Mapping – From Hot-Air-Balloons to Satellites

Freund, Gisele. –La Photographie en France au Dix-Neuvieme Siecle.– Paris: A. Monnier, 1936.

Over the years, improvements in technology have allowed Lower Trent Conservation to gain an ever-increasing quality of mapping information.  Maps form the basis of many of the decisions that we make for our watershed management activities.  High quality maps help us answer questions such as:  Where might a flood occur?  Where are the sources of our drinking water?  Where are our most important plant and animal habitats?  Maps are VERY good at answering questions starting with “where”!

Many of the maps we use today were made possible by the invention of photography.  The first person to use photography to make a map was a French guy called Nadar.  In 1855 he got in a hot air balloon and took a photograph of the ground.  This was the dawn of modern map making.

By the time World War 1 happened, people came up with the idea to strap cameras onto airplanes.  This allowed very large areas to be mapped very quickly and very accurately.  The National Air Photo Library of Canada in Ottawa has photos dating all the way back to the 1930s for the Lower Trent Conservation watershed region.  We have photos dating back to the 1950s at the Lower Trent Conservation office.

The 1980s and 90s brought about huge advances in computers and digital photography.  This has allowed us to easily store very large amounts of mapping information digitally at the office.  The 1990s also gave rise to many new technologies which has enhanced our mapping information even more.  Images can be taken from satellites orbiting the Earth that give new perspectives to what’s happening on the ground and in the water.



Here is a picture of the Lower Trent Conservation watershed region taken from space !

Image courtesy of NASA: Landsat June 2011. Image compiled by Lower Trent Conservation

















Data courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2010. Image compiled by Lower Trent Conservation.

One of the newest and most exciting technologies is the invention of 3D laser scanning technology called LIDAR.  Did you know that we have 3D laser scans of several areas within our watershed region?  We are using these scans to map areas that are susceptible to flooding.  We are also using these scans to map our coastal wetlands and shoreline areas very accurately.

Here is an illustration of the intersection of Wooler Road and Telephone Road in Trenton made using LIDAR; what sorts of things can you see?  Each one of the little dots that make up the image is one measurement of elevation.  Can you imagine taking all those measurements by hand?  It would practically take forever!

Today, almost everyone with a computer, a television, or a cell phone is familiar with the common products of digital mapping.  If you have ever watched the evening weather report or used Google Maps then you can definitely consider yourself a user of high-tech digital mapping!

Lower Trent Conservation also continues to keep up with new mapping technologies as these tools greatly enhance our ability to provide watershed management services to address local environmental issues.

Posted by:  Will Murphy and Jeffrey Meyer

Celebrating 20 Years of GIS at Lower Trent Conservation 1992-2012!

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