Geospatial engineering in the Caribbean again!

As part of my work on the CARIWIG project I have been lucky enough to visit the Caribbean on 4 separate occasions. These, despite the speculations from my colleagues, have been work packed trips with the majority of my time being spent in a windowless heavily air-conditioned room. My latest trip saw myself and Phil James from Geospatial engineering visit Barbados where we took part in the CARIWIG training event (which took place in various windowless rooms).

We were there presenting the work that we have done putting together the CARIWIG portal which is a portal designed to let the user visualise, graph and download both historical and simulated future cliamte datasets, as well as allowing the user to run a number of simulations across the region. For slightly more information see here

Gridded data viewer on the portal
Gridded data viewer on the portal

 

Tropical storm model on the portal
Tropical storm model on the portal

 

Over the 3 days participants were introduced to the tools put together for the project and how they are run on the portal. They were then given time to use these tools to conduct their own mini case studies, with them then reporting their findings back to the group.

Overall the event was a great success with participants fully engaging with the tools put together and seeing their potential. And from a personal point of view, they liked the interface and found it intuitive. Plus there were 0 internal server errors, even when a entire room of people all ran the tropical storm model at the same time!

barbados
One of the nicest views on the island

 

 

SESYNC Workshop on Integrated Modelling

Alistair Ford from the Geospatial Engineering group was recently invited to Annapolis, USA for a workshop on “Development of a Prototype of an Integrated Modeling System for Socio-Economic and Environmental Analysis to Promote Sustainability at the Regional Level”. This workshop was hosted by SESYNC, the US National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, with a view to setting up a regional modelling framework for use in Maryland and Chesapeake Bay.

IMG_0636

Rolf Moekel and Gerrit Knaap from the University of Maryland are working on integrating transport, land-use, climate change, and envirnomental models together in order to understand future changes and pressures in the region. First up, Peter Claggett presented the Chesapeake Bay Land Change Model:

Presentation about CBLCM here.

Brian Gregor from Oregon Department of Transportation then presented his R modelling framework for transport and sustainability modelling called GreenSTEP. This allows the testing of many scenarios of land-use and transport futures to understand the impacts on GHGs. The framework consists of a number of R modules and the resultant scenarios (upwards of 200 in one example!) can be interrogated and explored in a Javascript interface.

Brian Gregor’s presentation is available here.

Another interesting presentation was from Brian Deal of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who talked about his LEAM model.  This is a mixed cellular automata and zonal land-use model which run dynamically under uncertainty. It can produce thousands of scenarios and link them to impact models such as flood, water demand, or air quality models.

Brian Deal’s presentation is here.

A number of presentations also talked about data and model integration platforms. Scott Peckham from University of Colorado talked about the EarthCube and CSDMS model integration systems that aim to link together disparate models of similar areas. Tom Bulatewicz from Kansas State University presented the OpenMI model integration platform, and Todd BenDor from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill presented the iRODS database integration plaform which allows the creation of a data grid to collate, curate, update, and link databases.

Scott Peckham’s presentation on CSDMS/EarthCube

Tom Bulatewicz on OpenMI

Todd BenDor on iRODS

The workshop was a very interesting event, with discussions on model complexity, integration, provenance of results, uncertainty, and presentation. The project will be one to watch!

5th ESA Advanced Training Course on Land Remote Sensing

City of Arts and Science, Valencia
City of Arts and Science, Valencia

Last September (2014), I was fortunate to attend the 5th Advanced Training Course on Land Remote Sensing, organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of the Scientific Exploitation of Operational Missions (SEOM) programme. This 5-day course took place at University of Valencia, in the sunny eastern Spain, gathering together early career researchers from various countries in an attempt to train the next generation of Earth Observation scientists. This extremely intensive training, delivered by top researchers in the field, covered a wide area of topics and left its participants craving for even more knowledge.

The course was divided into two main groups: SAR and Optical/Thermal, with the second’s programme reported below. The first two days mostly focused on expanding the participants overall knowledge on optical and thermal remote sensing, with advanced sessions provided by J. Moreno and J. Sobrino (Univ. of Valencia). These sessions included, among others, a particularly interesting talk on satellite signal modelling (covering the limitations of currently used leaf and canopy models), as well as a presentation on methods of information extraction and validation. It was followed by an overview of thermal imagery pre-processing steps and methods of land temperature retrieval.

Following this introductory take on remote sensing data processing and signal modelling, the time had come for more specialised sessions; M. Caetano (Foundation of Science and Technology, Portugal) gave a presentation about land cover and land use change monitoring. The applied sessions continued on throughout the third day, with E. Chuvieco (Univ. of Alcalá, Spain) introducing us to fire detection and assessment of its effects, and F. Baret (INRA-CSE, France) speaking about the use of remote sensing techniques for agriculture applications.

On the fourth day, importance was given to multitemporal analysis. L. Bruzzone (Univ. of Trento, Italy) gave an excellent presentation on methods of change detection, which are currently used for various data types (multispectral, VHR multispectral, SAR, VHR SAR and hyperspectral imagery). He also briefly presented an example of multisensor change detection with use of multispectral and SAR data. The day finished with a presentation given by G. Camps-Valls (Univ. of Valencia) on hyperspectral image processing. The last day brought lecture sessions on various remote sensing applications, with E. Tomelleri (EURAC, Italy) giving a talk on carbon cycling and ecosystem modelling, W. Wagner (TU Wien, Austria) on hydrology and climate change monitoring, and T. Wright (Univ. of Leeds, UK) talking about earthquakes and volcanoes observation.

Valencia Cathedral at Plaza de la Virgen (city centre)
Valencia Cathedral at Plaza de la Virgen (city centre)

Apart from the knowledge-packed programme, the organisers offered the participants a chance to present their work to the rest of the attendees. During the evening poster session, I presented the current progress of my PhD project, entitled “Remote Sensing of Forest Health in UK”, in which I am investigating the potential of integration of different remote sensing data sources for detection of disease stress symptoms. As the course came to an end, the time had come to say goodbye to warm and sunny Valencia and face the reality of coming back to Newcastle.

I would like to thank the RSPSoc for the invaluable financial help, allowing me to attend this course.

Magdalena Smigaj (2nd Year PhD Student)

 

Note: All of the abovementioned lectures were filmed and are currently available at ESA’s website within the “Space in Videos” section. They can also be accessed through:  http://seom.esa.int/landtraining2014/files/LTC2014_Programme_Materials.pdf

Meeting of ARCC Network Data and Information Management Group, University of Birmingham, January 7th 2015

January 7th saw the first face-to-face meeting of members of the ARCC Network Data and Information Management Group at the University of Birmingham, which GE-researcher David Alderson attended. Organised by Fiona Hewer, ARCC Network Data and Information Strategy Officer (Fiona.Hewer@ukcip.org.uk), the meeting offered the first opportunity for members to discuss data and information tracking within their respective projects. The “Liveable Cities” and “Designing Resilient Cities” (University of Birmingham) was represented by researchers and project managers, Joanne Leach and Amy Beierholm, with David Alderson discussing the ITRC project. Further to this, Ben Ryan, Senior Manager for Research Outcomes at EPSRC gave an overview of the EPSRC’s policy and framework for data, with members able to contribute from their own experiences or experiences of colleagues at their respective institutions of the recent submissions to the new “ResearchFish” tool.

Further information will become available once the minutes are completed, but in the mean time below are some interesting links that may prove useful:

Research Data Management Website @ Newcastle: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/rdm

EPSRC Policy Framework on Research Data: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/about/standards/researchdata/

EPSRC Clarification and Guidance on Policy Framework for Research Data: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/files/aboutus/standards/clarificationsofexpectationsresearchdatamanagement/

ARCC Network Website: http://www.arcc-network.org.uk

OpenARCC @ ARCC Network Website: http://www.arcc-network.org.uk/openarcc/

OpenARCC Data Website: https://openarcc.wordpress.com/

 

 

Geospatial in Grenada – Ivan 10

From the 1st – 3rd of December I visited a very sunny Grenada attending the 10th anniversary of Ivan symposium. This looked at the lessons learnt from the fallout of hurricane Ivan across the Caribbean region and how different sectors could help to prevent a future hurricane having a similar affect. I was there representing the CARIWIG project, along with Professor Michael Taylor and Jayaka Campbell from UWI, Jamaica. Michael Taylor brilliantly outlined the project and demonstrated elements of the portal site that I have been putting together over the past year. The presentation was very well received with myself and Jayaka Campbell being asked to demo the storm model element of the portal to a number of delegates.

The CARIWIG portal site is likely to go live following a workshop event in February so watch this space for more details.

storm6
CARIWIG Storm tool

I would like to thank the members of of CDEMA for putting on this event, the conference was well run and contained many interesting talks about hurricane Ivan, including a opening address from the Prime minister of Grenada, as well as plenty of Caribbean food as lunch times. Plus December in Grenada beats December in the north east of England

Whitley Bay eat your heart out
Whitley Bay eat your heart out

Neil – @neil_py_harris

Urban Observatory Portal goes live.

The Urban Observatory programme is deploying sensors and exploring the use of data to help inform the public about city services, and to help researchers better understand how cities work.

The data for this comes from a number of different streams and is held in a schemaless data structure. A python based middleware layer has been developed to ease the interactions with this structure. Facilitating the storing of data, the management of data and also creating different views onto the data.

It is through this middleware layer that a portal has been developed. By using django,  the Python Web framework tool. That allows data to be extracted that works with a number of JavaScript libraries e.g openlayers , highcharts.

The portal itself show the location of the sensors, provides graphs of the sensor data. As well as some extra functionality like heat mapping.

UO portal 1 UO Portal 2 UO portal 3

With the deployment of a wave of new sensors being planned in the next few months. You should see a few more dots appearing on this map shortly.

The portal is available  http://ceg-sense.ncl.ac.uk/lturf/public/

Neil – @neil_py_harris

Urban Observatory Sandpit – Sun, Sea and Seven Superb Ideas.

Wednesday 16th – Thursday 17th saw me attending my first sandpit event. Not really knowing what one was even when I was told I would be attending a sandpit event by the beach in Cullercoats I got very excited. Unfortunately I wasn’t given a bucket and spade on arrival but actually found the event probably more enjoyable and interesting than merely making sand castles on the beach for 2 days.

Dove marie Lab
The venue for the sandpit

The event was actually part of the Urban Observatory (UO)  with the aim of the 2 days to come up with ideas of pilot projects that could form part of the overall UO. The focus for the first morning was to brainstorm ideas of what data we should be recording and how we should be recording it. With a wide array of sectors being represented in the room these ideas varied greatly from transport flows, microbiology of computer keyboard, building movements and people’s motivations. In the afternoon we were asked to predict what the world will be like in 20 years time. With most group taking a pessimistic approach the outlook proposed was rather depressing. Basically climate change will only get worse, economic disparity will increase, society will divide , technology will take over people’s lives and who knows what league Norwich City will be playing in. The conclusion made was if this is to happen the Urban Observatory has to be the “good-guy” and not just record interesting information but to make recordings and carry out analysis that will help the general public and feed this data back to the general public in a manner which will be beneficial to masses.

Day 2 begun with cross-sectoral teams of three sent off to come up with an idea that represented the overlap in the 3 represented sectors of research. This is where my blog post has to get a bit cagey as it seemed every idea that came from this breakout session was either a clever or novel piece of research. The main overall theme of the ideas was public participation, either in collection of the data or in how the data was disseminated. These ideas were then honed down with more people contributing their suggestions on how an idea could be improved. As a result of this process 7 projects began to take shape. These ideas were presented to the group with more feedback coming from across the room. Some more polishing was done taking on board the feedback before again each of the 7 projects were presented. Each of which I thought had the potential for some great research and development to take place. Having not been to an event like this before I didn’t know whether this was a good haul or not. But I was told it is very rare for there to be so many good ideas which exhibit so much cross-sectoral research. Either way I don’t envy those in charge of whittling these ideas down.

I’d like to thank Rich, Phil and the other members of the UO team that put on the event. And a massive thanks to Tim and Liz from KnowInnovations for brilliantly facilitating the event.

Neil – @neil_py_harris

Making evidence useful via visualisation, 20th June 2013, NESTA, 1 Plough Place, London

Research Assistant in GeoInformatics, David Alderson, attended the “Making evidence useful via visualisation” event organised by the Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism, Oxford held at NESTA on 20th June, in London. The event organised brought together members of the academic research community in the fields of computer vision, visualisation and computing science, alongside a wealth of representation from media outlets, designers, artists and government agencies and departments. The event focussed on the need for effective visualisation of data and the challenges faced in delivery of tools and techniques to help a wide audience wade through the growing quantity of collected data. Keynote speaker Dr Luciano Floridi (Director of Research, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford), and Alan Smith OBE (Principal Methodologist, Office of National Statistics) amongst others, highlighted the need for transparency and provenance of the visualisation process to allow users to understand the processes and transformations data may have undertaken to arrive at a particular visual representation. The provision of access to the underlying data, as well as the derived output or tool itself, can help to provide that lineage for a user, and potentially allow them to “recreate” the process undertaken to create the visualisation, or at least have access to the same data to create visualisations of their own. A presentation by Aleks Collingwood, Programme Manager and Statistics Specialist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) gave an overview of the new JRF Data portal, and echoed the sentiments of allowing users the capability to create their own versions and interpretations through links to underlying data. Finally a discussion session, chaired by Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of NESTA, encouraged the audience to participate in highlighting some of the key challenges to effective data visualisation and where they would like to see change in how these are delivered. A summary of the key points is listed below:

  • Improved graphical literacy of the general audiences for data visualisation, and also producers;
  • Increased levels of interactivity and personalisation of the data visualisation process, in much the same way as Google Maps has allowed everyone to become a cartographer;
  • More approaches and tools enabling user-generated content, in this instance, user-generated visualisations;
  • MORE FUN!

However, the proliferation of data visualisation techniques, tools and technologies does raise the question of at what point have we replaced “too much data” with “too many visualisations”? Will there come a point where a decision-maker will require sophisticated tools and techniques to search through a myriad of visualisations of data, rather than the data itself?

Geospatial Engineering in the Caribbean

This week myself and Neil Harris from the Geospatial Engineering group are participating in the second Technical workshop of the Cariwig project. Participants from the Climate Research Unit at UEA, the University of the West Indies Climate Studies Group, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize and representatives from the Instituto de Meteorología, Cuba have been discussing how best to use the web based climate data, analysis and visualisations tools developed by Neil and myself to create impactful case studies to show decision makers the potential impact of climate change across a variety of Caribbean countries and sectors.

A follow up meeting later this year will provide training in the web based tools to a large number of stakeholders in the region.

GISRUK 2014 – Céilidhs, kilts and k-means cluster analysis

From the 16th April to 18th April I attended GISRUK in a surprisingly sunny Glasgow. The started with a welcome from Jane Drummond followed by an interesting key-note talk from Mike Worboys , A Theoretician’s eye view of GIS Research. He talked about how GISRUK has developed there has been  a dramatic fall in the proportion of papers that covered the theoretical side of GIS, with the focus now being on Application.

Talks from the first day that I particularly enjoyed focused on Spacebook, a system of delivering directions via audio as users encountered various way points on a route. William Mackaness talked about his research in comparing directions given using street names and direction given using landmarks.

Phil Bartie, who was a researcher on William Mackness’s paper delved deeper into the issue of Landmarks. Using images he looked at what people identified as landmarks and then analysed them semantically and spatially to distinguish related and unrelated features.

The following day saw me presenting a talk on some of the sensor infrastructure work we’ve done at Newcastle using HStore as a key-value based approach to storing heterogeneous data. Robin Lovelace’s talk round the merits of twitter data in research. Sparking some interesting debate about how research using twitter data uses data from the public so should benefit the public.

Thursday evening then featured the conference dinner followed by the Céilidh, an event that I was secretly dreading, dancer I am not. So was pleasantly surprised at how much fun the event was, as someone pointed out to me; it’s dancing but dancing with an algorithm.

Friday morning then featured my favorite talk of the conference with  Paul Brindley talking about his Phd work on extracting the additional address information from addresse listed on the internet to map out neighborhoods. A simple idea but with fascinating results.

The conference was then wrapped up with a keynote from Professor Alias Abdul Rahman who gave an interesting overview on the state of 3D GIS work.

The event was a fun filled thought provoking and thoroughly interesting. Thanks must  go to Jane Drummond for seamlessly organizing the event, even managing the weather. I would also like to thank William Mackness who brilliantly chaired my session.

Bring on Leeds 2015. Wonder what there version of Céilidh will be?

Neil – @neil_py_harris