Spotlight on Markus Neteler

Profile - Markus Neteler

October 2006

Markus is the leader of the GRASS GIS project, and has played a pivotal role in the revitalization of the project and it's community. Markus is also a founding member of OSGeo and has been active in building the broader FOSS4G community for many years. At the FOSS4G 2006 conference, Markus Neteler was honored with the Sol Katz GFOSS Award for 2006.


Name: Markus Neteler
Location: Trento, Italy
Company: L'Istituto Trentino di Cultura/Centro per la Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica (ITC-irst) + Centro di Ecologia Alpina (CEA), both research institutes, and the Gesellschaft für Datenanalyse und Fernerkundung (GDF), Hannover company.


  1. Tell us a bit about yourself?

    I have an M.Sc. degree in Physical Geography and Landscape Ecology from the University of Hannover in Germany. I worked at the Institute of Geography as Research Scientist and teaching associate for two years.

    Since 2001, I work as researcher at l'Istituto Trentino di Cultura/Centro per la Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica (ITC-irst) + ITC-irst and Center for Alpine Ecology (CEA) in Trento, Italy. I work on remote sensing for environmental risk assessment and Free Software GIS development. Helena Mitasova and I have written the first book on the Open Source GIS GRASS (3rd edition forthcoming): Open Source GIS: A Grass GIS Approach, Markus Neteler, Helena Mitasova, ISBN: 1-4020-8064-6, Springer, September 2004.

    I live with my wife and my kids in the nice Trentino Province in Italy. My passion is classical music, I was actively playing in a symphony orchestra, but time and orchestras are currently rare.

  2. How long have you been working in the geospatial domain and why?

    As a student, I started to use GIS in 1994, first a bit of Arc-Info, then GRASS for a series of projects at University of Hannover in Germany. I immediately became very interested in the GIS technology, so I started to play around. First first "teaching GRASS" experiences I had in India at Anna University (Chennai, Tamil Nadu) where I stayed in 1997 for a couple of months as student. I got deeply involved in the GRASS development since 1998. Phisan Santitamnont from Thailand, a doctorate student at University of Hannover, was opening the door for me to get GRASS running on early Linux versions.

  3. What are you using geospatial software for - what software are you using to get the job done (we want to know about both commercial and open source)?

    Years ago, I used proprietary software a bit but found it more interesting to discover details of GIS algorithms in open source GIS. Also for teaching, I only use open source GIS: Nowadays, for example, with QGIS on top of GRASS, you can do fancy things in an afternoon. At ITC-irst and CEA, we are using GRASS and related software for traffic accident projects, the identification of unexploded bombs from World War II (Adige valley in Trentino), and risk analysis of tick-borne diseases.

  4. What attracted you to the projects you are using or participating in?

    I like the community approach (the famous "bazaar"): people contribute what they can: ideas, source code, documentation, data, bug & wish reports, and so forth. I help to solve some of their problems and they do a lot for me. This works pretty well, in the GRASS project even with a very low administrational overhead. Beside the more technical issues I got a series of nice opportunities to travel the world such as an invitation to Japan from Osaka City University with further travels to Thailand and Vietnam.

  5. Are you involved with any of the OSGeo governance or committees?

    I am serving on the board of directors and I am involved in the 'Public Geodata' and 'Education' committees.

  6. What open source projects are you contributing to as a developer?

    I am basically contributing to GRASS GIS and sometimes also something to other related projects. In future, I want to do a bit more on free geodata since our toolbox to process spatial data is really rich and powerful. However, here in Europe, we are lacking reasonable access to spatial data. Hopefully OSGeo can help to deliver some datasets. I am also involved in developing workshops and training material, supporting localization of GRASS, software packaging, and so on.

  7. What open source projects do you consider yourself a user and why are you using them (remember to use the full URL)?

    In terms of GIS, I am GRASS power user. :-) Of course I also use GDAL/OGR, PROJ4, QGIS, and a bit of Mapserver. Then R-stats, Latex, OpenOffice and tons of other packages - say, I only use free software.

  8. Is your company using code from these projects and if so please describe how and why if you can?

    At ITC-irst, we are hosting part of the GRASS infrastructure and contribute to the development. For example, the new GRASS 6 vector engine was developed by my former colleague Radim Blazek. I am co-founder of GDF Hannover which is offering solutions to Free Software GIS, commercially helping companies and individuals to implement FOSS4G solutions. GDF Hannover is also hosting the GRASS Wiki and the Tutorials Translation Portal.

  9. What operating systems are you using (Windows, Linux, BSD, Apple, etc.)?

    I am using Linux (the Mandriva distribution).

  10. What programming languages do you use (scripting and compiled)?

    Primarily C and Un*x shell scripts; with the emergence of the GRASS-Python interface, I'll most likely switch to Python.

  11. What spoken/written languages are you fluent in?

    German, English, and Italian. I wish I knew more French.

  12. This is for us to do a better job, what do you think needs to be added to the web site to help you?

    A better users mailing list archival and search tool and a more intuitive content management system.