Innovations in Geography – Understanding Communities through GIS

Innovations in Geography - DWDuring the 2016 Texas GIS Forum hosted by TNRIS, Dr. Nazgol Bagheri made history as the first female keynote.  Dr. Bagheri is a trained architect and urban planner currently serving as an Assistant Professor in Department of Political Science and Geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In addition to being the first woman keynote, Dr. Bagheri is an innovative critical feminist geography scholar who is revolutionizing the field of GIS. In contrast to many of the sterile, data driven practices used in modern GIS, Dr. Bagheri’s work highlights how GIS can offer an alternative visualization of space. She combines geography and gender theories together in order to visualize gender relations and their effect on everyday geographic patterns. Continue reading

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Happy Thanksgiving from Banks Environmental Data

happy-thanksgivingIn honor of a holiday best known for turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes we decided to bring a bit of history to the table.

The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 – almost four centuries ago. During this time, explorers were actively discovering the Americas and cartographers were busy hand drawing maps from the explorer’s notes. These maps had some serious flaws. For example, they showed California as an island floating in the Pacific and depicted the great lakes as a large river. Despite these and other incorrect assumptions, the early maps were surprisingly detailed and helped facilitate further European settlement.

We’ve collected a few maps of Colonial America from the Library of Congress and provided them below. Now is a good time to pause and take a moment to be thankful for the invention of GPS. Enjoy!

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What is Emergency Response Notification System (ERNS)

ERNS_About

According to EPA, Emergency Response Notification System (ERNS) is the national database used to store information on releases of oil and hazardous substances. Before the establishment of the ERNS program, there was no centralized source of information capable of displaying all oil and hazardous substance releases that were being reported to the various offices of the federal government. ERNS provides a comprehensive, readily available method to collect reports and assess potential hazards across multiple federal agencies.

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The Global Positioning System (GPS)

AGPS mappings most of us are aware by now, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is the omnipresent force that allows our smartphones and other devices to know where we are located on the globe. It is used in navigation, ecology, advertising, city planning, the military, and a variety of other industries. GPS has become such a presence in our lives that, like oxygen, we hardly ever think about how it works.

GPS is composed of three main parts: the satellites in space, control stations on the ground, and the people using GPS equipped devices. The satellites whirl overhead sending out a constant signal to the earth that tells our devices where each satellite is currently located. If one of these satellites moves out of orbit or needs maintenance of any kind, the control station on the ground can make the necessary adjustments. Finally, our phones and other types of GPS receivers interpret the satellite signals and we are given our location in real time.

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Locating Water Wells from Driller’s Reports

Water Wells from Driller ReportsWhenever a water well is constructed, the driller is typically required to report details about the well on a driller’s log, or driller’s report. These logs include everything from date and depth drilled to location and lithology. Once the log is completed, it is submitted to the state environmental agency for processing. Sometimes state agencies will map these records. Otherwise it’s up to us to sleuth them out! After all, a well log is useless if you don’t know where the well is located. Continue reading

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Historical Maps and Aerials: Looking to the Past to Plan for the Future

With the innovations in satellite and drone technology in recent years, procuring highly detailed aerials and topographic maps of a site is becoming easier than ever. Current, high-quality maps and imagery can be used to help farmers identify trouble spots on their land or property developers plan a new neighborhood. But what about all of the historical resources? In the United States, there are aerial photographs available for many areas as early as the 1920s. Topographic maps have a history as old as the country itself. Continue reading

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Wind energy competes for the spotlight

Texas Panhandle wind farm

Happy 2016! For those of us in the environmental industry, 2016 has already been a year full of headlines. Some of the more positive headlines however, happened just before the end of 2015. In late December, Texas set a new energy record when it produced 40% of its total electricity by wind for 17 full hours. Take a moment to let that sink in. For 17 straight hours Texas was producing just under HALF of its electricity via wind turbines. Continue reading

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Making a Bold Statement with a Small Bird: How the Sage Grouse is Emblematic of Tensions over Government Intervention

The sage grouse is a bird that made national headlines this week because of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to keep this animal off of the federal endangered species list. This verdict comes out of multiple years of tension between the federal government, environmentalists, and energy companies in contemplating how to best protect both the bird and financial interests. Continue reading

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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) fundamentals

Much of our work at Banks involves GIS software. We thought we’d give you some background on these tools.

GIS, which stands for geographic/geospatial information systems, is a software tool used for analyzing the spatial components of any given data set. One of the most widely used tools is ArcGIS software, but there are also many free GIS systems available to people of all experience levels as well as plentiful online resources to learn about the various softwares. Most of the tutorials are free. Continue reading

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El Niño to bring rain to California

Credit: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group, via Associated Press

Credit: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group, via Associated Press

El Niño, also known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, is a climatic condition where warm waters in the pacific alter weather patterns across the globe. In the United States, this typically results in dryer than average winters for the northern states and wetter than average winters for the southern states down to Mexico. These conditions usually emerge about once every five years.
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Happy Labor Day!

history of labor day united states
Everyone loves a long weekend in late summer. But how did this holiday and treasured American tradition come into being?

According to the Department of Labor,

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Read more about the history of Labor Day here.

Enjoy the holiday!

The Banks Team

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Happy 99th Birthday National Park Service!

The United States National Park Service celebrated it’s 99th birthday this Tuesday, and with that came free admission to all 408 of the parks, monuments, and other landmarks within the NPS system. In celebration, we have included a slideshow with stunning aerial imagery of our beautiful park system.

Alcatraz Island, CA Source: USDA

Alcatraz Island, CA
Source: USDA

Arches National Park, UT Source: USDA

Arches National Park, UT
Source: USDA

Big Bend National Park, TX Source: USDA

Big Bend National Park, TX
Source: USDA

Dry Tortugas National Park, FL Source: USDA

Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
Source: USDA

Ft. Pulaski National Monument, GA Source: USDA

Ft. Pulaski National Monument, GA
Source: USDA

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ Source: USDA

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Source: USDA

National Mall, Washington D.C. Source: USDA

National Mall, Washington D.C.
Source: USDA

Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, NY Source: USDA

Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, NY
Source: USDA


Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO Source: USDA

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
Source: USDA

Mt. Rainier National Park, WA Source: USDA

Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Source: USDA

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Environmental industry news roundup – August 2015

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Gold King Mine Spills Toxic Waste

Animas River Aug. 6, 2015 (Photo: Jerry McBride, AP)

Animas River Aug. 6, 2015
(Photo: Jerry McBride, AP)

This past Wednesday, a team of EPA employees entered the Gold King Mine near Durango Colorado. According to CNN, instead of pumping and treating the wastewater within the mine, the EPA team accidentally released the contaminated water into the Animas River. As of Monday, the mine had released an estimated 3 million gallons and continued to discharge at a rate of 500 gallons per minute.  The EPA waited almost a day to report the spill. Continue reading

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Topographic Maps Through History…and Beyond!

The U.S. Geological Survey and their predecessors have been providing topographic maps of the United States for over 125 years, and have worked to integrate new technologies into their practices along the way.

According to their official website, the U.S. Geological Survey, more commonly known as USGS, was established on March 3, 1879 through a bill signed at the end of the final Congressional session by President Hayes. Since then, USGS programs have focused on recording geologic data on all regions of the U.S. across many disciplines, with topography being one primary focus. USGS has provided topographic maps at varying scales, with the most familiar being the 1:24,000 or 7.5 minute quadrangle map. Throughout time, cartographers at USGS have migrated from hand-drawn maps pulled from field sketching in the late 1800s, to utilizing early electronic instrumentation in the mid-20th century, and are now able to create detailed maps using GIS.

USGS Topo Map

Sample Topographic Map from USGS.gov

This summer, USGS has debuted a new program, topoView, which offers unprecedented accessibility to these topographic maps, or topos, through an easy to use online interface. TopoView allows users to search topos from 1880-2010 anywhere in the U.S. using a sliding timeline bar and straightforward map of the country. Know the exact location you’re looking for, or scale you would prefer? You can also customize your search by entering that information in the respective search areas. If you encounter any issues along the way, USGS has conveniently provided an introductory video to walk you through the process here.

Hannah Weaver
Program Manager
Aerials & Environmental Research
hweaver@banksinfo.com

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