The Story of Building our Web Maps

The Story of Building our Web Maps

Image of our 2D Map illustrating how individual watersheds can be selected to learn more about them, in this case Wilfred Creek.

I love maps. Maybe even more than I love graphs! I like to see everything at once, from above. I like to see how everything fits together. I like the clean lines between one feature and another rather than the messy vagueness of the real world. I like to measure distances with a ruler and to make marks and draw lines. Obviously, my love of maps stems from the days when they were made of paper.

Computer technology takes maps and turns them into databases. Every point on a computerized map can have information associated with it. These online maps have become rich storehouses of knowledge. Of course, this isn’t magic. Someone must compile, curate, upload, and link the data to geographical features. The process of linking all that data has morphed into an entirely new field: GIS (Geographic Information System) technology. GIS experts can do utterly amazing things with this new technology. The things that BWS volunteers have been able to do with it? Not so much!

BWS has a GIS application installed on one of our computers and we have doggedly tried to make sense of it. But, oh my, the learning curve is steeper than Wilfred Creek above the side-channel hatchery. After stumbling about in the bush, (metaphorically speaking) we began to look for help. Help came in the form of Jake LeBreton. Jake is a student at Vancouver Island University in the Advanced Diploma in GIS Application Programs. He was looking for a project for the practicum portion of his degree program. Our problems lined up well with what he had been studying.

From the beginning, Jake was keen to do more than just sit in front of a screen. After attending one of our training sessions for stream samplers, he joined our North Pod sampling team on their rounds. Several times in fact. (Not surprising. Our North Pod team is famous for their laidback approach to the sampling schedule. They sample the coffee and pastries at Weinberg’s as part of their normal route.)  Jake employed a two-prong approach, using knowledge and enthusiasm to attack the monster that is our GIS application. And while this is a beast that is never fully slain, he definitely subdued it.

Looking at the amazing results, (which we have posted to our website, you wouldn’t think it was a painful process. But to wrangle the data into our inadequate hosting platform took heroic effort. One workaround involved creating a custom graph for each parameter, at each creek, and then uploading them to the GIS app one by one. Seventy-two in all. Geesh!

These are fabulous maps even if you can’t see the labour that went into making them. They really capture the extent of the work we’ve done. We’re very proud of them and thankful for Jake’s fabulous work and his commitment to the cause.

However, I’m going keep my paper maps and my pencil, divider, and ruler. I’ll leave the fancy GIS programming to the Jakes of the world. It’s good to have both, right?!

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