Happy GIS Day!

gisToday, November 18th, is GIS Day around the world! There have been celebrations for GIS Day in many areas and you can find out more by searching #gisday on most social media. I am actually quite excited about GIS Day, a day to celebrate one of my newest passions, which makes up a good chunk of my career, and to show everyone why they should thankful for the GIS that they use on a daily basis.

In school, GIS was defined to me as:

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are computer-based systems designed for the collection, storage, and analysis of georeferenced data. (Aronoff, 1991)

Esri, the leader in GIS software, describes it as:

A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends.

Basically, GIS is all around you. Do you use Google Maps or Google Earth? Both are a GIS. Do you have a fish finder/chartplotter in your boat? Displaying lake maps, using the unit for navigation, and storing waypoints on it? You’re using a GIS. Did you get a delivery from Purolator? The company uses GIS to send packages to the right locations and to map out routes. If you have ever used Ontario’s Fish ON-Line site that allows you to look up the presence of fish in lakes around Ontario and gather details about the lake and how to get there, then you have used a GIS.

Ontario GIS

Ontario’s Fish ON-Line database.

When I returned to school I really had to idea what the field of GIS was all about, but I quickly learned about the possibilities of what could be done with all the data that is collected now days, and how it could be analyzed to produce useful, and often creative, products. My GIS classes were among my favourite and I was thrilled when I got the title of GIS Specialist at work. In addition to my biology work, I get to spend a lot of time creating maps and analyzing data. I love the challenge of working with data and finding a way to get to the end result. The perfectionist in me loves this field because you can focus on the details and be picky. And the lifelong student in me loves that I always have more to learn.


This was the final product of one of my assignments in school. GIS provides a way to analyze the available information and return an easier-to-understand answer.

Using products such Esri’s ArcGIS, people everywhere can use GIS to help in times of disaster, to educate people on the results of elections, to update statuses of lost utilities, to share stories and, honestly, pretty much anything else you can imagine. Esri Canada has a great collection of user apps that anyone can explore. Check some out and see what amazing things can be done. In addition, most regions and municipalities now have open GIS information available through their websites. This information can include things such as land parcels and land use, to regionally owned forests and park space. Want to know more about where you live? Chances are the information is now available thanks to GIS.


A neat app showing the results of Canada’s federal elections from 2000 to 2015.


To commemorate the 100 years since the writing of In Flanders Fields, Guelph created this story map to take the viewer on a journey through John McCrea’s life.

Several long posts could be written on this blog about why I love GIS and why it is so darn awesome, but I’ll keep it short instead. Just know that GIS is an exciting field to get into, so if you’re considering what kind of career you would like, give it a thought. And you don’t need to make a career of it to benefit from GIS. You can do it for fun and you can get access to all sorts of information. Just take a moment, on this GIS Day, to appreciate the incredible impact GIS has on all of us. And for those who get to do what I do on a daily basis – Happy Mapping!

A Break For The River

A day of beautiful sunshine after several days of rain and snow could only mean one thing – it was time to get out fishing. Since the motor for the tinny is having some issues, we decided to make a trip to the Bighead in Meaford, a river I hadn’t fished in a couple of years.

It was hardly a surprise to arrive at the river and find the parking lot full of cars, the shores lined with anglers. Why would anyone pass up such an incredible fall day? I climbed into my leaky, not well-loved waders, a hasty purchase back in the spring that I have regretted ever since, and grabbed my float rod for the first time in far too long.

bighead river

A pretty spectacular view.

A quick walk up the dirt path from the parking lot to the road, a jog over to Trout Hollow trail, and a short hike through the trees, brought us out to our usual starting point and we took a moment to watch the water before deciding what to tie on our lines. I ended up opting for some soft plastics. I’m not a fan of fishing with roe, despite seeing people have great results using it, it’s just not my thing. A day on the water is all I ever want, catching some fish is really a bonus.


Standing in a river is a great way to spend the day.

On this day I was in the mood to do some walking, so when several drifts failed to produce any action, I suggested we move on to another spot. Water roaring down the channel, the smell of cedars filling the air, a November day warm enough to be without a jacket – my idea of a perfect day. I even managed to avoid breaking the top of my rod on the many trees it came into contact with.

Since neither of us like being crowded while fishing, we took the trail a fair ways up the river before finding an empty spot. Some deeper water passing under a group of leaning trees looked like an ideal place for a drift. Darrell quickly learned that it was also an ideal place to lose a float. No fish chose to join the party.


Leaning trees…


…snagged angler.

One of my favourite things about rivers is how dynamic they are. You can notice changes in the river over a short time frame, but when you haven’t visited in a couple of years, the differences are even more striking. In one area the thalweg used to run through a cutoff channel that was full of debris jams. The river has now shifted back around to the other side of the island. Several debris jams had blown out in other areas, and the bank has eroded into the trail even more. It’s really spectacular to witness the power of water.

We stopped to fish open areas, taking some drifts and getting reacquainted with float fishing in general, then we would move on as other anglers moved in. We got snagged, lost terminal tackle, got excited watching our floats disappear only to find no fish on the end of the line, and just enjoyed a beautiful day doing what we love. With only a few free hours it wasn’t long before we had to call it a day and get home to chores.

While the fish stayed away it really didn’t matter. I enjoyed the walk, the sights, the sounds, and the company. A return visit to the Bighead is definitely in order.

Tree Planting With A Hint Of Winter

It had been a long time since I attended a tree planting, so despite a couple of physically draining days at work to end the week, I was happy to wake up last Saturday and head to Orangeville for a tree planting with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TDFEF).

Weather forecasts for my area proved to be correct for once and I turned the horses out to snow-covered paddocks while waiting for the car to heat up and melt the frost off the windows. Only days away from getting my snow tires put on the car, I stuck out the drive with my summer tires that dislike the snow as much as I do. Some impressive snow squalls greeted me as I drove south, causing me to slow down and take extra time.


A beautiful view to start the day.

Despite the weather further north, Orangeville was sunny with crisp air and no snow when I arrived. For the past few years CVC has been naturalizing an area off Hunter Road around a stormwater pond, by planting hundreds of native trees and shrubs. I was thrilled to look around and enjoy the spectacular fall colours these plantings were producing.

We set out the trees and got equipment ready in preparation for the start of the event. Volunteers began arriving – chatting, laughing, and sharing their shivers from the chilly temperature (I assured a few of them that they would soon warm up while digging). Some people were local while others came from as far away as Scarborough and Milton to take part in a fun morning of tree planting.

Tree planting seems to instill a sense of camaraderie among volunteers and it’s a pleasure to watch people enjoying a morning with each other. Most of the digging went smoothly, but there were the occasional spots full of gravel that made it impossible to get a shovel in. Many people worked in teams of two, with one person digging the hole and the other planting the tree.

tree planting

A great group of volunteers!

tree planting

Lots of shovels at work and trees going in the ground.

tree planting

The family that plants together is happier!

A mid-morning break was provided by TDFEF in the form of coffee and treats from Tim Hortons, then shovels started hitting the dirt again. A brief flurry of snow wasn’t enough to dampen spirits and the last shrub got planted well ahead of schedule. As is so often the case after a tree planting, everyone was smiling as they returned their shovels to the trailer and said their goodbyes. I am convinced that one of the keys to happiness lies in the physical act of planting trees.

The fall is a particularly great time to plant trees with the cooler weather making it more enjoyable for all. If you’d like to take part in a tree planting, check out the Events page for your local conservation authority, town, or favorite stewardship group. All it takes is a few hours one morning to help the planet and help yourself.

As usual, the fine volunteers in Orangeville did a great job and the naturalized area is looking better than ever. I can’t wait to see how it looks next year.

CVC has a tree planting on Saturday, October 24th, in Alton for anyone looking to get involved.

Argosgirl Update – Salmon Spectacular Time

I’m clearly not in a very clever frame of mind these days, judging by the title of this post. I spend a lot of time thinking about all of the things I want to write, then I find myself too busy or too tired to make it happen. Today is one of those too tired moments, so I’m forcing myself to jot some words down to get the creative juices flowing.

After a long week of being sick and having vehicle issues, I am extremely thankful that the weekend is now here and the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular has started. This derby is one of the highlights of our year, so much so that we actually timed our vacation days to coincide with it. A floating city on the water is the best way to describe this event, with an amazing number of boats and shore anglers participating in the derby each year. While we belong to the group of people that don’t catch many fish during this week, we always have a fun time.

salmon spectacular

Looking forward to finding some more rainbows like this one from last year’s derby.

For the second year in a row, we’ll be keeping the boat at the awesome Georgian Shores Marina so we can spend as much time fishing as possible, without having to launch each day. I smile when I think back to my first experience in this derby, when we didn’t have a boat of our own so we fished from shore (which is great, but I’m happier in a boat), the weather was awful the weekend we were there, we camped in the back of the van, and I was generally grumpy the entire time. That was before I found my love for trolling, big water, and big silver fish. Since that year we bought Luma, our 12-foot aluminum boat, and spent as much time as possible out in her during each derby. I even had a great boss who used to let me leave early or take a day off to get up there for the event. But there was always one downside to Luma – she couldn’t go out in less than perfect weather. So we bought a bigger boat. And last year we safely went out in weather that would have kept us on shore previously. And we had a lot more action than years past. I can’t wait to get out there and troll all day and night. Maybe we’ll finally catch something nice out there!

However, our plan to get to Owen Sound today is slowed by a few factors. Being as sick as we were this week means we’ve fallen behind on a lot of chores, so today is catch-up. Then there’s the car problems – Darrell’s currently getting parts to replace the serpentine belt in the car, since the belt went on my drive home the other day. After getting the boat to the water, we were hoping to use the car to drive us back and forth.

Of course, we need to drive back and forth because I keep increasing the number of animals we have here. Chicken Math has completely taken over and I went from my original four hens, to 13 chickens, to now having 21 chickens, including a few roosters (when I swore I would never have more than one rooster). They are all such a blast to have around. Today’s entertainment was introducing the new flock to the main one for the first time. The roosters had it out for a bit but everyone has since settled. Now, in my copious amounts of spare time, I need to renovate the chicken coop to allow for more pens and outdoor runs.


The two flocks meeting in the open for the first time. It amazes me that I have so many of these feathered pets hanging around now.

When I mentioned vehicle issues, it wasn’t just the car. I had truck troubles on my way home last night. While I was stressed out, tired, and feeling terrible, I had no less than six wonderful people stop to offer help. Two gentleman offered me food and water while I waited for Darrell, offered me a phone if I needed it, and chatted with me to help pass the time. I can’t express how grateful I am for the kindness of strangers. Other drivers were stuck trying to get around me and work through traffic, but not one of them was rude or cranky about it. Many offered help. Thank goodness for small towns and rural communities. Then there were the friends that I called and had to ask them to drive to our house and get Darrell to call me, since our phones have such spotty reception here. I can’t thank them enough for doing that.

Life continues to be busy. There is never enough time for fishing or writing, but I’m loving every minute of what we’re doing. We are gradually turning our little farm into something that supports our goals. Our vegetable garden has done well this year (the evidence is in my quickly filling up freezer), we have more eggs than we can eat, we get to spend a lot of time together, and we have fun. Fishing continues to be our main venture – we talk about it constantly, we dream about it, and we try to get out every weekend. Weeks like this coming one, when fishing is all that we have planned, are absolutely cherished. I can’t wait to get out on that big water and have some fun.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!