Posts Tagged ‘software’

Eureka contaminated sites

Another useful Google Earth feature today: the Contaminated Sites layer from Terradex. This company compiled, and makes available free online, a list of USEPA Superfund and RCRA Cleanup sites, and state sites including California, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey.

The layer requires the use of Google Earth 4 or later. When you click on individual sites, the description includes links to websites and a comment box to provide feedback on the sites. There are 130,000 sites shown, and zooming into regions will reveal more sites.

It’s quite interesting if you like to find out what goes on in your community and know about the quality of your environment. Alas, I don’t think it’s been updated in a while; some of the site clean-ups marked as still open may have been completed by now.


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Google Earth iconI’ve mentioned several times things I love about Google Earth. I use it a lot for my work, but I also find it to be a lot of fun. Today, I’d like to share some interesting resources and tips on more geographic information about local features that can be explored in Google Earth. Google Earth is every Internet user’s gateway to geographic information system (GIS) information.

Topographic maps can be overlaid right on top of Google Earth so you can compare the aerial view and the map.  This layer was kindly reprojected, stitched,  and made available by3DSolar.

The National Wetland Inventory compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a key reference in conducting a lot of environmental studies, and is now available in a Google Earth projection.  Very handy for first-cut approach to a site, even though you still need field verification.

The Earthquake Hazards Program offered by the U.S. Geological Survey compiles several different and interesting links relevant to earthquake and geological hazards.

Air Quality Index maps from U.S. EPA AIRNow let you explore current, recent, and real-time air quality throughout the U.S.

MapCruizin is a local firm that gathers several free resources for Google Earth (and other geographic applications), including a map of California watersheds; a series of visualizations of U.S. EPA information on toxics and pollution; projections of the effects of global warming and climate change; and links to a collection of tools to do more with Google Earth, like use GIS data, draw new shapes, calculate areas, etc.

Another local initiative, Green Wheels, compiled a layer showing the Humboldt Bay trail network, both existing and planned.

Sea level rise scenarios from Mark Mulligan at the King’s College of London allow you to try various inundation scenarios based on the projected rise of sea level, and to compare the accuracy of the model for your area by checking it against current conditions.

Naturally, the Google Earth Gallery offers a multitude of other interesting or useful layers.

Links of interest:

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Back in January 2006, Jason Alba, a young IT professional and up-and-coming business manager was laid off from the software company he had helped develop. He says that although he was was sure he would find another job in a matter of weeks, he found himself months into his job search with no success.

But as part of his job search, he rapidly got tired of complex spreadsheets and sticky notes to keep track of his job search activities and contacts, so he started developing a little online database application he could use like a customer relationship management (CRM) system. He soon realized that others would find value in this tool, so he started his own company to make the new tool, which he called JibberJobber, available to the public.

Three years later, Jason Alba owns his own business, is a successful speaker, and has published books and instructional DVDs on using LinkedIn and Facebook, particularly for career management and job search.

This week, Jason is celebrating: it’s three years this week he started his own business — and his fifth child was born just days ago. So I thought I’d point people in his direction, for several good reasons.

  • Inspiration. Jason’s story makes a great narrative of the guy down on his luck who rebounds, the guy who rewrites the problem statement in order to solve it. Go read or view the story in some of the interviews .
  • Useful resource. Actually, multiple useful resources. I usually hesitate to write about commercial products, but I’ve already mentioned JibberJobber.com a few times in previous posts. When I was laid off a year ago, I was convinced that I was tracking job search information just fine. But I still gave JJ a whirl — and within days, it saved me from forgetting important details (contact info, follow-up letters, etc.) I’ve been employed for over eight months and I continue to use JJ as a contact management database and a job journal. On top of that, Jason posts tons of useful information on his site, and his books are also useful to me.
  • Job search ≠ career. In his blog, Jason often explores the distinction between career development and job search. It’s a fine point that is easy to miss while you’re searching because of the urgency of finding a job, and easy to forget when you’re employed because the sense of urgency is now missing. In other words, we tend to manage our careers in crisis mode — hardly a smart plan. I’ve drawn a lot from the JibberJobber blog in this respect.
  • Trifecta. How could I pass a chance to congratulate Jason for the triple shot of his new baby, his recently released DVD, and the third anniversary of his company?
  • Special. Yeah, JibberJobber has a special going on all week. You don’t actually need to pay to use JJ, only for the premium features, so this may or may not matter to you. But I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it, myself.

Congratulation, Jason!

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Here are a few sites I want to gush about, as educational resources, as entertainment, and as serious technical and scientific resources. Not only can they be used in the classroom, or browsed for the sheer enchantment of discovery, but they are pure gold for for professionals in the environmental fields as well.

NatureServe Explorer

A huge online database of species, NatureServe Explorer is a collaboration between natural heritage programs and conservation data centers operating in all 50 U.S. states, 11 Canadian provinces and territories, and 20 member programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The database provides information on the conservation status of species throughout the territory covered, their vulnerability, ecology and life history, etc., and provides techinal references to learn more.


The visual tool Lifemapper is the work of a University of Kansas team with support from all over the world. It uses an advanced geographical database to display where species are found and documented, and to predict where we might expect to find them. This tool also allows users to create Google Earth maps with the data. Note: You need to supply the scientific (Latin) name of the species to search.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System, or ITIS, provides taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world. ITIS is a cooperatice project between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Hey, here is a good place to look up scientific names so you can query Lifemapper!

PLANTS Database

Created and maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the PLANTS national database contains life history, range, and taxonomic information, photos, native/non-native status, and much more. It can be searched using either common names or scientific names.


Another product of international scientific cooperation, the FishBase information system provides images, life history, distribution, taxonomic status, and much more for over 31,000 fish species. It can be searched using either common names or scientific names.


Much more subdued, regional, and low-tech, BirdWeb is nonetheless a work of love and excellence, offering carefully gathered information and on-the-ground observations. It’s the work of the Seattle branch of the Audubon Society, and the information it contains is useful for a large part of our ecoregion.

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The various stages of collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in the Antarctica has been in the news over the past couple of weeks.  Now you can watch an animation of the process in Google Earth, as assembled by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

After downloading the file and opening it with Google Earth, I recommend first clicking the little clock icon to the left of the slider bar in the image, moving the animation speed slider so it is about 1/3 of the way from the left, and selecting “At end of time range, animation should stop.”  Then click “OK” and press the play button (arrow) at the right of the slider.  Repeat as needed.

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On Monday I talked about the North Coast Geotourism project and how the public can submit sites. There is only one potentially slightly tricky question in the form for submitting sites: you need to provide the latitude and longitude of the site you’re submitting.

Gulp! The what? How do I do that? Well, as a first option, the North Coast Geotourism site sends you to a very handy tool, Geocoder.us (or Geocoder.net, which gets you to the same place). In Geocoder, you only need to enter the street address for most locations, and you will receive the latitude and longitude coordinates.

But what if you’re looking for the coordinates of a beach, or a waterfall, or some other site that doesn’t have a street address? Well, there are map-based solutions, primarily based on applications like Google Maps and MapQuest. One example is iTouchMap.com. To obtain the coordinates of any point:

  1. Use the map to navigate to the location of your choice (more on this in an upcoming post);
  2. Zoom in as much as you need to;
  3. With your mouse pointer, click to place a blue marker in the right spot.
  4. You can then click on the marker and the coordinates will be listed in a pop-up window.
  5. You can use your mouse cursor to highlight (select) the coordinates;
  6. By using the keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + C for PCs) or by right-clicking with the mouse and using the context menu, you can copy the coordinates;
  7. Then go paste them (Ctrl + V) in the form.

There are other similar sites and other options, address- or map-based, such as the ones listed on Where Am I?

Finally, the most scrumptious toys of all are virtual globes like Google Earth and NASA’s World Wind. With these, you can navigate to the location of your choice and directly get coordinates, as well as a slew of far more interesting information, but they require installing the software to your computer and they are far more than you need if all you want is coordinates.

(In Google Earth, you can read the coordinates of your mouse cursor in the lower left-hand corner of the view pane; and you can obtain a point’s exact coordinates by right-clicking on its name in the left-hand panel and selecting “Properties”. You can then copy and paste the coordinates.)

Note that some sites, like iMapTouch.com, give decimal values in fractions of degree (e.g., 40.777162, -124.220695), while others provide a value in degrees, minutes, and seconds (40°46’37.78″N, 124°13’14.50″W). The North Coast Geotourism form will accept either.

Coming up: How to navigate a map

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Trinidad Beach in light fog -- Copyright 2009 Edmund Metheny

Trinidad Beach in light fog -- Copyright 2009 Edmund Metheny

A couple of weeks ago, the Crescent City Daily Triplicate introduced us to an exciting mapping project: the North Coast California Geotourism project, covering the Del Norte to Marin areas, including Lake County.

Working with the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, the North Coast Tourism Council and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are compiling a Geotourism Map Guide. The NGCSD has already contributed large databases of fascinating information to Google Earth.

The Del Norte County Visitors Bureau is exploring this opportunity to make the North Coast shine in the public’s eye, along several other ideas to attract more tourism.

So what exactly does “geotourism” mean? According to the North Coast Geotourism project site:

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

The project team is hoping to develop an online geotourism guide and database, and perhaps a paper (poster map) version as well. I expect the database will also be available in online mapping applications like Google Maps and Google Earth.

Through an online nomination form, anyone can submit a site: natural, cultural, and historic attractions, etc. You can also download and print the PDF form and fax it to (831) 647-4244, or mail it back to BLM California Coastal National Monument, 229 Foam Street, Monterey, CA 93940.

What kind of sites get listed? Here is a list of categories to draw from:

  • Natural area (river, waterfall, botanical, geologic feature)
  • Beach, tidepool, public pier or other coastal access
  • Cultural, traditional experience, museum or site
  • Native American Heritage Sites
  • Festivals, celebration, ceremony, or event
  • Historic site (fort, cemetery, church, shipwreck, etc.)
  • Arts, artisan, or handicrafts
  • Outdoor recreation (hiking, biking, kayaking, etc.)
  • Music, dance, theater, storytelling, etc.
  • Accommodation (B&B, lodge)
  • Culinary, cuisine (restaurant, café, wine bar, brew pub)
  • Visual attraction (scenic overlook, photo point, etc.)
  • Farm, agriculture, ranch, winery, etc.
  • Redwoods theme (hikes, groves, restoration, etc.)
  • Wildlife habitat and/or wildlife viewing
  • Locally or family-owned business
  • Scenic byway or drive
  • Eco-friendly (fish-friendly farming, carbon neutral, etc.)
  • Salmon theme (fish viewing area, hatchery, restoration efforts, river float trips, exhibits, etc. )

So why not take a few hours to sit with family or friends some weekend this month, list your favourite sites, and fill the form together to brag about the local “best kept secrets”? The form is very simple and there is even an example of filled form available on the Website to help guide answers.

The deadline for nominations was first set for March 30, but has been extended to May 31, 2009. For questions, call Marcia deChadenedes, Project Coordinator at 831-372-6225.

Links of interest:

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