Event: Illinois GIS Day

  • What: A celebration of GIS Day, an “annual salute to geospatial technology and its power to transform and improve our lives.” The event is free, and includes a keynote address, presentations, lightning talk sessions, a map/poster competition, and a career connection session.
  • Where: iHotel and Conference Center, 1900 S 1st St, Champaign, IL 61820
  • When: November 15, 2016 from 8:00 AM – 4:15 PM; registration open now
  • Why: To spend a day with other GIS enthusiasts, to make important connections, and to learn new and important information about what is going on in the field, including a keynote address by Keith A. Searles, Chief Executive Officer, Urban GIS, Inc.

GIS Spotlight: What3words

What3words is an addressing system that works as an alternative to using latitude and longitude. The system consists of a grid of three meter by three meter squares laid over the globe with a three word code randomly assigned to each square. Their system is based on the idea that three words are much easier to remember, as well as record and relay, than multi-digit latitude and longitude coordinates.

This new addressing system is extremely useful for countries where there are inconsistent or nonexistent addresses or street names.  The Mongol Post has adopted what3words as their addressing system because of the considerable nomadic population in Mongolia and the lack of road names over much of the country.

Even in countries with functional postal systems what3words can be used to identify places that have no address. For instance, the Alma Mater of The University of Illinois has no street address, but in what3words its address is stores.basin.frame.

14251424459_4b27cbbd25_bI think that what3words is a really interesting idea, and since I love maps I find it enjoyable just looking around their website. It’s fun to find a what3words that’s very apt for its location (despite the random distribution of words), or… one that’s not.  For example, worlds.largest.ocean is located just outside of Marshfield, Wisconsin.


There are some limitations, however. What3words only gives information about the surface of the Earth. It does not give any reference to where things are vertically. Addressing in urban areas would not be able to rely solely on what3words for this reason; an apartment number or floor would have to be added. What3words has said that it’s possible they could incorporate a height dimension in the future.

What3words can be used with ArcGIS, a mapping software that the Scholarly Commons has available on all PCs in our lab. Since the Scholarly Commons is located on the third floor of the library, I can’t direct you here solely through what3words. I can however, specify the best library entrance for getting here.

Enter at and go up the stairs.

Come visit us!

Event: Scholarly Commons Digital Humanities Lunch Forum: “Getting Going: DIY GIS in Scholarship and the Classroom”

Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Time:  11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Place:  308 Library

Join us in the Scholarly Commons on Wednesday, April 22nd at 11:30 for a Digital Humanities Lunch Forum session with John Randolph, professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. John Randolph will describe his efforts to use spatial analysis techniques, as a non-GIS specialist, in the study and teaching of Russian history.

– Light refreshments will be provided and attendees are welcome to bring their lunches.

Hosted by the Scholarly Commons, University Library, with thanks to a generous gift from the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Questions? Contact Harriett Green at green19@illinois.edu.

Illinois GIS Day and the Amazing Waste Race- Sign Up Today!

Illinois GIS Day will be held November 19, 2014 at the iHotel and Conference Center. Register here soon to reserve your spot! This program is part of the worldwide GIS day celebration designed to promote geospatial technology and its power to transform and improve our lives.

The program will feature lightning talks, poster presentations, and a keynote address from Harriet Festing, director of the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Water Program. The full agenda is available here.

Want to gain experience using GIS tools while tracking down trash on campus? Join The Amazing Waste Race GPS Blitz Competition! Illinois GIS Day 2014 is partnering with the University of Illinois Facilities and Services department to help them identify where waste receptacles are located throughout campus. The race is on to see who can find the most! There will be prizes for all who participate and a grand prize for the winning team.

Teams will be using ArcGIS Online and the Collector for ArcGIS mobile app. By participating in the competition, you will learn how to use these tools in a real world scenario. Not sure how to use ArcGIS technology? Visit the online tutorial. An informational meeting will be held Friday, November 7, at 12:30pm in room 314 of the Main Library to help improve your ArcGIS Online and Collector for ArcGIS skills. If you have questions, you can contact James Whitacre, the GIS Specialist at the Library, for more information. The prizes will be distributed at Illinois GIS Day.  Sign up for the competition here.

For more information about Illinois GIS Day, visit Facebook page or follow on Twitter!

New GIS Specialist at Scholarly Commons

The Scholarly Commons has a new GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Specialist, James Whitacre. James’s expertise will enhance the Scholarly Commons’s ability to help students and faculty with their geospatial research needs and geodata design and management. He will be available by appointment to help researchers acquire geodata, design and manage spatially enabled databases, find the geoprocessing tools needed to analyze geodata, and enhance maps to be publication ready and will hold office hours during fall and spring semesters.

If you are unsure of what GIS is, the Scholarly Commons will continue to offer an introductory workshop on how GIS can be used in research, to help researchers understand the power of geospatial technologies. Additionally, the Scholarly Commons plans to expand GIS training opportunities to help expand students’ knowledge of GIS concepts and techniques. Topics will include finding geodata on the web, geodata design and management best practices, map publication, free and open source and online software tools, coordinate systems and projections, and software scripting tools such as ModelBuilder and Python.

James comes to us from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History where he served as the GIS Manager for three years, after finishing his Master of Science in Geography, concentrating on GIS and Cartography, at the Indiana University of the Pennsylvania. James has a strong background in natural sciences, but also has experience with many other GIS applications, such as population analysis, crime mapping, and cartographic production.

Welcome, James!

Multi-angle Imaging of Earth from Space: Past, Present, and Future

Consider attending the inaugural presentation of the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies Brown Bag Seminar Series. The talk will be held from 12-1, October 28th,  in room 1040 of the NCSA Building. Pizza and drinks will be provided.

Talk Title: Multi-angle Imaging of Earth from Space: Past, Present, and Future
Speaker: Dr. Larry Di Girolamo

Remote sensing of Earth by way of orbiting satellites has become one of the leading ways in which we gather information on the geophysical properties of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. Multi-angle imaging satellite technologies are becoming more popular since they offer superior remote sensing capabilities in retrieving cloud and aerosol properties when compared to traditional single-view instruments. Here, I will provide a brief overview of past, present and future satellite multi-angle imaging instruments, why we continue to need them, and what challenges they bring to GIS.

Great Lakes THATCamp 2013

Have an interest in digital humanities and curious about the unconference format? Are you looking for potential digital humanities research collaborators? You might consider attending Great Lakes THATCamp 2013. For those unfamiliar – a THATCamp is a conference driven by participants. Participants take part in schedule creation, and there is an expectation that all participants will contribute to the conference by presenting, discussing, and/or collaborating with other participants. The theme of this particular THATCamp centers around the digital humanities and will likely draw participants from a variety of professional contexts such as campus departments, libraries, and archives. This is a great opportunity to learn about digital humanities and share ideas with colleagues working throughout the region.

The event takes place Saturday, September 28, 9:00AM – 4:30PM at Lawrence Technological University.

ATLAS Statistics/GIS Open Lab Fall Schedule Now Available

Colleagues at the ATLAS Statistics/GIS Open Lab have released their Fall service hours and workshop series. The ATLAS workshop series covers ATLAS.ti, ArcGIS, SPSS, Stata, SAS, R, and Questionnaire Design. These workshops are available only to the University of Illinois community and are being offered at no cost.

The ATLAS Statistics/GIS Open lab (2043 Lincoln Hall) is open:

Monday 9am-5pm
Tuesday 9am-5pm
Wednesday 9am-10am, 11am-5pm
Thursday 9am-5pm
Friday 9am-3pm

In addition, ATLAS holds Data Service hours in the Scholarly Commons.
For more information please visit: http://www.library.illinois.edu/sc/datagis/

Sandboxing Academic Infrastructure

Consider this scenario. A web application comes across my radar that I want to try out. I attempt to install it and I realize I need a server to run it. I do not have access to a server and I do not want to pay for one without knowing that the web application is worth it. One potential solution to this problem is to use an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). While not an easy task to implement for a beginner, the difficulty in setting up an AMI should be lessened by reading Amazon’s documentation. AMIs can qualify for up to 12 months of free use.

An AMI is a, “special type of pre-configured operating system and virtual application software”, that lets users run virtual machines on Amazon servers. If for example, an individual wanted to test software that required a server with a LAMP (Linux, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL, and PHP, Perl or Python) software bundle installed, an AMI could be used to run it. AMIs can be thought of as sandbox environments to test out software, at low cost, without making changes to existing infrastructure.

James Smithies, a Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand conveniently provides a number of pre-configured Academic AMIs:

It is important to note that without modification, an Academic AMI is not intended for uses other than testing out a web application. On this point James writes, “default usernames / logons for all aspects of the web applications loaded onto these AMIs are in the public domain, through the ReadMe files provided with each AMI.” As a result standard Academic AMIs are not secure enough to support a sustained public facing service like providing access to a digital collection using Omeka and Neatline.

For guidance on how to make an Academic AMI more secure be sure to read all of the documentation provided on the Academic AMI site thoroughly, in addition to Amazon’s documentation on how to run a public AMI securely.