Hoary Bat. Photo by: José G. Martínez-Fonseca (used with permission)

Why do we care about where bats are detected?

Bats are critically important animals that play a key role in many ecosystems and provide significant benefits to human populations. Among other beneficial activities, they consume large quantities of insects, which would otherwise have major impacts on agriculture and human health. However, due to their nocturnal habits, we do not know as much about them as we should. This knowledge is particularly important when trying to understand the impacts of climate change, land-use change, wind energy development, and other factors on the health of bat populations.

While it is more common to associate bats with caves, some bat species roost…


Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner on Unsplash

Needing to correctly align one set of data with another is a common task in many geospatial analyses. One example of this is snapping a set of locations to a linear network. This is usually an essential step in network analyses because you need to know the exact location of that thing on a given network. For instance, in order to calculate the travel distance to the nearest electric scooter, you need to know where it is within a city’s grid network of streets. …


Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

Geopandas makes it pretty easy to work with geospatial data in Python. One of its most powerful features is that it allows you to work with geospatial data using a similar approach to working with row-level data in Pandas, which is one of the fundamental data science libraries in Python. For example, you can apply an operation to every row, and often get major performance speedups compared to looping over those same rows.

However, one of the challenges I’ve bumped into with Geopandas is how long it takes to read or write standard spatial formats, especially ArcGIS File Geodatabases and…


Siletz Bay, Oregon. Photo CC by stokes rx.

Near the end of 2017, I released the first version of the West Coast Estuaries Explorer. Working with partners with the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership (PMEP), and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), and using data from PMEP (available here), I developed this application to make it easy to explore estuaries along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Estuaries are a unique and diverse ecosystem where rivers flow into the ocean. They serve a key role in the lifecycle of several important fish and invertebrate…


South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint v 2.2; Basemap: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap

We recently started using Mapbox GL JS in our frontend mapping and data visualization projects. It has proven to be a very powerful map engine, and we have appreciated how much it has allowed us to introduce some of the newer mapping technologies such as vector tiles to our stack.

For two of our recent projects, we needed to create downloadable reports in MS Word format, with embedded map images of the user’s area of interest. In one of our previous Leaflet applications, we used leaflet-image and a stack of other components to render the maps to images in PDF…


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I’ve been struggling with a situation at work where I am being asked to help define how much effort is required to meet a major business goal. The problem is that I’m not able to gain enough clarity around that goal to be able to develop a mental model of WHAT we are trying to achieve, let alone the HOW that this required to get there. I’ve found that once I have a clear understanding of WHAT, I’m pretty good at figuring out reasonable steps to achieve that. It is the classic approach of breaking a big something into much…


Photo by 贝莉儿 NG on Unsplash

“Fareless” read the sign on the side of the bus as it passed by me this morning. Just think about how much more delightful it would be with a slight rearrangement: “Fearless.” Imagine this as the start of your day. “Put your fears [not fares] in the machine as you board” and off you go, fearless. Lurking in plain sight is the opportunity for a subtle shift that can move the everyday experience to something novel.

Humans have been creating pictures of data for millennia. We use pictures of data to communicate with others and contribute to shared knowledge. …


Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

We recently had the opportunity to get our software development team together with our conservation planning and assessment team. The software team creates web applications to empower users to share, collaborate, and interpret geospatial data. The conservation planning team is based out of San Diego, and is rarely in the same location as our software team. They work in the field studying rare and invasive species, develop innovative regional approaches to managing rare species and conservation preserves, and are highly active within the local natural resource community. Our projects almost never overlap, though we are working to change that. Only…


A parable on leadership

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

In a high mountain was a stream that ran past many rocks and through many channels. One of these rocks, and one of these channels each considered themselves great leaders. For indeed, both influenced the course of the stream as it flowed down the mountain.

“Bring everything to me,” said the rock “and I will decide which way it should go.” For the rock thought that influencing the stream was about choosing what could go one way, and what would go another. …


The South Atlantic LCC’s Conservation Blueprint 2.1

Like many areas, the Southeast is a region where collaboration, consensus, and engagement are critical to success. Like our first story, this one is about how to tell the story of a place through mapping and data visualization. This story is about enabling our heroes, the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, to better tell that story using data. If we can increase their ability to collaborate with key decision-makers, we can impact regional conservation outcomes.

The South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SALCC) is one of 22 LCCs around the U.S. The LCCs are partnerships that work across jurisdictions in order…

Brendan Ward

Lead software engineer & owner of Astute Spruce, LLC. I build intuitive, compelling applications for science to create greater impact. https://astutespruce.com

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