QGIS open source GIS tools, or if you need to brush up on GIS itself, then you might consider getting this book.  I'll let you know when the QGIS book comes out.

18 April 2012 update:  I left a question last week at Gary Sherman's blog, asking him about the status of his QGIS book project.  He graciously responded, indicating that the project is on hold at the moment.  The incredible pace of establishment of new features, functions, and plug-ins in the development version of QGIS (v. 1.9.90) guarantees that any QGIS book written now will be obsolete upon publication.  The strategy is to wait until version 2.0 comes out before deciding on whether and when to re-start the QGIS book project.