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01 April 2008 @ 09:05 am
The Coastal CURA initiative consists of an association of academic and community groups, including a number of aboriginal  associations, and fisher organizations who are concerned with giving local communities more of an understanding of, input into the decisions affecting, and control over the coastal and adjacent offshore regions in their area.COASTAL CURA Workshop 1

On March 6th and 7th, under our Community Mapping initiative and with the support of the mobile geomatics lab of tablets provided by HP, we mounted a 2 day workshop.  This workshop included an introduction to data collection with GPS, mapping with Google, and information sharing using a Moodle workspace on a site hosted by the Nova Scotia Community College.  The workshop was attended by about 20 people over the two days, including representatives from 3 aboriginal groups in the region, local fisheries organizations, as well as environmental NGO's. 

This workshop was conceived of as a first in a series of workshops to give the Coastal CURA member groups more familiarity with GIS technologies and capabilities, and to increase the skill levels and capabilities of these groups.  One of our main goals for the workshop was to lay the foundation for future events.  We spent considerable time trying to understand the needs and interests of the participant groups.  Discussions and planning for future events are ongoing.


Jeff Wentzell, Research Associate, AGRG


On Tuesday,February 19th, 2008 the Applied Geomatics Research gave a workshop to students and faculty at the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College as part of their “Wellness Week” activities.  Ashley Lawrence, Meredith Roik, and Jeff Wentzell instructed participants on using the Garmin 76SC GPS technology for geocaching and collecting GIS data.  Since doing is a great way to learn, the group were given GPS units to navigate a geocaching exercise and instructed to collect data of features as they went on their trek.  The group finished by learning about displaying their spatial data in Google Earth.


These materials and presentations are part of Ashley’s and Meredith’s Directed Studies course at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in support of the Community Mapping initiative at AGRG.   The HP tablets provided us the ability to take the technology to the users.  The tablets have the software (DNR Garmin and Google Earth) and connectivity so we can concentrate on learning how to use the tools

15 January 2008 @ 02:17 pm
, Meredith, Ashley, and BobMeghan, Meredith, Ashley, and Bob

Last Saturday Bob Maher, and myself, two directed studies students, and a friend went out to get ourselves up to speed with the GPS receivers.  The larger strategy is to collect some points, download them, and then start mapping them.  At this point the HP computers come back into the picture, and we go back out on the community mapping circuit.

Here we are at the farthest point of your walk. 

First we collected points to delineate the corners of a small orchard, for future reference, and then we created a track of points following a trail through an old tree nursery down to the Annapolis River.  Because we have had a week of April-May weather the snow is all gone, and the river is in full muddy flood.  Not to worry, here it is Tuesday and the snow storms are back :)

Tomorrow we are meeting with folks from the CURA Coastal group, who are concerned about empowering local coastal communities to manage their resources.  At that time we will discuss our workshop plans, and perhaps beyond.
09 January 2008 @ 09:55 am
Heather has now left us to take up her position as Park Ecologist at the national park in Churchill Manitoba, which is in northern Canada on the shores of Hudson's Bay.  She has generously agreed to continue as a consultant, remotely.  Meanwhile we have asked two students in our GIS Advanced Diploma program to take on our work as a directed studies effort.  They will be spending the next few weeks getting up to speed, and then be delivering workshops to a number of NGO's and community groups here.  As well, we hope they will be able to add to our growing list of online resources housed in our Moodle site, to start to create workshops moving from data collection to online and desktop mapping, and to encourage after session collaboration... online community building.

In the meantime we are continuing our discussion with coastal community interest groups and others to see if we can develop a series of workshops, and online resources, to develop community mapping expertise.  This will enable communities to create sophisticated mapping products to support their efforts to manage coastal areas, and contribute to provincial and federal discussions concerning the environment.  We are also pursuing discussions with other groups.  It will probably be a several weeks before we are fully up to speed again.
16 December 2007 @ 08:09 am
Last Friday (December 14th), Heather Stewart, gave another workshop using GPS equipment and our HP tablets to the Nova Scotia Apple Growers Association.  She writes:

Today we all woke up to a snowy cold day with highways “passable with caution” and I drove to the Kentville Research Station to meet the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association (NSFGA), I wondered if anyone would show up! We had twelve intrepid souls out of a registered 13 who were keen, despite the subzero temperatures. I had an agenda that had half the time outside. We set up 4 computers for point download and conversion to .kml, the moodle presentation. Initial presentation on theory and hands-on button-pushing took 1hour and then we headed outside for point collection and “finding”. All enjoyed coming in for coffee and warm computer time. Points showed up well on Google earth and all participants were amazed at demo for adding air photos as image overlays and could see the use for individual orchards. The example of the orchard at the Kentville research station went well as resolution on Google at Kentville is very good and we could see the trees we mapped. The workshop went 1 hour overtime and all the comments were it was too short. Thanks to Dela, Helen and Harold for organizing this.

All participants are keen to upload the modules at home and read the additional material so I must get off and enter their names.

Heather is off to Churchill Manitoba in January to commune with polar bears and take up a job as the park ecologist.  Heather has been the heart and soul of our community mapping project.  It was through her hard work that the content and material of our workshops was created and packaged, and our network of colleagues and clients has grown.  She has built a sound foundation on which to grow, and will continue her support as a consultant.  Still, we will miss her drive and cheerful enthusiasm.
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
07 December 2007 @ 09:49 am
We are extending our reach in a number of different directions. 

We are talking to new groups about workshops and series of coordinated workshops. 
  • We are entering into discussions with groups concerned with coastal management who want to be able to use the capabilities that geographic information systems give them to understand their environment and create more persuasive reports which include informative map products.
  • We are planning or have already scheduled workshops with agricultural groups, including the apple and organic growers associations.
  • Discussions arising from our recent participation in the Experiential Tourism demonstration are continuing.

We are beginning to place our current workshops in a larger curriculum which might include, for example:
  1. GPS and introductory mapping
  2. Using Google Maps
  3. Basic Map Composition
  4. Databases, Queries, Selections
  5. Simple Analysis
  6. Advanced Map Composition
  7. and so forth

As time allows we are exploring the relationship between the social web and pedagogy. 

Apart from our classroom experiences with our core curriculum at the college, we are thinking about ways to use web 2.0 to reinforce and extend our workshop training by creating internet mediated communities of practice and learning.  We are interested in collaborative learning.  The following mindmap gives some indication of the range of possibilities.

Web 2.0 Capabilities and Moodle(Click on the picture to enlarge)

Another mindmap summarizes the ideas in the excellent article RSS Ideas for Educators which can be found at:

Web 2.0 Possibiltiies(Click on image to enlarge)

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
28 November 2007 @ 11:24 am
On November 20th and 21st, members of the Applied Geomatics Research Group participated in a workshop exploring experiential tourism.    The workshop was facilitated by Celes Davar of Earth Rhythms,Inc.  A fuller account of the workshop can be found at http://web.mac.com/celesdavar/Fundy_Riches_and_Valley_Traditions/The_Welcome_Page.html

The workshop included a number of activities such as Valley Detectives, hosted by the Applied Geomatics Research Group (Heather Stewart, Bob Maher), which addressed the issue of invasive species.  Workshop participants became familiar with the use of GPS equipment, and then applied that knowledge to plot the location of notable populations of Phragmites communis

Upon return the locations recorded during the hike were plotted in Google Earth which Heather Stewart, shown on the right, had previously enhanced with high resolution air photos of the area.

The stated outcomes of this experience were that participants:

  1.    Used GPS satellite receivers to mark community and landscape features and to map the distribution of Phragmites communis in the Annapolis Royal marshes;

  2. Learned about the biogeography (distribution and ecology) of this invasive species;

  3. Experienced the research process by integrating field observations with other sources.

  4. Overlaid their own waypoints marked during the walk onto Google Earth to create their own map, and have a new spatial view of Annapolis Royal.

Apart from the larger community and economic development objectives of the workshop, it enabled us to see how tourism can be related to community mapping and our other activities in the field of applied geomatics.  It was also an excellent example of collaborative, discovery based learning.

The tablets provided by HP allowed us to take our computing resources, and software out into the community, and set up in a community hall.  It extends our reach considerably and is giving rise to new venues, purposes, and methods of teaching for us.

23 October 2007 @ 03:09 pm

On October 17th, our Geomatics Programming students, AGRG interns, research scientists, faculty, and various others went off to the woods of the South Mountain to map the remains of the long abandoned community of Roxbury.  Previously we had flown Lidar and taken air photos, and had access to hand drawn maps provided by Roxbury historian, David Whitman, such as the one seen on the right.

We broke up into small groups and scouted out the various foundations, wells, old mills, and graveyards... the remains of this 19th century community overlooking the Annapolis Valley... and recorded their position using GPS technology.  All this information was brought back to AGRG for further processing which is on-going.  Though we had intended to take our HP tablets with us we were dissuaded at the last moment by the frenzy of last minute activities and concerns about the roughness of the terrain.  

Someone observed that most of the gravestones marked the graves of women.  Life on the mountain in the 1860's must have been difficult, and we marveled at the amount of work it must have taken to build foundations, walls, and wells from the large granit boulders that abound in the area. 

It was a perfect fall day, and the site is one of great natural beauty as well as local historical significance.  In the end we ran out of time, but the day was enjoyed by all.
23 October 2007 @ 12:45 pm

On October 15 and 16, 2007 the Applied Geomatics Research Group utilized the HP mobile computer lab for the first delivery of the training materials developed by Jeff Wentzell, AGRG for the Rural Secretariat’s Community Information Database (CID).  The AGRG was contracted to develop a “Train the Trainer” package for use across Canada to train community leaders in the use of the CID and demographic data.  The participants were involved in learning to use the website that provides access to demographic and socio-economic data through Statistics Canada and other selected sources.   Fifteen participants from community organizations and governments were invited to learn about the CID website while providing feedback on the training design and materials.


The mobile aspect of the lab within the room was a great feature.  Connectivity was provided through a wireless access point which added flexibility, giving participants the ability to freely move around the room while taking part in the group breakout sessions.  During these sessions they continued to have access to the website and data which added to the learning.  It was noted that during initial training sessions by the Rural Secretariat of the CID they used fixed computer labs which worked fine; however, the mobile aspect of the lab gave participants that added flexibility to move within the room to continue to use the terminals as they interacted in group break out sessions as well as returning to the formal presentations and demos.   


The Community Information Database was developed collaboratively by the Rural Secretariat, provinces, territories, other federal departments, and community groups. It is a free on-line web-based resource intended to help users quickly capture demographic/socio-economic data for specific or multiple geographic regions from an interactive map.


Jeff Wentzell, M.Sc. Candidate                                           

Research Associate / GIS Specialist

Applied Geomatics Research Group (COGS -NSCC)

Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) Contact, NSCC               

13 October 2007 @ 08:45 am
Although we have been using the tablets and associated web sites in our Geomatics Programming class, for us the greatest attraction of the tablets is the mobility... the ability to take the tablets and the geomatics applications we have residing on them (GPS data collection, mapping, analysis) to new locations and new groups.   On Friday (October 12th), Heather spent the morning introducing fundamental mapping concepts (map coordinates, projections), GPS data collection, and the plotting of GPS data on topo maps as part of the ALP (Adult Learning Program) geography class.  We used a number of Garmin GPS data collectors, and the HP tablets of course.  For mapping software, we used ArcExplorer.  For support materials we provided a Moodle site with study materials, and a forum.  A number of the students asked to be signed up to the site.  This gives us a way to continue the relationship with this group after the workshop is over.

First Heather introduced concepts, and the use of the tablets, the Moodle site, and the Garmins.   Then everyone went out to the playing field to map the area around the campus using the Garmin GPS data collectors.  Here they are shown gathered around one of the numerous weather stations we have scattered through out the Annapolis Valley as part of our environmental monitoring activities.  The students are listening as Heather provides some last minute clarifications on the use of the Garmin.

After the field work, the students returned to the classroom to plot the points they have collected on maps using ArcExplorer.  Finally, Heather relates their experiences to locations on a familiar paper map, the 1:50,000 topo map published by the Canadian government.  A good day was had by all!

Next week, we will be mapping the lost community of Roxbury as part of the Nova Scotia Community College's Reaching Out event.