Box 70, Science Hall
550 N Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
Geographer, Cartographer, Web Developer
Welcome to my website. A little bit about me: I make maps. I ride my bicycle (very long distances sometimes). I teach. I enjoy being in nature, exploring new places, and building community. I like to eat good food and read good books that make me think. I am a strongly-motivated justice seeker looking for ways that mapping can empower the marginalized and oppressed in society. My Master's Thesis project attempts to implement this philosophy through building a public participation "wikimap" of landscape values in the Bad River Watershed of northern Wisconsin. Of my many useful skills and likeable attributes, I believe the most important is that I am a life-long learner, which entails a constant search for new knowledge and skills and teaching others what I know.
"In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth."
All work on this page is authored by Carl Sack and licensed Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA).
Passenger Rail in the United States: The U.S. once had the most advanced, widespread passenger rail network in the world. Our system today is a shambles, while other nations continue to make advances that put rail as the cleanest, safest, most comfortable, and in many cases fastest way to travel. High-speed rail advocates in this country have put forward proposals for decades, but keep running into a brick wall of powerful car makers and oil companies that keeps the federal subsidies to new road construction flowing. The recent $8 billion infusion of cash is a start, but miniscule compared to what the feds pump into car travel every year and what is needed to get us back on track. This graphic poster makes the case for a real rebuilding effort that could put a nation to work and slash our use of fossil fuels. Find a high-resolution version here.
A Sand County Disappearing: Frac sand mining has exploded in Wisconsin over the past two years, raising concerns about air and groundwater pollution in the western part of the state. Of even greater concern is where the sand goes: it's fueling a boom in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a natural gas extraction technique that has contaminated drinking water supplies with methane and a soup of cancer-causing chemicals. (view small)
Mining In Northern Wisconsin: In 2002, another UW Geography grad student, Zoltán Grossman, created a map showing all of the active prospects for mines in the northern part of the state. Mining is once again a hot-button political issue, so I decided that an updated version of Zoltán's map would be a useful information resource for the concerned public. We worked together to update and distribute the map, keeping the original black-and-white design for simplicity and reproduceability.
Water On the Line: I believe in using maps to advocate for communities and the environment. My map of the proposed Penokee Mine site in northern Wisconsin was reprinted hundreds of times and used by legislators, local residents, and environmental activists around the state.
Bad River Watershed: This is a simplified locator map I put together to capture the location of my research site (and personal "homeland") for those who may be unfamiliar with the Lake Superior region.
Bad River Watershed Icon: To make this, I used part of my watershed map and a background photo I took of Caroline Lake, the headwaters of the Bad River, nestled in the Penokee Hills.
Badger Homeland: This map highlights the distance from Madison to major surrounding landmarks. I chose a school spirit style, representing Madison as the face of the UW mascot, Bucky Badger. On Wisconsin!
Europe: My most challenging Cartography assignment to date: label every country in Europe. Here's how I did it.
Child Suicide: Choropleth maps are dramatic representations of data that activate visual thinking, allowing the map user to make meaning from information that would be otherwise tough to parse. Difficult problems and overlooked topics can be brought into the light of public scrutiny, creating a force for change.
Major Coal Mines: Much scrutiny has been given to the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, but as I was surprised to discover while making a Wikipedia-style proportional symbol map of this dataset, the vast majority of domestically-produced coal now comes from mines in Western states. In fact, only two of the 60 most-producing coal mines are West Virginia MTR mines.
American Weather: This template for forecast maps was designed using Kriging interpolation in ArcGIS and prettified in Illustrator.
Ashland County Themes: These maps required a combination of spatial analysis operations along three different themes. I went beyond ArcGIS and added a little extra flair to them in Illustrator.
Duluth Trails: An as-yet-unfinished project predating my move to grad school, I intended to create a trail guide to Duluth, Minnesota and vicinity. This urban metropolitan area contains thousands of acres of public land ranging from developed parks to near-wilderness, and over 100 miles of nonmotorized recreation trails. I wrote descriptions and created aesthetically-pleasing maps of most of the trail systems in and around the city.
Bad River Watershed Wikimap: For my Master's Thesis project, I developed a crowdsourced web map, or 'wikimap,' of the Bad River Watershed in northern Wisconsin. The map displays features in the watershed added by users, along with user-added text, photos, audio, and video. The goal of the wikimap is to publicize the landscape values associated with places in the watershed that give those places special meaning. The map was built entirely with open-source technologies; the interface uses the Leaflet web mapping library, and the data is passed through PHP, stored in a PostGIS database, and served back to the map by Geoserver as an OGC Web Feature Service.
Leaflet Lab Prototype: I developed this simple Leaflet web map example, and wrote an accompanying tutorial, as a contribution to updating the UW-Madison Cartography curriculum. My work was used for the first two labs in the Interactive Cartography course, replacing former labs that relied on Adobe Flash.
Queen City Icons: This modest project involved creating a library of icons representing 16 distinct feature types with local significance for Cincinnatians in three broad categories. I used the well-worn Google Maps API (v3) to generate and style the map. It was both an exposition of my skills as a low-pixel-count artist and an exploration of how I make meaning of the places I think of as important in my original hometown.
Renewables Around the World: Over the summer (2012), I participated in a comparitive study of four web mapping technologies run by Dr. Robert Roth through the UW-Madison Cartography Lab. We were asked to map data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development about energy use from renewable sources in forty countries between 1971 and 2010. I used were the Google Maps API to create my version.
Madison Gap Map: For this project I had the opportunity to work with two peers in the UW Cartography program and a team from the UW Madison Educational Policy Studies program. We created a geovisualization application to examine trends in Madison's student demographics and school achievement metrics, with the goal of addressing the achievement gap between students of different races.
World Mega Cities: This Flash-based interactive map provided my very first computer programming experience. Disclaimer: It was done for a class, not really for the BBC. And it's way cooler than any maps that are actually on the BBC's website. Please don't sue me, Englishpeople.
Lake Superior Watersheds: This was my second Flash map, delving into the world of geovisualization. What I wanted to accomplish required a novel geoprocessing method, for which I used ArcGIS to derive each individual watershed's percentage of each land cover type based on the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD 2006).
Web Mapping Overview Series: I put together an eight-part blog series detailing what I learned during my summer (2012) of studying web mapping technologies, so that others who are just starting out might be able to pick it up faster and not be intimidated. I believe that web mapping is fundamentally where cartography is headed, and web maps heretofore created by computer programmers will benefit greatly from the design expertise and ingenuity of professional cartographers, but most cartographers are not yet ready for the switch. I hope I can play a role in helping others get there. A published article is in the works.