GIS at Dickinson College

GIS News, Events and Student Work blog

Category: Just For Fun (Page 1 of 2)

Explorer cartoon e

Check out our collection of You Are Here Cartoons!

Over the years, James Ciarrocca, GIS Specialist of Dickinson College, has been collected “you are here” themed cartoons from local papers. These original clippings have been digitized for your personal enjoyment. Want to know more about the collection? Contact us!


These cartoons are being used for a nonprofit educational purpose and are in no way meant to affect the potential market of the cartoonists. The nature of this collection is to reflect on humans’ spatial literacy or in this case illiteracy. Enjoy! 


GIS goes Green

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 – 12:00am

Esri CityEngine

Courtesy: Esri


Visual impact analysis of proposed building in downtown Philadelphia using CityEngine.


First, the disclaimer. Any numbered list is inherently subjective. So there are bound to be resources that you might know about that I haven’t included here, primarily because I haven’t heard about them (yet).

This list was curated based primarily on whether the site, portal or database in question expands conventional wisdom about how technology can be used to address climate change or sustainable business practices. Several (such as FreshRealm, GridWaste and MySolarCity) represent intriguing twists on how the Internet can help reinvent business models or improve customer engagement.

If you want to consider a broader selection of Web and mobile resources that have been available for a longer time, here are two of my previous lists (still relevant).

Rather than updating information in those past stories, this latest list offers 10 additional resources or platforms worth watching during the next 12 months.


Although Esri (aka the Environmental Systems Research Institute) has been around for more than 30 years, its online geospatial resources have sparked a veritable “app revolution” over the past several years among urban planners and sustainable business innovators. The latest version of the CityEngine platform (released in October) is used in combination with the company’s ArcGIS mapping resource. Its main purpose is to convert two-dimensional diagrams into three-dimensional models that show details such as how a new building could affect solar exposure or whether it will create heat corridors.

Coastal Defense

The platform helps businesses and communities research the impact that natural habitats such as oyster beds, coral reefs, tidal marshes, dunes or mangroves have on flooding and erosion. The information is intended for risk assessments and could be used by developers or municipal agencies. It was developed through a partnership of the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Capital Project, the Center for Integrated Spatial Research, the University of Southern Mississippi and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Cube Cloud

Two years in the making, this cloud-hosted traffic analytics service was launched in mid-2014 by software developer Citilabs. (Its previous applications are tied to the desktop.) The platform provides information about traffic volume and can be used to calculate and model energy consumption and pollution metrics related to various urban transportation services. Sample applications include predicting future flows based on proposed development.

Earth Right Now

The U.S. government’s mandate to “open” valuable climate and atmospheric information for use by “citizen scientists” has inspired the creation of rich online resources that can be used as the foundation for apps and services. One specific example: fresh maps on global carbon dioxide concentrations, collected by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 and released on an ongoing basis.

NASA Carbon Dioxide


In early December, Esri teamed with the U.S. Geological Survey to publish what is described as “the most detailed global ecological land units map in the world.” The platform, dubbed EcoTapestry for short, contains a wealth of ecosystem data about soil, streamflow, biodiversity and land cover. It is intended for land management applications and planning exercises.

This commerce startup created by fresh produce company Calavo Growers received $10 million in new funding during 2014 to prepare for its pending commercial launch. Its vision is to facilitate national delivery of fresh foods, through its online ordering service. Integral to its plan is the “Vessel,” its special chilled container. It will use FedEx and local carriers to facilitate deliveries.

Global Forest Watch

Developed by the World Resources Institute with partners Google and the Jane Goodall Institute, this resource (still being beta-tested) makes use of satellite imagery to provide a near real-time update of deforestation. The idea is to keep much closer tabs on clearing, so that steps can be taken much more quickly to prevent illegal activity.

Grid Waste

The idea behind this online marketplace is simple: help businesses find more efficient or sustainable trash hauling options. It considers information such as route density, recycling rates, container use and truck optimization — basically providing more transparency about various haulers through its Waste Data Project. Some of Grid Waste’s initial commercial customers include Hyatt, Lockheed Martin and the Ritz-Carlton.


Yes, other applications and websites let utilities offer home energy management and analysis services for residential customers. What makes SolarCity’s app unique are engagement features that track the location of installation and repair technicians or that monitor the production of panels once they are in place. MySolarCity also provides a map showing nearby projects, and lets customers become “ambassadors” who can earn fees for referring new accounts.


Water Risk Monetizer

This modeling tool from Ecolab and Trucost allows businesses to run assessments that consider potential exposure or negative impacts that scarcity could pose to facilities. It uses information about water consumption, as well as projected use three years into the future. Then, it assigns a grade for different locations. The idea is to help sustainability and operations managers prioritize conservation projects or management measures.

For more information visit (

Spring 2015 GIS Courses

Spatial Literacy Across the Curriculum – 2430 – ENST 311 – 05

MR 3:00-4:30pm Stern 11

Understanding how to think about problems and concepts in a spatial context is a fundamental skill that is not well taught in the current Dickinson College curriculum. Alternatively referred to as “Spatial Literacy” or “Spatial Reasoning”, this type of thinking generally focuses on understanding the importance of geographic space and the relationships formed by this space. Spatial literacy, like writing and quantitative analysis, is not a stand-alone subject, but rather it is a way of thinking that is applicable to many fields of studies, and is becoming increasingly important as a valuable competency for liberal arts students throughout all divisions. This course will examine the importance of geographic space as a learning construct and explore the value of spatial literacy for problem solving, creative expression, and communication across the humanities, social science and scientific disciplines. In doing so, students will have the opportunity to consider topics within their specific areas of study, and to discover how the application of spatial thinking can enable and facilitate the problem solving process across the curriculum. Students will be introduced to an assortment of easy-to-use mapping tools that include both quantitative and qualitative techniques, and will learn how to use these tools to investigate issues and questions from a spatial perspective, incorporate spatial analysis techniques into their problem solving methodologies, and to effectively visualize their data in ways that promote a more comprehensive understanding of the problem statement.

Attributes: Sustainability Investigations


Geographic Information Systems – 2425 – ENST 218/ ARCH 218/ ERSC 218

TR 9:00-10:15am/ R 1:30-4:30pm Kaufman 185

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a powerful technology for managing, analyzing, and visualizing spatial data and geographically-referenced information. It is used in a wide variety of fields including archaeology, agriculture, business, defense and intelligence, education, government, health care, natural resource management, public safety, transportation, and utility management. This course provides a fundamental foundation of theoretical and applied skills in GIS technology that will enable students to investigate and make reasoned decisions regarding spatial issues. Utilizing GIS software applications from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), students work on a progression of tasks and assignments focused on GIS data collection, manipulation, analysis, output, and presentation. The course will culminate in a final, independent project in which the students design and prepare a GIS analysis application of their own choosing.
Three hours classroom and three hours of laboratory per week. This course is cross-listed as ENST 218 and ERSC 218. This course fulfills the QR distribution requirement.
1.000 Credit hours
4.000 Lecture hours

Course Attributes:
ARCH Area A Elective, ARCH Area B Elective, Environmental Studies Elective, Quantitative Reasoning

BairdFellows   cropped

Congratulations to GIS students, Chloe and Tabea


Advancing Sustainability

the 2014-15 baird fellows

2014-2015 Baird Fellows


Photo by Carl Socolow ’77.

2014-15 Baird Sustainability Fellows announced

Now in its third year, the Baird Sustainability Fellows program recognizes Dickinson seniors who have advanced sustainability goals through their scholarship, leadership and service efforts. Named for Spencer Fullerton Baird, a prominent 19th-century naturalist and Dickinson alumnus, the program this year brings together 12 students for collaborative projects and research to help create a sustainable world. Read about Chloe and Tabea’s missions below.

Chloe Miller, Archeology and Anthropology Major

Chloe Miller, 2015 Baird Sustainability FellowChloe Miller ’15


Chloé Miller is double majoring in archaeology and anthropology. Sustainability not only plays an important role in her academic fields, but also in her personal life. Raised in a Catholic and Native American household, she believes it is her responsibility to help return balance to the Earth for the sake of future generations. Chloé’s unique upbringing has guided her academic pursuits to understanding the dynamic, synergetic relationship between anthropogenic forces, human biology, and the natural landscape.

Her interests have taken her all over the world, from the Altiplano of Bolivia to Transylvania, Romania. While in Bolivia with Dr. Maria Bruno and Dr. Christine Hastorf, Chloé saw how past human interactions with the environment have evolved into the agricultural practices of contemporary highland farmers. She also observed how Bolivian politics, social inequalities, and the high global demand for quinoa is negatively impacting these farming groups. In Transylvania, Romania, she participated in a communal archaeology project that involved collecting information about medieval churches once forgotten by the Székely people, a long-existing Hungarian ethnic minority. Seeing this loss, which was the product of socioeconomic and political forces, first hand has inspired her to apply for a Fulbright Research Grant. She plans to return and provide support through complementary research about the historical relationship between pre- and post- Christian traditions among the Székely by using bioarchaeology and mortuary analysis.

On campus, Chloé works as a GIS intern where she helps Facilities map and analyze different aspects of the Dickinson campus and sustainability projects. She also helps the Classics Department cultivate a sense of cultural sustainability by spreading awareness of classical Greco-Roman culture as the Classics House Manager and as a Latin Club Teacher.

Chloé believes that a biocultural approach to understanding the human condition is a unique and understated aspect of sustainability, so she is excited to bring this to the colloquium. She hopes to represent a different perspective of sustainability that recognizes the need to not only understand how humans are affecting the environment but also how we our affecting ourselves.

Tabea Zimmermann, Environmental Science Major & French Minor

Tabea Zimmerman, 2015 Baird Sustainability FellowTabea Zimmerman ’15


Tabea Zimmermann is an Environmental Science major with a minor in French. In her time at Dickinson, Tabea has participated in many opportunities that have shaped her view of the natural environment and how humans use and value it. Her work at the college farm and with the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) served as foundations for two different study abroad experiences. Last year, Tabea spent a science-intensive semester in Cape Cod, MA studying the biogeochemistry of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems with the Marine Biological Laboratory. In the spring, she replaced her lab coat and safety glasses with sandals and a camera as she explored the culture and society of Cameroon. Here it became apparent that sustainability is just as much a factor of a people’s history, economy, and culture and it is about the natural environment surrounding it.

At Dickinson, Tabea is studying how different lakes have responded to environmental stresses such as climate change and atmospheric deposition and which lakes will be most sensitive to future disturbances. When she’s not happily buried in science, Tabea enjoys running with the cross country team, tooting her oboe, and reconnecting with friends. She’s looking forward to collaborating with a diverse group of students and having time to reflect on her recent experiences while continuing to evolve her understanding of sustainability and what it means to be an engaged member of her local and world-wide communities.

To read more:




Interested in anything GIS? Then take the time to explore, which delivers the latest GIS industry commentary, news, product reviews, articles, events and resources from a single, convenient point. It is a portal targeting GIS and geospatial professionals that supplies complete GIS product catalog listings, technical papers, GIS news, CEO interviews, multimedia presentations, priority press releases, event postings, job placement and more. Checkout features such as the GISWeekly Review, which delivers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry in a readable newsletter format. It is a great way to explore the GIS industry and its pertinence to daily life. Enjoy! 

Welcome Fall 2014 GIS Students

The GIS lab would like to welcome our 16 new students for Fall Semester 2014! Here are some interesting facts about our new students:

What do they study?


Major 1

Major 2






























Where are they from?

























What class are they?















Stay tune for more news about our students as they learn the trade!

Government Shutdown

The government shutdown is taking it’s toll on the GIS lab.  We’ve had to re-write labs for the GIS class since many of the where we download data are run by the government.  We also haven’t been able to post-process data due to shutdowns of government base stations.  All of us are hoping that we can access this information again soon!  IMG_5315

It’s been a long day in the GIS lab…


Benchmark Hunting!

 Like scavenger hunts?  So does the advanced GIS class!  The class, Katherine Heacock ‘13, Katherine McCusker ‘13, and Anna Ramthun ’13, spent a Friday afternoon searching for benchmarks in Michaux State Forest, hoping to find a benchmark near their study site for establishing a survey grid.  Have you ever tried to figure out where you were and gotten different answers from different sources?  Benchmarks are here to help! Benchmarks are recorded co-ordinates taken by various government organizations, like the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and the United States Army Core of Engineers (USACE), that can be used as a correct measurement.   Marked by a brass disk placed into something that won’t be moving any time soon, like a piece of bedrock, benchmarks are like the “You are HERE” on mall signs, but for GIS. 

Unlike the giant “You are HERE” circle that stands out on the mall map, benchmarks are not always as easy to find.  The government provides clues to help surveyors and curious folk find them.  Benchmarks can sometimes be found in your town square, but they can also be more difficult to locate.  As some of the benchmarks have been there since the mid 1900’s, the clues can be slightly off or out-of-date, especially as places like forests grow and change.  Sometimes, the clues can just be downright unhelpful, like this clue that told us to go “30 feet from the center of the road past the oak tree.”  Did I mention that we were in a forest? Or the clue that told us to find a certain telephone pole as the first marker, but the poles had been renumbered since then. 

With expert sleuthing skills, the class was able to discover the location of three benchmarks- one on the corner of a stone cottage!  Unfortunately, none were in a good location to help the class with their work.  If you want to go on an adventure to find benchmarks in your area, the locations and clues can be found by going to the NGS benchmark viewing website!   Happy sleuthing!



-Photos courtesy of GIS Specialist James Ciarrocca

Map Jokes

Need a break from working on final map projects?  Check out these amusing (and very corny) map jokes from!

  • What is the tidiest element on a map? The neatline.
  • Why are maps like fish? They both have scales.
  • Why do paper maps never win at poker?  Because they always fold.
  • What do you get when you cross a cowboy with a mapmaker?  A cow-tographer.
  • What did the mapmaker send his sweetheart on Valentine’s Day?  A dozen compass roses.
  • Why does west longitude need to be cheered up?  Because it is always negative.
  • Why did the dot go to college?  Because it wanted to be a graduated symbol.
  • What do you call a map of outhouses in the woods?  A shaded relief map.
  • What do you call a USGS quadrangle with green water, blue forests, and all the names spelled backwards?  A topo-illogical map.
  • What kind of maps do spiders make?  Web-based maps.
  • What projection do lost sheep use to find their way home?  The Lamb-ert Conic Conformal projection.

Send a geoGreeting!

Want a break from endless hours spent in ArcMap?  Have some fun with aerial imagery with geoGreetings!  The site uses aerial images that look like letters so you can type and send a message.  Check it out!

Where Did Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From?

Do you know where your turkey or cranberries came from for your Thanksgiving?  ESRI has put together a map of where the staple foods from your holiday meal might’ve come from.

The Earth as Art

Check out some amazing satellite images!

The Earth as Art: Satellite Images of Our Planet from Orbit

Geocaching- The Modern Day Treasure Hunt

Geocaching is a world-wide recreational outdoor activity where treasures or “caches” are hidden around the globe, and it’s your job to find them!  The website has coordinates for caches around the world.  Just sign up, type in a location to find coordintaes near you, and type the coordinates into a handheld GPS or smart phone.  Then you can navigate to the location and look for the treasure!  Geocaches are usually hidden in a waterproof container that has a log book and a bunch of small items.  When you find it, you can sign the log book and take a treasure (as long as you put something back of equal or greater value).  No two caches are the same- they vary in how difficult they are to find, where they’re located, and what they look like.  There are currently 1.9 million geocaches hidden in over 200 countries and 7 continents, including some around Dickinson!  If you don’t have a smart phone, you can check out a GPS from the media center.  So go out there and find treasure!

Walkability and GIS

Have you ever wondered how walkable your city, hometown or community is? There are GIS based tools out there that you can use to find out! The most well know is Walk Score, which assigns a location points based on how many daily amenities are with a 1 mile radius of your location. For example, if your home has 2 restaurants, 3 grocery stores, a farmers market, a library and a train station all with a half mile of it, you’ll will get a high walkability score. Almost all of your daily errands can probably be done on foot.

Walk Score isn’t perfect, but it does give you an approximation of the walkability of your property. They list some of the limitations of the technology on their page, “how it doesn’t work.”

The newest tool is Walkshed, which determines walkability based on user preferences. For example, if it is very important to you to live near a bus station and a farmers market, but you don’t really care about bars or retail shops, the technology will create a heat map that identifies the areas that fit your request. Someone else, however, might really want to live by bars & restaurants… so their map would be different. Walkshed is only available in Philadelphia and NYC at the moment, but they hope to expand the technology in the future.

Where do you think these guys get there data? What are their biggest challenges?

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