Category Archives: Announcement

QGIS 3 Released!


On February 23rd QGIS 3 was formally released. Since then the developers have been working on completing installers for Windows, Mac and Linux. As of yesterday the software is ready to be installed on every operating system! To install it you can visit the QGIS Download page.

QGIS VERSIONS
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 falls into this latter category, it is the latest release. At the moment the long-term release is version 2.18. The latest release is still considered stable, but a new one comes out every 4 months.

WHICH VERSION TO CHOOSE?
If you want to have one version of QGIS without having to worry about updates, use the long-term release (2.18). If you want to experience all the new features that come with version 3 you will want the latest release (3.0). As mentioned last month, version 3 is a major new release with a lot of changes and new features.

On Windows machines you can have both. You can easily install both versions of QGIS side by side with no conflicts by using the OSGeo4W Network Installer. On Mac and Linux machines you can only have one version, so you need to choose.

QGIS 3
QGIS 3 is fast, stable and feature rich. The main issue for many users is that not all Plugins have yet  to be ported to QGIS 3. This is because this responsibility falls onto the individual plugin authors. With that said, at last count there were already 117 plugins available for version 3.

 

Fulcrum Community

Last year Fulcrum rolled out a new service named Community. They describe it as a, “no cost, short term crowdsourced data collection solution for qualified humanitarian projects.” 

It works like Fulcrum, but you need to apply for a license. The application form is short and is right on the Community home page. In the application you need to describe your purpose and how long you will be collecting data. You also need to provide a project description. If approved you can invite any number of data collectors via email to share  your App (data collection form).  It is generally aimed at humanitarian agencies, non-profits, or government agencies. They restrict commercial use of this service.

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We used this last fall during King Tide data collection in Miami and it was a big success. In fact there are four main categories highlighted on the Fulcrum Community page: Hurricane, Tornado, Flood and Fire. If you click on Flood, the King Tide project is the first in the list. Clicking on it brings up a map with the data collected.

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One caveat is that the data collected falls into the public domain and can be downloaded freely by anyone. This is possible because the data are anonymized, meaning any private information is scrubbed. The data remain available for viewing and download after the event ends.

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It won’t be appropriate unless there is some sort of disaster relief or environmental issue that demands it, but it is another tool to keep in your Community Health Maps toolkit!

QGIS 3.0 To Be Released in February!

It’s an exciting month for QGIS. On February 23rd there will be a major new release of QGIS: QGIS 3.0. We haven’t had a major new release since 2013 when 2.0 came out. The development team has been working on this for a solid year. This version will be faster and have a lot of new features. Kurt Menke has been closely following the development of QGIS3. Over the last few months he has been experimenting with the pre-release version (v2.99). This post will cover some of the highlights that will be useful to Community Health Mappers. In general QGIS is going to be faster, more powerful and more efficient to work with. First off QGIS 3.0 comes with a new logo!qgis-logo_anita02

Overall the look of QGIS is very similar.  There are  the Layers and Browser panels to the left, a Map Canvas and lots of buttons and menus above. However, upon closer inspection there are a lot of very useful changes. For example, instead of there being a row of add data buttons down the left side, there is now a Unified Data Source Manager button which opens up a browser.

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The Unified Data Source Manager can be used to access the myriad of data formats QGIS supports and add them to QGIS. This includes vector, raster, database, web services etc. You can even browse within Esri File Geodatabases. Any GIS layer you are interested in, can then be added to QGIS by dragging and dropping it onto the map. DataSourceManager.gif

 

The Processing toolbox was completely redesigned and many tools were rewritten. This means many are now faster, more flexible and stable. There are also many new tools that didn’t exist in QGIS v2.x. Additionally processing tasks also now run in the background. This means  you don’t have to stop working while a tool runs! Yet another new processing feature is that layers in different projections will automatically be reprojected, so there is no need to reproject beforehand.

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Map Labels: It now much easier to edit labels. Previously you had to set up attribute columns and set those as data defined overrides. If you don’t know what all that means, it’s OK. Now all you have to do is simply put the layer into edit mode and edit labels with tools on the Label toolbar. Maps also now redraw more quickly due to cached label renderers.

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There is now a Search bar in the lower left corner that can be used to search for map layers, features and processing tools. This makes finding things in QGIS quick and easy.

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The QGIS print composer was completely redesigned. They are now referred to as Layouts. Map insets can now be in a different map projection than the main map. There is a new and improved system of guides which include settings in any unit of measurement you could want (mm, cm, m, in, ft, pt, pica, pix). There are new controls for choosing fonts which include recently used fonts. When you export a map, a link to the folder shows up making it easy to track down the exported map.2018-01-31_163437.jpg

 

Other notable enhancements include:

  • A fully integrated 3D environment
  • Editing improvements including: a) widgets for layer attributes, b) CAD style digitizing tools that allow you to create perfect rectangles, circles, ellipses etc. and c) a new node editing tool with a lot of behavior improvements
  • Previews of where each map projection can be used. This will be a big help for beginners!2018-01-31_170602.jpg
  • User profiles that allow you to set up QGIS with different panels, plugins and toolbars for different projects or uses.
  • Improved hidpi/retina support

 

Where do you go from here?

  • 2.18 will be considered the supported long-term release (LTR) through June.
  • When 3.0 is released in a few weeks it will be considered the latest stable version.
  • 3.2 will become the LTR in June when it is released.
  • Starting on February 23rd you will be able to download and install it. Remember you can have multiple versions installed with no conflicts. I encourage  you to install it in a few weeks and begin to explore it! You won’t want to go back.

NOTE: QGIS 3 projects won’t be entirely backwards compatible with QGIS 2.x. So if you are going to open an existing project in QGIS 3, be sure to click Project –>Save As and save a new verion of the project for use in QGIS3.

Mapping Disasters

By Colette Hochstein (NLM)

On October 12th, 2017, the National Library of Medicine Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) collaborated with Community Health Maps (CHM) to host a webinar focused on using mapping tools during disasters. The meeting was attended by 128 professionals, including first responders and receivers, emergency planners, and public health librarians, many of whom are involved, directly and indirectly, with disaster relief efforts.

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DIMRC provides access to health information resources and technology for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery; CHM provides users with information and training on low-cost mapping tools that can be used to collect data related to health hazards in communities, including during disasters. Many community-based organizations can better serve their constituents when they are able to collect and maintain their own data; CHM seeks to provide them with the training and tools needed to carry out cost effective and scalable mapping.

After the basic premise of CHM was explained to webinar attendees, several case studies illustrating the different applications of CHM were detailed. One took place in Seattle, Washington and centered on mapping noise pollution in different neighborhoods. The primary focus of this case study was to provide useful insight into the public health concern of noise pollution, which has been linked to various health conditions. Other goals included offering recommendations on the scalability of the Urban Indian Health Organization (UIHO) network and measuring and testing the usability of the CHM GPS/GIS workflow.

Another study described how CHM was used to map “King Tides” in Miami, Florida, and was CHM’s first opportunity to work in the field with users of its workflow. The goal was to communicate health risks associated with the 2017 King Tides during their highest activity, and to demonstrate how the flooding affects local communities. It was also a good test case of successfully using the tools in challenging field conditions.

Overall, the webinar provided the audience with information on the resources offered by CHM and demonstrated how different populations and communities, such as communities affected by disasters, can use CHM to collect and interpret their own data. You can watch the webinar by clicking on this link.

CHM Lab Exercises Updated!

One of the most valuable resources for Community Health Mappers remains the series of lab exercises created two years ago. Our workshops, while effective, are short and only scratch the surface of what you can do with mapping tools. They are basically a quick start guide to Community Health Mapping. The labs however, can be used as a resource to help you build your skills once you’ve taken the first steps towards mapping your community.

The technology changes rapidly. QGIS produces a new stable version every 4 months. Annually QGIS also produces a long-term release. Carto and Fulcrum also update their tools on a regular basis. This mean the lab exercises need to be updated to keep pace.

The good news is that this spring the labs were all updated and expanded. There is some foundational knowledge needed to really take the next step after a workshop. The current revised set of labs includes Lab 0: A Community Health Map Introduction and Reference. This lab has background on the Community Health Maps project and the workflow. It also contains a Glossary of GIS terms, and several appendices covering: A) available software, B) data sources and C) everything you need to know to better understand coordinate systems and projection.

The remaining labs are as follows:

Lab 1 covers field data collection and has been updated to work with Fulcrum. This has allowed us to unify the exercise into one document for both iOS and Android users.

Lab 2 shows you how to bring your field data into QGIS. This includes a tour of the QGIS interface, and how to map coordinate data stored in a spreadsheet.

Lab 3 is named Combining Field Data with other Organizational Data. It shows you how to work with coordinate systems in QGIS. It also covers how to join tabular data to the attribute table of a GIS layer. This is a step that often has to be done to merge socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to census geography such as tracts or block groups. It concludes with a lesson on address geocoding. This is the process you use to produce points from addresses.

Lab 4 shows you how to do some basic spatial analysis. You learn how to clip data to your study area, measure proximity, query your data to select features and calculate areas/ density.

In Lab 5 you learn how to use some of the great data visualization techniques found in only in QGIS. The lab then walks you through how to compose a map. Along the way you learn some data styling tricks and how to use the Print Composer.

The series concludes with Lab 6 Data Visualization with Carto. Carto underwent a major update and rebranding since the first edition of these labs were created. You can use this exercise to see how to work with the new Carto Builder interface and tools to create an online map of your results. It covers uploading your data, styling and sharing your map with others.

The four labs that deal with QGIS have been updated to include some exciting new features that have been added to QGIS in the last year. Links to the lab data are included. So head to the Resources page and build your Community Health Mapping skills!

Community Health Maps Presenting at FOSS4G

This years international conference on Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) is in Boston from August 14-19th.

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Community Health Maps (CHM) will be presenting a talk covering the CHM program along with some case studies. Come and join us! It is a fantastic venue for people of all skill levels. There are usually around 1,000 in attendance. There are keynote speakers, paper sessions, and workshops. Many are suited for beginners while some are targeted at “power” users. Not only can catch up with the latest CHM news, you can also learn a lot about Fulcrum, QGIS, Carto and other useful mapping tools, and what people are doing with them.  In fact there is a co-located event hosted by Fulcrum called Fulcrum Live. This is an all day event (Tuesday August 15th) and is free for conference attendees. It will be a great learning opportunity.

We hope to see you there. If you have any news on your mapping projects, please share it with Kurt or John. Perhaps we can include some slides highlighting your work at the conference!

 

 

Where To Look for Data

One of the initial stumbling blocks for Community Health Mappers post-workshop, is where to look for data. There is a lot of data available online. Most municipalities, counties and states will have some sort of GIS data portal. These are sites where publicly available mapping data can be downloaded and are best found with an internet search. Those are simply too numerous to list. However, the list below is a good starting point for commonly used national GIS datasets.

OpenStreetMap: https://www.openstreetmap.org/
          Metro Extracts: https://mapzen.com/data/metro-extracts/
          National Extracts: http://download.gisgraphy.com/
          GeoFabrik Continental Extracts: http://download.geofabrik.de/index.html
QuickOSM QGIS Plugin

National Maphttp://viewer.nationalmap.gov/basic/
Includes  the following:

  • Boundaries
  • Elevation
  • Topo Maps
  • Hydrography
  • Imagery
  • Named Places
  • Land Cover

U.S. Census TIGER Boundaries and Roads:
https://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/tiger.html
Census TIGER Boundaries

  • State boundaries
  • County boundaries
  • Census Tracts
  • Census Block Groups
  • Census Blocks

U.S. Census Socioeconomic Data: American Fact Finder: http://factfinder2.census.gov/
Includes data from both the Census 2010 and Census 2000 as well as, American Community Survey (ACS) data.
Use the Advanced Search to build selections for a specific topic in a specific geographic location.

Geospatial Data Gateway (USDS Natural Resources Conservation Service)
https://datagateway.nrcs.usda.gov/GDGHome_StatusMaps.aspx

  • Census geography
  • Climate / Precipitation
  • Elevation
  • Hydrology (rivers and streams)
  • Land Use/Land Cover
  • Aerial Photography/Imagery
  • Soils

Data.gov: Portal for the U.S. Government’s open data, some tabular, some geospatial

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
          National Center for Health Statistics http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/index.htm
          CDC Geo-Spatial Resources page: https://www.cdc.gov/gis/resources.htm

National Library of Medicine
          TOXMAP: Data from the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund programs
http://toxmap.nlm.nih.gov/toxmap/
          NLM’s list of Data, Tools and Statistics:
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hsrinfo/datasites.html

Big Cities Health Inventory Data: https://bchi.bigcitieshealth.org/