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geospatial matters

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Important proposed legislation limiting UAVs: consider reading this and commenting

AB1327 is a bill that could potentially impact the work that we do in regards to remote sensing and aerial imagery collection, etc… in the near future. See the link below for more detail. The office of the California CIO, Scott Gregory, is in the process of providing the Legislature a summary analysis of the bill. In our analysis we want to highlight civilian use (non-public safety governmental) cases for UAV technology as a rebuttal to some of the limiting language in the bill.

The bill would generally prohibit public agencies from using unmanned aircraft systems, or contracting for the use of unmanned aircraft systems, as defined, with certain exceptions applicable to law enforcement agencies and in certain other cases. The bill would require reasonable public notice to be provided by public agencies intending to deploy unmanned aircraft systems, as specified. The bill would require images, footage, or data obtained through the use of an unmanned aircraft system under these provisions to be permanently destroyed within 6 months, except as specified.
If this bill will affect your organization’s future data collection needs, please provide them a brief summary to be incorporated into the analysis.

Here is what I have sent to Scott Gregory:

Maggi Kelly

Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management

UC Berkeley

The use of civilian accessed UAV technology is commonly used for research purposes to aquire imagery at critical times over inaccessible field sites such as wetlands and forests, or over agricultural fields throught the growing season. This remote data acquisition using UAVs has several advantages: 1) it limits damage of the site, 2) it allows for mutliple returns in a cost-effective way, and 3) it allows for important very high resolution imagery to be collected. Here is a paper where we perfected techniques to find weeds in an agricultural field using UAV imagery.

Basically, they are looking for the organization name, use case and description of that use case. Please circulate to the user community within your respective organizations to solicit feedback. Please email or call if you have any questions. He would like to have these complied by 10am Friday (3/14/14).

Email: Scott Gregory

Thanks for your help.


DigitalGlobe Crowdsourcing effort to find missing Malaysian Airlines plane

Digital Globe is enlisitng a crowdsourcing effort to scan through thousands of satellite images and tag potential sitings of the Malaysian Aircraft that went missing this weekend.

The crowdsourcing platform Tomnod, was launched on Monday afternoon and recieved 60,000 page views in the first hour depolying arguably one of the most responsive and comprehensive search missions aided by crowdsourcing and satellite imagery. 

Read more about this here and here and join the effort here


Google Earth Demo at UCB

Thanks to Dave Thau, Karin Tuxen-Bettman, John Bailey, and Emily Henderson who came to visit the GIF and give a demo of the GEE toolbox. We went over the guts of GEE, Timelapse (very cool: make your own! Here is mine), the GEE GUI framework, and the GEE API. Very fun afternoon!


SNAMP participation: in person and online

We are starting to do some retrospectives of the SNAMP program. Just to get going, here are our participants visualized from two different angles: in person and online. The in person numbers (left) come from meeting attendance from the project; the online numbers (right) come from the previous year's hits from Google Analytics.


The meeting attendance is far greater, but we get more of the southern California audience from the website.


Berkeley Food Institute's new grants announced

The new Berkeley Food Institute has released its crop of funded projects from its first seed grant program. Our project Making the Road by Mapping: Informing Food System Transformation through Participatory Mapmaking was selected for seed funding. This project, led by Kathryn DeMaster includes graduate students Adam Calo (ESPM) and Sarah Van Wart (Information), Darin Jensen (Geography), Tapan Parikh (Information), Kaley Grimland-Mendoza (Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association), Amber Sciligo (Post-doc, ESPM), Christy Getz (ESPM), and Jennifer Sowerwine (Jepson Herbaria). We look forward to digging in.

Our participatory mapping research project has four primary purposes: First, we explore participatory mapping as a way to collaboratively generate new food system knowledge with scholars, practitioners, and producers. Second, through a process we term “communitysourcing,” we aim to illuminate overlooked caches of community-based knowledge and engage community members, agricultural producers and scholars in collaborative efforts to map a particular food system supply chain (small-scale organic strawberry production in the Salinas Valley). Third, we aim to integrate the interdisciplinary community-based participatory research with specific understandings of the way that certain agricultural policies either facilitate or restrict sustainable small-scale organic strawberry production in the Salinas Valley (with a particular focus on water quality and food safety policy/regulations). Fourth, we will present our findings in novel, innovative, and visually captivating ways that will: (a) Inform specific policies/regulations and; (b) Provide small-scale producers with easily accessible caches of community generated knowledge to inform their practices.


Happy Valentine's Day Landsat 8! 

It's meta-gorgeous, and better than spy vs spy: Landsat 8 catches a glimpse of its older, retired uncle Landsat 5. From NASA:

Feb 14, 2014 • Eight months ago, on June 5, 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey decommissioned the venerable Landsat 5 satellite. That day, the USGS Landsat Flight Operations Team transmitted the last command to Landsat 5, effectively terminating the mission and leaving it in a disposal orbit.

This week, Landsat 8 overflew the defunct Landsat 5, and thanks to some clever work by Mike Gartley, a Research Scientist with the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing group at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)—a group that has long participated in Landsat calibration and validation—Landsat 5 was seen in an image taken by Landsat 8.

In these images, the satellite is seen as a streak of pixels (dark or light depending on the spectral band). There is one image from each of Landsat 8′s OLI bands, except for Band 7, or SWIR-2, where she blended into the clouds and was impossible to distinguish. In these images Landsat 5 is much closer to Landsat 8 than she is to the Earth. More here.


Clark Labs to Create Cloud-based Land Change Modeler for ArcGIS

Clark Labs was awarded a million dollar grant from Esri to create a cloud-based version of their Land Change Modeler for ArcGIS. Land Change Modeler is suite of tools to assess and predict land change and evaluate the impacts of change and includes REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) tools for modeling the impact of land cover change on carbon emissions. Currently Land Change Modeler is only available in IDRISI and as a software extension for ArcGIS (the latest version is compatible with v10.2). This will make this tool more easily assessable to the wider public and scientific community.

From Clark Labs press release:

"Clark Labs was recently awarded a million dollar grant from Esri to create a cloud-based version of their Land Change Modeler for ArcGIS. Currently, Clark Labs’ extension is for the ArcGIS desktop.

Land Change Modeler for ArcGIS, first released in 2007 with Version 2 released this past month, is a software extension for ArcGIS users, offering a suite of tools to assess and predict land change and evaluate the impacts of such change. Clark Labs recent release includes many significant enhancements. The new version is compatible with ArcGIS Version 10.2

The Land Change Modeler offers an extensive suite of tools for land change research in a simple and automated workflow. It provides a variety of tools for land change analysis and prediction, as well as the impacts of those changes.

The new version release of this fall provides significant enhancements, particularly for its utility for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Land Change Modeler now includes functionality for modeling the impact of land cover change on carbon emissions. “Our world is changing rapidly, and technology to efficiently model and predict future land change is vital to addressing global challenges,’ said Jack Dangermond, Esri President. “We’re pleased to award this grant to Clark Labs to jumpstart their effort to utilize and provide rich content through ArcGIS Online.”

The new version also provides more capability for estimating land change impacts on habitat and biodiversity. With the grant from Esri, Clark Labs will be creating a cloud-based implementation of Land Change Modeler for their platform.

Clark Labs and Esri have been business partners for nearly ten years, working collaboratively on GIS research."

For the full news release see here.


Musings about Robert N. Colwell

I am working on a retrospective of remote sensing of forests in California for the centennial. I am trying to highlight some of the pioneering work done by remote sensors that focused on Californian forests from the 1960s through the use of lidar today.

Oblique aerial view of Berkeley Campus of University of California taken with Camouflage Detection film. Robert N. Colwell

Of course with this topic you must begin with Robert N. Colwell. Dr. Colwell was an internationally renowned remote sensing scientist; he was former associate director of the Space Sciences Laboratory at the UC Berkeley, and he was the instructor of remote sensing in our own Mulford Hall from 1947 until his retirement in 1983. He was NASA co-investigator for Apollo IX, and his research in the 1960s on reflectance and multispectral reconnaissance were the primary basis for selecting the type of sensors and the spectral bands implemented in Landsat. Neat guy, and we all benefit from his intellectual legacy.

Anyway, for this paper, I am going through some of his work as he transitioned from aerial photography to digital imaging, and I came across this picture. Mulford is just off the scene in the upper left corner, and Hearst Gym pool is visible in lower part. In his caption he says:

"Oblique aerial view of Berkeley Campus of University of California taken with Camouflage Detection film." (That is what they used to call color infrared.) "Such photography is superior to any other for certain photo interpretation purposes as indicated by some of the preceding examples. Note in this photo how color values for each species of tree tend to remain uniform from foreground to background because of the superior haze penetration offered by this film. The relatively long wavelengths to which this infrared-sensitive film reacts are scattered but very little by atmospheric haze particles, thus accounting for the uniform color values and for excellent image sharpness." I dig this part: "The original color transparencies have the same color values as seen here and consequently make very attractive panels for lamp shades, although certain of their colors fade upon prolonged exposure to light."

The trend for using map products as kitchy home decorations PRE-DATES 1970! Take that hipsters!

Article source: Colwell, R.N. 1964. Aerial photography - A valuable sensor for the scientist. American Scientist, Vol. 52, No. 1 (MARCH 1964), pp. 16-49

Some more about him here:


Predatory open access journal wrap-up spring 2014

There has been a trend toward open access publishing that has been strengthened recently with a number of coincident efforts, for example Randy Scheckman's Nobel Prize talk, and the UC's Open Access policy for example. Some journals are opening up an open access component to their publishing - Remote Sensing of Environment for example now has an open access model as well as subscription model, and some new completely open access journals are coming on line. The open access model means the author pays the publisher for the costs of putting out an article, instead of the publisher charging universities subscription fees to allow access to the journal.

Open access publishing is a great idea, whose time is ripe: publically funded research should be easily assessed by the public; in general the cost of publishing an open access journal is less than that of a regular article. But the rush to open has opened the window to fraudulent enterprises out to make a fast buck. Thus the landscape of open access publishing is often confusing, and there have been a number of great discussion about how to navigate the stormy waters of open access. Here is my wrap up of some of the informative posts out there:

Other notes pointed out in the Nature article:

  • PLOS ONE, which charges a fee of $1,350 for authors in middle- and high-income countries (UC Berkeley gets a slight price cut), has seen the number of articles it publishes leap from 138 in 2006 to 23,464 last year, making it the world's largest scientific journal.
  • In the past year, the UK and US governments, as well as the European Commission, have thrown their weight behind some form of open-access publishing.

2014 Western Section of the Wildlife Society Meeting wrap-up

I recently attended the 2014 annual meeting of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society in Reno CA. The focus of the conference was on harnessing citizen science toward greater conservation.

I saw some interesting talks in my session (I was clearly the odd-talk-out in a session dominated by animal tracking (I spoke about our SNAMP website evaluation)). For example:

  • Peter Bloom discussed red-tailed hawk movements from banded bird recovery. The birds are banded as juveniles and observed by citizens and scientists. In this way their movements can be mapped: across southern California, across the Pacific flyway, and across the US.
  • Joe Burnett presented on the use of GSM transmitters to track California condor (the largest flying bird in north America) movement patterns. He caught us up on condor recovery and current threats (lead poisoning from foraging on wild game) to condors. He showed some very nice visualizations of wild condor flights between Ventana and the Pinnacles (including some stops for water and dead animal chomping) from the GSM transmitters and Google Earth. 
  • Shannon Rich looked at migration patterns of flammulated owls using light-level geolocators. "What is a flammulated owl”? you say: I will tell you. They are super cute tiny owls, with neat flame-like markings on their face and body. Geolocators are small (~1g) that record ambient light levels during the day, and from timing of sunrise and sunset, you can get latitude and longitude. These are not sending out signals, and you need to recapture the owl to download data. As always, I am stunned by the dedication and time it takes for wildlife biologists to gather their careful data on animal movement.
  • Russ Bryant talked about native honeybee habitat in North Dakota. He talked about the important services that bees give us: 95 agricultural plants benefit from pollination services (estimated at $15b). I did not know that ND is the top honey producer in the US. Colony collapse across the US has been profound. They used INVEST to explore the role of land cover and bee pollination to produce a pollinator habitat index, and a habitat connectivity for areas where bees had been captured. 

In the climate change session, I heard from a range of speakers on practical adaptation strategies, curriculum for climate change education (Whitney Albright), new tools and reports for grassland bird species conservation (Ryan Diguadio), landscape-scale conservation planning for bobcats in the San Diego area (Megan Jennings), and some neat genetics of the SF Bay’s salt marsh harvest mouse (Mark Statham). Also, Curtis Alling talked about local, regional and state climate preparedness planning, and dedicated a slide to Nice!

I also got to catch up briefly with ESPM grads Sarah Sawyer who is now at the Forest Service and Tim Bean, who is thriving at HSU. Alice, he suggested a trip up to Redwood State Park to check out the dark figure of crime in the tall trees.