ITRC book published

Last week a book, ‘The Future of National Infrastructure: A Systems-of-Systems Approach’, by reasearchers from the ITRC (Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium), was released and made available for purchase. The book provides insights into a range of the work undertaken in the ITRC project, from the economic and demographic projections to 2100 for the UK, to the analysis performed with developed national scale models for critical infrastructure systems and the developed underlying database and visualisation tools used. Synopsis:

“The future of national infrastructure: A system-of-systems approach provides practitioners, decision-makers, and academics with the concepts, models and tools needed to identify and test robust, sustainable, and resilient strategies for the provision of national-scale infrastructure. It takes a “system-of-systems” view on the interconnected infrastructure networks – including transport, telecommunications, energy, water, and waste-management – and derives an integrated vision on infrastructure provision required to ensure that nations have an infrastructure system that is fit for the future.”

Our own Stuart Barr, David Alderson and Craig Robson have all been involved in the research behind the book which has been carried out over the past five years, with a single chapter devoted to the work where their time has been focused, though they have also contributed to much of the other work. The chapter, ‘Database, simulation modelling and visualisation for national infrastructure assessment’, documents the tools developed here at Newcastle; the underlying database for the infrastructure models including developed schema’s as well as the visualisation and reporting tools for both the data used for the modelling and for the results from the simulation work and subsequent analysis. This research has involved the development of a national infrastructure database containing a suite of data for many of the critical infrastructures in the UK along with the associated data such as economic and demographic modelling outputs for demand modelling as well as hazard data for modelling the resilience of the infrastructure networks/systems. Along with this, a schema and associated functions for the simulation and modelling of national infrastructures has been developed as well as a PostgreSQL/postgis schema for networks and the wrappers for integration into the python package NetworkX. On top of these, a suite of web based visualisation tools have been developed with facilities to view and interrogate the results from the infrastructure modelling and simulation, tools to view the underlying demographic data, one of the main drivers for the modelling. More details of these outputs are available in the book, and further publications in the form of journal articles are in preparation.

Goodbye to David A. and Laura

This autumn we have already said goodbye to David Alderson who is destined for New Zealand. He has worked within the group for the past 10 years after studying the GIS degree as an undergraduate with us. He has played a large and significant role within the group and the wider school being actively involved in many research projects including UKCP09 and ITRC as well assisting in many others. He will be missed by many who have become used to seeking help and advice from him on all things to do with GIS, databases and websites (and probably on other matters as well). We wish him the best of luck in the future in whatever he ends up doing and will look forward to welcoming him back to the department if he ever chooses to drop by when/if he is back in the UK.

We have also just said goodbye to Laura Hanson (last week), who has been here 6 six as the GIS teaching assistant, though her role as extended well beyond that title during the years. As well as helping with the teaching on our undergraduate courses (GIS and SMS) she has also developed our suite of GIS based CPD courses which have been going strong over the last few years, attracting people from not just the UK, but also the rest of the world. Laura like Dave has been involved in many research projects with her extensive knowledge of GIS systems, and thus will be missed by all and especially those who have become used to calling upon here help. However, unlike David, we will be seeing Laura again when she returns to carry on some of the teaching she has been doing, though fortunately for her she is only moving across the city centre to ARUP and not the other side of the world so doesn’t have to travel too far. We wish Laura good luck in her new role at ARUP and look forward welcoming her back to fulfil her continuing duties with us.

ITRC @Newcastle – autumn 2015

As a research group a small number of us have been involved in the ITRC project over the past five years, namely Stuart Barr and Dave Alderson. Craig Robson joined the ITRC ranks in January, pausing his PhD work to help complete the final phase of the research required by autumn 2015. ITRC (Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium) has been investigating the future of the UK’s national scale infrastructure with regards to how it must develop to meet ever changing demands and how climate change amoungst other factors will affect the resilience of those networks we rely on.

Our role in the project has centered around the development of the tools which would allow the five year project to be completed and included, but was not limited to, the development of the central database for all data for the project, and the support tools which would enable the analysis to be undertaken and results reported. It is on this later point where most of the past 6 months have been spent; developing a reporting tool for the presentation of the results from the long-term infrastructure planning aspect of the project.

The developed reporting tool allows users to view results from the each infrastructure sector (e.g. transport or waster supply), or view cross sector results, a set of similar metrics computed for each sector allowing for direct comparisons between them on there performance. For each sector a range of model outputs can be viewed from the level of emissions produced, to the running costs per year to the cumulative capital investment required. Results are shown not only at the regional level, but where possible at the sub-national level through the government office regions for example where the models output data at this granularity. This allows the tool to show data not just in charts, but also through maps, allowing new insights to be learned which may not be identified through non-spatial results. More detail on the tool, along with images and the like will be provided in a specific post at a later date, but for now a small selection of images below exemplify the tool.

Drawing1

With the end of the project looming near an event was organised at the ICE in London on the 15th October where the key results and impacts from the project could be disseminated to a wider audience with those key members behind the research all being present to answer questions and discuss their work. At the event we were available to demo the reporting tool and discuss the complexities behind the database for those interested, while a set of slides were used to give a overview of our work. More generally two videos (below) were produced giving an overview of the project and the one on the resilience of the UK’s national infrastructure.

Summer 2015

After a long summer of glorious sunshine and topical temperatures the new academic year us upon us. Ok, so it may not have been that warm, or in fact that sunny, but that has not stopped us from getting on with our research.

To start with the PhD office has had a bit of a refurb, with a new coat of paint adorning the walls. As well as this, the wall, if you could call it that, between the two half’s of the room has been made permanent giving the PhD’s some piece and quite from the (excited?) undergraduates. At the same time the room was expanded to accommodate a further 8 desks, which brings me on to the next news..

Following the successful award of the DREAM CDT amongst other things, a total of 7 new PhD students are due to start in the coming weeks across both the geospatial engineering group and the geodesy group, meaning those new desks will soon be filled with excited and ambitious students.

And to round off the news on PhD students, Shaun Brown, Daniel Caparros-Midwood and Stephen Obrike have submitted or are about to, with both Shaun and Dan taking jobs up earlier in the year. All have clearly been making full use of their time, submitting within two weeks of their deadlines. A with all PhD submissions, the final step is the photo..

Shaun_Brown_Thesis

That’s all the PhD news for now, and more posts will follow on other activities during the summer and throughout the autumn. We have been busy…honest…

 

Pastures new for the nearly done boys

In the past few months two of our current PhD students have departed for pastures new, but of course neither could leave the field of geospatial science and technology.

Shaun has joined Ordnance Survey working within their photogrammetry team and assisting with the digitising of data from the collected aerial imagery. However, as an unforeseen consequence of this move (for this born and bread Newcastle supporter), he now wears the red and white colours of his adopted running club in Southampton. I’m not too sure he will ever live this down…

More recently Dan has left the group after six and a half (some may say eventful) years; three years as an undergraduate and the remainder as a PhD student. He has moved to AMEC in Shrewsbury where he now works as a GIS consultant. To our surprise we have been told the England students and lion’s student rugby league player has also retired from rugby as a result of this move, though we would not be surprised to hear otherwise when he next returns.

Good luck to them both and no doubt we will be seeing them again as they return for meetings and their viva’s throughout the next 6 months.

GISRUK 2015

A group of 6 staff and PhD students attended the annual UK GIS conference (GISRUK) being hosted by Leeds University. With all but one presenting (though now GISRUK regular Phil James was named on three of the six presentations), the groups diverse and interdisciplinary range of work which related to GIS was well covered.

Congratulations must be given to Neil Harris and Craig Robson who won best paper for their paper entitled “Real time coupled network failure modelling and visualisation”. No doubt this was (at least in part anyway) down to a live demonstration by Neil during the presentation of the developed software/framework which worked (or so it appeared to those less who hadn’t seen it before!). See below for a link to the abstract and presentation.

It was also good to see a number of alumni who have continued to work in the field of GIS upon departing our department after three years of study.

Finally a thanks to organizing committee for putting together a great conference and for the bursary awarded to Craig.

The official conference proceedings can be found here.

Links to the six presentations (and abstracts) are below:

  • “Real time coupled network failure modelling and visualisation”,  Neil Harris, Craig Robson, Stuart Barr and Phil James (Winning paper).
  • “Assessing the need for infrastructure adaptation by simulating impacts of extreme weather events on urban transport infrastructure”, Alistair Ford, Maria Pregnolato, Katie Jenkins, Stuart Barr, and Richard Dawson.
  • “Evolutionary Computing for Multi-Objective Spatial Optimisation”,  Daniel Caparros-Midwood, Stuart Barr and Richard Dawson.
  • “A geospatial relational database schema for interdependent network analysis and modelling”, David Alderson, Stuart Barr, Tomas Holderness, Craig Robson, Alistair Ford and Ruth Kennedy-Walker.
  • “Football fan locality- An analysis of football fans tweet locations”, Neil Harris and Phil James.
  • “Spatially modelling dependent infrastructure networks”, Craig Robson, Stuart Barr, Phil James and Alistair Ford

NERC Centre for Doctoral Training on Risk and Mitigation using Big Data award

School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences consortium awarded NERC Centre for Doctoral Training on Risk and Mitigation using Big Data.

The School of Civil Engineering, as part of a consortium between Cranfield, Newcastle, Cambridge and Birmingham Universities, have been awarded a NERC Centre for Doctoral Training on Risk and Mitigation using Big Data. The DREAM (Data, Risk And Environmental Analytical Methods) consortium comprises academics with expertise in environmental risk management and big data technologies and techniques. The consortium will train the next generation of risk specialists on the opportunities of ‘big data’ to improve our understanding of environmental risk mitigation options for industry, businesses, government and society. Over the coming years, DREAM will support 30 PhD students undertaking postgraduate research that seize the opportunities of ‘big data’ analytics to develop effective risk management strategies across the environmental sciences.

As part of the DREAM consortium, staff from the Water Resources and Geomatics research groups in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences will work with doctoral students on developing the next generation of big data and high performance computing approaches required to refine, scale and expand our ability to address key research questions being posed by industry and government in relation to risk assessment of geohazards, mitigation and management of extreme climate events, understanding and managing environmental risks faced by critical infrastructure systems and developing robust  long term sustainable protection plans of the Earths geobiophysical systems.

DREAM doctoral students at Newcastle will develop during the course of their research a comprehensive scientific skills set to address the challenges of risk mitigation in the environmental sciences. As our ability to monitor the Earth’s processes improves through a diverse range of different sources of data ranging from satellite observations through to ‘crowd sourcing’ it is imperative that modern environmental scientists are able to leverage maximum utility from the often diverse and large volumes of data available. DREAM students will receive training in how ‘Big Data Science’ can facilitate this, from the utilisation of different forms of high performance computing such as the cloud, utilising modern approaches to manage large heterogeneous environmental databases, through to the development of new computational approaches for analysis, modelling and synthesis of complex large volume environmental data-sets. In addition to developing skills in the use of ‘Big Data Science’ students will also receive project specific training in relation to environmental hazards, environmental impact and risk analysis methodologies, and training in risk mitigation and management.

The DREAM consortium is led in Newcastle University by Professor Chris Kilsby (Newcastle Director: chris.kilsby@newcastle.ac.uk) and Dr Stuart Barr (Academic Manager: stuart.barr@newcastle.ac.uk). Overall coordination of the consortium is being led by Cranfield University. Further details reading the award can be found at http://www.nerc.ac.uk/latest/news/nerc/bigdata/.

NERC Advanced Environmental Analysis using GIS

nerccourseimage This week we have over 20 NERC sponsored PhD students from across the country studying on a NERC sponsored Advanced Training Course. The students who come cover the whole gamut of NERC sponsored research are looking at how they can use GIS in their research. The course covers spatial analysis, spatial statistics, network analysis, terrain analysis, modelling tools and Python scripting. As well as working hard during the day the students are soaking up the famous Newcastle night life and making life long contacts. Hopefully, following the success of this course we will be able to provide future courses. Watch this space. This course is just one of the portfolio of GIS CPD and training courses that we offer see http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cegs.cpd/ for details.

Geospatial Engineering in the News!

WhiskyGlacier

Whisky Glacier

During my recent trip to the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco – see separate post (6th January 2015), myself and colleague Lucy Clarke (of British Antarctic Survey/University of Gloucestershire) were contacted by the BBC Science correspondent Jonathan Amos, who expressed interest in our Antarctic glaciers research. This subsequently led to the publication of an article on the BBC News website which reports on the project and some of work presented at AGU: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30471542

This NERC-funded project, ‘The spatial and temporal distribution of 20th Century Antarctic Peninsula glacier mass change and its drivers (GCAP20C)’ is being undertaken in collaboration with colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), with myself and Prof Jon Mills involved in the Newcastle component. The research is exploiting a unique archive of >30,000 aerial images of the Antarctic Peninsula which date back to the 1940s, enabling assessment of multi-decadal glacier change at around 50 benchmark glacier sites. This is providing insights into the spatial distribution of historical glacial mass balance changes across the Peninsula, which in turn will provide data for BAS ice sheet modelers to better calibrate simulations of future mass balance changes across the AP, and enhance understanding of changes to sea level, and other climate drivers.

The article was one of a number which stemmed from research presented at the AGU Fall Meeting, and even appeared as third lead article on the front page of the BBC website for a period! This reflects the fascinating nature of the research and the human story surrounding the determined, highly efficient and thoroughly professional team involved in the Falkland Islands and Dependencies Aerial Survey Expedition (FIDASE), led by Peter Mott of the former Hunting Aerosurveys. These survey professionals, and accompanying specialised team members, ventured forth into the unknowns of Antarctica over two field seasons between 1955-57. Not only did they undertake extensive and risky airborne missions to capture the photogrammetric imagery which provides much of the foundation for the GCAP20C project, but much of their focus was dedicated to field-based survey and triangulation in and around the South Shetland Islands and the adjacent west coast of the Peninsula. This involved painstaking optical observations by theodolite over extended distances and under extreme weather conditions, with teams often snowed in for days or even weeks at a time. It is this incredible and invaluable legacy from 60 years ago, which allows us to undertake the scientific analysis we do today as part of GCAP20C, and which will enable scientists to better understand the future response and impacts of this region in relation to climate change.

Moider Glacier Change 1957-2004

Moider Glacier Change 1957-2004

AGU 2014 – San Francisco in December

GoldenGate

Immediately prior to Christmas, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) which ran from 15th – 19th December in San Francisco, California. The AGU Fall Meeting is a truly unique experience – the largest earth science gathering on the planet, with 25,000 delegates and a multitude of parallel sessions on an enormous range of topics, from deep ocean science to planetary geology; enormous, hangar-like poster halls with an ever-changing collage of scientific outputs, each one the culmination of months or years of hard analysis (in theory anyway!). Totally engaging, overwhelming, exhausting and inspiring. I was lucky enough to have been awarded an oral slot, and on the Thursday morning delivered a presentation on the results of our ongoing NERC-funded project, ‘The spatial and temporal distribution of 20th Century Antarctic Peninsula glacier mass change and its drivers’ – otherwise known as GCAP20C. Our colleague from the British Antarctic Survey/University of Gloucestershire, Lucy Clarke, was also attending and presented orally on her related work on GCAP20C. Both presentations were well received, and I presented to a sizeable audience in a session dedicated to glacier monitoring using remote sensing techniques. The Newcastle component of the research is quantifying multi-decadal mass changes to a benchmark set of 50 glaciers distributed across the Antarctic Peninsula (AP), exploiting a completely untapped resource of  >30,000 archival aerial images of the AP dating back to the 1940s. By comparing DEMs derived from this archival imagery to present-day ASTER DEMs we are able to quantify mass balance, and gain a clearer understanding of the spatial distribution of historical glacial change across the Peninsula. Alongside a more refined multi-temporal sub-sample of glaciers being analysed by Lucy and BAS, this information is crucially important to allow better calibration of models which predict mass changes into the future, and simulate how this would impact on processes such as sea level change.

Over the week I caught up with a few former Newcastle colleagues, including Liz Petrie (now a lecturer at Glasgow University, having moved in September 2014), and my good friend Shih-Yuan Lin (also known as Eric) who studied alongside me when we were undertaking our PhDs at Newcastle – pictured below. It was good to see both, and especially Eric, as our last face-to-face get together was a full 6 years ago now, at the ISPRS Congress in 2008.

Pauline and Eric at AGU 2014
Pauline and Eric at AGU 2014

During my only previous visit to the AGU FAll Meeting in 2006, I was unfortunate enough to encounter a week of incessant torrential rain. However, California has been experiencing drought conditions for quite some time, and prospects this year looked more encouraging (for me at least, if not for Californian farmers…). I was hoping for an escape from the cold, icy conditions which had gripped Newcastle in the early weeks of December. Some mild Californian sunshine would have been most welcome. My hopes were dashed however; the grey and misty, but initially dry skies which greeted my arrival at San Francisco International Airport were as good as it got – the rain quickly moved in as the conference got underway, and stayed put for the whole week. Nevertheless, San Francisco is a pretty special place to experience under any conditions, and with my imminent departure from Newcastle to a new job at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, this final trip as an ambassador of Newcastle’s Geomatics group to AGU 2014 will stay with me for a long time to come.