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Monday, January 31, 2011

NCGE Map Gallery Contest

NCGE 2011 Map Gallery Contest
The 2011 NCGE Map Gallery Committee invites you to submit a map for display during the 2011 Conference.  All GIS maps are welcome.  The maps will be judged by a panel of peers, with the exception of the People's Choice Award, which will be voted on by the Conference attendees.  The Map Contest will feature two award categories and the winners will be announced at the closing session on Saturday, August 6, 2011.  Please review the minimum requirements and categories carefully when designing the content of your map entry.  

Best Cartographic Design (Higher Ed., K-12 & People's Choice) - Awarded to the map that artistically employs the elements of cartography without compromising use and functionality. Maps will be judged on fundamental cartographic principles including figure ground representations, visual hierarchy, color selection, typography, symbology, overall aesthetic appearance, etc.

Best Analysis (Higher Ed., K-12 & People's Choice)  - Awarded to the map that is best designed to display the results of spatial data analysis and presents the information in an unbiased way, allowing the viewer to extract their own conclusions, utilizing the map as a tool.

The three winners in each category will be awarded prizes along with the admiration of their peers.

How do you and your students participate?
  1. Create your awesome map.  Size must be ANSI D (22 x 34) or smaller.  Save your map as a *.pdf.
  2. Create your map abstract and collect all the important information.
  3. Complete the submission form online.
  4. FTP your map's *.pdf file to the server.
  5. Meet us in Portland at the NCGE Annual Conference to share with others your excellent work!

Map Submission Deadline is May 15, 2011

 If you have any questions about the Map Gallery, please email Anita Palmer at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Q & A: It's All Relative!

Can I have my students create projects so that everything is "relative"?

You can have relativity in a GIS project. You just need to plan ahead.  It's harder to get relativity after you've already created the project.  ArcMap does relativity well when we tell it at the beginning of the project.
Without getting into too many hairy details, here's the simplified, general process:
  1. Plan your folder architecture before you start creating your GIS project.
  2. For example, a good ol' standard is to have a general folder, a MASTER FOLDER if you will, for the whole thing that contains the *.mxd, a folder for images, a folder for links, a folder for metadata and a folder for geodatabases.  Each of those folders contains the individual files(i.e. images has all the *.tiffs and *.jpgs, etc). See attached picture. For educational environments, I add a folder for documents (lesson plans, student handouts, etc.)
  3. Collect and move files into the folders BEFORE you add them to your map document in ArcMap.  You may have a working area that different that your master folder and master map document.  I do this often when I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the final product will become.
  4. Start an empty map document in ArcGIS/ArcMap.  Set all your environmental things (home directory, default geodatabase, document properties, etc).  
  5. Set the "relative" characteristic for your map document. (File, Document Properties, Data Source Options, Store relative path names, Make this the default for new map documents, OK, OK)
  6. Save your *.mxd in it's permanent home folder, the MASTER FOLDER. You're telling ArcMap that all files will "relate" to this location.  It won't care if it's on a hard drive, CD or flash drive.  It just knows to look in it's own backyard.
  7. Now, as you begin to build your map document and do analysis, everything you do goes into this one area (MASTER FOLDER) for the project.  
This process is helpful for your students.  They need good data management skills as they learn how to do GIS. It saves many conversations like "where is the original data?" and "didn't you write anything down?"  We laugh because we've all been there!  In education, transportability (relativity) is important since we may not always be sitting at the same computer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Q & A: Studying Louisiana Wetlands

It's a new year filled with new questions from my GIS teacher friends.  Solving questions and having students go on that quest is so powerful.

Question: I have a GIS student who is interested in learning some things about Louisiana’s water. She is interested in studying wetlands and salinity as a first topic choice. Erosion and river silt problems along the coast would be a 2nd choice.

Do any of these sound reasonable (because you can help us find data sources)? Do you have data sources that might lead her in some other directions?

Answer:  The fine folks of Louisiana have a DVD of state geospatial resources.  
I have a two DVD set from 2007.  It's now available for download at:  They have a quick start guide to that data collection also:

Some other sites that may be helpful: