NPMap at State of the Map US

Posted on 28 May 2015 by Chad Lawlis

State of the Map US 2015

Jim, Mamata, and I will be at this year’s State of the Map US conference which is being held June 6-8 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. State of the Map US is OpenStreetMap’s annual gathering in the US, bringing together a diverse community of map practitioners of all skill levels to share and learn about the free, editable map of the world.

On Saturday we will be participating in a panel highlighting the adoption of OpenStreetMap in US government, exploring both opportunities and challenges of the map’s adoption, its community driven data, and its licensing. On Sunday, Jim will be giving a presentation about using micro tasking tools to improve the process of importing and merging data in OpenStreetMap, a process that we are deeply involved with for our internal NPS database, Places. All of us will be attending for the full three days, including the hack day on Monday, so feel free to reach out on Twitter @npmap if you are interested in talking or collaborating on a Birds of a Feather session.

We look forward to seeing you in NYC!

Welcome, Chad Lawlis

Posted on 16 Apr 2015 by Nate Irwin

A Photo of Chad Lawlis

I am happy to welcome the newest member of the NPMap team, Chad Lawlis!

Chad comes to us from the US Agency for International Development, where he worked as a Geographic Information Specialist. His experience solving tough data problems at USAID will greatly benefit the work our team is doing to support the National Park Service’s 2016 Centennial.

One of Chad’s primary focuses will be on improving both the breadth of coverage and quality of the data in our Places system. He will also explore how we can integrate Places more seamlessly with other National Park Service systems and OpenStreetMap.

Take a look at Chad’s team page for more information about his background and interests. You can also find him on Twitter and GitHub.

NPMap at the myAmerica Developer Summit

Posted on 10 Apr 2015 by Jim McAndrew

I will be presenting and participating (remotely) in the myAmerica Developer Summit happening in Washington, DC this coming weekend. The summit “will focus on developing products, services and other resources that promote and protect America’s public lands and waters”.

We plan on releasing a public-facing version of our Places system on the first day of the summit. This will allow participants to use the Places Editor to improve data coverage for their favorite National Parks.

Data captured by this system will be used to prototype some new data merging and conflation tools we are working on. These tools will help us validate and merge edits coming in from the public into our National Park Service datasets, and this data will eventually make its way back out to OpenStreetMap (though we haven’t tackled this particular problem yet).

I am excited to work with other developers and mappers at the summit! Be sure to check back next week for a follow up post.

Park Tiles Slate

Posted on 01 Apr 2015 by Mamata Akella

This week, we’re excited to share yet another addition to our suite of custom NPS basemaps: Park Tiles Slate.

Low Vision

Park Tiles Slate serves our low vision users. Low vision users tend to adjust their computer’s settings to display at a higher contrast and inverted colors. For this reason, maps with light colored backgrounds (like Park Tiles) become unusable (see image below). Having Park Tiles Slate as an alternative ensures that everyone can use maps created with NPMap Builder.

A comparison of Park Tiles Slate (left) and Park Tiles (right) with high contrast and inverted color settings. A comparison of Park Tiles Slate (left) and Park Tiles (right) with high contrast and inverted color settings.


Park Tiles Slate also helps support the growing number of visualizations made with NPMap Builder. Park Tiles Slate is similar in its design to other ‘dark’ maps that are available through online basemap providers. The idea behind this type of map design is to free up a lot of room, color-wise, for overlaid information to ‘pop’.

Take a Look

Use the map below to switch between Park Tiles Slate, Park Tiles, and Park Tiles Imagery.

Thank you, UW-Madison Geography!

Posted on 26 Mar 2015 by Mamata Akella

I had the honor of traveling to University of Wisconsin-Madison last week as an invited speaker for the Yi-Fu Tuan Lecture Series put on by the Department of Geography. I had an amazing time and want to highlight some of what I did during my visit. I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Department for being such gracious hosts!

UW-Madison Geography

The Geography Department at UW-Madison is really inspiring. The way in which students, faculty, and staff collaborate and teach each other is something that really stood out during my visit. The comradery is contagious and I found myself wishing I was back in grad school as part of this Department. After my visit, it is clear to me why UW-Madison alumni are some of the most talented cartographers I know.

Cartography students and staff in the UW Cartography Lab. Cartography students and staff in the UW Cartography Lab.

Yi-Fu Tuan

In addition to meeting with students, faculty, and staff, I also had the honor (and pleasure) of meeting with Yi-Fu Tuan, emeritus professor and sponsor of the lecture series. Yi-Fu is a pillar of our discipline - having pioneered the field of humanist geography and the notion of space, place, and nature in a completely new way.

What was most inspiring during my time with Yi-Fu was listening to him explain why he started the speaker series. He started it to give his colleagues in the Department a venue to share their work by creating a place where connections could be made and where everyone was aware of what was going on around them. Over the years, the series has grown into one where professionals (both researchers and practitioners) from around the world come to Madison to share their work.


My Yi-Fu talk gave a look into how NPMap is customizing open source tools to make web mapping possible for everyone at the National Park Service. I also spent a good amount of time explaining how we are incorporating the National Park Service’s graphic identity and accessibility/usability guidelines into our toolset. My slides and abstract can be viewed here.

Giving my talk in Science Hall. Giving my talk in Science Hall.

I also had the opportunity to facilitate a Brown Bag Lunch conversation about the evolution of online basemap design. On Saturday, I led an introductory Mapbox Studio workshop with 30 students. By the end of the workshop, each student had published tiles using a custom vector data source and modified the design of an out-of-the-box Mapbox Studio template to support their custom overlay.

Saturday introduction to Mapbox Studio workshop. Saturday introduction to Mapbox Studio workshop.

In Summary

This is a very brief synopsis of an incredible few days in Madison. It was good to see old friends and make new ones. I am especially excited for what the future of cartography is knowing the caliber of students, faculty, and staff around the world in Geography departments like the one at UW Madison!

Finally, I would like to give an extra special thank you to my Madison host, and friend: Professor of Cartography, Dr. Rob Roth!