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How to Get Ontario Topographic Data

Recently, someone contacted me looking for information on where they could find topographic map data for the Thunder Bay area, so I assumed that they must have already checked the Canadian data page, so suggested that they check out the Ontario Basic Mapping web site (OBM).

The Ontario Basic Mapping (OBM) site by the Geography Network is a great online resource with simplistic interactive interface that provides users tools to create customized map views and the ability to download various topographic base mapping data for the entire Province of Ontario. The site contains GIS layers created from 1:10,000 base maps from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources that people can download including layers for transportation, water, municipal, elevation, parks and conservation areas.

Today I have included more information about the OBM including a video on how to download free topographic data from the site.

Niagara College

Niagara College GIS Certificate

Location: Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
Program(s): GIS Certificate
Prerequisites: University degree or College Diploma

Niagara College GIS CertificateAt Niagara College they combine GIS, remote sensing and geodatabase management together throughout the three terms. The one year GIS Certificate program at Niagara on the Lake Campus includes a thesis project that students work on for the whole term while working along side with employers to help design and implement real world GIS projects.

Niagara continuously updates their GIS program to meet the changing and evolving needs of the Geomatics industry. A full year long thesis project is required where students get to work with real employers designing and implementing real world GIS skills on a real world project. The Niagara College offers a $750 bursary to eligible students who are enrolled in full time Graduate Certificate Program such as the GIS program.

“When deciding to go back to school at the age of 36, I wanted to get into the Niagara College GIS / Geospatial Management program. When I found out that I needed to have a degree or relevant work experience to get in; I spent 5 ½ years in university to obtain a BSc. in Geography.

This program is THAT highly regarded.

While centered mostly on ESRI software and products, this program also provides experience in MapInfo, Manifold, AutoCAD Map 3D, ERDAS Imagine as well as various elements of programming. The best part of this program is the year long thesis project in which students apply to and partner with industry to provide real world GIS solutions to real clients.

While the program can sometimes be demanding, students will be incredibly prepared to enter the workforce. I do not know one person who ever regretted taking this program. The skills I learned in the program I use every day. ” Darren Platakis – Niagara College GIS Graduate

See the Course Web Site for more details.

[sources: niagaracollege.ca / wikipedia.org / Darren Platakis]


If you are a student, facility or someone who has any more knowledge, feedback or comments to share about the GIS program at Niagara College then I encourage you to share it .

Canadian GIS Software

Geographic Information SystemsGIS software packages come in many different formats and designed to handle many applications. Some are more robust then others offering a wide range of tools and applications while others are much more simple, the software you use should depend a lot on what your needs are.

There are also many other things to consider such as cost, usability, supported data formats just to mention a few. Canada has many software companies that offer GIS software related packages and many others that sell packages made abroad but available here.

Free GIS software

Geographic Resources Analysis Support System (GRASS) – GRASS software is a free GIS package with multiple functionality including image processing, both raster & vector compatibly, 2D/3D vector network analysis and much more functionality. It operates on various system platforms including shell and a graphical user interfaces.

Google Earth – new twist on traditional GIS that allows you to create 3D maps with existing aerial data sets

Licensed GIS software

PCI Geomatica – Geomatica 2012 from well known Canadian based PCI Geomatics is a powerful easy to learn GIS and Remote sensing package with a wide range of traditional remote sensing, photogrammetry, GIS, cartography, and web development tools.

MapInfo GIS desktop mapping application that now includes CAD tools and .NET program-ability.

ESRI – ArcGIS v10 is the most popular and dependable GIS desktop mapping application available, used world wide.

More software …

Other Mapping Tools

Need to quickly convert spatial coordinates from MTM, UTM or LAT/LONG?

 DataAppeal – Online mapping tool that provides Highly Effective & Interactive 3D Maps

Google Map Maker for Canada

GPS Software

Trimble GPS Planner – handy little FREE software package for planning of GPS Missions, allows you to optimize your base destination region with multiple station locations allowing you to determine where it would be best to record observations, determine elevation masks, generate graphs showing satellite coverage, DOP coverage, and create sky plots of GPS satellites.