FREE College-Level GIS Educational Resources from Penn State

Penn State is now offering Open Education Resources for a number of their departments including Geography that hosts coursework for a number of GIS and remote sensing related classes offered at the university. The bonus is, you are allowed to use and re-use materials you find on this website. 

From the website: 


GIS & Remote Sensing coursework currently up on their website:

Take a look:

Ranking Elements of Biodiversity in Idaho

Historically, IDFG Biologists used a data management system, called Biotics, to track Element information and aide in the development of conservation ranks.  Biotics managed the information in the background and ranking often involved a fair amount of qualitative assessment and judgment by an expert or group.  This process had issues with consistency and repeatability.  In 2004, NatureServe formed the Element Ranking Working Group to address these issues and to develop a ranking protocol.  The major product of this group was a ranking calculator, which IDFG biologists now rely on for assisting in the assignment of status ranks.  This ranking system is intended to be free of bias, transparent to users, and allow for consistency of application within and between groups.  It also provides documentation for tracking of the decision process.

What’s necessary to accurately rank species in Idaho? 

The short answer is the knowledge of rarity, trends and threats for a species.  NatureServe has developed a rank calculator to enable the calculation of conservation status ranks for a “unit of biological diversity”, also known as an “Element.”  This Element may be a species or natural community.

Don’t you need an EO?

No, Element Occurrence (EO) records are not necessary for ranking a species or community.  A collection of criteria, which can include EO’s, are used in assessing and determining an Element’s conservation status rank.

Rank Calculator:

NatureServe provides a Microsoft Excel workbook that allows for automatic calculation of an element conservation status rank from data that is entered into the forms and tables included within the workbook.  The “NatureServe Conservation Status Assessments: Rank Calculator Version 2.0”, along with supporting material can be downloaded at  Supporting materials include: Factors for Assessing Extinction Rate and Methodology for Assigning Ranks.  Use of this tool allows for more consistent, accurate, repeatable and transparent ranking of species.

The rank calculator uses three categories (rarity, trends and threats), with a cumulative ten conservation status factors, of which eight are “core” factors, for assessing conservation status.  These factors, by category, used to assess conservation status are:

• Rarity: Population Size, Range Extent, Area of Occupancy, Number of Occurrences, Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability/Ecological Integrity, and Environmental Specificity (used only when the Number of Occurrences and Area of Occupancy are unknown);
• Trends: Long-term and Short-term Trend in population size or area;
• Threats: Threat Impact (generated by considering the scope and severity of the major threats), and Intrinsic Vulnerability (used only if Threat Impact is unknown).
(NatureServe 2009).

A rank can be assigned with as few as two of the eight core factors, including either: 2 rarity categories (one of which must be either Range Extent or Area of Occupancy), or 1 rarity and 1 trend or 1 threat category.




The Conservation Registry - Connect & Share Natural Resource Conservation Data & Maps

At the Northwest Scientific Association meeting last week, I attended an afternoon session that introduced me to a great online conservation project database, The Conservation Registry: This website allows you to share and search for data, maps, and documentation related to conservation projects across the country.

From there website:





FREE GIS tools for Wildlife Habitat Connectivity, Suitability, and Occurence Modeling

Did you know there is a plethera of FREE, that's right I said FREE, ArcGIS tools and toolboxes available for wildlife habitat and corridor modeling? Conveniently, many of these tools are listed on the CorridorDesign website:

Happy Modeling!


Introducing Ask Fish & Game - An online Q&A for F&G

Ask Fish & Game
is a new feature on the IDFG website, designed to assist with the questions



This new feature is designed to:

  • make answers easier for the public and our staff to find by establishing a central, searchable Q&A repository
  • increase the visibility of recent/popular questions by embedding questions contextually across our website (view a live example in the sidebar of the Wildlife Summit)
  • establish a more efficient, trackable workflow, ensuring that questions that are asked are answered

Video Screencast Overviews

Ask Fish & Game - An Overview

A review of the new questions and answers functionality added to the Idaho Fish & Game website. The "Ask Fish & Game" section allows anyone to ask a question of IDFG and the answer may be posted for others. Questions may be viewed by category or tag and these lists may be embedded on the IDFG website, or any website contextually. 


Ask Fish & Game - Management Interface

How to answer, assign and edit questions received at Ask Fish & Game. Designed for IDFG staff, this video reviews what to expect and how to use the management features.

Over the next few weeks we will be involving more IDFG Staff in assisting with answering questions.  When you do, you’ll receive an email with the title “[Ask Fish & Game] A Question has been assigned to you” with links to view and answer the question.

Adding Excel .xlsx files to an ArcMap 10 document.

Don’t ask  me why but…  if you have office 2010 on your computer, you have to install the office 2007 system driver in order to see .xlsx files in ArcMap 10.

It’s a quick install.  You can find it here.

Launching a copy of a Drupal Website locally using Acquia Dev Desktop (DAMP)

The Acquia Developer Desktop enables you test a Drupal installation in a completely virtualized environment.  It is great for building and troubleshooting new features before deploying.  You will need a copy of a Drupal codebase and a SQL Dump File for the corresponding database to follow these steps.

  1. Download and Install Acquia Dev Desktop
    Full installation instructions - works on Windows and Mac
  2. Copy an existing Drupal Codebase
    Extract the codebase to a folder on your machine. 
    Default location: C:\Users\{username}\Sites\{drupal installation name}
  3. Install Database and Reference Website
    Open Acquia Dev Desktop and choose More... from the sites dropdown

    In the Settings dialog that opens, Click Import...

    In the Import site dialog, Point the Site path to your codebase, point the Dump file to the SQL and provide a new database name and site name.
    Click Import and wait a few seconds to a few minutes depending on the size of the SQL.
  4. Launch your copy of the website
    On the Acquia Dev Desktop, hit the dropdown below Go to my site and select your site.  Click Go to my Site.

Observations and Roadkill Posters

For anyone interested in helping promote the use of these systems, here are graphics we've started with for Observations and Roadkill online reporting forms.

Observations Roadkill


We'd appreciate it if you are using these as web images, that they would link directly to either Observations ( or Roadkill (


Upload Limits in Drupal/IIS

Modifying your php.ini settings to the following will allow increased file upload limits:

  • upload_max_filesize = 50M
  • post_max_size = 50M

However, if you are using Internet Information Server (IIS), also check that there isn't a requestLimit set in the web.config. Drupal will show that a larger size is allowed via php.ini, but large files won't upload.

Here is the setting to change, on my system it defaulted to 10mbs:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
            <requestLimits maxAllowedContentLength="10485760" />

Changed maxAllowedContentLength to 52428800 and 50mb uploads worked immediately.

Calculating Extents in the Field Calculator

Here's a little shortcut.  You can calculate extents in the Field Calculator dialog using:

dim Output as double
dim pGeom as IGeometry

set pGeom = [shape]
Output = pGeom.Envelope.XMin

Choose advanced, paste what is above and set your field equal to Output. 

NOTE: If you want to add the values in Decimal Degrees or Web Mercator there's an app for that.  Ask Tim Williams how to install his Calculate Extent button.