Thursday, December 17, 2009

GIS for Carbon Accounting & Tropical Forest Management

GIS Technology is going to be used for Carbon Accounting and Tropical Forest Management in Guyana. See the ESRI News Release.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Training in Panama

CATHALAC, the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Panama, in association with various universities and organisations, offers educational programmes, including a Master's degree in Climate Change, a Capacity Development Programme for professionals, a Study Abroad Programme for undergraduates, a Research Abroad Programme and a Sabbaticals and Doctoral Research Programme. The July 2010 Study Abroad Programme will last eight weeks and focus on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. It will be conducted in English and the closing date is 8th Mar 2010. With CATHALAC being a hub for geospatial data and expertise, I imagine participants will be exposed to the latest in GIS technology.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MSc Scholarships in Geospatial Technologies

MSc Geospatial Technologies
Application deadline: Jan 15, 2010

Ten full scholarships for non-EU students are available under the Erasmus Mundus programme for an MSc in Geospatial Technologies, taught in English, at Münster University (Germany), University of King Jaume I (Spain) and the New University of Lisbon (Portugal).

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Caribbean Youth Poster Competition

UN-SPIDER and the Space Generation Advisory Council in support of the UN Programme for Space Applications (SGAC), calls for candidates from Caribbean Region countries between the ages of 18–35 to submit a poster on the topic of "Case Study on the use of Space–based information for Disaster Management in the Caribbean". The lucky winner will be invited to the 4th Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management from the 7-11 of December, 2009 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Travel costs, daily subsistence allowance and cost of printing poster will be covered The deadline is 15 Nov 2009.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Eyes in the Sky

With the launch of WorldView-2, the newest high resolution sensor, today Oct 8, 2009, GIS practitioners now have several choices for commercial half-metre imagery. WorldView-2 will acquire 46cm (panchromatic) and 1.84m (multispectral) imagery. The GeoEye-1 sensor, launched on Sep 6, 2008, provides 41cm (panchromatic) and 1.65m (multispectral). And WorldView-1 launched on Sep 18, 2007 provides 50cm imagery. One can actually see/ interpret people on these half-metre images (not faces yet, that's just in Enemy of the State). There's also the "lower" resolution, and more affordable, 1-metre resolution QuickBird and IKONOS imagery suitable for a variety of tasks. Even though the newer sensors can technically provide 41/46cm resolution images, non-US Government orders are limited to 50cm resolution. For customers in the West Indies, the official agents for the satellite companies, GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, are located in Trinidad and Barbados, respectively.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How to find a Hurricane

Well, there are a few good sources including the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) with decent presentation, useful charts and downloadable GIS data, and the more colourful Weather Underground, but the best visualisation that I've seen recently must be the MSNBC, Bing-powered, Stamen-designed Hurricane Tracker.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Belize NSDI

Belize National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).
With thanks to Marion Cayetano, Galen University

As reported in the news and on the GSDI LAC and the GEOSS Caribe mailing lists, Belize's effort to build an NSDI aims to "foster national development by promoting national competitiveness and productivity". That unusual statement puts it well - an SDI isn't just an ideal, it's part of any modern country's infrastructure.

Belize has experience with GIS. Its first use of GIS and Remote Sensing was during the late eighties to monitor crop potential and harvesting of Sugar Cane. In the nineties it established a GIS-equipped Land Information Centre (LIC).

This 1st NSDI conference was very well attended. About 25 organizations from the public, private, academic and private sectors attended the conference which was held at the San Ignacio Hotel, San Ignacio Town on the 29th & 30th of July. The objective of the conference was to prepare the participants for the development of an implementation plan for the Belize National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The group now intends to complete a draft implementation plan by the end of Oct 2009 and to present it for discussion at the 2nd NSDI Conference already scheduled for the week of the 16th of Nov 2009.

A project implementation team made up of representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Galen University, NASA, CATHALAC, the Pan American Institute of Geography and History, and Belize Environmental Resource Data System (BERDS) is responsible for compiling the draft plan. Four working groups have been established within this team, focusing on:
  1. Data quality and data standards, including metadata creation,
  2. Infrastructure design and implementation
  3. Data ownership and accessibility
  4. System maintenance and oversight
The draft plan will address the tangible and intangible components of the SDI ... including policies and procedures, data quality and data documentation standards, and portals and data access options. The ultimate objective is to get the NSDI off the ground and operational in the next 21 months. Good hunting Belize!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Caribbean Challenge endorsed by Caribbean Leaders

From Kate Brown

Dear colleagues

CARICOM at its recent conference in Guyana has endorsed the Caribbean Challenge within its declaration on climate change and development as outlined below. The Caribbean Challenge was launched at COP 9 of the CBD in 2008 in Bonn and has the following overall goal: Caribbean governments will protect at least 20 percent of their marine and coastal habitats by 2020.

The Thirtieth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held at the Guyana International Convention Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, Guyana from 2-5 July 2009. The President of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo presided.

We, the Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community, at our Thirtieth Meeting of the Conference in Liliendaal, Guyana from 2-5 July 2009, affirm our commitment to the principles and objectives of the Caribbean Community as embodied in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy -
1. Recalling the objective, principles and commitments of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol;

2. Gravely concerned that our efforts to promote sustainable development and to achieve the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are under severe threat from the devastating effects of climate change and sea level rise which has led to increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events, damage to bio diversity, coral bleaching, coastal erosion, changing precipitation patterns.

3. Emphasising that dangerous climate change is already occurring in all SIDS (Small Islands and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) regions including the Caribbean and that many SIDS will cease to exist without urgent, ambitious and decisive action by the international community to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions significantly and to support SIDS in their efforts to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, including through the provision of increased levels of financial and technical resources.

4. Very concerned that the estimated total annual impact of potential climate change on all CARICOM countries is estimated at US$9.9 billion in the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2007 US$ prices or about 11.3% of the total annual GDP of all 20 CARICOM countries (Member States and Associate Member States) according to the World Bank estimates;

We Affirm:
1. Our belief that the global response to climate change should be undertaken on the basis of common but differentiated as well as historical responsibility and that it should not compromise the ability of SIDS to pursue Sustainable Development and the sharing of the cost of addressing climate change should be equitable and should not perpetuate poverty.

2. Our continued commitment to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and call on all Parties to ensure that UNFCCC decisions are guided by that work;

3. Our Endorsement for the Caribbean Challenge in its efforts to protect the Region's Marine Resources and in its work towards fulfilling the UNFCCC ecosystem-based management and adaptation recommendations and implementing the Millennium Development Goals related to reducing biodiversity loss;

4. Support for the co-ordinating role of the CARICOM Task Force for Climate Change and Development established by the Conference of Heads of State and Government and the implementing role of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the roles of the CARICOM Secretariat, the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) chaired by the Government of Grenada and the CARICOM Representatives in the international climate change negotiations; and

5. The importance of a common Regional approach to address the threats and challenges of climate change and of the full and effective participation of the Region in the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark (COP15), the UN Secretary-General's Climate Change Summit in September 2009 and their preparatory processes.

WE Declare:

1. That all Parties to the UNFCCC should work with an increased sense of urgency and purpose towards arriving at an ambitious and comprehensive agreement at the COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009 which provides for: long-term stabilisation of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at levels which will ensure that global average surface temperature increases will be limited to well below 1.5° C of pre-industrial levels; that global greenhouse gas emissions should peak by 2015; global Co2 reductions of at least 45 percent by 2020 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 95 per cent of 1990 CO2 levels by 2050;

2. Adaptation and capacity building must be prioritised and a formal and well financed framework established within and outside of the Convention, including the multi-window insurance facility, to address the immediate and urgent, as well as long term, adaptation needs of vulnerable countries, particularly the SIDS and the LDCs;

3. The need for financial support to SIDS to enhance their capacities to respond to the challenges brought on by climate change and to access the technologies that will be required to undertake needed mitigation actions and to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change;

4. Our full support for the location of the Headquarters of the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund Board in Barbados;

5. Support for climate change negotiations to be fully cognisant of the requirement for improved land use management;

6. Our recognition of the value and potential of standing forest, including pristine rainforest, and our affirmation of its potential contribution to Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). Forest conservation or avoided deforestation and sustainable management of forests are important mitigation tools against climate change in a post 2012 Agreement. We also support the approach to harmonizing climate change mitigation and economic development as proposed by Guyana in its Low Carbon Development Strategy;

7. Strong determination to overcome technical, economic and policy barriers to facilitate the development, diffusion and deployment of appropriate and affordable low- and zero-emission technologies and renewable energy services; We also recognise the need for energy efficiency and conservation and the need for increased technical and financial support for the development of renewable energy in the Caribbean;

8. Our commitment to providing more effective preparedness for response to natural disasters through the development of better risk assessment and material coordination along with the streamlining of risk reduction initiatives. In pursing this task, we call on the Parties negotiating the new Climate Change Agreement to endorse the Alliance for Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) proposal on risk management and risk reduction strategies, including risk sharing and transfer mechanisms such as insurance;

9. Strong support for the streamlining of all climate change funding mechanisms including the Global Environment Facility to include the vulnerability index in their formulae in order to better facilitate SIDS' access to financial resources; and to explore mechanisms to support the Caribbean Community adaptation programmes;

10. Our commitment to ensuring that the Caribbean Community and its supporting institutions will play their full part in implementing our shared vision, goals and actions, working in strategic partnerships with others;

11. Our resolve to strengthen our educational institutions to provide training , education, research and development programmes in climate change and disaster risk management particularly in renewable and other forms of alternative energy, forestry, agriculture, tourism, health, coastal zone management and water resources management to increase the Region's capacity to build resilience and adapt to climate change; and

12. Our further resolve to institute a comprehensive programme of public awareness and education and hereby invite all, partners, organisations and stakeholders to play a full part in promoting a better understanding of climate change and its impacts and in addressing adaptation and mitigation.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

MSc Scholarships for LAC citizens

MSc Geoinformatics/ Geospatial Technologies Scholarships:
From the GSDI LAC mailing list.

Application deadline: July 31, 2009
With the support of the Nordrhein-Westfälischen Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie (MIWFT), the University of Muenster offers:
  • Five (5) scholarships for the MSc program in Geoinformatics (4 semesters, starting October 1, 2009) for nationals of one of the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China (P.R.), Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Uruguay.
  • Two (2) partial scholarships for the MSc program in Geospatial Technologies (3 semesters, start September 4, 2009) for nationals of the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China (P.R.), Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay.
The scholarships include: tuition waivers, health insurance support, travel costs support including support for one home flight to/from Europe in between.

Contact: Dr. Christoph Brox
Institute for Geoinformatics (ifgi)
University of Muenster
Weseler Strasse 253
D-48151 Muenster
Phone: +49 (0)251 8334721
Fax: +49 (0)251 8339763

Viel gluck!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

USVI 5th Annual GIS Conference

The US Virgin Islands will be holding its 5th Annual GIS Conference - entitled “Efficient & Effective Spatially Enabled Services: Adapting to the Changing Landscape” - on Nov 18 - 20, 2009, on St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. See previous conferences or contact:

Theresa Anduze-Parris, PhD
Annual GIS Conference Coordinator
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
(340) 773-6459 ext. 3131

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who ya gonna call?

Another year, another hurricane season. Last month, NOAA, predicted a 50% chance of a "normal" 2009 hurricane season. A normal Atlantic hurricane season, 01 Jun - 30 Nov, has 6-14 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes (Category 3 with 111mph winds). Earlier this month, Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science predicted 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes for 2009. In 2008 CSU had correctly predicted an above average season (we had 16 named storms).

One thing about hurricanes - they are pretty big. So even for well-prepared and well-equipped nations, a whack from just one hurricane can often be just too big to handle alone. So, if it does happen, who can we call?

In the early phase of search and rescue lives hinge on swift rescue and the provision of clean water (most humans can't survive more than three days without water), basic food and basic shelter. However for the response to remain effective when thousands of people are affected, information on the needs of the population also needs to be collected and effectively channeled to available assistance. Information is clearly not as important as water and food, but compounded suffering only days later can be avoided if the humanitarian effort also gathers and uses strategic information. This is where GIS can play an important role, so with that consideration in mind, here's a calling list that countries or humanitarian agencies can use:
  • CDERA - The Regional focal point for disaster response for english-speaking CARICOM Countries based in Barbados. Not known to have GIS capabilities but sometime in the (near?) future will have a WebEOC (Emergency Operations Centre) built by the US military to "facilitate more effective communication and coordination among the CDERA Coordinating Unit, affected countries and supporting agencies through real time sharing of critical information".
  • SERVIR - A Regional facility based at CATHALAC in Panama with extensive GIS capabilities including a bunch of folks knowlegeable about applying technology. It has a very good bilingual portal and has produced information products in disasters such as maps of the May 2009 earthquake in Honduras. So far, it seems focused mostly on serving the spanish-speaking Central American countries but renders assistance elsewhere too.
  • Disaster Charter - Based in Vienna (I think; somewhat ironically it doesn't make contact information easily available) and provides maps and/or imagery of disaster areas based on a wide range of satellite sensors, but only when "activated" via a single confidential number. This modus operandi seems needed to protect the resources of the contributing space agencies from being accessed will nilly.
  • UNOSAT - This UN agency is based in Geneva and it "[acquires and processes] satellite data to produce and deliver information, analysis and observations to be used by our partners and beneficiaries for relief". Has access to and makes use of the Disaster Charter.
  • OCHA - OCHA has bases in many countries in the Region. It can mobilise a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) into affected areas and provides "information management tools for use by humanitarian response agencies to assist in planning, response and coordination". OCHA has certainly made use of external mapping skills in responses in the Region and is apparently trying to do more of the same itself.
  • MapAction - A UK-based NGO with sections in Germany, Trinidad and Guyana. It provides a well-trained and equipped rapid mapping cell, on site, helping government and other responders with situation maps. It mobilises in hours and responds to requests by countries, regional disaster focal points or international humanitarian missions; and eventually hands over to in-country skills after a few weeks when the situation stabilises. The most recent mission in the Region was in Haiti at the request of the IFRC where they worked alongside UN OCHA, the Haitian Directorate of Civil Protection (DPC) and others in the emergency caused by the 2008 hurricanes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

SDI Cookbooks

The latest Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Conference (GSDI11) ended yesterday in Rotterdam. This biennial event could be a good marker for time elapsed in the building of a Spatial Data Infrastructure(s). Has there been sufficient progress? Can people in various parts of the world say that there's an infrastructure serving them or some of their needs as yet? Here are a couple of resources for those still trying to get an SDI up and running:

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tiny SDI

Does a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) make sense for small countries? After all, an SDI, like any other infrastructure takes financial investment, time and effort to build. And small countries might feel that they don't have the tax dollars to spend on esoteric-sounding "SDI". Karen Richardson and Alan Mills make the case for SDIs in Ascension Island, St. Helena, Rodrigues Island, Montserrat and the Caribbean's smallest country, St. Kitts & Nevis - Small Islands SDI (686KB PDF).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chile's SDI portal

Here's another good SDI portal in the Latin American & Caribbean Region - SNIT - the National System of Coordination of Territorial Information of Chile, with an online map viewer and linkages with other sources of Chilean geospatial information. It's in Spanish of course, but still very understandable as an example of what the Region needs more of - spatial data/ information that's easily available to the public. And this one has been around a few years now.

Here's a quick summary in English.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GPS - is the sky falling?

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) , "It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption". As you may know, the USAF maintains and controls the Navstar GPS system. The GAO estimates that the full constellation of 24 satellites may fall below the 95% committed/ expected availability in 2010 through 2014, with the probability of a full constellation falling to 80% for 2012. The report and executive summary are available here. So, will the world as we know it come to its Mayan Calendar end, or will the EU's Galileo, China's COMPASS and Russia's GLONASS GPS systems see here an incentive to expand their operations as a global public service?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Guatemala's Spatial Data Infrastructure Prototype

Via the GSDI Mailing List: Guatemala has launched a new Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) portal. It's in spanish, and the universal language of spatial data and maps. It was built using Open Source tools and though it has some rough edges, it's a very good start and an excellent development for SDI in the Region.

If you like, just for the information, you can read the Home Page in English.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Geospatial Framework Development - The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

The Government of Puerto Rico in partnership with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey is currently conducting a Geodetic Reference Framework Project on the island of Puerto Rico. This, in part, involves the improvement of the Vertical and Horizontal framework which form the foundation for Geospatial products and services, Land Surveying, and Geodesy.

The article entitled "Coordenadas en NAD83 y PRVD02 y la Ley" by Dr. Linda L. Vélez Rodríguez, MS, PE, PLS describes the project, legal implications, and the challenges involved. The article can be found at

For further information regarding Land Surveying and Geodesy in Puerto Rico visit

Please note - the article is in spanish

Monday, April 27, 2009

Where is the Map Going?

Where is the Map Going? Well, pretty interesting places. The power of maps to communicate quickly and well to a very wide audience is a strength of GIS. When distributed (swiftly and conveniently) via the web, this information only increases in value for its timeliness. What's also interesting is the use of online maps to do the reverse as well; i.e. either continually connect to and summarise a variety of sources or allow people in many locations to pool their knowledge (crowd-sourcing) of an issue or event.

Here are a few cases from and spun off of an interesting email from a MapAction colleague:

HealthMap - The global disease alert map, is a free service that "brings together disparate data sources to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health". It's been particularly relevant today with the global alert about swineflu.

WikiCrimes - Allows citizens to "share crime information and keep safe". It's not run by the police but by allowing the citizen to map what they know, it compiles and shares useful crime data for use by society - a sort of Neighbourhood Watch online.

WikiMapAid - Another crowd-sourcing portal, this time with information about "poverty crises hotspots by capturing data about orphanage programs, drought, food, employment, education and training"... to "[map] solutions to poverty-oriented problems".

Monday, April 20, 2009

GIS and Access to Family Planning Services

Via the GSDI Mailing List: Using GIS to address disparities in access to family planning services and commodities in Latin America and the Caribbean (1.5MB PDF, Dec 2008) This paper demonstrates a methodology that Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) ministries of health can use to geographically identify and target scarce resources to improve access to family planning. Guatemala was chosen as a case study for implementing the methodology, in large part because of the disparities that exist between its different subpopulations. The results highlight the potential for applying this methodology in other countries in the LAC region.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping

MapAction has published the first edition of its Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping. The guide, which is downloadable free, will help aid organisations to use geospatial tools and methods in their work in emergencies. There are tutorials for Google Earth and open-source GIS software.

The guide was written to meet the need for practical, step-by-step advice for aid workers who wish to use free and open-source resources to produce maps both at field and headquarters levels. The first edition contains an introduction to the topic of GIS, followed by chapters focused on the use of two recommended free software tools: Google Earth, and MapWindow. However much of the guidance is also relevant for users of other software. In addition there is a chapter on using GPS to collect data during humanitarian emergencies.

Monday, March 02, 2009

GIS Wins the War on Terror!

Well, as yet, unproven :-). Here's a look at what can be done with GIS(cience): Geographers Find Bin Laden - Theoretically. This sort of far-reaching, surprising and valuable analysis shows why the countries of Latin American and the Caribbean need a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Google Earth 5

Google Earth (GE) 5 has added a some cool features, including ocean bathymetry, graphic simulation of ocean waves and surface flyunders (turn on the Terrain layer), links to ocean information resources like marine parks and dive spots (turn on the new Ocean Layer), the ability to add GPS waypoints (under the Tools menu), and the ability to view historical as well as current imagery for an area where these exist in GE's archive (under the View menu). So go on, go somewhere you've never gone before - visit the deepest point in the Caribbean Sea.

With its ability to deliver information to masses of people, albeit on the Net, these new features make GE a serious visualisation tool for GISers. With the ability to add GPS waypoints now offered to all users, GE Plus seems suddenly redundant.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Remote Sensing the US Presidential Inauguration

Images from space are fun as well - see/download a copy of the shot from space of what CNN called "The Moment" - the Inauguration of US President Barack Obama: 0.5m resolution GeoEye-1 imagery (270KB JPEG). A better resolution JPEG is also available. Photo courtesy of GeoEye.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Costa Rica Earthquake Response

Costa Rica suffered a Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake on Thurs the 8th of Jan at 19:21 GMT. The University of Costa Rica Seismic and Volcano Observatory (OVSICORI-UNA) is appealing for satellite images of the area to help assess damage. Email Rodrigo del Potro with suggestions. Address: OVSICORI-UNA, 2346-3000 Heredia, Costa Rica. Tel: (+506)25624010 Fax: (+506)22610303.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mapping Gaza

The people of Gaza face a deteriorating humanitarian situation. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Oxfam have reported on the situation as well. Open Street Map - the Free Wiki World Map - is mapping the country with the aid of volunteers to provide useful maps of the Gaza Strip in the immediate future for use by relief agencies and other people on the ground. And if you are a person who is familiar with Gaza, but not in Gaza presently, and you'd like to participate, go here for guidance. Whilst this may be far from the shores of Latin America and the Caribbean, it's an exemplary demonstration of community-based online mapping and courage.