Author Archives: Geomenke

About Geomenke

FOSS4G user/advocate/trainer | Conservation GIS specialist for hire | Co-author 'Mastering QGIS' | 14ers | Good coffee | Paleo | Fitness | Vinyl

QGIS 3.4 Released!

On November 2nd QGIS 3.4 ‘Madeira’ was released. It is the first long-term release in the new 3.x platform.  To install it you can visit the QGIS Download page. Installers are ready for Windows, Max OSX and Linux.

QGIS VERSIONS
Remember QGIS always has two main versions available. There is the long-term release, which is the most stable because it is supported for one calendar year. In addition there is always a latest release. QGIS 3.4 falls into this former category.

QGIS 3.4
This is a great time to update your version of QGIS. Especially if you are still using the 2.x line. QGIS 3.x is fast, stable and feature rich. If you are still a 2.x user there is a huge list of new features and useful changes. At this point most of the popular plugins have been migrated over from 2.x to 3.x. The chart below shows the steady migration and growth of 3.x plugins. You can review the visual changelog for this version here. You can also find the changelogs for versions 3.0 and 3.2.

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Try Out the New Community Health Maps (CHM) Online Tutorial!

By Colette Hochstein

A Community Health Maps (CHM) online tutorial is now available. It is a free, self-paced online course from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which provides guidance on using low cost mapping tools to collect, analyze, and visualize mapping data.

Community Health Maps seeks to empower communities and individuals by helping them collect and map health-related data. The CHM tutorial helps users build a plan to collect data, create forms to capture data points, and use mobile devices to collect data. The CHM tutorial can also aid in creating online and printable maps that can be customized to meet the needs of specific populations and stakeholders.

The tutorial covers how to create a basic workflow for collecting and mapping field data via step-by-step instructions on how to (1) develop a data collection form, (2) collect field data according to the data collection plan, (3) create online dynamic maps of the data collected, and (4) create static offline publishable maps of field data using desktop software.

As a bonus, this course provides continuing education credit (CE), including through the Medical Library Association (MLA, http://www.medlib-ed.org/products/1847/community-health-maps), and/or a certificate of completion. For continuing education credits and/or a certificate of completion, please enroll in the course on the free Learning Management System (LMS).

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If you are new to Community Health Maps, and are not sure how this mapping workflow can benefit you and your organization, you can search this blog for case studies. In particular you may want to look at the selected case studies linked to below. Read about how students and professionals have used Community Health Maps:

 

UMD Students Learn How to Map Health Issues

By Angela Kim & Colette Hochstein

On October 4, 2018, National Library of Medicine® (NLM) Research Assistant Julian Argoti and University of Maryland (UMD), School of Public Health intern Angela Kim spoke to the “Professional Preparation in Community Health” class at the University of Maryland, School of Public Health, College Park. The 75-minute class was attended by approximately 45 undergraduate students in the UMD Behavioral and Community Health (BCH) program. The presenters introduced NLM’s Community Health Maps (CHM) blog and facilitated a hands-on activity.

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UMD Fall 2018 “Professional Preparation in Community Health” Class

The presentation covered a basic introduction to the tools and workflow in CHM. The students were asked to use Fulcrum, a low-cost tool, to build a custom data collection form for the first step of the CHM workflow – data collection. They discovered first-hand how intuitive the tool is. After creating their own custom data collection form on the topic of their choice, the students left the classroom to collect data points around the School of Public Health building.

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Students testing functionality of water fountain.

On their return, the students explored maps of their data points on Fulcrum. Many noted that the process of collecting data points was easy and fun. UMD Professor James Butler mentioned that although drinking a good amount of water is emphasized at the School of Public Health, he had not previously noticed that there is no water fountain near the faculty lounge. His comment underscored that issues are often not observed until actively examined, as during the mapping process.

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Students collecting data points on water fountain locations

The class ended with Professor Butler concluding the class by reiterating how CHM can serve as a useful tool for visualizing many of the different health issues discussed in class.

The students were alerted to the free new online Community Health Maps online tutorial, a self-paced course from the NLM designed to help users gain the skills needed to use Community Health Maps.

QField – A QGIS Related App for Data Collection

QField is an application for collecting field data via an Android device. It was started 4-5 years ago by the Swiss company OPENGIS.ch LLC which also employs several core QGIS developers. QField has reached the point where it rivals most data collection apps. The only reason we have not been using it for Community Health Mapping workshops is that it is not available for iOS. This is simply because the open source license used by QField does not allow it to be wrapped into a proprietary software license like the one Apple employs for it’s store.  If however, you are a Community Health Mapper who uses Android it is a fantastic choice.

NOTE: It is possible to set up an app which is compatible with iOS but does not participate in the App Store. This solves the licensing issue. Setting up an app this way necessitates becoming part of the iOS Enterprise Program which costs money.  QField developers would like to make this happen, and it will likely involve iOS users donating to QField.

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QField Logo

Although QField is rooted in QGIS code it is not a miniature version of QGIS. Rather it is a streamlined data collection app. As they say, “the buttons are few and they are large,” so you can work with it out in the field. QField lets you create a map in QGIS and upload that map to your mobile device. From there you can collect data.

The workflow for QField looks like this. You begin by making a QGIS project on  your computer. Importantly this project will contain the point, line or polygon layer(s) you want to populate in the field. (NOTE that Fulcrum only allows the collection of points!) This means you think of your survey form and data to be collected in the office, and create fields in your GIS layer(s) for each question you want to answer. With a little bit of QGIS editing familiarity this isn’t any more difficult or time consuming than creating a form in Fulcrum.  You then upload the folder containing the QGIS project and data to your mobile device. The GeoPackage data format, which is the default for QGIS 3.x, works great with QField. There is even a QGIS Plugin named QFieldSync that facilitates migrating your project to your device. Once the data has been copied to your mobile device you can open your QGIS map file using QField.

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Screenshots showing (left to right) selecting Mode, setting the Mode to Digitize and choosing the active layer. Images from http://johnhickok.com/

QField uses the same rendering engine as QGIS so the map will look identical to how it did in the office.  Once the map is open you can select from one of two modes: Browse or Digitize. When collecting data you would choose Digitize. Then select the layer you want to work with.

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Screenshots (left to right) showing the map in QField, clicking the edit button, populating the attributes and the resulting point. Images from http://johnhickok.com/

For public health officials with security concerns QField is a great fit because there is no third party cloud platform involved. The data is not being streamed across the internet. All the data is stored locally on your mobile device. You can simply use the My Files app on your device to navigate to your GeoPackage file and email it to yourself. If it is too large you can connect your device to you computer to download it or use a data sharing app such as DropBox or Google Drive.

Since this is an open source project you can request new features and report any bugs you encounter by contacting the developers! Since QField doesn’t cost anything to download and use, you can also consider donating to the project to help it continue. Even small donations are helpful to projects like this. Doing this makes QField better for everyone. I encourage you to try it out.

Editing Points in Fulcrum

I am often asked if and how points can be edited in Fulcrum. Yes, you can edit points in Fulcrum! This short post will show you how. Fulcrum is not only a way to collect community data, it’s also a platform for showing that data on a map and a database you can edit. For this example, I will use the App I designed for the recent ASTHO workshop in Hawaii. We collected points around the conference facility at the Ala Moana Hotel. If a point isn’t located correctly I can go in and edit the location in Fulcrum.

To demonstrate this I have opened my ASTHO app. To see the data I will click on the records icon to open the data in map view. From here I simply click on a point I want to edit. The data form for that point opens. To put the data into Edit mode I click the pencil icon2018-08-16_120747. To change the location I click the Edit Location button. Then I click on the map at the location where the point should be moved. To save my edits I click the green Accept edits button 2018-08-16_120800.

FulcrumEditPointLocation

I can also edit the attributes of a point. It is a similar process. First I click on the point I need to edit. Then I click the pencil icon. I scroll down to find the attribute I need to edit and make the change. Once done click the green check mark button to accept the changes.

FulcrumEditAttributes

I can also add new points from this interface in Fulcrum. To do this I simply click the green Add point button 2018-08-16_121106 and populate the attributes. If I have elements where were set to required in my App, I will have to populate them here, just as I did with my mobile device in the field.

So if you have collected some data and realize it needs some correction you can do that directly in Fulcrum prior to downloading it. Also note that the data can also be edited in QGIS and Carto. I’ll cover those procedures in future posts.

Happy mapping!

The Carto Grant Program

Carto, the platform for making online maps, recently abandoned it’s free license option. The reason they gave was that many users were creating accounts, sometimes several accounts, and simply not using them. This became expensive overhead for them to manage. As a result they now offer a Professional or Enterprise plan once your free trial expires. This new pricing scheme is shown below:

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Note that non-profit organizations receive a 20% discount off this Professional license. This license also affords you many more benefits than the previous free license.  For example, the free license gave you 50Mb of cloud storage space while the Professional plan gives you 500Mb. It also allows you to set permissions on your datasets to make them private. It also gives you email and online support.

If that price is beyond your organizations budget you will notice that directly below the pricing plan is a section covering FREE Plans for Students and Great Causes!

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Carto has a grant program. You can read about this program here. All it takes to apply is filling out an application form!

A Pair of Community Health Maps Workshops at the ASTHO Climate and Health Summit

During the last week of May the Community Health Maps team (Janice Kelly, John Scott and Kurt Menke) traveled to Honolulu to participate in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Insular Area Climate and Health Summit. There were representatives from:

  • American Samoa
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Guam
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico
  • Marshall Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Hawaii Department of Health
  • Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA)
  • ASTHO
  • CDC
  • NOAA
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Insular Climate & Health Summit Group Photo

The first afternoon was focused on the impacts of climate change, preparedness and building resilience. There were great presentations on climate change (Capt. Barry Choy – NOAA), an overview of the tools and programs available from the CDC (Paul Schramm), and issues with vector-borne diseases and mosquitoes (Janet McAllister).  The ASTHO grantees then gave some some sobering presentations on current issues people are dealing with in the Mariana Islands, Micronesia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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The opening session

The second day focused more on tools and resources. There were more detailed talks given by the CDC on Technical Assistance for Vector Control and Tools and Resources for Climate and Water Safety. That afternoon we taught a 3.5 hour Community Health Maps Train-the-Trainers workshop to a group of health officials from each territory.  We went through the entire CHM workflow: A) how to design a data collection form, B) how to collect data, C) how to make a map in Carto and D) how to bring the data into QGIS.

The last morning we taught a second Community Health Maps workshop open to everyone. We had about 30 attendees and again went through the entire CHM workflow.

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John Scott addresses the attendees on the final morning

Most of the trainees had little to no GIS training yet instantly knew how mapping could apply to their work and lives. They want to map everything related to hurricane relief, salt water resistant taro farms, infrastructure related to mosquito outbreaks etc. A benefit of having the community do this is that they can be in charge of their own data and it helps build community relationships.

Over the three days I heard a lot of side discussions about the usefulness of the free/low cost/open source CHM approach. The cost of proprietary solutions is often a significant barrier to entry into the world of community data collection and mapping. We were gratified to hear some very positive feedback on the workshops and CHM overall during the closing session. There seems to be a lot of potential in CHM helping both U.S. Territories and ASTHO deal with the immediate and long-term health issues related to climate.