interactive map – test map up and running

Update, just in case anyone, anywhere ever reads this …

So, goings on — my friends Josh and Maxine were in town recently, and I got to go see their movie screening on Sunday at Santa Barbara, so that was very cool. I met a couple gents from Greenpeace, one of whom, at least, Josh and Maxine are have built a relationship with through the making of this film. I’ve pretty much decided that I’d rather work for an environmental nonprofit than just about anyone else, so I hope I’ll be in contact with those guys again. The movie is Musicwood, and it is nominated for a social justice award, so that’s exciting. Here’s the website: They’re headed to Missoula, Montana, Washington, D.C., and I think Seattle, Washington as well for film festivals in the not too distant future. Check it out.

And how about that interactive map? Well, I don’t think L.A. Waterkeeper would mind me saying that it is their website for which I’m making the map. I have a test map working, but I’ll wait to share until it’s better. But it’s going along pretty well. There were a few options, as mentioned in my previous post — OpenLayers, MapBox, ArcGIS Online — I decided to go with Google Maps API, because it’s pretty easy to use, has more tutorials and documentation than OpenLayers, seems to offer more in terms of adding links, icons, and so forth compared to ArcGIS Online, and there shouldn’t be any licensing issues for a nonprofit. I didn’t really look into MapBox as much — it does look pretty good, but really Google Maps just stood out to me as probably the best blend of being easy to learn, relatively quick to get set up, and though their basemap must be used, it can be styled using the Style Wizard to look very different, very uncluttered. I can add layers as KMLs, which allows for placemarks and line styles and all those sorts of things to be established within the code of the KML pretty easily. It’s a little tricky to muddle into, because the various GIS programs I’ve tried all do different things when exporting to KML — ArcMap allows you to set the colors, but it dumps all the attributes, and transparency must be added after export. QGIS did kind of a weird thing — the file I used had these simple but nice tables that showed in balloons when you click on a feature in Google Earth, and it kept all the attributes, but then in the Google Map none of that happens. It’s good to know the info is being retained within the KML, but I would have to restructure it to get it to display the way I want. Global Mapper so far is the best I’ve tried — it doesn’t have all the lovely qualitative color ramps of ArcMap, but it does keep the color, the transparency, and the attributes. It gives the features placemarks, which pop up a balloon containing a rather ugly and rudimentary little table, but I’m thinking maybe I can borrow the table style tidbits from the QGIS export as a template to make those tidier. So far, so good.

I think it’s going well, and I think the folks at Waterkeeper seem pretty pleased with what little I got going so far, and I think we’ll have it up on their website in a month or so, after which it will be all the sort of tweaks and refinements to improve it. Anyways, I wish I had more time, but my actual paying job has been keeping me busy. Plus there’s that pesky thesis I’m supposed to be working on.

interactive web map

I’m trying to create an interactive web map as part of an internship. As Yoda once said, “Do or do not, there is no try”. I know I can produce something that will be a useful display of information involving maps. One way would be to create a bunch of maps at predetermined extents and give the user the capability to navigate through a larger reference map to maps that are progressively zoomed in. I could do this by tiling, or by just making maps according to my own arbitrary choices of what looks good and conveys information. The bonus is that they have nothing right now, so anything I produce is an improvement. At the very least, it should be possible to turn layers off and on. One means of doing this is to add even more maps to the catalog above, the same extents but with different combinations of layers turned on and off. Now, this is starting to be a lot of maps to create, which means updating or changing the information would be a bit of a nuisance, but if I keep a map document handy I could just run through the bookmarks with a certain layer combination and export. I might even be able to script that. I should keep world or prj files with those, or just always use the same projection so I know what it is without one, so I could add those jpgs or whatever to a GIS. Ideally the layers would be queryable, and with permission, editable, but I consider that a goal to achieve later; first I need to see what’s involved in making it simply interactive on a web page. I’m thinking ArcGIS Explorer Online and Google Maps API will give me the capability to do the most interactivity with the most user-friendly interface, provided I’m okay with their logo (I am) and their basemap options underneath. I’m also looking at things like MapBox and TileMill, and OpenGeo which stacks PostGIS, GeoServer and Open Layers along with a couple others. I think the last one might be the best, as it actually involves a suite containing the database, the GIS, the server, all together, while the former I believe allows you basically to make maps and serve them, but I guess the data just needs to be in shapefile, KML, GeoTIFF, csv, or some other common format. So maybe I could just go back into a project and replace a “site” layer with an updated one, and how I store it and update could be Arc or Global Mapper or QGIS or OpenJump or whatever. Well, it’s Christmas eve, and I’ve got things to do. Cheers,


Lead Paint

Okay, what the hell? I was trying to keep this blog more or less professional, but I think it’s a pretty dry read so far, and I look up there and see my name in the address bar, and I think, well, that doesn’t seem right. So, I’ll add a little personal touch now, I think.

Recently, my friend Josh ( introduced me to this guy Adam (, and we played some music. If you scroll down there on Adam’s page you can see the MUSIC heading, and if you click Lead Paint (2008-Present), the following page will open: In the address bar, add “071” to get You can hear what Adam mixed from the recording of that session.

An introduction

The little “About Me” gadget over there has a little blurb about me…grad student, geographer, blah blah blah. To the academics and professionals among you who find my casual writing style shocking (am I daring to address you, as though I am the Abby behind Dear Abby?), let me plainly say that I will be keeping this rather informal. The author wishes to avoid the detached narrative voice of the third person (omniscient?) who so often describes what methods were carried out (without an actor? of their own agency?) or what results imply (free from the presence of an interpreter?). Forgive me. May I point out that in a sense, I am first a writer, then a geographer, as my first degree is a B.A. in English, writing minor. I was trained to despise passive voice, but it so often seems the only way to avoid “I” or “we” or “me”. It was my years of wondering what to write about that drove me back to college–partially, anyway–and only then did I stumble into the discipline of geography. I will write this blog informally, and stream of consciousness (punctuation be damned!), as it is my blog, not an article for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.
I would like to expand upon my rather expansive list of interests listed over there, “About Me”. I do consider myself a physical and environmental geographer, although I would like to stress that this does not mean I have zero interest in the human, the cultural, the social. I just don’t know as much about it, because there isn’t enough time in the day to learn all that I want to learn, and so I must prioritize. I prioritized geography over geology, though I am always eager to learn more about rocks and minerals and geochemical cycles and the force of flowing water in shaping the landscape, both in terms of erosion and deposition, dissolution, transport, and sedimentation and in terms of the relationship with life, with plants and animals and humans. I have a fondness for bugs…insects, arachnids, and the bugs of the sea…invertebrates in the tidal zones…but unfortunately I have not a biology class since high school. I am certainly capable of learning things on my own, but again, not enough time in the day to learn everything. Bugs and little invertebrates, microbes, and so on are so nearly invisible, or thought creepy, but they are little ecological engines playing such crucial roles. I have two cockroaches…Gromphadorhina portentosa. But back to geography…
So similarly, I have learned a bit here and there about water policy, watershed management, land use, and environmental justice, political ecology, and the like. I have learned a bit about physical hydrology and hydrogeology. And yes, I have spent quite a bit of time with GIS, at this point. Initially, I took a GIS class at Santa Monica College simply to make myself more marketable for environmental jobs. My sister, an anthropologist, had studied environmental science and environmental studies, and reported to me that she and her fellow students in those majors were being asked about GIS skills when seeking jobs or internships. So I figured I had better get on board. In that first GIS class I immediately understood…a geographic information system is a powerful tool for environmental analysis. It can be used as an analytical tool in itself, or be used for pre-processing data for other models, and for assembling output maps for presentation.
Fast forward, and I have just finished the last class I needed for a GIS certificate. I have also finished all of the coursework required for the M.A. (and then some)–all I have left is the thesis. My thesis topic is DEMs as a source of uncertainty in modeling the Barbara’s Lake watershed. This is an area in which my advisor and a colleague in Geology have conducted research, and in which they hope to continue to conduct research. I hope to find out how the uncertainty in the digital elevation model impacts the actual predictions of runoff patterns in the watershed and pollutant loadings in the lake.
I suspect it will be negligible compared to other sources, considered strictly in terms of accuracy, that is, whether the elevation one would actually find at a given location in the field is, within the error of the measuring instrument and method, what is shown on the map. The most obvious error encountered so far actually appeared in work a fellow student, Brian Nagy, has been doing in creating a digital model to serve as the guide for a solid terrain model. The DEM, it seems, was created from a USGS topographic map dating to the 1970s. In the time since the source map was created, cuts and fills and leveling have changed the lanscape. In terms of real world application at this site, the temporal sampling interval is the limiting factor on accuracy, here, not the spatial resolution or the intrument precision or what have you. If the landscape was unchanged from the source map, some uncertainty would still exist from these other sources…this is the uncertainty I wish to measure the impact of. I’ll let you know how it turns out.