Converting Decimal Degrees to Degrees Minutes Seconds

Often we are supplied with coordinates in decimal degrees but need to use Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds instead. Luckily, there are several solutions that you can use, here is a simple coordinate converter tool that I use.

How to install LAStools toolbox in QGIS

how to install LAStools toolbox in QGISWant to use LIDAR data with QGIS? Then use these simple step by step guide to help you install the LAStools toolbox into your free QGIS software.

( Tested successfully with the following QGIS versions 1.8.0-Lisboa, 2.0.1-Dufour, 2.2.0-Valmiera, and 2.4.0-Chugiak)

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Geomatics Acronyms and Abbreviations

Geomatics has become a pretty common term in Canada lately and includes many different disciplines such as  geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, cartography, land surveying, global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), photogrammetry, geography and other related forms of spatial mapping.

Using acronyms and abbreviations is commonly practiced in the Geomatics industry and most of the time people just assume that everybody else knows what every acronyms and abbreviation stands for. Well that is obviously not the case most of the time and over the years I have created myself a little digital cheat-sheet of geomatics acronyms and abbreviations that I use with my work in my writing.

Here is a large collection of common acronyms and abbreviations related to the Canadian Geomatics industry:

Geomatics – GIS data base modeling

The design of the spatial database is the formal process of analyzing facts about the real world into a structured model. Database design is characterized by the following phases: requirement analysis, logical design and physical design. In more common terms, you basically need a plan, a design layout and then the data to complete the process.

Geomatics – GIS Spatial Modeling

GIS Model of Average Annual Precipitation of the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

GIS Spatial Modeling is the process of modeling, examining, and interpreting geographic data.It uses a set of defined methodology and analytical procedures to derive information with spatial relationships between geographic phenomena. It can be useful for evaluating suitability and capability, for estimating and predicting, and for interpreting and understanding real world situations. There are four traditional types: spatial overlay surface analysis, linear analysis, and raster analysis.

Data with spatial relationships can be modeled in a GIS to provide images and relationships that can be interpreted to help solve problems and provide information in a way that data bases by them selves can not. The image to the right for example is a screen capture of a GIS thematic spatial model created from a database of precipitation measurements from various weather stations and data loggers spread out across the region. ESRI Geostatistical Analyst was used to create a model that can be easily used to depict the amount of precipitation that a community in the region would experience based on the data from the databases.

Spatial Modeling Examples

Below are two presentations that I gave on GIS Spatial Modeling, one is an informal more information based one that was used to train other students how to use the ESRI Geostatistical Analyst extension and the other is a more formal presentation that was open to all students and faculty at the campus.

Converting between UTM, MTM and LAT/LONG

Canadian using a UTM map

Geographic coordinate systems enable us to spatially locate features on the Earth using specified set of two dimensional numbers. The coordinates of each feature represent the horizontal position (and sometimes vertical position when elevation is available) of it and one of the most commonly used coordinates is Geographic with values of latitude, longitude. However many different coordinate systems can be used to map the same area depending on various factors such as map extent, scale, end user etc. Therefore we often find in Geomatics that we can have data from different coordinate systems that we need to use together spatially in one reference system.

I am sure that most of us have run into times when we have features that have defined coordinates of one system that we need to use with a different one. (E.g. your map is in UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) but you have been given GPS points in Lat/Long).

If you ever find yourself in need of quickly getting values converted from Geographic to UTM / MTM (Modified Traverse Mercator) or UTM / MTM to Geographic then here is a a free online geographic coordinate convertor tool that I often use provided by Canadian Spatial Reference System

Google Earth Time Zone Clock

Time Zones in Google Earth

Here is a neat little Google Earth file that has often been helpful on many of my field trips when trying to remember where time zones start and stop. Just open the file in Google Earth, then point and click your location to get info on that time zone.

The file overlays a custom polygon time zone map, then allows the user to click anywhere in the world to produce a pop up bubble
containing a running clock with the time zone (GMT) and the current time for that area, although does not seem to make the daylight savings adjustment.

It uses a combination of KML & Javascript to automatically calculate and display the time for the associated time zone. You can download the file here for free or here you can download my working copy here if the other download link does not work (as it appears to not have been updated in a few years).


Every now and then I come across some little utilities that help to make things easier while working in the field and these pages are mainly my way of sharing them with others while creating a go-to place where I can easily find them when I need them. If you know of any other mapping related utilities like this then let me know and I may include it here on my site with the others.

CanadianGIS is an extension of my web site that I started back in 2005 after I noticed that there was a real need to have somewhere on the web to help find Canadian GIS resources. And although there were a few other websites starting around that time related to GIS, nobody else was really dedicating a site to Canadian GIS topics. logoThe site has evolved slightly since then with a few functions or sections being added to it or removed as time went on but it has always been primarily used to promote the Canadian GIS & Geomatics Industry and to share information with other Canadians that also have an interest in GIS. It also went well together with, another GIS site that I created to help Geomatics students find Canadian GIS & Geomatics related jobs much easier. turned out to be a real success and eventually led to the creation of GoGeomatics, another Canadian Geomatics job board site that allowed people to post GIS jobs for free (now is fully fee based). helps provide people with resources about Canadian GIS & Geomatics related data, basic information about Canadian companies that provide geomatics services, locations of Canadian data and maps, information about GIS conference & events, places to find Canadian GIS employment and education info and many other great resources. Content for the site been created by me and a few volunteers, with some also being supplied by various GIS companies and academic institutions.

If you have not yet checked the site out then I encourage you to go and see for your self, and if you discover that there is information related to Canadian GIS resources that I have missed then please do let me know. – Join the Canadian GIS LinkedIn Group  (2200+ members) or the Canadian GIS FaceBook Group (2100+ members but mostly different from the LinkedIn group)


Ted MacKinnon -Geomatics Specialist

Contact Me: email

Twitter: @tedmackinnon or @CanadianGIS

LinkedIn: tedmackinnon

FaceBook: ted.mackinnon

[page originally published in Jan. 2009]