Tag Archives: GIS

First Call: An Introduction To Using GIS In Biological Research, Glasgow, 25-26 September 2017

10 Jul
GIS In Ecology will be holding an introductory training course for those who wish to learn how to use GIS in biological research, and it will provide an introduction to using GIS in a wide variety of biological research situations ranging from the basics of making maps through to studying the spread of diseases and creating maps of species biodiversity. It will consist of a series of background sessions on using GIS mixed in with practical sessions where you will work directly with GIS software to complete various tasks which biological researchers commonly need to be able to do.

The course will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, on the 25th and 26th of September 2017, and it will be taught by Dr Colin D. MacLeod, who has more than 15 years experience in using GIS for a wide variety of biological purposes. For those who cannot attend this course in person, a shorter online course based on the same materials is available at GISforBiologists.com.

The course will primarily be based around QGIS (also known as Quantum GIS), which provides a user-friendly, open-source, free alternative to commercial GIS software packages, and it is becoming increasingly widely used in both academic and commercial organisations  As a result, it is aimed at both those with no GIS experience, but wish to learn how to do GIS with QGIS, and also those who are familiar with using commercial GIS software, such as ArcGIS, but who wish to learn how to use QGIS as an alternative. However, this course is taught using  software-independent approach, and it is also open to those who wish to learn how to use ArcGIS to do biological GIS.

The practical exercises on this course will be based on those in the recently published GIS For Biologists: A Practical Introduction For Undergraduates  by Dr MacLeod, and a free copy of this book will be provided to all participants.

Attendance will be limited to a maximum of 15 people, and the course will cost £295 per person (£200 for students, the unwaged and those working for registered charities). To book a place, or for more information, email info@GISinEcology.com.

Glasgow has great transport links and is within half a days travel by car or by fast train links from most cities in the UK. For example, it can be reached in as little as 4h 30mins from London by train. It can also be reached by direct flights from many European cities and the flight time is generally under four hours.

The course will be held in central Glasgow at the IET Glasgow Teacher Building (14 St Enoch Square, Glasgow, G1 4DB, UK).

Attendees will be responsible for their own accommodation. However, Glasgow provides a wide range of accommodation options to fit most budgets.

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GIS For Biologists: Tips #20 – #23 How To Set Up And Use A Smart Phone As A GPS To Collect Spatial Data For Biological Research

15 Dec

The Global Positioning System, or GPS for short, is a system of satellites which transmit radio signals that can be used to work out where you are any where in the world. While it has been around for military use for a number of decades, it was only with the introduction of small, cheap, commercially available GPS receivers in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the GPS system became widely used for collecting spatial data for biological research.

This has been a great boost for those interested in all aspects of spatial ecology, but the purchase of a dedicated GPS receiver is still a barrier to the use of GPS for collection of highly accurate spatial data for many undergrad students, doctoral candidates and those interested in contributing to citizen science projects.

In the last few years, though, sensors capable of receiving the signals from the Global Positioning System have become ubiquitous in a wide variety of consumer goods, and particularly in smart phones. This means that, with the right app, the smart phone that most of us already carry in our pockets can be turned into a fully functioning GPS receiver.

However, just because they are easy to install and get running, this doesn’t mean that correctly setting up your chosen app to collect high quality spatial information for use in biological research is necessarily straight forward, and indeed, special care needs to be taken to ensure that you have selected all the appropriate settings both for the app, and for your phone’s internal operating system, before you start use it to collect any biological data.

If you don’t do these checks, then you may well find that any data you collect aren’t of sufficient quality to be used in your research, and that can range from being mildly annoying to totally devastating depending exactly how important your data are to your research.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to ensure that your GPS app and your smart phone are both set up correctly, and the videos in this article will take you through all the steps you need to follow to ensure you get this right.

While an Android phone and the GPS Essentials app (which can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store by clicking here) are used in these demonstrations, you will need to do similar steps with all similar apps, and smart phones with other operating systems. If, however, you’re using an Android smart phone, then GPS Essenstials is the GPS app we here at GIS In Ecology would recommend.

So without further ado, on to the videos. These will take you all the way from downloading and installing your chosen app, through how to set it up, and then how to use it to start collecting high quality spatial data.

1. GIS For Biologists: Tip #20 – How To Install An App To Turn A Smart Phone Into A GPS Receiver:

2. GIS For Biologists: Tip #21 – How To Record A Waypoint On A Smart Phone Using The GPS Essentials App:

3. GIS For Biologists: Tip #22 – How To Record A Track On A Smart Phone Using The GPS Essentials App:

4. GIS For Biologists: Tip #23 – How To Set Your Smart Phone To Record High Resolution Spatial Data:

If you have any questions or queries about this video, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology
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GIS For Biologists: Tips #17 – #19 Creating Custom Polygon Fills, Symbols And Styles For QGIS

11 Dec

QGIS is the leading open source, and so free-to-download, GIS software package that is available for biologists to use. However, one of the reasons that many biologists have not yet taken it up is because of the basic options for changing the way that information in data layers are displayed that come with QGIS.

At first, this does seem problematic, but you shouldn’t let it put you off using this rather brilliant tool for biological research. In fact, when you look into it, it’s actually very easy to make your own custom polygon fills, symbols and styles, and within a few short minutes you can create almost any polygon fill, symbol and style that you could ever need, or even imagine.

In addition, simply by saving a custom style file with the same name as your data layer and in the same folder on your computer, QGIS will automatically use these settings each and every time you use that data layer! This is a real bonus, and more than pays back the time taken to create the custom style in the first place.

So, how do you create your own custom polygon fills, symbols and styles for use in QGIS? Well the three videos below will show you just how easy this is.

1. GIS For Biologists: Tip #17 – How To Create Custom Polygon Fills Styles For Use In QGIS:

2. GIS For Biologists: Tip #18 – How To Make Your Own Custom Symbols For Use In GIS Projects:

3. GIS For Biologists: Tip #19 – How To Create And Use Custom Style Files In QGIS:

If you have any questions or queries about this video, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology
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GIS For Biologists: Tip #16 – The ‘Shapefile Approach’ Vs The ‘Geodatabase Approach’ To GIS

10 Dec

There are two basic ways to do structure and store your GIS data. These are the ‘Shapefile Approach’ and the Geodatabase Approach’.

The Shapefile Approach uses the almost-universally accessible shapefile format for vector data layers (and similarly widely used formats for raster data layers) to store data layers in a single folder, usually on the C: drive of your computer (if you are running a Windows operating system). This information can then be accessed with almost any GIS software package.

In contrast, the Geodatabase Approach is specific to ESRI’s ArcGIS software package. In it, all the data layers in a GIS project are stored in a single, specially formatted geodatabase file on your computer and can only be accessed with ArcGIS.

This video discusses the advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches for those who want to use GIS in biological research.

If you have any questions or queries about this video, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology
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Upcoming QGIS Training Course For Biologists

26 Aug

Training Course – An Introduction To Using QGIS In Biological Research, Glasgow, 28th – 29th September 2015

GIS In Ecology will be holding an introductory training course on using the free, open source GIS software QGIS (also known as Quantum GIS) in biological research in Glasgow on the 28th to 29th of September 2015. It will be taught by Dr Colin D. MacLeod, the author of An Introduction To Using GIS In Marine Biology (Pictish Beast Publications). It is aimed at those just starting to use QGIS in their research and who have little or no existing knowledge of this subject area and at existing users of commercial GIS software, such as ArcGIS, who wish to learn how to do GIS using this free GIS software.

Attendance will be limited to a maximum of 15 people. The course will cost £295 per person (£200 for students, the unwaged and those working for registered charities). To book a place, or for more information, contact info@GISinEcology.com.

At the end of the course, all attendees will receive a certificate of attendance and completion. Each certificate is embossed with the GIS In Ecology official stamp to prevent its fraudulent reproduction. In addition, each certificate has its own unique identification number that we will record, along with your name, meaning that we can verify the authenticity of the certificates we issue (and the course you have completed) on request.

To attend this course, you must bring your own laptop computer and have a working copy of QGIS 2.6 pre-installed on it. You can find information about how to get this software package by clicking here, while you can find a video on how to download and install it here.

Glasgow has great transport links and is within half a days travel by car or by fast train links from most cities in the UK.  For example, it can be reached in as little as 4h 30mins from London by train. It can also be reached by direct flights from many European cities and the flight time is generally under four hours.

The course will be held in central Glasgow at the IET Glasgow Teacher Building (14 St Enoch Square, Glasgow, G1 4DB, UK – click here for information on how to get there and on parking if you are coming by car).

Attendees will be responsible for their own accommodation. However, Glasgow provides a wide range of accommodation options to fit most budgets. Information on hotels in Glasgow can be found here and while information on hostels can be found here.  As a general rule, if you can find accommodation near the venue or one of Glasgow’s Subway stations (click here to see where these stations are located), you will be able to get to the venue very easily.

New QGIS Workbook From GIS In Ecology

8 Jul

An Introduction To Using QGIS (Quantum GIS)Pictish Beast Publications has recently published the seventh workbook in GIS In Ecology’s ‘An Introduction To Using GIS In Marine Biology’ series. This new workbook is sub-titled ‘An Introduction To Using QGIS (Quantum GIS)‘ and contains five exercises which introduce the reader to doing the types of basic GIS tasks that marine biologists need to do on a regular basis as part of their research.

For those of you who don’t already know about QGIS, it is the leading free, open source alternative to commercial GIS software, and it is becoming increasingly widely used by biologists and ecologists.

The tasks includes making a map for a report or publication, making a presence-absence data layer of species distribution from survey data, making a species richness raster data layer, calculating abundance per unit survey effort using a polygon grid, and creating environmental raster data layers and linking them to species locational data.

This workbook is perfect both for those who are familiar with using commercial GIS software and want to transfer their skills to a free, open source alternative, and for those who want to start using QGIS without any previous GIS experience.

In addition, this workbook is well suited for anyone running modules or courses for all types of biology students, and who want to include GIS exercises using real biological data in their teaching, but who cannot afford the required licences for commercial alternatives.

Previews of the contents of this book can be found on the book’s webpage on the GIS In Ecology website, while the book itself can be purchased from Amazon, ordered from your local book seller, or directly from GIS In Ecology.

GIS For Biologists: Tip #15 – ArcGIS Vs QGIS: Which Is Better For Biologists?

26 Jun

When selecting GIS software, there are two main choices for biologists. These are the commercial package ArcGIS and the open-source, freely available package QGIS. This video provides a brief comparison of some of the key benefits and limitations of these two alternatives, and provides advice on which is best for biologists.

If you have any questions or queries about this video, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology
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