GIS, Training, Spatial Problem Solving 

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Foot Washing and an Address

Published on April 17, 2014, by in address, USVI.

By day four it was a joke between myself and Laurie.

Laurie: “Are you taking pictures of me?”
Me: “Only your shoulder. If you were to pose elegantly I would get one of you”.


Laurie: “What time will we finish today?”.
Me: “What time do you need us to be finished?”
Laurie: “There is foot washing at church tonight so I must be ready”.

We had almost been in the USVI a month and were just finishing the first study area. It was also the week before Easter. People were getting a bit nervous the closer we got to the Holiday. Holidays in the islands always need a bit of padding on either side – I think this one was turning into the four days of easter. Maybe five. Apparently it is a big deal to go camping also on the beach.

Also the idea of foot washing had me curious. I heard people calling it “Maundy Thursday“. So I asked Laurie what denomination he belonged to and he answered “Church of God.” Being a Chattanooga Native I immediately had to ask “So Have you been to Cleveland TN?”. Cleveland is home of the Church of God headquarters.

Laurie: “No No but I do want to go. We send people to the meeting every year and I haven’t gotten to go…yet”.

Maps are important. Location is everything.

Me: “Laurie do you know where Chattanooga is located? I’m 30 miles from Cleveland”.

He threw down all the bags and hugged me. “God has brought you to the Islands I AM SOOOO HAPPY”.

We finished up that day early and everyone left. We heard the final word of “please don’t work tomorrow”. Except we had one more street to do and that was done quickly and early enough no one noticed as we drove down the street. I think our quickest addressed street was on Good Friday.

It hasn’t quite been a year but I do miss the insanity of the islands.


April Georgia URISA Workshops to benefit Joe Bless.

From the email grab bag! It’s too late for one of the workshops – not too late for the other. It’s never ever too late to donate.

Dear Georgia URISA members and friends,

In an effort to raise some much needed funding for Joe and his family, Georgia URISA is presenting two workshops to benefit the Bless family.  Building an Address Repository Using the FGDC Standard workshop will be held April 16th.  GITA SE has now donated a second workshop, Using AutoCAD Data in ArcGIS.   For both, we were able to get everything donated in terms of licensing, instructor time and classroom space, so 100% of the funds raised for this workshop will go directly to the Bless family to help them get through the challenges that they are now facing.   Special thanks go to Sara Yurman and Tripp Corbin for agreeing to teach the classes pro bono,  Natalie Culpepper for donating classroom space at the ESRI offices in Alpharetta, and Keri Brennan for donating the URISA workshop license for us to use at no cost.  This has all come together in a short period of time so that we can provide assistance in a timely manner to Joe.  Please take this opportunity to leverage some great training at an affordable cost while helping out one of our colleagues in his time of need.

A fund is also set up for you to give directly to the Bless family.  Here is the link to the donation page:  Every dollar helps them to buy clothes for their children, food, and to repair the house so that they can move back home.  If you would rather to donate time, then rest assured that construction helpers are not going out of style any time soon.   Contact me at, and I can connect you with their friend who is the contractor for the repairs.  

Visit for more info!


NRGS Model Builder Class for ArcGIS Desktop now under Creative Commons License.

A couple of years ago I wrote a model builder class and have only taught it twice. I’ve had people ask about it and I’ve been debating on what to do with it. There are some classes I like teaching and some I don’t. This one has always been a bit hit or miss. So I decided to do something a bit different. I’m releasing it under a Creative Commons license. So It’s free. If you want me to come teach it – give me a call. I’m not sending out certificates unless I’m there in person. Also – it makes more sense If I’m standing in front of you currently. Teaching is the hardest stand up routine I’ve ever done. I wrote this for version ArcGIS v10 – I think everything is still good to go. For version 6 of the class (this is version 5) I will be pouring back over it to make sure everything does work like it should.

One thing I would like is if you have changes or want to add things – forward them to me (you aren’t required to). My ultimate goal is to move this into github to make it more collaborative. Model Builder has been around long enough it’s worth knowing about. I think this class covers enough of the basics to get you started and happy with the software. I’m hoping by version 6 I get to a good spot with this class and get it to a level where it helps more people. Also I want to take “me” out of the class. In other words you read through this and you don’t have to have me standing up front answering questions.

I’m placing it on the website in pdf and odp (open office) formats. Like I said – the ultimate goal is github. I’ll be slowly working on this class and keeping it free. Once again – you want me to come teach it contact me and we will work something out.

The data! The data comes from a project I did several years ago – The Conasauga River Project. At one time I was using this data for every class I taught. There is more data here than you will need – but I didn’t want to break the dataset up. It was a great project GIS wise and it’s been very useful as training material.

Just to protect NRGS – This class is released as is. There is no warranty to the class or data and NRGS will not be held responsible if you build a model that destroys you, your computer, and causes natural disasters that ends life as we know it.

Go nuts ->


Scholarship Funding from USGIF

Since I am president of Mid South ASPRS and this just came out – I’ll toss this up here. You are correct – it has squat to do with NRGS.

Dear Colleagues,

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is excited to announce the opening of our 2014 Scholarship Program. USGIF is dedicated to assisting promising students interested in geospatial sciences with scholarship awards to further the advancement of the geospatial intelligence tradecraft.

With your help, we can make our 2014 Program the most successful yet. Please pass along this information to your contacts and/or students and download our 2014 Scholarship Program flyer.

  • Students studying geospatial intelligence or any related field are encouraged to submit their applications by the April 25, 2014 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 $107,000 to 25 recipients and plans to award at least $100,000 for the 2014 program. High school recipients are awarded $2,000 per scholarship and all others are awarded $5,000 each. Since 2004, USGIF has awarded $584,000 in scholarship funding 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 with 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 25, 2014

Thank you for your assistance.


R. Maxwell Baber, Ph.D., FBCart.S
Director of Academic Programs
United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation


National Map Corps

I’ve been taking a break from OpenStreetMap – the break is about over though.

I started doing some digging this weekend on the National Map Corps. This is the USGS’s foray into Crowdsourcing. I thought it was something new – it’s been going on awhile. 1994 to be exact. I can’t even remember how long ago I started hearing about The National Map. I’ve got this love hate relationship with it. It’s sorely needed. I’m just not sure if this is the form it needs to take.

Anyway, one problem that always came up in my past life is “Why aren’t these maps more up to date?”. These maps being various and assorted from the USGS. We are quite lucky that there is a treasure trove of readily available maps from the USGS. I’ve often wondered in the age of shrinking budgets how do you curate and maintain that data. I’ve seen the rumblings for over a year about the National Map Corps. I dug into it today.

For those of you familiar with OpenStreetMap, you’re going to walk into a very comfortable place. For those of you who aren’t – you are going to walk into a very easy to deal with place. They’ve taken Potlatch and customized it. Right now there are 10 things you can edit. I know 10 isn’t a lot and I expect this to grow as the program gets some legs under it.


From those 10 things they only want the basics: category, name, address, and how you determined it is what it is. Did you see it, find it on a website, or knew someone who knows? Overall it’s simple. It’s great. It’s a good thing to do currently. So if you’ve never crowd sourced any information – here is your chance. Their is a peer review process currently. You will notice your icons change colors as they are reviewed. So they just aren’t turning you loose with no oversight. The oversight appears to be more guided than the Google Maps peer review process….or as I have called it….oh – I can’t use that term up here.

colorsSo I immediately started editing. Immediately wondered how I can make this better and I remembered Fulcrum. We’ve had an account post USVI and I decided to put it to use. Given the number of places I go It would be nice to just pull my phone out and record some information about the 10 features the National Map Corps want you to collect. I’ll most likely pull it into QGIS/ArcGIS and use that to guide some of my edits back into the map. I’ve already updated it 2 or 3 times. I even recorded a cemetery down the street from me as a test.


So – I’m going to make the pitch. If you’ve wanted to edit in OSM and have gotten frustrated or have just wondered if you are doing any good – Well – take a break and go over the the National Map Corps. You don’t need an app – all you need is pen, paper, and the ability to click on a map and fill out some information.There’s no reason you can’t make an account and make one edit. Maybe two.

Do something cool. Help.



So you know you’re getting old when you get random emails telling you a former co-worker has passed on. I’ll add him to the list. We all get old – life etc. Of course I’m telling everyone the obvious.

So my former life at TVA was a mixed bag. I hate politics. I hate red tape. Those two single things made me a complete pain when I worked at TVA. There were two GIS shops in TVA – one in Chattanooga and one in Norris TN. Of course the one in Chattanooga was better – since that was the one I worked in…or at least that’s what I believed. The other shop in Norris was headed up by Charlie Smart. Charlie never was one to get excited about red tape or politics – I would sit through a meeting and would almost immediately go “this is bullsh*t” because – well – see the previous few sentences. The only time both shops were together was news of a re-organization. Charlie would almost always sit there smiling and go “well – that was a good meeting”. Charlie had been doing this a lot longer than I had – and he was used to the ebb and the flow. It was something I could never get used to when I worked there. I guess you could say I’m better at it now. Somewhat.

Charlie was doing GIS at TVA back in the 70′s. Who knows if it was “GIS” at that point. Science so new people are most likely going “This will never work”. When I came along he was probably 30 years into his career. He also was into shooting high powered rifles at a gun club. People would tell me to speak up when talking to him.

Anyway – I never had a chance to work with the man enough. He retired shortly after I left.

So Joyce, Bruce, Scott, Charlie….The list goes on.


There are weeks like the last two were I think I’ve been doing this way too long.

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Georgia URISA Luncheon – April 2014

Date: April 8, 2014

Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Location and Directions: Newton County Fire Service Headquarters

4136A U.S. Highway 278

Covington, GA 30014

Uses of LiDAR in GIS or “Where do Contours Come from Daddy?”

While the use of LiDAR based derivative products is an everyday occurrence in Geospatial Technologies, the process of generating those derivatives from the raw data collected by LiDAR sensor is somewhat mysterious to those of us involved in more traditional GIS roles. We will look at a LiDAR dataset and the various derivatives that can be derived from them.

We will discuss standards for LiDAR acquisition and the extent of LiDAR data for the state.


Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the GIS Coordinator for Newton County. He also serves as Chairman of the GISCC.

As always – go to and register. This should be a fun event – Ernie is never at a loss for words.

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QGIS Class – Chattanooga TN April 29th 2014

The Intro to QGIS Class is coming to Chattanooga April 29th 2014. Right now the location is set for the Hamilton County Small Business Development Center.

100 Cherokee Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37405

Synopsis:  Learning new software can be intimidating for some especially if you are used to a certain product that you have been using for years. (Anyone remember switching from ArcView GIS 3.x to ArcGIS Desktop 8.x?) Or perhaps you are new to GIS and looking for an affordable, user-friendly alternative to other popular GIS software. This is an introduction to QGIS that will get you familiar with the interface and many tools and features that will assist you with viewing, editing, analyzing, creating, managing, and serving GIS data in a variety of formats. Though QGIS is definitely a powerful tool to add to your GIS toolkit, it has some limitations and challenges that will be discussed in this workshop.

It’s $325 Per Seat.

I’m bringing the Mobile Lab so I have room for 10 people. BUT – if you so desire and you are one of those people – you know a MAC User – we can accommodate since QGIS runs on that platform as well and the class is platform independent.

I would also like to add that by the 5th of April we should have online payments set up for the first time. So stay tuned for that bit of excitement. If you want go ahead and email me to reserve a seat -

I would also like to add that the next time you see QGIS Class it will be the data and editing one. Yes – this is going to be a trilogy by the end of summer.

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USGS Ortho Quads and Google

Published on April 2, 2014, by in GDAL, Google, QGIS, USGS.

It’s one of the things I always end up falling back to are the USGS 7.5 Minute quad sheet. My forestry clients live and die by them even though they are now getting severely out of date – some as much as 30 years.

I stumbled on this the other day – Google has a map gallery. I knew somewhere in my head they did – but as you can see I use it so infrequently I forgot they had one. They’ve teamed up with the USGS to provide a fairly simple way to download the newer ortho quads . To me (and this is just me) the newer maps, while nice, don’t have the same soul as the old ones. They are nice because they are more up to date – but….SOUL……

Anyway I started looking and immediately downloaded the quadsheet in the screenshot – the Wauhatchie quad since that is in my old (or current) stomping grounds. Well – it’s a GeoPDF. I’m sorta torn about that, but after giving it some thought that might be the best way to deliver these maps to the public. Being a GeoPDF and seeing how it has layers – you can turn off the image if you wish.

Without Image and With Boring Tan Contours













With Image and Boring Tan Contours.



Cool right?

BUT – it’s a PDF.

So gdal to the rescue:

gdal_translate -of GTiff TN_Wauhatchie_20100512_TM_geo.pdf test_ortho.tif –config GDAL_PDF_DPI 300 -co “COMPRESS=JPEG” -co “JPEG_QUALITY=85″

and your favorite desktop GIS software of choice:


So overall I can get the new ortho quads into GIS desktop software. The tan contours lines don’t lend themselves to great visibility. BUT – this might be a decent addition to some of the work I do. So the point of this story – Arm yourself with GDAL. It does many wonderful things.

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Geocoding Tool from the Census Bureau

It was a bit of a running joke when I started the business. “How do you Geocode addresses?” and my usual answer was “I actually haven’t – I’ve never dealt with addresses”. Suddenly about 3 or 4 jobs later I had geocoded quite a bit and then last year I had the whole “learning about addresses” adventure in the islands.

So through email I got the following from a colleague:

The Census Bureau has released a new geocoding tool that allows users to find the census geographic areas that street addresses or address coordinates are located within.  The tool is available as an API and a web form.  In addition to a single address look-up, the tool also allows users to submit batches of up to 1,000 addresses at a time. The information in the geocoder comes from the Census Bureau’s MAF/TIGER database, which holds our geographic information used for censuses and surveys. The address ranges used in the geocoder are the same address ranges found in the TIGER/Line Shapefiles, which are derived from the Master Address File (MAF).

Additional information, including documentation, descriptions of the data in the geocoder, and FAQs are included on our geocoder website.    

Contact:   |   (301) 763-1128

So this is kinda nice I think. A geocoder from the group I would expect a geocoder from. Most of my geocoding was against ArcGIS’s Geocoding Service and when it disappeared as a free service – well – I haven’t done any geocoding since.

For fun and giggles I did my old address and got this back:

Matched Address: 215 Jarnigan Ave, CHATTANOOGA, TN, 37405
Coordinates:X: -85.30156 Y: 35.062725
Tiger Line Id: 59307418 Side: L
Address Components: 

From Address: 203
To Address: 299
Street Name: Jarnigan
SuffixType: Ave
State: TN
Zip: 37405

So – I await the Happy hacking of tools and scripting…..I’m halfway tempted now to pretend I could write a QGIS Plugin or an arctoolbox model!



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