Last week was GIS Day (no, it wasn’t on my calendar either). But since Geographic Information Systems are part of ITGS Strand 2 topic the Environment, perhaps this is a good time to revisit some GIS examples. For these examples of GIS data, I’ve focused on data in KML and KMZ formats, so they can be loaded directly into Google Earth.
Note: Many of these data sets automatically update, so upon initial load into Google Earth it may take a few seconds before any visualisation appears.
Edge of Existence
This very depressing download visualises the distribution of the ‘top 100’ most endangered mammals. Created by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), it is very professionally presented. Clicking on each area reveals information about the species under threat. There is a separate file for critically endangered amphibians.
ITGS Lesson ideas: This is a great example of how IT can be used in classrooms to enhance teaching and learning (2.2 Education and Training). These data sets can also be combined with the forest cover loss and other data sets discussed below, to help visualise the threats these creatures face.
Natural disaster data
The USGS has a wide range of GIS data sets covering tectonic plates, earthquakes, and fault line movements. From the main page click on the data set you are interested in, then select “Automatic Feeds” on the right hand side. The data sets are automatically updated and can be large, so they may take a few minutes to appear when loaded into Google Earth.
ITGS Lesson ideas: Students could use this data to determine the most appropriate place to build certain buildings. They could also analyse the types of earthquake protection that would be needed on buildings constructed in certain areas.
Forest cover loss & conservation
ITGS Lesson ideas: Students could examine areas of the world at greatest risk of forest loss. This could be used to help determine appropriate action, and where it should be directed. If this data were overlaid with national parks data, students could examine the supposedly protected areas of the world which are at greatest risk. Overlaid with wildlife data (see above), this data set could highlight potential habitat destruction for endangered species. Oil spill data could further be used to investigate risks to sea life.
Explore a minefield in Cambodia
The HALO Trust’s minefield GIS data set is slightly different. It uses Google Earth and GIS data as a storytelling medium, taking the user on a virtual fly-through of Cambodian or Angolan minefields.
ITGS Lesson ideas: This is a good example to use in the Education topic. Students can discuss how multimedia, the Internet, and access to global information has changed teaching and learning.
Web GIS visualisations
If you don’t want to download and install Google Earth (or can’t), there are several browser based visualisations you can use:
- Eyes on the Forest – examines the state of deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia.
- State of the World’s Rivers – examines water quality and biodiversity
- Forest cover – a web based version of the data set discussed above
- Where does your Thanksgiving dinner come from? – visualises the sources of our food.
Google Earth Outreach has some extremely interesting case studies covering a wide range of topics from wildlife conservation to managing the Darfur humanitarian crisis. Definitely worth visiting.
FreeGISData is a great site which is frequently updated. It does exactly as its name suggests – I wish I had a chance to explore it more thoroughly.