Geomatics News

We have provided this Geomatics News section to allow our members and corporate sponsors the ability to share any geomatics related news or information with the geospatial community.  This page works much like a typical blog, so others can add comments to any news post, or include the information on their own website using the RSS feed

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  • 19 May 2016 8:40 PM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    Hugh MacKay, Managing Partner of Novellus Management Consulting and president of GANS has recently been hired as the Executive Director - Eastern Canada for GeoAlliance Canada. 

    GeoAlliance Canada is a new umbrella organization created to help unite the energy and resources of existing geospatial business, non-profit, education and government organizations. GANS is a GeoAlliance founding member and has been involved in promoting geomatics in Canada for over 25 years. For more information on GeoAlliance Canada see



  • 16 May 2016 11:43 AM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    Various Lidar mapping data in Nova Scotia is now available under an open license via Nova Scotia's Open Data Portal

    Lidar (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) is described as an optical remote sensing technology which measures properties of scattered light and/or information of a distant target. 

    It combines laser, GPS and inertial navigation systems to produce highly accurate topographic maps with accuracy within a few centimetres.

    Lidar data is utilized in various ways including Coastal Flood Mapping, Geological mapping, Transportation, Forestry and Archaeology.  Lidar, an extremely accurate mapping tool, enables better decision making for Nova Scotians.

    Click here to learn more about the Nova Scotia LIDAR data that you can download for free as well as the other 300 collections of data covering business and the economy, communities and social services, nature and environment and government. 

  • 11 May 2016 11:36 AM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    It was great to see the next generation of geospatial professionals come out tp GANS’ first family event, "GANS at the Museum!"

    We had an awesome time exploring the Museum of Natural History while we created an interactive map of world features related to things we have in Nova Scotia, using a custom app tailored especially for us by the ESRI team in Toronto!

    We had our cake, and ate it, too, while we checked out the complete map! You’ll have to bring your own cake, but you can see the map here:

  • 07 May 2016 12:45 PM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    Bob Maher and his wife, Heather Stewart visited their grandchildren in Iqaluit for three weeks in April and had an opportunity to attend a lecture mapping land use in the North. Below he reviews a few books  dealing with Community Mapping that he recommends ...

    Being in Nunavut

    During the first week in Iqaluit, we went to a public lecture by David Pelly on his new book 'Ukkusiksalik. the People's Story'.  

    Ukkusiksalik is a new national park around Wager Bay however Pelly focuses on the oral tradition of the Kivalliq Inuit of that region.

    People lived on the land, and not in 'communities'. In mapping the land use, he shows 'fuzzy boundaries' of use. There are no boundaries or property lines imposed on the landscape. In the words of one of the elders, Mariano Aupilarjuq.



    'This is our land, this is our home, which means that it actually ties up our lives and we become one'.

    In the last few years, there has been much discussion about the fate of the Franklin expedition. David Woodman wrote a seminal book on 'Unravelling the Franklin Expedition. Inuit  Testimony'. Bob Maher and his wife, Heather Stewart in Nunavut

    In the second edition (2015), after the rediscovery of the Erebus, he reaffirms the importance of the Inuit oral tradition. Stories that have been passed down through generations since the mid- eighteenth century. Much of this research was conducted by Louie Kamookak, Inuit historian.

    In both these books, it is interesting to contemplate the meaning of 'community mapping', and the use of Inuit and European place names. The Inuit names are much more descriptive of the landscape.

    First, consider the size of the territory and the low density of human occupancy.

    Second, it is important to appreciate that 'community' is a recent Western concept, the activities of family groups was determined by access to the resources on the land and water I.e. caribou, Arctic char, seals. Human movements were related to fluctuations in the fish and wildlife populations. Presence on the land was a function of food availability.

    'The first half of the book holds the first person accounts of those interviewed, while in the second half the author weaves collected stories together that are connected by common elements.

    Together the two parts of the book show the spirits of the people who travelled through and lived in the area, remain a fundamental part of the landscape, their stories woven in time and space'.

    'The elders, the knowledge-holders, I think understood the value of old stories as reflections of where they had come from and who they are'. Pelly, interviewed for Nunatsiaq News (April 22/16)


    If you are looking for books for grandchildren, check out Inhabit Media at For example, The Legend of the Fog. By Qaunaq Mikkigak and Joanne Schwartz, 2011.


    David F. Pelly. 2016. Ukkusiksalik. The People's Story. Dundurn Press.
    David C. Woodman. 2015. Unravelling The Franklin Mystery. Inuit Testimony. MQUP second Edition

    About the author

    Bob Maher is a Geographer, living in Paradise, Nova Scotia. In the 1980's he designed, developed and delivered a number of intensive computer programming programs at COGS. In 2000, he returned as Senior Research Scientist at the Applied Geomatics Research Group until his retirement in 2011. He has worked closely with the Geomatics industry for over thirty years. 


  • 05 May 2016 8:28 PM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    Last week at the NSCC-COGS awards night in Lawerncetown, Hugh MacKay presented awards to three Maritime students who have, or is expected to, contribute significantly to the geomatics sector. Congratulations to Jeff Sutherland, Mike Hannon, and Peter Porskamp.

    2016 GANS student award awarded to an Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences - GIS Concentration graduate in high standing who is from the Maritime Provinces and has, or is expected to, contribute significantly to the geomatics sector and the winner was Jeff Sutherland

    2016 GANS student award awarded to an Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences - Remote Sensing Concentration graduate in high standing who is from the Maritime Provinces and has, or is expected to, contribute significantly to the geomatics sector and the winner was Mike Hannon.

    2016 GANS studentawarded to a Marine Geomatics graduate in high standing who is from the Maritime Provinces and has, or is expected to, contribute significantly to the geomatics sector and the winner was Peter Porskamp.

    [Photos by : Paul Illsley]

  • 28 Apr 2016 10:21 PM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    The Copernicus Masters competition 2016 is now open for submissions - with new challenges, renowned partners and an immense prize pool.

    Since 2011, the Copernicus Masters competition has evolved into the leading innovation platform for promoting user uptake of Earth observation data in a commercial and societal context. It showcases new ideas and trends each year in serving as an integral part of an international innovation network. Over the past five years, Copernicus Masters has already selected a total of 39 winners from among more than 1,200 entrants from 60 different countries, who have submitted over 700 cutting-edge business ideas.

    With support from its international network, the Copernicus Masters also aids participants in realising their applications and business models. This year's edition will once again feature challenges and corresponding prizes to be awarded by a series of prominent partners, including the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), T-Systems International GmbH, Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd., the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and Stevenson Astrosat Ltd. The University Challenge, meanwhile, will be geared specifically towards students and research employees. The prize pool includes cash awards, satellite data access and quota as well as support-packages and is worth EUR 300,000.

    SMEs, start-ups, entrepreneurs, students and everyone with a brilliant idea is welcome to join and submit their entries from 15 April to 18 July 2016 at

  • 07 Apr 2016 8:40 AM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    Today (April 7), I attended the Community Mapping Showcase at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS). 

    Maps Tell the Stories We Choose to Tell

    This project is a collaboration between the Age Advantage Association (AAA), a not for profit group of senior (elders) in the Annapolis Valley and  the instructors and students in the Diploma of Geographic Sciences, Community  and Environmental Planning program. Key contacts are Heather Leblanc (AAA) and Ed Symons and Monica Lloyd (NSCC). The interactive web-based maps are delivered both through Esri ArcGIS Online and Google Maps. Check out the web site at 

    Community Mapping - Maps Tell the Stories We Choose to Tell

    This inter-generational project allows seniors to bring their local knowledge of the landscape to the map, and COGS students to bring their GIS and cartographic expertise to the table.

    the Walter Morrison collection of historic

    Specific maps for the Annapolis Valley include:

    • historic homes/ cemeteries
    • wharves,churches,trails
    • black loyalist/ Acadian home sites
    • cultural assets
    • Bear River artisans
    • The most recent innovation is the creation of an online form which allows community members to propose and add additional features to the geographic database.

    As part of the showcase, Trish LeBlanc  from the  COGS Map Library provided a tour of the Walter Morrison collection of historic maps. This Collection was donated to NSCC COGS by Walter Morrison, Cartographer Emeritus of COGS who was interested in antique maps as an illustration of the evolution of map making technology. It is a mixed media print collection of over 2000 historical maps, atlases, periodicals and books that is focused on the early mapping of Atlantic Canada and specifically Nova Scotia.

    Here, cartography students can compare maps of the early settlements with their present representation.

    Where to go from here ?

    Currently, the community mapping project is hosted using the technology available at the college. It offers a rich and eclectic view of the cultural landscape. Much of it based on a series of maps commissioned by Annapolis Ventures ' Cemeteries, Graveyards and Burying Grounds in Annapolis County' n.d.. If these online community maps are to be used for Community Planning, then it will be important for the technology to remain current. To address these concerns, there will need to be agreements about ownership of the data, quality control and access for decision - making purposes. 

    The community mapping project is an excellent initiative which uses the skills and interests of the local residents , and links to the GIS at  the college. To be sustainable, it likely requires its own portal, with appropriate access rights for the different 'communities of interest'.

    Modern web GIS facilitates this type of collaboration, where local connects with global. The Annapolis Valley has a wonderful resource at COGS, which can help address deeper conversations about the creative rural economic (Greg Baeker) and place-based education (David Gruenewald and Gregory Smith).

    There are a number of similar initiatives happening in other parts of rural Canada. For example, Vancouver Island (
    the Walter Morrison collection of historic

    In conclusion, in the words of Map Annapolis :

    '"Community- created asset maps are based on the premise that local residents possess expert knowledge of their local environment which can be expressed in a geographic framework which is easily understandable and universally recognized. Participatory maps often represent a socially or culturally distinct understanding of landscape and include information that is excluded from mainstream.


    Greg Baeker. Rediscovering the Wealth of Places: a municipal cultural planning handbook for Canadian communities. Published by Municipal World.
    David A. Gruenewald and Gregory Smith (ed.) 2008. Place-based Education in the Global Age. Taylor and Francis.

    About the author

    Bob Maher is a Geographer, living in Paradise, Nova Scotia. In the 1980's he designed, developed and delivered a number of intensive computer programming programs at COGS. In 2000, he returned as Senior Research Scientist at the Applied Geomatics Research Group until his retirement in 2011. He has worked closely with the Geomatics industry for over thirty years.

  • 30 Mar 2016 9:08 AM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    GeoAlliance Canada was pleased to host over 70 professionals for its inaugural meeting, “Map to the Future”, held in Calgary March 15-16 2016. 

    GeoAlliance Canada’s “Map to the Future”

    Attendees represented a cross-section of the geography, geomatics and geospatial community across industry, education, government and non-profit organizations. They worked collaboratively to validate the GeoAlliance mandate, brainstorm opportunities, risks, and actions, and suggest specific projects that would benefit the entire geo community.

    The laudable efforts of the Interim Board of Directors of GeoAlliance Canada to bring the proposals developed by the Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table (CGCRT) to fruition were strongly supported by the community through attendance at this event and offers of financial support to make it possible. 

    GeoAlliance Canada’s “Map to the Future”

    Attendees were welcomed to Calgary by Brad Ashley, Chair of GeoAlliance Canada’s Interim Board, who gave some context about the purpose of the event and the importance of capitalizing on this opportunity to begin development of meaningful, impactful projects to raise the profile of the geomatics sector. Brad spoke at length on the challenges this new organization has faced, from workload to cash flow, to the need to work collaboratively as a sector to ensure future growth. 

    Our Keynote for the event was Dr. Alex Bruton, the Innographer, who spoke on the difficult and uncomfortable process of innovation, comparing it to learning how to ride a unicycle or “backwards bike”. He stressed that not every idea for creating a better industry will be a good one, meaning one that is both feasible and will have a high impact. He showed that for every 3000 ideas, generally only one will succeed. Dr. Bruton asked the attendees to think outside the box and come up with viable strategies for innovation within our industry and not be deterred by challenges or setbacks.

    GeoAlliance Canada’s “Map to the Future”

    The majority of the time over two days was dedicated to working individually or in small groups on worksheets provided by the event facilitators, Design Cofounders. The facilitators walked attendees through the process of first validating GeoAlliance Canada’s mandate by giving thoughtful input about the opportunities and risks it creates for individual organizations and the sector, and then brainstorming actions for the ways we can all take advantage of the opportunities while mitigating the risks. 

    Attendees were given the opportunity to collaborate with other members across all sector segments (education, non-profit, government and industry) to develop potential projects for the community to undertake to address common goals and challenges. It was stressed that GeoAlliance Canada should be seen as a solution facilitator rather than a solution provider, and that their mandate is to help create conditions that support the success of projects undertaken by the geo community.

    To this end, the project concepts were self- and peer-evaluated for their desirability (are they for the good of the community?), feasibility (likelihood of getting off the ground) and viability (likelihood of long-term success or sustainability). 

    GeoAlliance Canada’s “Map to the Future”

    Several project concepts were presented to the room for feedback, and all project concept and evaluation cards were then collected for review by the GeoAlliance Canada Board. Additional project ideas will be collected through the GeoAlliance website in the coming months – it was reiterated frequently over the course of the event that this initial collection of projects is just the beginning, and certainly will not be the only chance to put forward a project for consideration. Further details about the work undertaken at Map to the Future are available here.

    The GeoAlliance Canada Board will take the outcomes, suggestions and feedback from this meeting and form an external project review committee reporting to the Board of Directors. This will allow for a transparent project pipeline, and the committee will include both members of our community and those in peripheral fields. This committee will assess incoming project concepts and work with the submitters to ensure the idea is shovel-ready, build strong teams, find additional resources as required, and help shepherd an idea from the concept stage through to a successful conclusion. 

    As projects are funded and move forward, details will be provided on the GeoAlliance Canada website. Many thanks to everyone who sponsored, attended, or followed along on Twitter. Map to the Future was a first step for GeoAlliance Canada, and we hope we will look back on it as a leap forward for our community.

    While the work to define and implement meaningful community projects has begun, further investment by willing partners will be required to bring them to fruition. Those who participated in the Calgary meeting demonstrated an interest and willingness to make this fledging new organization a success, but GeoAlliance Canada will continue to grow and evolve. We look forward to working with our members and the Canadian geo community to build bridges, collaborate, and promote our work across Canada and on the world stage. 

    Ed Kennedy and Brad Ashley from

  • 14 Mar 2016 4:06 PM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    Online Digital Atlas: A Shared Vision

    Every year, a small team of Esri staff travels to COGS to recruit new talent. As part of the interview process, they provide a demonstration of the lattest ArcGIS functionality. Returning home from Haida Gwaii in February, I was interested to check out some of the new developments, especially since I had been far removed from the detailed GIS functionality for several years.

    This led to a re-connection with Clint Brown from Esri (Redlands), and a copy of Esri’s new book, ‘the ArcGIS Book. What struck me from the ArcGIS demonstration was that the new software tools seem to allow for closer collaboration between community groups, government agencies, educational institutions and industry. These tools include the ability to manage different layers, with different access rights, stored either on the server or in the cloud.

    Geography is Key for Integrating work across Communities ...

    While reading the ArcGIS Book, I noticed that the last of the ten 'Big Ideas' was that 'GIS is social. GIS is collaborative' and that 'Geography is key for integrating work across communities'Therefore, it seems that the time is right to test the 'collaborative' hypothesis.

     Coincidentally, the Nova Scotia Provincial Government was announcing their new open data policy and created a new online open data site providing the geospatial community with free access to base maps and data sets featuring Nova Scotia. And by chance the Geomatics Association of Nova Scotia (GANS) has been recently working on a concept for an online digital atlas (Digital Atlas of Nova Scotia - DANS).

    An online digital atlas would allow the geospatial community to have the tools to develop web and mobile apps that accesses a combination of their own databases combined with maps and spatial data from other agencies and organizations (such as open data portals). Each data layer (or map) from the digital online atlas would have various terms and conditions for sharing information.  Some layers would be read only while other layers would be able to be updated by the geospatial community under certain conditions.

    The significant role proposed by GANS to obtain the technology resources to support apps and associated maps will help them remain sustainable into the future and remain a leader in the geomatics sector. However, this is only one pillar of the shared vision.

    What is the next step in the process, as we move forward?

    Community groups must have the resources to develop their applications. We need the next generation of application developers. Through training, mentoring and curriculum changes in our educational institutions, we can address this shortcoming.

    On Haida Gwaii, John Broadhead at the Gowgaia Institute has talked about the need for an online atlas of the natural and cultural resources. 

    GANS is promoting a similar concept here in Nova Scotia. At the community level, groups appreciate the need for application development to meet the needs of citizens, visitors, as well as the municipal government. This follows five years after the work by Paul Beach in Sault Ste Marie. He championed the concept of a 'community information utility', today, the tools are readily available, in a more collaborative world.

    We can imagine a nested set of geographies. The Annapolis Valley lies within the region of Southwest Nova, within the province of Nova Scotia. Each region recognizes its geographic context. The same approach can be applied to Cape Breton, the South shore. Indeed, it could be part of the standard infrastructure for existing Regional Enterprise Network (REN) and could be linked to existing products e.g.

    What are the steps to turn this 'Idea'  into 'Action' ?

    1. determine the extent of the geography
    2. obtain digital base maps at the appropriate scale
    3. decide on the community mapping need:
              - historic properties
              - trails
              - land use
              - tourism facilities
    4. design the 'look and feel' of the user interface
    5. determine whether web/mobile app. or both
    6. hire application developer
    7. prototype application
    8. testing
    9. marketing and sales
    10. product release

    Why now?

    The technology has matured so that a properly monitored portal can serve up the different data sets, and yet meet the security needs of the data providers. There is recognition that to successfully apply these technologies we need more collaboration.

    The need to visualize the geography of rural Nova Scotia is important to economic development. The skills and products developed through this process are transferable to other geographies, applications and markets

    Access to a digital atlas is a prerequisite for groups to develop apps. that meet the local needs of citizens. Whether the underlying technology is Esri, Google, Open Source or a combination, we are seeing a shared vision of digital geography.


    About the author

    Bob Maher is a Geographer, living in Paradise, Nova Scotia. In the 1980's he designed, developed and delivered a number of intensive computer programming programs at COGS. In 2000, he returned as Senior Research Scientist at the Applied Geomatics Research Group until his retirement in 2011. He has worked closely with the Geomatics industry for over thirty years.

  • 10 Feb 2016 10:32 AM | Ted MacKinnon (Administrator)

    It is a pleasure to bring you an update on the activities of GANS, the Geomatics Association of Nova Scotia, as we reach the half-way mark of our 2015-2016 year.

    Your Board of Directors and Working Groups have made considerable progress on the goals presented at the 2015 Annual General Meeting. 

    We would like to highlight a few of the many accomplishments (

Check out the Geomatics Association of Nova Scotia Sponsors map

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