Tag Archives: geomatics

Happy GIS Day!

Our Outreach Officer and Geoscience expert, Dr. Pippa Cowles, explains everything you need to know about GIS for GIS Day.

Today is GIS Day, GIS I hear you say what is that? You may have heard of it in your geography class before. GIS stands for Geographic Information System and connects geography with data – lots and lots of data! It helps us understand what belongs where and looks at data connected to a particular location.

Data can be anything from maps, aerial photos, satellite imagery to spreadsheets. GIS allows all these data types to be laid on top of one another on a single map. It uses location as the common point to relate all these data set together.

GIS can help supermarkets plan where to open a new store, help the police analyse crime patterns, or help aid vehicles get to a location using the fastest route.

GIS lets us create, manage and analyse geospatial data and visualise the results on a map to help us make more informed decisions.

Explore the relationship between Earthquakes, Plate tectonics and Volcanoes using GIS here.

What does it show? What information is stored about the Earthquakes and Volcanoes?

Find out more about GIS day and how you can book a free Introduction to GIS workshop for your school.

 

 

Eight Days at Seathwaite Valley

A vital part of many of our courses at Newcastle University is practical work; giving student’s the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge is essential in helping them to progress. Today, Geomatics student, Sheoma Richards, tells us about her experience of a field trip to Seathwaite Valley.

Every year first year students on the Geomatics courses embark on an eight-day field course to Seathwaite Valley in the Lake District. The purpose of this trip is to allow students to practice the stills learnt in a lecture room to accomplish real world tasks. The overall aim was to produce a detailed topographic and contour map of a given area by triangulation, levelling, traversing and detailing.

Day 1

We arrived to Glaramara House which was our base where we would process our data, have meals and spend the night. GIS (Geographical Information Systems) students set out to create a sampling regime to capture soil moisture values and analyze these values based on a quantitative and qualitative hypothesis against soil moisture. SMS (Surveying and Mapping Science) students practiced setting up a total station, taking angle measurements and completed a two-peg test. We all had an evening lecture and then savored one of the many astounding three-course dinners provided by the hotel.

Day 2

GIS students collected their points and returned to the hotel to upload and process them for analysis. SMS students occupied a specific control station and sited to other visible stations within the triangulation network. They also drew a witness diagram for the station that they occupied and created abstract sheets for horizontal and vertical angles.

Dr. David Fairbairn using a Leica Zenos.

Day 3

GIS students presented their findings and proceeded to Seathwaite Valley to measure 12 rounds of observations for horizontal angles. SMS students did levelling at the valley to confirm that the values from OSBM remained unchanged over the years. In the evening, all Geomatics students were now joined and divided into four groups to establish a control network scheme. The Lake District showed us its true potential as we were showered with rain for that entire day.

Day 4

To my surprise, we were greeted by a bright yellow object in the sky that we definitely did not expect to see. A set-up challenge was performed to determine the location that each group would have to survey. Group two celebrated as they proved to be victorious on this challenge and were able to get the first choice. After the challenge was over, each group went to their respective sites with ranging rods to complete reconnaissance. We headed back to the center for lunch and later returned to the valley to start traversing. We placed pegs into the ground to create the control stations and drew witness diagrams to be able to locate them for future reference.

Nominated member of each group performing the set-up challenge.

Day 5

At first, we were very worried that we would not be able to do any traversing as there was thick fog everywhere! However, a few minutes after arriving to the valley, the fog suddenly vanished, making way for the sun. We continued our traverse observations and computed our traverse for horizontal and vertical misclosures. Levelling was also completed to known benchmarks to make sure that our vertical values of two stations matched those of the OSBM.

Day 6

Despite the soggy weather, more levelling was done, and groups began to detail points of their site to be able to map the area. These detail points were entered into a spreadsheet to generate the coordinates of each point for plotting. We also created 2D and 3D excel spreadsheets of our traverse observations.

Levelling through the rainy weather.

Day 7

Groups continued to detail while some members remained at the hotel to start the process of plotting. Later that evening, we were visited by two representatives from Leica Geosystems who demonstrated some of their software and equipment to us. One of the representatives was a past student of Newcastle University and also educated us on life beyond Geomatics.

Day 8

There was a set-up competition between the representatives from Leica Geosystems and two staff members. The winner was Dr. Mills who currently holds the record for the fastest set-up time! We proceeded with our plotting while some members got additional information for detailing. Once the plotting was completed, it was impressive to see the finished product of a topographic and contour map of Seathwaite Valley for each site. As a feeling of contentment came over us, reality struck when we realized that this meant we would be leaving tomorrow morning.

Representatives from Leica Geosystems competing against two staff members for set-up competition.

Although it was eight days filled with work, it was one of the most enjoyable things that I have done on the course thus far. I would advise prospective students to make the most of this field course and appreciate the method of processing by hand. Only when you understand what is done by the instrument and software, would you truly understand what you are doing. If you are looking for a degree course that not only teaches you what you need to know but also challenges you to think outside the box, Newcastle University’s Geomatics courses are for you!

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Geomatics courses here.

Measuring the Lake District

Every year our first year Surveying and Mapping  Sciences and GIS students take part in an eight day field trip to the Seathwaite Valley in the heart of the Lake District. In this blog post Tim Hajda tells us about his experience of it last Easter.

We arrived at Glaramara House, our hotel which served as a base for the fieldcourse, on Thursday morning after a scenic two-and-a-half hour coach ride from Newcastle.  The setting was stunning: a pastoral valley of green fields, dry stone walls and streams, surrounded by craggy fells, waterfalls and oak forests.  Our mission was to create a detailed map of the valley, so our first task was to lay the foundations by creating a network of known reference points.

Newcastle University surveying students setting up targets
Practicing setting up targets in front of the Glaramara House, our base for the fieldcourse

Shortly after arriving we donned our high-vis and waterproofs to brush up on the surveying skills we’d be using over the next eight days.  The valley is famous for being the wettest inhabited place in England, and it definitely lived up to its reputation.  After a soggy afternoon of measuring angles and levelling, we dried off and enjoyed what would be the first of many delicious dinners.

On Friday morning we enjoyed a full English breakfast before beginning our next task: establishing the primary control stations (reference points) throughout the valley.  We were divided into teams and taken by minibus to our assigned locations.  We spent the rest of the day measuring the angles and distances between points.  We would be using this data later to compute the coordinates of the stations.  The blustery weather was a challenge but we persevered.

Saturday’s assignment was to determine the height of points around the valley using spirit levelling.  Simple enough…or so we thought.  My team quickly realized that those lovely green fields were essentially giant mud pits and the stone walls an endless maze to navigate through, but it was a great feeling when we arrived at our last benchmark.  Another job finished and I’ve never been more grateful for a hot shower!

On Sunday the GIS students joined us, along with the sunshine – and we went out in teams to create secondary control networks around the valley.

Geomatic students walking in the Seathwaite Valley
Heading out into the field to design a control network.

One of my favourite aspects of the fieldcourse was working with my course mates.  It provided a great opportunity to get to know each other better.  Certain team members had particular strengths and we all worked together to complete our assigned tasks.  At the end of the exercise it was a great feeling to look at our finished maps together and be able to say, “we made this!”

I learned a lot of valuable lessons – good communication was vital, not only among team members but also with other teams to make sure everyone got the measurements they needed.  I also learned the importance of checking instrument settings before going out into the field and how important it is to book accurately and clearly with good sketches.  There are few things as frustrating as trying to decipher muddled notes after a long day in the field!

Newcastle University geomatics student surveying the Seathwaite Valley
Enjoying a sunny day of surveying in the beautiful Seathwaite Valley.

Another part of what made the fieldcourse enjoyable was the support of the staff and the surveying industry.  Throughout the trip, the staff were always ready to patiently answer questions, transport us to and from the field and give us helpful tips.  One evening, representatives from Leica Geosystems visited to present information about their company and entering the surveying industry.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about the jobs we’ll be doing after graduation.

All in all, it was a fantastic week at Glaramara and it shows what makes Newcastle University’s geomatics courses different from other universities’.  The hands-on learning approach using top-of-the-line equipment, in a beautiful setting, all with the constant support of a knowledgeable and patient staff, made it a truly fun and rewarding experience.

Find out more about our geomatics courses: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/engineering/undergraduate/geomatics/

#TryThisTuesday: Virtual Treasure Hunt

To celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day we have put together a virtual treasure hunt that you can do from a phone or computer.

For this treasure hunt you will need to solve clues to find co-ordinates to the next stop . The first three people to make it to the end of the hunt will win the treasure of a Street Science Busking Kit which is filled with equipment to make amazing science demonstrations at home!

Using Co-ordinates

Geographic co-ordinates allow every place on Earth to be identified with a set of numbers. The system that we’re using for this treasure hunt gives every point a latitude number and a longitude number.

If you were to draw a line from your point on the globe into the centre of the Earth and another from the centre of the Earth to the Equator, the angle between these two lines gives you the Latitude.

Longitude is measured slightly differently.  There is an invisible line running from the North Pole to the South Pole through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, known as the Prime Meridian.  All points along this line have the longitude 0. The longitude of other points are calculated as the angle east or west from the Prime Meridian.

So Newcastle Upon Tyne, where we’re starting our treasure hunt from, has the co-ordinates 54.97, -1.61 because it is 54.97 degrees from the Equator and 1.61 degrees to the west of the Prime Meridian. Going west of the Prime Meridian or south of the Equator gives the co-ordinate a negative value.

 

The Treasure Hunt

Try to solve the clues to find the co-ordinates for the next place. Once you’ve got co-ordinates type them into Google maps (just like this: 54.97, -1.61 with latitude first) and make a note of where you’ve got to.

This will test your research skills as well as your maths skills, feel free to use Wikipedia and a calculator.

Destination One

The latitude for the first place is 57.14 divided by the number of universities in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The longitude is  equal to 10 – 90.65.

Where are you?

 

Destination Two

To find the latitude of our second destination, take the last two digits of the year the first man walked on the moon, half this number then add 3.32

The longitude can be found by taking the year Newcastle University became independent from Durham University away from the year that the oldest part of the university (the School of Medicine and Surgery) was established and adding 6.52.

What amazing feat of engineering are you near?

 

Destination Three

For the latitude of our next place, take away 3.1 from the distance that Destination Two stretches in miles.

The longitude can calculated by the number of different countries that students at Newcastle University have come from divided by -2.

Which wondrous forest have we arrived at?

 

Destination Four

The latitude of this place can be uncovered by multiplying the number of countries that share Destination Three by 5 then adding 1.234

The longitude is equal to the number of reptile species that have been discovered in our previous destination divided by 63 then add 0.053

What amazing discoveries were made here?

 

Destination Five

The above place is often known by an abbreviation of four letters. If you convert these letters to numbers (eg. a=1, b=2, c=3 etc.) and square the second number, then add 0.197 you will have the latitude of our next  destination.

To find the longitude, convert the first letter of the abbreviation to a number and take this away from 58.274.

Which incredible man made structure are you looking at now?

 

Destination Six

For the latitude of our final place – where the treasure is buried – you will need to divide the total height of the structure we just saw (in metres) by -46.1.

To find the longitude, simply take away 16 from the number of floors in this structure.

Where is our treasure buried?

If you think you’ve cracked it, either send us an email to stem@ncl.ac.uk or comment below with the six places the co-ordinates led you to!