Technology in the Field: Smartphones

Once upon a time (back in 2011) I wrote an article on the accuracy of smartphones in the field compared to dedicated GPS units (click here to read it). Coming back from the field has reminded me that nothing’s changed — I’d still rather use my phone than wait for the GPS unit to power up and figure out where I am.

There’s plenty more GPS apps for smartphones now than there was 5 years ago, but I still find myself consistently going back to Maverick (Play Store). It’s simple, lets me drop my waypoint, take a georeferenced picture, add in descriptions, and makes me happy. Used to use OruxMap (Play Store). It has great features, but for some reason I just click on Maverick for fast fieldwork.

It’s nice to see people getting on board with smartphones as GPS, from geography field trips (article) to research investigations (article). Not nearly the backlash when I presented at conferences oh so many years ago (*gasp*! How DARE you say some PHONE is as good as a $2000 Trimble?!??).

Continue reading “Technology in the Field: Smartphones”

How to export ArcGIS to Illustrator

Have you ever made a map in ArcGIS and wondered sadly: “wow, is this really the best I can get my map to look?” (ok, maybe that’s just me). But, if you’ve ever wondered why production quality maps look so much better than yours (let’s ignore a lot of recent journal publications here), it’s because the author cared enough to actually make the map look good. The good news? You can do it too! In this post we’re going to focus on getting your vector map out of ArcMap reliably and in to a real graphics program – Adobe Illustrator. For the following I’m assuming you have a working knowledge of Illustrator.

There are two camps of thought on using ArcMap and Illustrator together: Do most of what you can in Arc first VS. do the minimum in Arc and get it into Illustrator ASAP! What camp you’ll fall in to will likely depend on your experience/comfort with each piece of software. That’s only going to come with experience. So, play around both ways. It might feel like a time sink to mess with the same map at least twice, but in the long run your experimentation will save you a lot of time and grief, and help you develop the workflow that works best for you. I’m not going to tell you what’s best, but there are certain things you need to do regardless – that’s what we’ll focus on.

Continue reading “How to export ArcGIS to Illustrator”

Integrating Paleoecology and Time-lapse Technology in an Elevator

I love when my interests align in a brilliant example of integrating paleolandscape reconstructions, human ecodynamics, and technology for public consumption — this time in the guise of a time-lapse video on an elevator ride.

Five elevators which will be servicing the observatory atop the new 1 World Trade Center (in NYC) will show a 47-second video time-lapsing 515 years of panoramic landscape change along the tip of Manhattan Island. What a brilliant documentary and concept!

55-feet below ground, visitors begin in 1500AD. At 250 feet they reach 1760AD — the British Colonial Era. By the time they reach 1,269 feet above ground, visitors have seen skyline landmarks come and go.

For more information visit the original article at:

Fun at Conferences: Chicago Public Transport Edition

Almost every year that I’ve made the pilgrimage to the annual Association of American Geographers (AAG) meeting, I’ve used public transportation to get around – Chicago is no exception. The exception, this time, was that I managed to get turned around upon arrival, as opposed to a few days in (really? Who puts the north AND southbound buses at the SAME STOP. Facing the SAME DIRECTION. With the same text on their display. At night. In the rain? That’s just asking for it).

So 20 minutes in to going the wrong way on the bus, I use my handy-dandy Google Maps app to see how much farther until I need to request a stop (the app had said ~27 minutes to my destination when I got on). That’s when I discovered I was going southbound Continue reading “Fun at Conferences: Chicago Public Transport Edition”

Quick Lat/Long GMaps Hack

Have you ever been in Google Maps and wished you could find the lat/long of a place you’re looking at? I have this wish all the time. Fortunately, I know it’s possible. Unfortunately, I have to hunt down the solution each time in some old code I have up on a website. So, in order to make it easier to find (for me at least), here’s the solution. Enjoy!

    1. Center your feature of interest in Google Maps
    2. In the LOCATION BAR of your browser (where you type in URLs), paste the following:
  1. Hit “Enter”
  2. Walah! A popup dialog with the lat/long of the center of the map, and thus, your feature of interest =)