Map of the Week: Congressional Districts (100th Congress), 1987

 

Hi everyone,

Here’s another election-themed map as we get closer to November 3rd – hope you all have your absentee ballots in/have a voting plan if you’re able to vote. This map from the National Atlas of the United States shows congressional district boundaries and numbers (in red), along with county boundaries in orange. Note that several areas of the United States that aren’t pictured (and Washington, D.C., which is) have non-voting delegates.

According to the Brennan Center at NYU, state legislatures are currently responsible for drawing congressional districts in 30 states. New York is not one of these states, now using an advisory commission to draw districts (although these commissions may include state representatives and districts must be approved by the state legislature).

This is an important year for congressional districts, as they will be redrawn following the 2020 census. How does the pandemic affect the census this year, especially with some areas ending their count early? How might this affect future congressional maps?

This chart from the Encyclopedia Britannica shows the current number of representatives for each state– how have certain states’ representations changed? How has your congressional district changed?

Have a good week,

Aidan Antonienko ‘21

 

Brennan Center Congressional District Info: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/who-draws-maps-legislative-and-congressional-redistricting

 

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Map of the Week: Known Sources of Primary Wealth, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has gotten a lot of attention this election season, as a key swing state that President Trump won over Hillary Clinton in 2016– the first time a republican presidential candidate had won the state since 1988– and as a place that lies at the convergence of several key issues for this year’s candidates.

This map, published jointly by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Internal Affairs, and Mines (presumably state departments and not national ones) in 1948, shows the sources of wealth, or what one could call primary capital-attracting industries, of the state. The cities are blacked out on the map to indicate their areas– highlighting their main function as separate from the other “products of mother earth” pictured on the map. As the map states, mines at the time made up “67 per cent of primary wealth, totaling $1,000,000,000 a year”.

Environmental policy, especially connected to fracking and the Green New Deal, has become a major talking point in the election as worries about jobs associated with fossil fuel industries are threatened by economic change, climate change, and a global pandemic. Joe Biden has highlighted his connections to Scranton’s working class, but in response to President Trump’s criticism has repeatedly assured that he will not ban fracking. Check out this interactive map of fracking in Pennsylvania by NPRhttp://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/drilling/, showing concentrations of fracking south of Pittsburgh and north of Scranton and including links to information on whether or not specific wells have been cited for violating environmental regulations.

How does the material world and evolving uses of technology change the importance of “primary sources of wealth” over time, and how might different forms of accumulation affect people and their politics? If we take the advice of the map and assume that “atmosphere and underground water supply are precious mineral resources” and that all wealth is dependent on human resources, what is necessary to recognize and care for them as such?

Have a good week,

Aidan Antonienko ‘21

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Map of the Week: The Gold and Coal Fields of Alaska

 

The map from our archives hung up in the department each week will now also be posted here– this 1898 map from the U.S. Department of the Interior and USGS (potentially republished in National Geographic) shows gold and coal deposits in Alaska. Aside from the chosen geologic elements, note the steamer, postage, and trail routes, the international boundaries, the military reservation, and the densely labelled port cities.

A few key dates might help to put this map in context: according to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, Russia first offered to sell Alaska to the US in 1859, but the sale did not go through until President Andrew Johnson signed the purchase treaty in 1867, after the Civil War had officially ended. You may remember learning about this purchase being called “Seward’s Folly”, as it was popularly seen as a miss-step until Alaska became a strategically important territory due to natural resources. The historian notes that the U.S. imposed a civil government in Alaska in 1884, supposedly to enforce U.S. mining laws. Alaska became a state in 1959.

In light of the geologic elements of the map, what depositional environments lead to the buildup of coal and gold, and what is their temporal relationship to each other? What made them important commodities at this time, as opposed to oil, which became a key commodity in the next century?

This map’s chosen combination of geologic and infrastructural features is telling; the attention to detail in listing port cities and transportation routes is reminiscent of other colonial maps concerned with extracting commodities. What is the relationship between these processes and human migration? How does this map erase indigenous life and history, and how can it be used to trace a history of dispossession?

by Aidan Antonienko ’21

Office of the Historian page for more contextual information: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/alaska-purchase
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Greetings to new GIS (and GIS-curious) students

Whether you’re on campus or off, attending class in-person or remotely, whether you’re learning geospatial mapping tools (Geographic Information Systems) in class or as part of a class, or in an internship or CEL placement, participating in Hudson Valley Mappers activities, or you’re just interested in learning more about the tools and how you can use them – greetings, and feel free to get in touch with me any time for help. 

I’d like to share with you this message from Joe Kerski, Education Manager at Esri, the developer of the software tools like ArcMap, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, various mobile mapping tools, and ArcGIS Story Maps tools we rely on most heavily at Vassar. I second Joe in saluting your decision to learn GIS, and encourage you to listen to his take on current trends in GIS, why it matters, and skills for you to work on developing. Some of the latter may seem obvious and are probably helpful in almost any field, but Joe’s take on them is worth a listen (and endearingly dorky). 

  1. Be Curious
  2. Know how to work with and be critical of data
  3. Know geographic and technical foundations
  4. Be adaptable
  5. Develop good communication skills

Another seemingly obvious suggestion he makes earlier in the video is to start developing your professional network now. That’s easier to do than you might think, but not as many students have taken my advice to do this by joining professional GIS networks. Joe tells you to consider him as part of this network, and I can say from my own experience communicating with him that it’s not just talk. 

Again, feel free to get in touch with me any time for help. 

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Coronavirus Cases at Public Colleges

A New York Times survey of public four-year colleges and private institutions that compete in Division I sports or is a member of an elite group of research universities, revealed at least 6,600 cases tied to about 270 colleges over the course of the pandemic. 

Confirmed coronavirus cases on college campuses, New York Times, July 29, 2020

Confirmed coronavirus cases on college campuses, New York Times, July 29, 2020

Colleges affected near Vassar include the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (89 cases), SUNY New Paltz (31 cases), and SUNY Purchase (12 cases).  For those of you attuned to the challenges of capturing accurate data, the NYT article discloses all of those it encountered in the article. The takeaway is that the numbers are almost certainly undercounted. It’s also important to note that most colleges surveyed have not yet begun their Fall semesters (though some are starting early), suggesting that many of the infections reported occurred before most campuses were shut down in March. 

Like many other colleges, Vassar is taking extraordinary steps to reduce the risk of infection as some students, staff, and faculty return to campus. However, as President Bradley and college administrators across the country acknowledge, there is a risk that each of us assumes by being on campus, and we have a responsibility to each other to abide by an agreed upon set of standards that have been established through consultation with medical and public health professionals. (See the Community Care Pledge – See Covid-19 Updates, 6/29/2020 – A Message From the President Regarding Plans for the Fall.)

Meanwhile, it is important to recognize that essential maintenance staff have remained working to maintain the campus throughout the pandemic; a debt of gratitude is owed to them as all essential workers and health care workers.

For more information about Vassar’s reopening plans and other updates regarding Coronavirus, visit https://www.vassar.edu/coronavirus-updates/

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Repost: On GIS, modesty & the problem of racial privilege

Diversity map image from Esri.com

Image: https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/arcnews/racism-social-justice-and-gis/

Charles Convis of Esri’s Conservation Program and co-founder of the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) posted a thoughtful and heartfelt post on GeoNet, Esri’s user community site, in light of the protests in the US and throughout the world calling all of us in positions of relative privilege to become aware of it, the advantages it conveys to us, and to adjust our thinking, behavior, cultural norms, and laws. He begins: 

Like many commentators & historians I’ve listened to, I agree that 2020 will be an historic year, probably the most impactful in my 66 year life. Many of the reasons are bad ones, though some of the most important reasons are good ones, such the widest national protests ever and the beginning of important yet difficult national conversations and institutional changes.

One of these conversations is about racial privilege, an assumed set of comfort and safety features for a dominant culture that they never talk about, but that are obvious and problematic for other cultures. 

Read the full post here. This will be the first in a series Charles will continue to work on and post up on GeoNet in the coming weeks called an “Inclusive History of Conservation GIS”. Continue reading

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Spring 2019 Web Mapping Class Projects Focus on Local Challenges and Opportunities

Investigating the Impacts of Redlining in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. by James Gibson on behalf of Hudson River Housing.

Investigating the Impacts of Redlining in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. by James Gibson on behalf of Hudson River Housing.

GEOG 228 (Web Mapping: Advanced Approaches to Publishing) is a half-unit course offered during the Spring semester, which introduces students to creating web maps, map apps, story maps, and other emerging applications on the ArcGIS Online. These applications offer new opportunities to publicize and share spatial data. Building on skills learned in GEOG 220 (Cartography) and GEOG 224 (GIS), students in GEOG 228 gain further experience with GIS, learn effective ways of communicating spatial data to an online audience, and have the opportunity to explore special topics. 

Coordinating with the Office of Community Engaged Learning, students worked with Professor Mary Ann Cunningham and the following community partners to devise a question, locate data, and created an app or story map in ArcGIS Online.

Tree City? Why not Bee City? Storymap created by Thomas Schindelman for the Environmental Co-op at Vassar Barns.

Tree City? Why not Bee City? Storymap created by Thomas Schindelman for the Environmental Co-op at Vassar Barns.

All student projects can be viewed on the course project site

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Road Condition Mapping for Local Municipalities

by Rebecca Odell (Geography ’20)

Village of Wappingers Falls Pavement Condition Index Map

Village of Wappingers Falls Pavement Condition Index Map. Click to view full size.

As part of my internship at the Dutchess County Transportation Council (DCTC), my project was to map road quality data from past internships completed by students from Cornell University. When I first started, there was no process in place to map this data in ArcMap, and it needed to be changed in order to be compatible.

My main obstacles were that the data was not recorded in a way that was compatible with GIS, and that the roads in the Cornell data and the ArcMap data were not divided in the same way. I learned a lot about formatting data that was not made with ArcMap in mind. I also figured out how to link the divided streets in the Cornell data with sections of streets already mapped in ArcMap.

My experimentations led to a process which is now being used to finish making pavement quality maps for local governments. Maps have been completed for Beacon and Poughkeepsie, which have bigger populations and therefore more roads than most of the other municipalities. I also made maps for the Village of Fishkill, the Town of Fishkill, and Wappingers Falls. Maps allow for easy and intuitive visual comparison, which will enable local governments to make informed decisions about which road repairs to prioritize.

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Office of Community Engaged Learning Placements

Adele Birkenes (Geography, 2020) is working with the Office of Community Engaged Learing (OCEL) this year to support community GIS work, and created this map of CEL placements in and around Poughkeepsie. Alternatively, you can view the larger map or see the OCEL blog (click “Opportunities”) if you prefer to scan the list of placements rather than browse them in the map. 

Continue reading

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Estimating Pesticide Exposure and Premature Mortality by Parkinson’s Disease in Washington State

By Mariah Caballero (Biology, Geography ’19)

I spent my summer at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine in Spokane, WA. I was collaborating with researchers in the Community Health and Spatial Epidemiology (CHaSE) Lab on a project that was born of my interest in environmental health and spatial analyses. I proposed a project based on agricultural chemical exposure and premature mortality by Parkinson’s Disease in Washington State. This relationship has been well-documented1, but had not been explored in Washington State, in which Parkinson’s Disease is among the highest in the nation. Continue reading

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