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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

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