Tag Archives: mapping

Ontario Snowy Owl Sightings – Winter 2014/2015

Snowy Owl, Toronto, December 24, 2014

Snowy Owl, Toronto, December 24, 2014

ebird, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, collects data about bird sightings from observers around the world.  In addition to providing many ways of viewing this data online, it also allows downloading of data for use in non-commercial projects.  To access the data you will need to set up a free account (or use  your Project FeederWatch or Great Backyard Bird Count account) and request access to the data.

I requested data about bird sightings in Ontario and a smaller file of sightings of Snowy Owls in Ontario .  The data comes with terms of use, a recommended citation format and metadata information.

 

This map was created using the ebird data and CartoDB.  I uploaded the dataset, created a query to extract a subset of the data relating to the winter of 2014/2015 and created a torque map using the CartoDB map wizard.  The map shows a time-lapse of reported sightings of Snowy Owls in Ontario from October 1, 2014 – April 29, 2015.

Data retrieved from:  eBird Basic Dataset. Version: EBD_relMay-2015. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. May 2015.

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Digital Odyssey 2015 – Open Data, Open Heritage

Sugar BeachDigital Odyssey 2015 attracted a small but enthusiastic group of individuals interested in this year’s theme of Open Data, Open Heritage.  The event (June 12, 2015) was held at George Brown’s new Waterfront Campus just east of Sugar Beach in Toronto.  These notes are from the sessions I attended at Digital Odyssey.  There were additional concurrent sessions which are summarized in the session descriptions on the OLA web site.

Storytelling From Space

The keynote speaker was Aurelia Moser of CartoDB (previously of Ushahidi and a Mozilla Fellow).  Her talk entitled “Storytelling from Space” was illustrated with images from mapping projects that use a wide variety of open and crowd-sourced data.  Many of these maps show changes in landscapes over time – disappearing lakes and forest-cover, changes brought about by natural disasters – earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, changes in conversations on Twitter by location , etc.

Moser’s current employer, CartoDB, offers many tools and resources that enable citizen cartography by allowing users to manage, import, and query their data to create customized maps.  CartoDb offers:

  • software for creating maps
  • open datasets (including hi-resolution satellite imagery)
  • APIs and javascript libraries
  • tutorials
Chicago Snowplow Heatmap

Chicago Snowplow Heatmap

Moser used one of the CartoDB projects to illustrate the need to understand your data.  It is easy to make false assumptions based on what you are seeing. A heat map created from GPS data sent from snow plows in Chicago seems to indicate that one section of the city receives frequent and excessive service.  This is not the case as that hot spot is merely the snow plow parking lot where the plows began and ended their shifts.

Another challenging project that Moser told us about was mapping water availability data from Tanzania gathered over decades by many different people in many different formats. Results of this project can be seen at the Vital Signs Water Availability website.

Of the other many interesting projects Moser mentioned in her talk, here are a few that I’d like to look at further:

Illustreets

Illustreets

odyssey.js

odyssey.js

  • odyssey.js, a javascript library that lets you add storytelling to maps
  • Global Forest Watch, an interactive map featuring forest cover change, land use, biodiversity hot spots and user stories
  • Fires in the Amazon, a time-lapse map of fires in the Amazon 2012-2014
  • Illustreets – An interactive map of England showing detailed information about the standard of living, crime, house prices, and schools for any location

Creating and Collecting Open Cultural Heritage Collections

This session was lead by Loren Fantin and Jess Posgate of OurOntario, a partnership of Ontario cultural and heritage organizations created to make Ontario digital content discoverable by a global audience.  They gave a good overview of what is involved in creating and maintaining cultural heritage collections and discussed what is possible, how to create value with a focus on moving beyond the search box and  creating once but publishing multiple times.  They also talked about the challenges: messiness of metadata, migration difficulties, practical and philosophical issues of crowdsourcing and issues of licensing.

Several interesting projects (in addition to OurOntario) that make use of open heritage objects were mentioned in the course of this presentation.  This is a sampling of just a few of them:

Vango Yourself

Mons 2015

Europeana’s Vango Yourself is a site that lets you recreate a painting with your friends and then share the results on social media and with the Vango site. It promotes re-use of cultural heritage and allows you to look at art in a completely different way.

Mons 2015 by Pieter Goiris
License of this image CC-BY-SA

License of original image Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution CC-BY

What’s on the Menu

What's On the Menu

What’s on the Menu is NYPL Lab’s crowd-sourcing project to transcribe historical restaurant menus dish-by-dish so that they can be found by anyone searching on the web. You can help by reviewing transcriptions of menus.

Culture Cam

Culture Cam is another Europeana offering.  It is a webcam-based similarity search tool that lets designers, artists and any creative person explore the images on Eurpeana in a new way.  You take a photo of an object, texture or colour with your webcam and then Culture Cam will return a selection of related images from its database.  All images in Culture Cam are under Public Domain or have no known copyright so can be used for derivative designs.

Culture Cam Selection

Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum (Sydney Australia) is making its collection dataset available in a variety of forms.  In addition to traditional two-dimensional images, the Powerhouse is making available 3D files that you can download and print.

Consuming and Transforming Open Data

In the afternoon, Mita Williams of the University of Windsor led a hands-on session on using open data and free online mapping tools.  The first challenge was to map all of the branches of the Toronto Public Library on a map.  This could be done painstakingly by hand, but we started with a file of data made available the City of Toronto with geographic information about the branches of the Toronto Public Library.  Using one of several tools, Google Maps, CartoDb or MapBox, this data was then added to a map.

This is the map Chris Rumas of Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and I created using Google Maps:

The second part of the workshop was to create a time-lapse map of the building of the Toronto Public Library branches by their dates of creation.  Since the first data file did not contain any dates, we needed to combine it with a second file from Wikipedia which did have the dates. Once the data was merged it was then imported into CartoDB to create a torque map to show the  time-lapse of the buildings of the Toronto Public Library system.  Some tweaking of the data was required (more refinement is still necessary), but a map was eventually created.

Time-Lapse of the Building of the Toronto Public Library Branches

If you want to try this project yourself, Mita’s files are available on GitHub and there is a google doc with additional information for creating these maps.

Lightning Talks

The day concluded with several lightning talks on a wide variety of topics.   Alan Harnum, soon to be of OCADU, gave entertaining and illustrated talk on Barriers to Open Data in Libraryland.  Ab Velasco and Jeffrey Toste introduced an upcoming hackathon to be held at TPL in November. Dan Scott gave a short presentation on creating a linked data  bibliography on Canadian Labour Studies using Zotero. Sarah Simpkin discussed a recent Omeka Project and Mita Williams told us about the inclusive week-long PressPlay hackathon held by Hack Forge earlier this year.

Remembering the Real Winnie Website Project

Real Winnie Collection WebsiteThis summer and fall one of the big projects I worked on was the creation of a digital collection website as part of a larger project called Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100.  The larger project comprised an exhibit held at the Ryerson Image Centre from November 5 – December 7, 2014, an interactive story website, a short film and the digital collection website.  It involved a large cast of contributors from the owner of the collection to staff, students, faculty members and librarians from across campus.

The small archival collection (consisting of photographs, letters, diaries, and a veterinary kit) that was the basis for this project was lent to Ryerson University by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg.  At the outbreak of WWI, Colebourn travelled from Winnipeg to Valcartier, Quebec to join the troops heading for England.  On his way he purchased a bear cub, whom he called Winnie.  Winnie followed Colebourn to Salisbury Plain where the Canadian troops were stationed.  When the troops were sent to the Front, Colebourn took Winnie to the London Zoo.  Winnie became a star attraction at the zoo and was particularly beloved by Christopher Robin Milne whose father, A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

1914 DiaryThe digital collection website was created using the Omeka open source web-publishing software developed by the Roy Rozenweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The software can be enhanced with plugins, several of which were used for this project.  As the collection contained several diaries that Colebourn wrote between 1914-1918, the Internet Archive Book Reader was used to allow readers to flip through the pages of the diaries.  The diaries were also transcribed to allow for searching of the content of the diaries.

Other interactivity was added to allow for viewing of several of the items in the vet kit that is part of the collection.  3D scans were made and added to the SketchFab site so that they could  be integrated into the collection website.  More information about the scanning is available in the 3D Scanning Essay on the Real Winnie website.

Harry Colebourn on the Front

Several interactive maps were also created by geocoding the locations mentioned in Colebourn’s diaries and uploading this data to the CartoDB website to create maps. How these maps were created is explained in the Mapping Harry Colebourn essay.