Tag Archives: academic

Group Members at AAG 2016: San Francisco

Looking forward to some sun (or fog) in California! Myself and two group members, Sara Harrison and Qing Lu are off to present at the Association of American Geographers annual conference in San Francisco. I’ve pasted the links to sessions below. Also check out other Geothink.ca presenters as well. Hope to see you there!

The Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers will be in San Francisco, CA from March 29 to April 2.

Sara Harrison

Crowdsourcing in Emergency Management: A comparative analysis of crowdsourcing adoption by governments in the United States and Canada


Qing Lu 

Potential and challenges of mobile technologies in the public sector: a case study of 311 requests in Edmonton, Canada


Peter Johnson

Reflecting on the Success of Open Data: How Municipal Governments Evaluate Open Data Programs



Measuring the Value and Impact of Open Data: Recruiting Doctoral Students

I’ve recently been successful with obtaining five years of funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Early Researcher Award (ERA). This generous funding will allow me to measure the value and impact of open data initiatives, assessing how open data is accessed, used, and exploited. This research will directly impact how governments provide open data and how stakeholders such as private developers, other governments, non-profits, and citizens build applications and businesses models that rely on open data.

As part of this award, I am now currently recruiting for graduate students (PhD students in particular) that are interested in working with me on open data topics, with a focus on government provision, measuring value, and the development of metrics. If you are interested in these topics, please take a look at my comments for prospective students and the Faculty of Environment Dean’s Doctoral Initiative page for funding opportunities.

This work will build on my current open data work as a part of the SSHRC-funded Partnership Grant geothink.ca, led by Dr. Renee Sieber at McGill University.

New Publication: Evolving Relationships in Community Participatory Geoweb Projects

At long last, a team publication from the GEOIDE grant The Participatory Geoweb has been published in ACME journal. This paper, co-authored by myself, Jon Corbett, Chris Gore, Pamela Robinson, Renee Sieber, and Patrick Allen, takes a critical view of the general enthusiasm for Geoweb projects. We challenge the commonly held notions that the Geoweb is ‘easy’, and highlight several implementation challenges derived from a variety of case studies. For those working with the Geoweb, crowdsourcing, and VGI, I would recommend this as a good overview of the challenges of both developing these types of tools and implementing them within a community context. It’s open-access, so please check it out!


The Canadian Water Network conference: “from knowledge to action”

This post is by PhD student Simone Philpot on her recent experience attending the Canadian Water Network Conference 2015.

When it comes to managing water resources, there is no shortage of problems. The consequences impact security, ecological health, environmental justice, and economic development. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Connecting Water Resources conference hosted by the Canadian Water Network. The 2015 theme, ‘from Knowledge to Action’ stressed the need to address a gap between what we know about sustainable and equitable water systems and our capacity to implement solutions.

When it came to implementation, the speakers uniformly put people, communities, cooperation, and governance front and center of the discussion. Former Premiere Bob Rae urged Canadians to critically examine assumptions of water security. More than 100 communities endure boil-water advisories in Canada. These advisories disproportionately impact remote areas, creating a gap between the water security experiences of different communities. Rae tasked Canadians to abandon ‘us and them’ mentalities and to address water security as a national problem. Patricia Mulroy gave a nod to water competition anxieties, opening her talk with “don’t worry, I didn’t come with any straws”. As the former director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Mulroy was responsible for securing water to support growing communities in a desert regime relying on a contested and stressed water source. Mulroy emphasized that all communities are linked to a common water destiny – or else, she says, “We will all fail together”. Margaret Catley-Carlson illustrated the centrality of water by playing off of the question “Is it a water issue?” Answering “yes of course it is” and -No “when water goes by your house and you can’t drink it, that’s not a water issue, that’s an exclusion issue”. Afternoon activities consisted of smaller group sessions. I attended Blue Cities: moving to the systems we need. A variety of topics relevant to municipal water managers were presented. Some important themes that surfaced were regulatory reform in the water sector, a willingness to look outward for solutions, and the importance of citizen engagement. These perspectives indicate a strong and growing role for the social sciences in water resources management.

Finally, there were the conversations that occurred in between events. I had the opportunity to hear about initiatives that aim to couple research and action in innovative ways. Of particular interest are the Ryerson Urban Water1 multidisciplinary collective in Toronto, Canada, and the Environmental CrossRoads Initiative2, in the City University of New York (CUNY), US. I have provided links below if you wish to learn more about these groups. At CWR-2015 lively discussions occurred across disciplinary and professional boundaries, without any sign of struggle. It can be done. I look forward to picking up on many of the conversations that started at the conference, and I look forward to the next Canadian Water Network event.

*The speakers are too numerous to discuss in this post, and although I identified a few themes and speakers, I have left out many excellent participants. For more information on the speakers and the conference, see the Canadian Water Network website3, listed below.

1Ryerson Urban Water http://ryerson.ca/water/

2Environmenta Crossroads Initiative http://rose.ccny.cuny.edu/~darlene/CrossRoads/about.html

Fulcrum – using mobile devices to collect field data

As part of Geography 187: Problem Solving in Geomatics, I’ve started using Fulcrum as a tool for students to gain experience collecting in-situ field data. Fulcrum is both a mobile app (for iOS and Android) and a data management/survey design backend. Fulcrum lets you develop a ‘survey’ (or form to fill out) that can accept all types of data, pictures, comments, custom tailored to your application.

fulcruminterfaceIn the case of GEOG 187, students were conducting a basic tree health survey of trees on campus, with help from the Ecology Lab. This dataset provided the basis for the semester project on identifying areas on campus where building development could take place with minimal disruption to existing mature and healthy trees.

Overall, Fulcrum was quite easy to set up, with pre-made templates to help me get started. In the field, students used the app to record information on trees, and to take pictures. Data collection is limited to point data, but of course, when data is collected on the potentially tree picsmall screen of a smartphone, it could be challenging to create more complex geometries like polygons and lines. This data is automatically geotagged and available for export from the Fulcrum interface. I’ve taken the tree data and put it into a small CartoDB map. Fulcrum provided a very easy to deploy and easy to use solution for this class, and also helped students to learn more about primary data collection. Thanks Fulcrum!

A Comparison of Traditional and Experiential Approaches to First-Year Geomatics Instruction

I’m currently leading a research project that looks to compare two first-year Geomatics courses (GEOG 181 and the new GEOG 187). Having instructed the prior version of GEOG 181, and now designing and instructing GEOG 187, I’m trying to understand what the impact is of ‘experiential’ teaching methods on student engagement with traditionally tricky concepts, called ‘threshold concepts’. In particular, I’m interested in how students engage with the fundamental geographic concept of ‘scale’. When I talk about scale, I mean how different objects can be represented differently at various scales (local to global), and how geographers and cartographers manipulate and change how objects are visualized to communication information. This work is supported by the University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence LITE (Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement) Full Grant. You can read a nice writeup of the project. This research is currently underway, with data collection from two first year classes complete, and basic analysis commencing soon. I’m hoping to have some general summaries completed by next semester and look forwards to sharing the results with the broader UW community of teaching practice. In the meantime, here are a few photos of GEOG 187 and their ‘experiential’ data collection this past fall.

Grant getting the weather balloon ready to launch (with attached camera to collect budget airphotos).
Grant getting the weather balloon ready to launch (with attached camera to collect budget airphotos).
View from balloon – note the string tethering the balloon.
Aerial view of a small portion of UW campus.
Aerial view of a small portion of UW campus.
Using Fulcrumapp.com to gather point data using mobile phones
Using Fulcrumapp.com to gather point data using mobile phones
Typical photo of trees for identification.
Typical photo of trees for identification.
Infrared photo of local tree, showing leaf health.
Infrared photo of local tree, showing leaf health.

Geopatial Mobility Lab – Launched with support from CFI and ORF

I’ve recently been awarded funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund. I’d like to thank both of these government funding agencies  for their support of a new research and training initiative that I call the ‘Geospatial Mobility Lab’. This effort is also co-sponsored through direct contributions of equipment and services from Esri Canada and Dell Computer.

I am actively recruiting students at the Masters and PhD levels to participate in research using this infrastructure. If you are interested, please read this and get in touch with me.

The Geospatial Mobility Lab in brief:

The widespread adoption of Internet-connected mobile devices has signaled a shift in the way that geographic information is both delivered and gathered. No longer tethered to desks, terminals, and Wi-Fi networks, location-based applications are now a key part of the mobile computing experience, providing a conduit for communication with space and place as a permanent backdrop. This project will develop a first-of-its kind testbed, the Geospatial Mobility Lab, an integrated system of mobile devices and analytic infrastructure, for the systematic evaluation of geospatial information and mobile technology. The Geospatial Mobility Lab will generate benefits for Canada and Canadians in three areas: the generation of direct economic benefits through software and use case developments conducted in partnership with private companies; training benefits through creating employees with marketable skills in software design, deployment, and evaluation; and generate social benefits in understanding the affordances and constraints of mobile device use on individual interactions, communications, and spatial behaviour. Considering the widespread adoption of mobile devices within society and the continued growth of this area of the information technology sector, research findings will impact many of the millions of Canadian citizens who use mobile devices on a daily basis.

See the official funding announcement here.