Azavea Atlas

Maps, geography and the web

Summer of Maps 2016: Now Accepting Applications for Nonprofits

Summer of Maps logo

Applications are now open for Nonprofits seeking pro-bono GIS analysis through the Summer of Maps program.  Summer of Maps offers fellowships to student GIS analysts to perform geographic data analysis for nonprofit organizations.  The program matches nonprofit organizations that have spatial analysis and visualization needs with talented students of GIS analysis to implement projects over a three-month period during the summer.  Below is the timeline for the 2016 program:

    • Now – Feb 7: Nonprofit organizations can submit brief proposals for spatial analysis projects to Azavea
    • Feb 7 – Feb 25: Azavea program administrators review organizations and narrows the list to finalists
    • Feb 26 – Mar 15: Students submit applications including proposals to work on finalist projects
    • Mar 13 – April 11: Student candidate reviews and interviews
    • April 11: Successful Summer of Maps fellows are notified
    • May 1: Public announcement of fellows and organizations
    • June – August: Summer of Maps fellows work on spatial analysis projects
    • For the most up to date schedule, please consult the Summer of Maps site.

What benefits do nonprofit orgs receive?

    • Pro-bono services from a talented student GIS analyst to geographically analyze and visualize your data
    • Visualization of data in new ways and combination of data with other demographic and geographic data to draw new observations
    • High quality maps that can be used to make a case to funders or support new initiatives

What benefits do students receive?

    • Opportunity to work spatial analysis projects that support the social missions of a nonprofit organizations
    • Work directly with Azavea mentors to improve GIS skills
    • Receive a monthly stipend
    • Gain work experience implementing and managing a GIS project

If you are a nonprofit organization and have a project you would like to see implemented, please submit an application.  The deadline is Sunday Feb 7th, 2016 11pm EST.  Nonprofits can check out the finalist organization proposals from 2015 for inspiration.  Keep in mind that students will be selecting from the finalist projects so identifying a project that is interesting and engaging is key in having your project be selected.  If you are a student, stay tuned – applications will open Feb 19th, 2016.

Fellowship Sponsors

We’d like to expand Summer of Maps and we’re looking for sponsors.  If you are interested in sponsoring a fellow or a mentor, please be in touch.

Tools for Getting Data out of OpenStreetMap and into Desktop GIS

Since its inception, OpenStreetMap has crowdsourced the addition of millions of features of spatial data across the world. It’s become a fantastic resource for geographic reference data and it’s constantly being improved and updated. While it’s open source and the data is free, getting it into a usable format for analysis in desktop GIS, for example, can take a bit of effort.

Data Formats

If you’re a GIS Analyst, you’re probably used to working with file types like shapefiles, CSVs, and GeoJSON. However, if you’ve downloaded OpenStreetMap data before, you probably noticed it came with its own file extension: .OSM. The .OSM file format is XML that describes the data. Though it might seem frustrating that OSM has its own file format, it’s actually very useful for filtering through the vast amount of tags contained in OSM data. Sometimes you’ll see a .PBF file, which is the compressed .OSM file. Luckily, QGIS has built-in support for OSM files and will render the layers. Below, I’ll talk about some tools to get OSM data into QGIS and in a future blog I’ll provide a tutorial for how to export data from OSM and right into QGIS for desktop analysis.

Right in the web browser…



You can get OpenStreetMap directly from the web browser while viewing the data. To do so, click the Export button above the window. The export tab will open on the left side of your screen with the bounding box populated with the map coordinates you are currently zoomed to. This tool seemed to fail just about every time I tried it, with the exception of very small bounding boxes the size of only a few city blocks. However, below the Export button they provide some other ways to get the data, which I’ll talk about later.

If you want to use an API…

Overpass API

The Overpass API is a read-only API that serves up selections of map data from OSM. Unlike the main OSM API, it’s optimized to retrieve data. The OpenStreetMap wikipedia can be a helpful resource for using it. The Overpass API also powers some of the other extraction tools. So if you can master using the API, you’re essentially covered.

If you want a LOT of data….

Geofabrik Downloads

Geofabrik, a software consulting firm that specializes in OSM data, offers free extracts by continent, updated weekly. This is great if you want everything for an entire continent, but they’re large files, and you can’t filter on specific tags or features.

Planet OSM

If one continent isn’t enough for you, this resource offers extracts of the entire OSM database updated weekly as XML and PBF. They also provide a changeset database, so you can identify just the features that changed, if you need to do so. Like the Geofabrik exports, it’s a lot of data and you can’t filter for specific tags or features.

If you want data for one city, metro or geographic area…

MapZen Metro Extracts

MapZen built a tool to export all OSM data at the metropolitan region level for dozens of cities around the world. Thankfully for us, they provide the data on their Metro Extracts page. The data is refreshed weekly and it’s provided in six different file formats. Anyone can contribute by creating a pull request or issue for another metro area.


This extensive extraction tool allows you to create a custom bounding box to download data, or manually input the geographic coordinates. One of the great features is the ability to get the data in dozens of file formats, including shapefile, Garmin and SVG.

HOT Exports


The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team put together this extract tool. You need an OSM account to use it, but once you have that, you’re good to go. The tool has an interactive map viewer to locate the geographic area you need then draw the bounding box. It also allows you to select which feature tags to download. This is an easy-to-use tool, but it’s only available in the countries HOT works.

If you’re working in QGIS…

Quick OSM

This is a plugin available in the QGIS plugins repository. Once installed, it has a user-friendly GUI complete with a query window. This is nice because you can construct a query to filter specific types of data in the OSM that you want to return, based on tags in the data or other elements that you deem important. Once you’ve selected the bounding geographic box, you then have the option to display only the tags present in the data in your selection, so you can narrow the data you want even further down beyond that. You can also select to filter on custom queries and based on points, lines or polygons. Once the data is selected, it populates an XML query that you can reuse later.

OSM Downloader

Another plugin for QGIS is OSM Downloader. This plugin adds a button to the QGIS toolbar that allows you to interactively select a bounding box, or define the bounding coordinates, and download an OSM file for that geographic area. You can save the layer or add it to the QGIS canvas. It’s a quick and simple way to easily get data, but you can’t filter or query the data, so you’ll get everything in the bounding box you define.

QGIS Vector Menu

OpenStreetMap support is also built directly into the QGIS application. To add data, you’ve got three options: Download Data, Import Topology from XML, and Export Topology to Spatialite. If you haven’t already downloaded any OSM data, you can pretty much work through these tools in order to get OSM data into your map. This tool will give you the option to select the extent of the data you’d like to download either by the map canvas (the geographic area you are currently zoomed to in the map), from an existing layer or manually by typing in the bounding box coordinates. Note that this will download and generate an osm file for everything within the extent — so keep in mind you may get a very large file! For Philadelphia, it took about a minute to process a 65mb file.

If you’re working in PostGIS…


This is a command-line tool for importing OSM directly into a PostGIS-enabled PostgreSQL database.


This is another command-line tool to import OSM-based PBF files into PostGIS, including the ability to update a database based on diff files. Currently in its third version, it’s written in Go. Previous versions are written in Python.

In Part 2 of this blog, I’ll go into a couple tools more in depth. Also, don’t forget to read and understand the copyright agreement and required citations when you are using OSM data.

OSM Data Extraction Tools
Name Geographies File Formats Software
Overpass API Any, though large files take time OSM XML, OSM JSON None required
Geofabrik Continents OSM, PBF Web-based
PlanetOSM Global OSM, PBF Web-based
MapZen Metro Extracts Metropolitan Areas OSM, .PBF, Osm2pgsql SHP, GeoJSON, IMPOSM SHOP, IMPOSP GEOJSON, Water and Coastline SHPs Web-based Bounding box to define OSM, PBF, SHP, CSV, SVG, Garmin Web-based
HOT Exports Bounding box to define, HOT countries only SHP, Garmin, OSM, KMZ, SQlite Web-based
QuickOSM Any, though large files take time OSM QGIS
QSM Downloader Any, bounding box to define OSM QGIS
QGIS Vector Menu Any, bounding box or layer to define OSM, PBF, JSON, SHP QGIS
Osm2pgsql Any, though large files take time PostGIS PostgreSQL, PostGIS
Imposm Any, though large files take time PostGIS PostgreSQL, PostGIS

Celebrate Geography Week 2015 in Philadelphia!

Geography Week

Geography Awareness Week, November 15th-21st 2015, features activities and events all over the world related to geography and mapping.  Geography Awareness Week was originally established by National Geographic to promote to Geography in American education and to excite people about geography as both a discipline and a part of everyday life.

In Philadelphia, alone, there are numerous events relating to Geography, urbanism and mapping during this special week.  Below is a round up!

Monday, November 16th

Open Streets Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Celebrate the potential of open streets with this film screening and panel discussion. Since the Pope visit in Philadelphia which inadvertently created a haven for pedestrians and cyclists, Open Streets Philly is building the public and political support for future open streets events. Beer provided. $5 registration.

Tuesday, November 17th

City of Philadelphia presents: Map, Measure, Manage 2015

Join us for a showcase of place-based apps used by Philadelphia City government for data-driven decision making. Learn how your city government uses geodata to analyze and address problems like vacant buildings.  Drop-in for Q&A with city staff from Office of Innovation, Streets, L+I, Philadelphia Water, etc.  See demos of geo-tools used to improve city operations and services

Wednesday, November 18th

Penn GIS Day: The Intersection of Geography, Real Estate, and Civil Rights

Penn GIS Day, held in conjunction with the National GIS Day celebration, focuses on real-world applications and innovations stemming from uses of Geographic Information Systems. The forum examines the use of GIS both at Penn and more broadly, offering an opportunity for professional and academic interaction. This year, speakers will discuss how the role of spatial analytics is advancing in the fields of real estate and housing. Also consider registering for the Technical Workshop from 2:00-4:00 pm.

Temple GIS Day: Making a difference in communities with GIS and spatial analysis.

Temple University is pleased to announce that we will once again be hosting geographic information systems (GIS) Day for 2015.  GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.

This FREE EVENT will include lightning talks by many groups at Temple University and around Philadelphia on how GIS is used to make a difference, an employment workshop featuring Temple alumni working in the GIS field, and a keynote presentation by John Duchneskie (Assistant Managing  Editor/ Design and Graphics, The  Philadelphia Inquirer).

Drexel GIS Day

Drexel University is holding a GIS Day Event this year with the sponsorship of the Drexel University GIS Users Group, School of Public Health, and University Libraries. The day’s events will include a morning of 15 minute presentations on GIS use in a variety of disciplines ranging from public health, ecology, computing and informatics, and environmental science. The presentations are geared toward a public audience and meant to inform the campus community of the potential uses of desktop and web GIS applications. The event is scheduled for 10 am – noon, Wednesday, November 18 in Nesbitt Hall.

Philadelphia Map Society Explores the Maps of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Philadelphia Map Society appreciates the opportunity to explore maps in the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Archive at 1515 Arch St, 10th Floor to be selected by Rob Armstrong, Preservation and Capital Projects Manager, and Alina Josan, Archives Specialist.  A stunning 12 foot map completed in 1909 with the express purpose of placing Pennypack Park on the City Plan will be laid out for intense scrutiny. 5:30-7:00pm.

Thursday, November 19th

Urban Geek Drinks

Cap off Geography Week with a beer and a pretzel at this months Urban Geek Drinks at Frankford Hall. Urban Geek Drinks is a monthly happy hour for a diverse group of civic do-gooders in Philadelphia. It’s an opportunity for you to connect with other people who care deeply about Philadelphia and are working incredibly hard to make this city really great.
Can’t make it to any events this week? Consider joining GeoPhilly, a meetup for map enthusiasts, the Philadelphia Map Society or MaptimePHL, a meetup for folks that want to build their mapping skills in a collaborative, supportive environment.

Editing Your Address Detail Page in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

Cicero’s integration with the Salesforce Nonprofit Starter Pack last November allowed users to verify their addresses and match them to legislative districts. This tool has been extremely helpful for many nonprofits who want to improve their postage automation rate ahead of a large mailing, or match their constituents to legislative districts in order to advance an advocacy campaign.

cicero hearts Salesforce


While Cicero will append Congressional, State Upper, and State Lower legislative districts to address records, your organization may not have a use for all three. Below, we will walk you through the steps of editing your address layout page so you can get exactly what you need out of the Cicero integration:

1) After logging in to your Nonprofit Starter Pack account, navigate to “Setup” at the top of the screen

2) On the left hand side scroll down to “Create” (under the Build Heading) and then choose “Objects” in the menu underneath

3) Select the label titled “Address”

A snapshot of the Custom Objects page in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

4) Scroll down to “Page Layouts” or use the shortcut at the top

5) Click “Edit” on the Page Layout you’d like to modify

A snapshot of how to find and edit your custom page layouts in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

6) Using the Address Layout Widget at the top, you can choose to add or remove the Congressional District, State Upper District, or State Lower District fields from your Address Detail page

A snapshot of the Address Layout Widget in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

If you’d like to add a field, simply drag and drop into your Address Detail. To remove a field, mouse over it in the Address Detail example and click the “remove” button.

A snapshot of the Address Detail editor in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

Warning! Be careful not to remove other fields that are essential to the address itself, such as Mailing Street, City, State, Zip, and Country. Turning on Address Verification with Cicero also automatically appends a “Verified” field to your detail page. You’ll want to leave that there to indicate whether or not a new address has been verified.

7) Once you’ve added or removed your desired Legislative District fields, you can change their location on the Address Detail page just by clicking and dragging

A snapshot of how to click and drag to rearrange your address detail page in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

8) When you’re done, either choose to preview your new Address Detail page at the top, or click Save

It’s that easy! And you shouldn’t feel bad about adding or removing legislative districts, because regardless of how many districts you match to an address, it still only costs one credit. Cicero offers a 10% discount on all credit purchases for nonprofits, and our partnership with Techsoup allows 5,000 credits for a small $30 donation. Have questions about pricing? Drop us a line or tweet us @CiceroAPI. We’re happy to help!


Announcing the FOSS4G-NA Conference Call for Proposals

Logo for 2016 Foss4gNA conference in Raleigh, NC

My colleague Rob Emanuele and myself are very proud to be involved in the organization of the 2016 FOSS4G-NA Conference in Raleigh, NC. Rob will be serving as Program Chair again this year and I will be serving as the Committee Chair. You can meet the rest of the organizing team here.  

If you’ve never been to a FOSS4G conference, they are a fun and informative gathering of the smart and dedicated people that make up the FOSS4G (Free and Open Source for GeoSpatial) community. At this year’s FOSS4G NA, you will also have the opportunity to learn skills that will help you in your work, hobby, or whatever your FOSS4G passion might be.  Everyone is welcome! If you are new to FOSS4G, that is even better. We have many beginner sessions, hands on workshops, and a mentor program to help you feel comfortable and get started.

This is truly a hands-on, collaborative conference and we want to invite you to share your knowledge and talent by submitting a proposal for the conference!  If you are already part of the community, we are calling on you to share your stories, update us about the things you have learned, tell us about your amazing work, and meet with old and new friends from the community.

We’d like to extend a special invitation to traditionally underrepresented groups in FOSS4G to submit a proposal. We are looking to build a great program that reflects all of the brilliant people and work that make up our community, but that can only happen if you submit your proposals! The success of the conference is directly dependent on the quality and diversity of the submissions, so please help us make FOSS4G NA 2016 the best possible conference it can be.

Postcard reading "Greetings from North Carolina", source: conference will take place at the Raleigh Convention Center, which is a great space with a number of rooms that we are excited to fill with amazing talks. In the Call For Proposals, we have laid out our topics of interest, but if you have something great to talk about that doesn’t fit to that mold, please still submit!

The conference runs from May 2nd to the 5th in the heart of downtown Raleigh. There are many restaurants, shops, bars, and other points of interest located within easy walking distance of the convention center and hotel. You can explore the city in this 1872 birds-eye view map of Raleigh

Please get your proposals in before January 22 for a chance to be selected as part of our early bird program selection. The final deadline is February 8th. Visit the link above and submit your proposal today. Good luck!

Hope to see you in Raleigh!