I am fairly new to GIS and QGIS, so bear with me. I have a shapefile with various point features and I need to make a heatmap based on an attribute (i.e. # of individuals per sighting; point feature = 1 sighting). Is there a way to base a heat map on an attribute other than by styling as heatmap?

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There are several options available for clustering in QGIS:

  1. If you're just looking for simple spatial clustering then there is an in-built tool in the raster menu: Raster -> Clustering (sometimes it isn't turned on by default so you can get at it from the plugin manager.
  2. The processing toolbox contains another simple spatial cluster tool: Processing -> SAGA -> Image Analysis -> Cluster
  3. There are a series of plugins in the plugin manager which do various types of clustering (Search 'cluster' in the plugin manager).

From your question it's a little bit difficult to see if you're doing just simple clustering of points or if you need to sub-divide your dataset based on an attribute. If it's the first then the QGIS Heatmap plugin will work fine. If you need any kind of attribute-based clustering then there is a plugin called 'Attribute based clustering' which I think does that, although I don't know if it generates a heatmap.

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