I attended the British Ecological Societies 2015 conference over 4 days in December in the beautiful city of Edinburgh complete with Christmas jumpers and a ceilidh. It was a great opportunity to present my work – using LiDAR to model and measure the effects of cutting and rejuvenation management on hedgerow structural condition as wildlife habitat; to over 1500 delegates and to engage with the more ecology focused side of my PhD.
The conference saw talks and posters from across a range of ecological disciplines including using various remote sensing techniques to measure and monitor forests from the global to the local scale. This included Markus Eichhorn from The University of Nottingham who has invited me to present my work to his research group in the new year and was keen to hear of other relevant work going on in Newcastle CEG. I would encourage anyone in CEG whose work is based around forest ecology to consider attending next year’s meeting as their was a decent sized community of forest modelers in attendance.
Ensuring I could effectively communicate the potential of my work to such a broad range of scientists attending the conference was a big challenge and exciting opportunity. The conference was a great reminder for those working with emerging technologies or applying existing technologies to new challenges that communicating to the end users of your work is key. In my case this includes agricultural ecologists and policy makers with a range of interest and familiarity with remote sensing and LiDAR. I was asked everything from “What is LiDAR?” to questions about how LiDAR could add to a huge range of ecological monitoring challenges, stressing the real need for communication and sharing of ideas across disciplines. I also believe attending BES was a great way for my work to stand out and to really engage with what is novel about my project, as the only presenter (that I heard of) attending from a civil engineering discipline I was in a really unique position.
A number of us last week attended a workshop on visualisation, organised by Nick Holliman, professor of visualisation in the school of computing scince. After successfully having abstracts accepted David Fairbairn gave a presentation on ‘using geovisualisation in the decision theatre’ and Neil Harris presented his and Craig Robson’s work entitled ‘spatio-temporal network simulation and failure visualisation’ (as presented at GISRUK earlier in the year).
The aim of the workshop was to firstly share the work going on in the visualisation of data in research around different groups and departments across the university. This was achieved through a series of presentations giving an opportunity for people to present their work on visualisations as used in their research. This also gave the opportunity for them to raise questions about their work with regard to how to improve the visual outputs as well as pose thought provoking questions in the area of visualistion. This session provoked some productive discusions on the area of visualisation in gereneral in repsonce to the material presented.
The afternoon session focused on two questions; (1) what tools and methods are commonly used for visualisation in research and (2) what is required for the future of visualisations in research. Breakout groups were used to facilitate disscusions around these questions as well as full group discussions allowing key points to be discussed by the wider group.
The day proved useful in many ways by combining a range of people with varying thoughts and interests with regard to the visualisation of data. By the end of the day future meetings and collaborations were being discsused along with ideas on how to continue such meetings/workshops in the future.
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.
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.
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.
Anyone with any experience of working/visiting the Geomatics group will know that, just like in most other academic establishments, visits to the pub at the end of a hard week are just as important as anything else that happens during the working week. To this end, the Friday night pub call is now well and truly part of the culture of the group, and without some would be inclined to say they would feel lost without this. However, the visit to the pub could be argued to have fallen into the shadow of the call email itself, which depending on the sender, can tell a complex story which few understand and can only read with a face of utter bewilderment.
So, to cut to the chase, as an exploratory piece of ‘academic research’ we have compiled a comprehensive database, going back to the creation of the GWRS call email list, 2008, until the current day. Every pub call ever made over the past 7 years, that’s 397 Fridays, the pub and the person who made the call have been recorded (though some are blank due to public holidays and missing data). Further data has then been added including the weather to allow us to explore the call data in more detail, and attempt to understand any patterns which may or may not be present.
To start with, and to end this initial post here, below are some key initial statistics on the data we have collected.
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..
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…
An amazing summer school took place last week in Obergurgl, Austria (http://www.uibk.ac.at/geographie/summerschool/). The focus was to investigate the various close range photogrammetry remote sensing techniques for alpine terrain research. Such an international environment made the atmosphere very interesting. I met other researchers from Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland and even Equador!!! Professors in remote sensing and photogrammetry from Germany and Italy insipred us with their talks.
The days were very busy with data collection in the alps and data processing, however the fieldwork gave us the opportunity to explore the beautiful mountains and refresh our minds. The best part of course was the social events with tasty austrian beers. The weather was incredibly warm, even the locals became crazy in such a warm environment; I couldn’t believe that Austrian drivers use the horn, this is a Greek habit!
The local newspaper reported the event on their website: http://www.tt.com/panorama/katastrophe/10251350-91/katastrophen-besser-lesen-lernen.csp
The organiser Dr. Martin Rutzinger successfully managed to create a great event and make everybody happy.
The 2nd attached picture shows how engineering is combined with nature. 🙂
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.
The central location of Vienna has allowed me to engage with some more people in the past few weeks. I and the other two members of the International Cartographic Association Statutes Committee, Ferjan Ormeling (Netherlands) and Bengt Rystedt (Sweden) met here a couple of weeks ago to discuss proposals for the ICA General Assembly in August. We were joined by my host here, ICA President Georg Gartner, and the Secretary-General Laszlo Zentai from nearby Budapest. Ferjan, Bengt and myself also form half of the Working Group on International Map Year (http://mapyear.org) and were able to make some further plans for this UN endorsed event. My ICA work in helping organise our Commission workshop in Curitiba in August continues from afar.
I spent a couple of days in Budapest this week – giving a seminar on VGI at the Eotvos Lorand University Department of Cartography & Geoinformation (a lively group of half a dozen staff and plenty students). It was good to meet again with Laszlo’s colleagues with wide ranging interests (Matyas Gede is currently exploring cave surveying and 3D visualisation, along with citizen mapping of tourist activity; Zsolt Torok is a historian of cartography, but also researches eye tracking; Andrea Podor, from a nearby university, examines environmental GIS and educational issues).
Back in Vienna I have been meeting with colleagues in my extensive host department, Geodesy and Geoinformation which has 7 research groups (https://geo.tuwien.ac.at/research-groups/). Gerhard Navratil in Geoinformation has interesting views on the topic of VGI and cadastral systems, which I am continuing to engage with Kaizer and Mustafa back in Newcastle. And Gottfried Mandelburger, familiar to Newcastle geomaticians having spent some time with us, has discussed further the archaeological work I have been interested in doing with LiDAR.
I’ve been doing some ‘map use studies’ by finding orienteering events to participate in whilst here – and it’s great that some wonderful terrain is available so close to Vienna and accessible by public transport. I even had a run in the suburbs of Budapest in torrential rain one hour after my seminar finished: a bit beyond the call of duty, but good training for a main event – the academic orienteering championships at the Danube Park next week (yes, there are enough university staff and students in Vienna to have a formal closed championship).
Last week’s trip to the USA reminded me how cartography and GIS are central to American academic geography. I was invited to the Geography and Geology department of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) to give a research presentation on my work using LiDAR-sourced data to examine archaeological landscapes. It was good to join later in some of Mike Peterson’s classes: it was clear that his new book, ‘Mapping in the Cloud’, acts as an excellent basis for the syllabus of a course on web mapping. I also discussed the August pre-conference joint ICA Commissions (Education & Training/Maps & the Internet) workshop in Curitiba, Brazil: I chair the former, and Rex Cammack from UNO the latter, so we were able to firm up some of the co-organisation in person.
A couple of days later and 500 miles to the east, the AAG conference in Chicago beckoned and my Education & Training hat was retained, presenting a paper about accreditation in cartography, participating in a panel discussion about the role of cartography in GIS education, and invited to sit in with the luminaries on the UCGIS board crafting the extended ‘Body of Knowledge’ in GIS&T. There was also time to visit the Newberry Library in Chicago, where Volume 6 of the History of Cartography (published by the University of Chicago Press, and covering the 20th century) was launched. At 1,960 pages with 1200 illustrations, in two enormous volumes, it was astonishing to see the magnum opus in print. Luckily, contributors have been offered a .PDF copy, so I did not have to check in excess baggage at the airport …
Back in Vienna this week, I visited Gilbert Kotzbek at the Universitat Wien (which celebrates its 650th birthday this year). I have been discussing his PhD work on the use of GIS to examine football data with him for some time now, and he has created some excellent Python-scripted ArcGIS tools to input, filter, and analyse the staggering amount of spatial and attribute data captured during a game and interpreted after (1/25th second interval positional data for every player and ball, plus information about every event – tackle, throw-in, offside, corner etc). What’s missing in the data is the third dimension – it would be interesting to contrast the style of a long-ball team which keeps the ball in the air a lot, with a close-passing, tiki-taka side. I also had the chance to remind myself of teaching in a classroom, when I had a class with the 15 students of the International Masters MSc course in Cartography (who are all studying in Vienna this semester, having been at Dresden and Munich for previous semesters). This is a very international bunch from Egypt, China, Canada etc and closer to home from close-by Slovakia. The topic was VGI, so I was able to convey some of the thoughts which came out of Maythm Al-Bakri’s PhD study from a couple of years ago, and outline what Kaizer and Mustafa are doing in Newcastle now.