The Map Lady and the Catholic Church

Earlier this year, the New Yorker published a profile of Molly Burhans. Burhans is the founder of GoodLands, a Catholic organization focusing on mobilizing the land and resources of the Church to address climate change and other environmental issues. Burhans, whose background is in GIS, began by wanting to analyse the Church’s property holdings; she soon found out that the Church’s own record-keeping was somewhere between out of date and nonexistent—and certainly not digital.

In the Office of the Secretariat of State that day, Burhans met with two priests. She showed them the prototype map that she had been working on, and explained what she was looking for. “I asked them where their maps were kept,” she said. The priests pointed to the frescoes on the walls. “Then I asked if I could speak to someone in their cartography department.” The priests said they didn’t have one.

Burhans, who became known as the Map Lady at the Vatican, was asked if she’d be willing to create a cartography institute at the Vatican; plans to develop one have been waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic (Burhans came down with a significant case herself.) Fascinating piece depicting the gap between modern data and an ancient institution, and the notion of using data as a force for progress. Thanks to John Greenhough for sending me a copy of this article; apologies for taking months to post about it.

Another profile of Burhans.

Geography Awareness Week, GIS Day, and the 2020 U.S. Census

In raising-public-awareness news, the third week of November is Geography Awareness Week, and since 1999 the Wednesday of that week is GIS Day.

For this year’s GIS Day, the Library of Congress is holding a virtual event focusing on the 2020 Census, featuring a keynote by Census Bureau geography chief Deirdre Bishop as well as three technical papers. The program will be (or was, depending on when you read this) streamed on the Library of Congress’s website and on their YouTube channel on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 at 1 p.m. EST, and will be available for later viewing.

Thirty Day Map Challenge

The Thirty Day Map Challenge is taking place right now on Twitter: see the #30DayMapChallenge hashtag. For the second year in a row, mapmakers are challenged to make a map based on the day’s theme. (Today’s, for example, was to map with a new tool.) It’s open to everyone; for more information and resources see the challenge’s GitHub page. Here’s the page for the 2020 challenge, which saw 7,000 maps from 1,000 contributors.

The Geospatial Revolution Project: Mapping the Pandemic

A decade after the Geospatial Revolution Project, which explored the use and impact of digital mapping technologies, released its fourth and (apparently) final episode, there’s a new episode focusing on how digital mapping tools were conscripted into the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Project has posted a version of the episode including a live panel discussion afterward on Facebook Live.

Previously: The Geospatial Revolution Project; The Geospatial Revolution Project, Episode Two; The Geospatial Revolution Project, Episode Three; The Geospatial Revolution Project, Episode Four; Maps and the Geospatial Revolution.

More on the Western U.S. Wildfires

NASA Earth Observatory

NASA Earth Observatory has had several stories on the western U.S. wildfires, gathered here. This story summarizes the situation; satellite images of the smoke generated by the fires can be seen here, here and here.

Marena Brinkhurst of Mapbox has a comprehensive list of open data sources relating to the wildfires, smoke, and air quality.

Mark Altaweel at GIS Lounge looks at how GIS is being used to map wildfires, smoke and air pollution.

Previously: California Wildfires, 2020 Edition.

Explore Zealandia

Zealandia (Te Riu-a-Māui) is the name given to a proposed, and largely submerged eighth continent, of which New Zealand (Aotearoa) is the largest above-water remnant. Explore Zealandia is geoscience company GNS Science’s web portal to their maps of this largely submerged continent, including bathymetry, tectonics, and other data; the data is also available for download. [WAML]

A U.S. Army Film from 1971: ‘Mapping a Better Tomorrow’

“Mapping a Better Tomorrow” is a 30-minute film produced in 1971 to explain the work of the U.S. Army Topographic Command (TOPOCOM). After explaining maps from first principles, it covers the state of the art in terms of cartography, computer mapping, photogrammetry and surveying circa 1971, including the production of topographic maps, maps of the Moon and maps of, erm, southeast Asia. Since U.S. government publications are public domain, it’s available in several locations, including the Internet Archive (above), DailyMotion and Vimeo.

TOPOCOM itself had a short history. Created in 1968 (PDF) as the successor to the U.S. Army Map Service, it lasted less than four years before being merged into the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) in 1972. Which in turn was merged into the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) in 1996. Which in turn was renamed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in 2003.

Behind the Scenes at the JHU Coronavirus Dashboard

JHU coronavirus dashboard screenshot
JHU CSSE (screenshot)

ArcGIS-based dashboards tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus are now reasonably common, but the first was produced by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. As Nature Index reports in this behind-the-scenes look at the JHU coronavirus dashboard, the decision to launch was spur of the moment, but now the dashboard and its underlying data get more than a billion hits every single day, and it is now managed by a team that numbers nearly two dozen. [GIS Lounge]

Brewer Wins Miller Medal

O. M. Miller MedalBelatedly noted, thanks to a story in Penn State News last month: Cynthia Brewer was awarded the American Geographical Society’s O. M. Miller Cartographic Medal at the AGS’s symposium last fall. Brewer, a geography professor at Penn State since 1994, is the author of Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users (previously) and the creator of the ColorBrewer colour design tool for cartographers. The Miller medal is no minor award: this is only the eighth time it’s been awarded since it was created in 1968; past recipients have included Waldo Tobler, Arthur Robinson, Mark Monmonier and, in 2017, John Hanke and Brian McClendon (basically, the team behind Google Maps). Brewer is the first woman to receive the award.

Mapbox Elections

Mapbox

This week Mapbox launched a tool for the upcoming 2020 U.S. elections: Mapbox Elections, “a resource to help individuals, journalists, and organizations cover the elections, analyze the results, and build modern maps to display it all.” Their first product is a dataset including U.S. presidential election results from 2004 to 2016.

Everything’s Coming Up Spilhaus

John Nelson

John Nelson reports that the Spilhaus projection will be supported in the next version of ArcGIS—version 2.5, to be released in a few months. This odd projection, which centres Antarctica on a world map showing the oceans as a single, uninterrupted body of water; went viral last year. Requests for ArcGIS support soon followed. Thing is, ArcGIS support requires the math behind the projection: figuring out that math took some sleuthing. The Spilhaus is, it turns out, basically an oblique aspect of the Adams World in a Square II projection.

Previously: About the Spilhaus Projection.