Free Python Courses

Looking to learn a little Python programming?  Take a look at these free courses:

Learn to Program: Crafting Quality Code

An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python

Codecademy: Python

Pythonmonk: Learn Python

ESRI: Python for Everyone

Using Python in ArcGIS Desktop 10

PennState: Geography 485

Google: Python Class

The Python Tutorial

MIT: A Gental Intro to Programming Using Python

Other Python Training


Pacific Region Geospatial Data Announcements

From Drew Decker at USGS:

  • National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) releases Web HEM Tool.  HEM stands for Hydrography Event Management and is a tool developed to help relate users’ data to the NHD network as events.  Please see announcement on pages 4 and 5 in the latest NHD Newsletter here:
  • New urban imagery is now available for a number of California cities.  The datasets are natural color and have a one foot resolution.  The data cover the Fresno, Modesto, Oxnard, Stockton, and Sacramento urban areas.  Data can be downloaded through the EarthExplorer site: (all cities) and The National Map Viewer site: (all except Modesto).

Time-lapse LA

I found this great video of time-lapse photography in and around Los Angeles at night.


Note that in most of the shots the camera is also moving while the time-lapse shots are taken, which makes for a great effect.  It’s best to watch the full HD version here and read about the photographer and his projects.  Here are the other two:




GIS Analyst Position

URS is actively seeking a creative, highly talented GIS Analyst for immediate employment in the Santa Ana, CA office. The appropriately qualified applicant will be able to demonstrate an established career in GIS analysis, cartography, and geospatial data management. URS is proud to provide our employees with exciting, challenging projects. The incumbent can look forward to working closely with and supporting a variety of technical specialties at URS. Candidates will primarily work closely with environment teams to produce maps and conduct analysis for hazardous waste sites undergoing remediation. More info here.

GIS Software Developer – Los Angeles

Currently working with a multi-billion dollar client that has asked us to identify a GIS Software Developer for a two year project.

Job Description:

Evaluates, designs, installs, maintains, and enhances applications that are being deployed as part of the Utilities enterprise GIS applications. The position will perform hands-on GIS application design, programming, implementation, and support for GIS related projects and activities. Also, the position will at times perform complex hands-on integrated programming, data analysis, and application development including maintenance and future enhancements of existing systems. Development of project proposals, recommend optimal approaches and develop GIS application designs. Advises on alternatives and on implications of new or revised GIS software and applications. This position will require the use of ESRI desktop, web and mobile software & extensions to perform GIS analysis and create professional map documents for a wide spectrum of projects.


  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Engineering, related discipline, or equivalent experience.
  • 3+ years .NET development experience in a structured software development environment.
  • 3+ years experience with ESRI ArcGIS and Schneider ArcFM products and GIS mobile implementations is highly desirable.
  • Knowledge of a variety of development protocols and tools.
  • Experience with other industry-standard technologies such as XML, Web services.
  • Troubleshoot complex application problems.
  • Effective and creative problem solving skills.
  • Strong interpersonal, written and verbal communication skills.

Sean Goulding, Recruiter
Metro Point Towers
959 South Coast Drive, Suite 300
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
O – 714-881-1850

MapStory Webinar Opportunity

If you are interested, you are invited to the seventh webinar of the “Open Geospatial Science & Applications” webinar series on May 15th, 2014.  The webinar will be open and free to all on first come register basis.

This webinar will be on MapStory, the Atlas of Change that everyone can edit.  MapStory is a place to unify and improve our shared knowledge about global change.  Mapstory envision a world where everyone’s wisdom can be tapped, peer reviewed and organised into a non-commercial global data commons that helps us all improve our understanding of global dynamics, worldwide, over the course of history.  Details at .

This presentation will be by Dr. Christopher Tucker and is about the MapStory Foundation’s investment in the open source GeoNode, its use to enable crowdsourcing of open spatio-temporal data, and how people can use it to tell their stories to a global audience.  He will be talking about the GeoGit/GeoNode integration that is happening this Summer and how that will open participation widely to users who have as little as a single edit to contribute.

Attendees will be able to interact with the speakers by sending their comments and questions through chat.  All attendees of this web seminar will receive certificates for their participation.  To register visit .

The recording will be made available also later for the benefit of the wider community at .

GIS Council Meeting May 22

Dear California GIS Community,

As many of you know, it has been a couple of years since the California GIS Council has met.  During the recent California GIS Conference (CalGIS) in Monterey, three coordination meetings were held and many people expressed a strong desire to revitalize the GIS Council. During these discussions representatives from county, regional, state and federal level GIS organizations validated that it remains in California’s best interest to have the GIS Council to help move forward with the California spatial data infrastructure.  In particular, the California Geographic Information Council (CGIA) expressed its commitment to support GIS Council activities.

Based on this input, eight of those in the earlier coordination meetings (including Carol Ostergren, Bruce Joffe, Robert Yohi, Mark Greninger, Christina Boggs, and me), scheduled a lunch meeting with GIO Scott Gregory at CalGIS.  During that discussion Scott agreed that the GIS Council can play an important role in shaping California’s GIS data framework.  He emphasized the importance of the Working Groups within the Council, and supports its new start.  Scott also stressed the importance of deliverables related to Working Group activities. He would like to have each group develop, if they have not already, a business plan regarding mission, goals, objectives, and deliverables. Scottwill hold an advisory role on the Council, and will work closely with the Council and commit his or his staff’s time to participate in all GIS Council meetings and activities.

The GIS Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 22 in Sacramento from 9am – noon. The address is 1325 J Street, 16th Floor, and it will be held in the Zinfandel Conference Room.

There are several agenda items for this meeting, including:

  1. Provide a brief history of the GIS Council, and discuss how it relates to the California State Government GIS User Group, the California State Government GIS Leadership Group, California URISA Chapters, and the California Geographic Information Association.
  2. Hold elections.  The previous Board has timed out, and we are seeking new leadership from the GIS Community. Scott wants to stress the importance of local participation. This has traditionally been a “State” dominated council. He wants to see more local government participation.
  3. Review existing Working Group progress and seek leadership on additional GIS Council Working Groups.  Each Working Group focuses on one of California’s framework data sets. Active Working Groups will provide reports at this meeting, and others will report out at the next meeting.
  4. Discuss and develop recommendation of top priorities for the GIS Council in the upcoming year and draft action plan.
  5. Agree on frequency of GIS Council meetings, and set future meeting dates for at least one year.

More details will follow in subsequent email messages. The purpose of this message is for you to save-the-date on your calendar and consider stepping up to a leadership role on the Council. The Council has broad representation from multiple sectors, and there are many opportunities for participation!

If you would like further information or have any questions about the GIS Council and plans to move forward, please contact one of the following people:

In collaboration with the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC), I will be working with the GIS Council leadership to develop meeting agendas, communicate with the SGC and GIO about funding needs and opportunities, and facilitating the GIS Council meetings.

Please stay tuned for more messages about the GIS Council meeting on May 22nd.


Karen Beardsley

Karen Beardsley, PhD, GISP
Managing Director, Information Center for the Environment (ICE)
Department of Environmental Science and Policy
One Shields Avenue
University of California
Davis, CA  95616
Ph: (530) 752-5678
Fax: (530) 752-3350
Cell: (530) 848-3310

Spy Satellite Images Unveil Lost Cities

The Program

During the cold war, there was a spy satellite program called Corona.  The Corona program was a series of American strategic reconnaissance satellites produced and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology with substantial assistance from the US Air Force. The Corona satellites were used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union (USSR), the People’s Republic of China, and other areas beginning in June 1959 and ending in May 1972.  The name “Corona” was a code name, not an acronym.

The Technology Behind the Photos

During the program, there were 144 satellites launched, of which 102 returned usable photographs.  The satellites orbited at altitudes of 100 miles above the Earth, with later missions orbiting even lower at 75 miles.

The satellites used special 70mm film with a 24 inch focal length camera manufactured by Eastman Kodak.  The film was 0.0003 inches thick, with a resolution of 170 lines per 0.04 inches of film.  The amount of film carried by the satellites varied from 8,000 feet for each camera to 16,000 feet.  Most of the film shot was black and white.

So how did we get the film back?  This is the cool part!  The film was retrieved from orbit via a reentry capsule (nicknamed “film bucket“).  Exposed film would be stored in the capsule, and when ready would then be ejected from the satellite to fall to earth.  After the fierce heat of reentry was over, the heat shield surrounding the capsule was jettisoned at 60,000 feet and parachutes were deployed to slow the rate of descent.  The capsule was then caught in mid-air by a passing airplane towing an airborne claw which would then winch it aboard!

The capsules were also designed for landing in the ocean.  A salt plug in the base would dissolve after two days, allowing the capsule to sink if it was not picked up by the US Navy.  On occasion the capsules landed by accident on land, which prompted the removal of the word “Secret” stamped on the capsule and replaced with words in eight languages offering a reward for their return to the United States.  Hmm … I wonder if that worked?  The film was processed at Eastman Kodak’s Hawkeye facility in Rochester, New York.

Here is a video about the Corona program.  And here is an old calibration target used by the Corona satellites near Casa Grande, Arizona.

The Images

In 1995, President Clinton declassified 800,000 photographs from the Corona project in order to make them available for environmental and historical research.  Archaeologists working in the Near East have been quick to embrace this newly available resource, which capture images of sites and landscapes in the 1960’s. Research into ancient landscapes at Harvard has used these images to investigate the communication networks of the Early Bronze Age, state-sponsored irrigation under the Assyrian and Sasanian empires, and pastoral nomadic landscapes in northwestern Iran and southeastern Turkey.

For archaeology, Corona photographs have two tremendous advantages over other space-based imagery sources.  Many rural parts of the Near East have escaped agricultural development and urban growth until recent decades, when many have been damaged or destroyed.  Corona photographs predate this destructive development and thus preserve a record of landscapes that are difficult or impossible to map on the ground.  Corona images were made before cities such as Mosul in Iraq and Amman in Jordan overran the many archaeological sites near them.  Dams have also flooded river valleys, covering many other archaeological sites.  As cities grew, the industrial farming and irrigation that supported them grew too, obscuring roads and sites clearly visible in the Corona images.  More recent commercial sensors such as Ikonos and QuickBird have a higher resolution, but they capture the modern damaged landscape of today.

Corona photographs are also of high resolution, capable of displaying features as small as 2 meters in ideal conditions.  Many features visible in Corona cannot be seen in medium resolution satellites such as Landsat (30 m) or ASTER (15 m).

Recently, a team from Arkansas’s Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies have built a free, public tool to explore the Corona images of the Middle East.


The team plans on adding more images from Corona, such as areas of Russia and China.

GIS Jobs This Week

Senior Crime Analyst – Ventura County

Mapping Product Engineer – ESRI, Redlands

Technical Specialist (GIS) – MW Partners, Rosemead

GIS Technician – Superb Tech, Los Angeles

RCA Chief of Technical Information/GIS – Riverside County

GIS Developer – Spectraforce, Woodland Hills

GIS Technician I/II – Kern County

GIS Analyst – URS Corporation, Santa Ana

Application Architect II (GIS) – Michael Baker Corp, Irvine

GIS Intern – Stantec, Irvine

GIS Analyst – Dudek Inc., Riverside