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

Geospatial in Vienna

It has been a good start to my two month sabbatical in Vienna.  Georg Gartner and his  team at the Technical University (TU) Wien Cartography department have been most welcoming, and my apartment (rented on the viewing of web-site photos alone) is gemutlich.  It is great to be staying in one of my favourite cities.

I remember watching the 2006 World Cup final in a bar in Vienna full of excited Italians.  By contrast, the Liverpool-Newcastle game was dull fare earlier this week: Flanagan’s was still smoky (I’d forgotten what watching a game in a bar where smoking is still allowed is like), but the capitulation of the Toon was no excitement for the (extremely small number of) black and whites.  From the ridiculous to the sublime, the walk back home took me past the final aria of that night’s Opera performance, being beamed live from inside the Vienna Opera House to a sizeable crowd outside.

Included in that crowd I spotted Prof Ana-Maria Coutinho, opera buff and cartography academic from Rio de Janeiro (also vice director of the forthcoming International Cartographic Conference in Brazil in August).  I caught up with her later in the week when she visited the department at the TU.  We had a good chat about the joint ICA Commission on Education &Training/Commission on Maps & the Internet workshop which I am co-organising in Curitiba, before the main event in Rio.

I have been able to put the finishing touches to my presentations for next week in the US, and also finalised some proposals in liaison with the Newcastle archaeologists.  And the texts for the Rio proceedings are due this month – my solo one already in, the paper by Kaizer, Phil and myself just about ready to go.

Auf wiedersehen …

Dr David Fairbairn

Quantifying hedgerow structure using terrestrial laser scanning

In January we were lucky enough to avoid the worst of the winter snow, wind and even rain on fieldwork based around the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford. This allowed us to take our first leaf-off hedgerow scans using a dual wavelength, full-waveform terrestrial laser scanner (SALCA – loaned to us from Salford University).

SACLA in action

SALCA in action

We visited the Defra hedgerow rejuvenation experiment at Newbottle Estate and scanned hedges managed under various rejuvenation techniques including coppice, circular saw, midlands style hedge laying and wildlife hedging. These first scans will form the basis of a methodology to better quantify hedgerow structure; developing processing algorithms capable of extracting structural variables including hedgerow height, width and gap fraction. Further scans will be undertaken using a hand held mobile scanner (ZEB1).

Hedgerow managed under coppice rejuvenation

Hedgerow managed under coppice rejuvenation

The long term aim of the project is to both determine and further develop the potential of terrestrial laser scanning to quantify ecologically relevant elements of hedgerow structure. Being able to better quantify hedgerow structure and the impacts of management on structural condition is relevant to wildlife conservation within agri-ecosystems. Many hedgerows in the UK are either over managed or neglected, where cutting and rejuvenation techniques need to be used appropriately to achieve good structural condition over time. We anticipate a future role for terrestrial laser scanning in differentiating hedgerow under different management regimes, with differing structural condition and differing value for wildlife.

Lyndsey Graham

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.

Last UAV data collection of 2014 at Hollin Hill landslide

Landslide monitoring with UAV-based approach requires regular imagery acquisition at Hollin Hill British Geological Survey (BGS) observatory site, North Yorkshire. The attached UAV image reveals the progading lobe, intermediate scarps and other landslide features.

124000

The main purpose of this work is to detect the surface change and the landslide velocity field by combining surface matching algorithm and image correlation techniques with UAV-derived mutli-temporal DTMs.

So, last Monday (15/12/2014) was a successful day of the final UAV data collection for the year 2014 at Hollin Hill, UAV flying, terrestrial laser scanning and surveying … we are happy!

We are ready for more UAV flying next year.  Best wishes from the Newcastle UAV crew.

Newcastle UAV crew

Maria Valasia Peppa,   PhD student CEG

 

 

Sankey diagram of cobalt life-cycle

Working with colleagues Ali Ford, Oliver Heidrich, and David Manning on various papers and proposals, we have started to pull together a Sankey diagram of the reported tonnages of cobalt in 2012 through various processing stages within its life cycle. The orange and green colours denote the quantities of cobalt reported by the respective importing or exporting countries, but we have aggregated to the continent level. This information was extracted from the UN COMTRADE database and linked to eSankey! software via an intermediate Excel spreadsheet. The good thing about this approach is that by updating the spreadsheet with new values e.g. for different years etc, or for different elements/commodities/products, we can auto-generate (ish) the Sankey diagram.

Cobalt_2012_Sankey_Mining_Refining_Manufacturing_Use

Source: Cobalt, 2012, DESA/UNSD, United Nations COMTRADE Database

Going even further, Ali reproduced the data above at the country-level, across the same three stages i.e. Mining->Refining; Refining->Manufacturing; Manufacturing->Use, but using only the import flow data for now (matches orange flows above)

Comtrade_Cobalt_Full_Input_Imports

 

Source: Cobalt, 2012, DESA/UNSD, United Nations COMTRADE Database – Mining to Refining imports only

Comtrade_Cobalt_Full_Intermediate_Imports

 

Source: Cobalt, 2012, DESA/UNSD, United Nations COMTRADE Database – Refining to Manufacturing imports only

Comtrade_Cobalt_Full_Use_Imports

 

Source: Cobalt, 2012, DESA/UNSD, United Nations COMTRADE Database – Manufacturing to Use imports only

 

 

 

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

Wavelength 14 – laser quest will never be the same again…..

From the 14th to the 16th April the annual RSPSoc Wavelength conference, aimed at students and young professionals to present their work to their fellow peers in an informal environment, was hosted among the quaint hills of Great Malvern, Worcestershire.

I was given the pleasure of opening the conference with a presentation on the work I have been undertaking on automatic 3D city modelling. This was followed by presentations on change detection, archive stereo imagery and forestry applications from various remote sensing satellites. Other presentations during the conference included the use of UAV and structure from motion, atmospheric correction of remote sensing data and the fusion of imagery and lidar.

During the three days keynote speakers included Dr Alastair Graham of Geoger Ltd, Dr Matthew Blackett from Coventry University and Professor James Brasington from Queen Mary University, who all gave invaluable advise of skills and abilities needed to progress during these early steps of research. A consistent theme mentioned by all was the need to be able to write software via different programming languages. A good historical overview was given by all of how data capture, storage and processing has changed.  This was also the first year that a sponsor session was held allowing sponsors to present what their respective companies do and how our work fits into these remits. Simon Mears from Leica Geosystems presented some of their recent hardware, particular the Aibotix UAV which was on display, and software developments. Dr Andy Wells from Sterling Geo gave a good overview of the developments of the ERDAS Imagine software and linked this to the topics that had already been presented that day.

The always popular poster session  saw a wide range of topics being presented from mass grave detection to how soil moisture content change can be detected. The sessions was almost dominated by Newcastle University with posters presented by first year PhD students Polpreecha Chidburee, Maria Peppa, Magdalena Smigaj, Elias Berra, who presented work on how they intend to undertaken their individual research projects, and Mitko Delev, who presented work undertaken as part of his masters project on using photogrammetry for structural gauging in a railway environment. A poster was also presented by undergraduate student Cedric Meyer who presented his dissertation work on the potential for bio-physical information retrieval.

As well as having a strong scientific program , several social activities were also offered including high pole activities, a trip to Worcester and a guided walk around the hills of Great Malvern. Luckily the sun shone all week, which made the walk much more enjoyable. An evening activity of laser quest was well attended with individuals battling it out to become the ultimate champion. With many references being made about laser scanning and how a scanner could be set up in the arena to make it even harder, it is fair to say I will never look at laser quest in the same way. Drinks were enjoyed at the end of both days allowing delegates to discuss their research work further as well as taking the opportunity to talk to the sponsors and keynote speakers.

A huge congratulation goes to Amy Woodget of Worcester University for organising such a successful conference. As I am about to take over as RSPSoc Wavelength Representative and start to organise next year’s conference here in Newcastle, I hope to build on the success on this year’s conference as well as show everybody what a vibrant city Newcastle is and what it has to offer.

Andrew McClune