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GIS Day 2014!

Discovering the World Through GIS

November 19, 2014, 5PM-8:30PM

UC Berkeley, Mulford Hall

GIS Day took place in Mulford Hall Wednesday Nov 19th from 5-8:30pm. We had about 200 attendees who participated in workshops, listened to talks, saw posters, and networked with other like-minded GIS-enthusiasts.

Some of the activity at 2014 GIS Day in Mulford Hall

See the agenda here:


WorldView-3 launched August 13 2014

Worldview-2 has been a very useful sensor; we've used it for some of our wetlands work. On August 13th of this year DigitalGlobe launched WorldView-3 spacecraft. It will provide a 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24 m multispectral resolution, with an average revisit time of <1 day.

From the Digital Globe website:

Introducing WorldView-3, the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite. Operating at an expected altitude of 617 km, WorldView-3 provides 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24 m multispectral resolution, 3.7 m short-wave infrared resolution, and 30 m CAVIS resolution. WorldView-3 has an average revisit time of <1 day and is capable of collecting up to 680,000 km2 per day, further enhancing the DigitalGlobe collection capacity for more rapid and reliable collection. Launching in 2014, the WorldView-3 system will allow DigitalGlobe to further expand its imagery product offerings.

Here is their spec-sheet.


Sonoma County's historic aerial photographs

As part of the massive ongoing effort to map Sonoma County with high-res imagery and lidar, historic imagery of the county was collected and georeferenced. The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District funded SFEI to mosaic 72 historic aerials taken over Sonoma County by the Department of Defense in 1942. Mark Tukman put together this web service with a image swiping tool showing the combination of the 2011 imagery service and the mosaiced historic imagery.

About the historic imagery: In 1942, the Department of War collected air photos in anticipation of a possible strike.  These photos are the earliest complete image set for Sonoma County and give us an unprecedented look at Sonoma County's agriculture and open space prior to the post World War II baby boom.

These images are snaps from the service, both from an area outside Rohnert Park in Sonoma County: on the left is the image from 1942, on the right is the area in 2011 showing considerable development.

2011 image

1942 aerial


Web mapping of high res imagery helps conservation

One of our collaborators on the Sonoma Vegetation Mapping Project has sent work on how web mapping and high resolution imagery has helped them do their job well. These are specific comments, but might be more generally applicable to other mapping and conservation arenas.

  1. Communicating with partnering agencies.
    • In the past year this included both large wetland restoration projects and the transfer of ownership of several thousands of acres to new stewards.
  2. Articulating to potential donors the context and resources of significant properties that became available for purchase.
    • There are properties that have been identified as high priority conservation areas for decades and require quick action or the opportunity to protect would pass.
  3. Internal communication to our own staff.
    • We have been involved in the protection of over 75 properties, over 47,000 acres. At this time we own 18 properties (~6500 acres) and 41 conservation easements (~7000  acres). At this scale high quality aerial imagery is essential to the size of land we steward and effective broad understanding. The way it is served as a seamless mosaic means it is available to extremely experienced and intelligent people who find the process of searching and joining orthorectified imagery by the flight path and row cumbersome or inefficient.
  4. Researching properties of interest.
    • Besides our own internal prioritization of parcels to protect, I understand that we receive a request a week for our organization’s attention towards some property in Sonoma. Orienting ourselves to the place always includes a map with the property boundary using the most recent and/or high quality imagery for the parcel of interest and its neighbors.  This is such a regular part of our process that we created a ArcGIS Server based toolset that streamlines this research task and cartography. The imagery service we consume as the basemap for all these maps is now the 2011 imagery service.  This imagery is of high enough resolution that we can count on it for both regional and parcel scale inspection to support our decisions to apply our resources.
  5. Orienting participants to site.
    • Our On the Land Program uses the imagery in their introduction maps to help visitors on guided hikes quickly orient to the place they are visiting and start folding their experience and sense of place into their visit.
  6. Complementing grant applications.
    • Grants are an important part of the funding for major projects we undertake. High quality imagery facilitates our ability to orient the grant reviewer and visually support the argument we are making which is that our efforts will be effective and worthy of funds that are in short supply.
  7. Knowing what the resources on a property are is an essential part of thoughtfully managing them.
    • In one example we used the aerial imagery (only a year old at the time) as a base map for botanists to classify the vegetation communities. These botanists are not experts in GIS, but by using paper maps with high resolution prints in the field they were easily able to delineate what they were observing on the ground on features interpreted in the photo.  We then scanned and confidently registered their hand annotations to the same imagery, allowing staff to digitized the polygons that represent the habitat observed. These vegetation observations are shared with Sonoma County and its efforts to map all the vegetation of Sonoma County.
  8. Conservation easement monitoring makes extensive use of aerial imagery.
    • In some cases we catch violations of our easements that are difficult to view on the ground, for example unpermitted buildings by neighbors on the lands we protect, illegal agriculture or other encroachment. It is often used to orient new and old staff to a large property before walking their and planning for work projects that might be part of prescribed management.
  9. The imagery helps reinforce our efforts to communicate the challenge to preserve essential connectivity in the developed and undeveloped areas of Sonoma County.
    • In the Sonoma Valley there is a wildlife corridor of great interest to us as conservation priority. Aerial imagery has been an important part of discussing large land holdings such as the Sonoma Developmental Center, existing conserved land by Sonoma Land Trust and others, and the uses of the valley for housing and agriculture.
  10. Celebration of the landscape cannot be forgotten.
    • We often pair this high quality aerial imagery with artful nature photography. The message of the parts and their relation to the whole are succinctly and poetically made. This is essential feedback to members and donors who need to see the numbers of acres protected with their support and have the heartfelt sense of success.

We look forward to the continued use of this data and the effective way it is shared.
We hope that future imagery and other raster or elevation data can be served as well as this, it would benefit many engaged in science and conservation.

Thanks to Joseph Kinyon, GIS Manager, Sonoma Land Trust


New GIF Director: Nancy Thomas

The GIF welcomes our new Executive Director Nancy Thomas, who joins us Monday November 10th. Nancy comes to us from the Spatial Analysis Center at Stanford. She has over 18 years of experience in managing successful remote sensing and GIS projects in both consulting and academic arenas. She was a early employee of Pacific  Meridian, one of the first remote sensing companies on the west coast. She has extensive experience in the development and analysis of geospatial data to map, monitor, and model land use and land cover for a variety of domestic and international natural resource management applications. She's given numerous presentations and workshops on geospatial technologies, and has facilitated numerous successful collaborations and training of geospatial research methods.

Please stop by the GIF and welcome her to the Berkeley community!


Mapping Intimidation

Violence against those who help manage and protect our public lands is an unfortunate reality in the United States.  Though the recent Cliven Bundy standoff served to publicly highlight tensions between public lands managers and private citizens, that was not an isolated incident.  High Country News has just released a map that its staff compiled to show incidents of intimidation of Federal officials across the West (  As the map shows, these issues are widespread. 


Citizen science vs. MODIS on producing maps of atmospheric dust

Measurements by thousands of citizen scientists in the Netherlands using their smartphones and the iSPEX add-on are delivering accurate data on dust particles in the atmosphere that add valuable information to professional measurements. The iSPEX team, led by Frans Snik of Leiden University, analyzed all measurements from three days in 2013 and combined them into unique maps of dust particles above the Netherlands. The results match and sometimes even exceed those of ground-based measurement networks and satellite instruments. Here is the comparison of the maps produced by citizen science versus MODIS:
iSPEX map compiled from all iSPEX measurements performed in the Netherlands on July 8, 2013, between 14:00 and 21:00. Each blue dot represents one of the 6007 measurements that were submitted on that day. At each location on the map, the 50 nearest iSPEX measurements were averaged and converted to Aerosol Optical Thickness, a measure for the total amount of atmospheric particles. This map can be compared to the AOT data from the MODIS Aqua satellite, which flew over the Netherlands at 16:12 local time. The relatively high AOT values were caused by smoke clouds from forest fires in North America, which were blown over the Netherlands at an altitude of 2-4 km. In the course of the day, winds from the North brought clearer air to the northern provinces.

King fire burn severity

The King Fire is out, but it leaves us with alot to ponder. It started September 13 and quickly jumped on a northward run through National Forest and private forestlands. At the end, it burned 97,717 acres. 12 houses and several other minor structures were lost. More worrying is the fact that it burned through many California Spotted Owl PACs in the Eldorado National Forest. We are waiting to hear from the SNAMP Owl team on what their assessment of the situation is. In the meantime, here is a map of burn severity for the fire, made by Stefania from data from the USFS. Clearly it burned hot.


Tracking a Discipline's Evolution 

In lab group meetings we have been discussing the evolution and future of Spatial Data Science as a discipline.

Therefore when I recently stummbled upon a article about a reserarch project looking at the evolution of Geography based on a database of Doctoral Dissertation Titles, I couldn't help but be excited, and intrigued by the connection.

This reasearch from Kent University Professors David Kaplan and Jennifer Mapes is also reminiscent of Kelly Lab's own Shufei Lei's  recent work analyzing and mapping textual data in the context of ecological systems and adapative managment!

Just like spatial data science, Geography as a discipline has struggled with defining its' complex identity, its principles and concepts spanning and borrowing from several established discipinces. 

From the article:

"Geography is a relatively young discipline in terms of university academics, and for much of its history, geographers have struggled to define what exactly the discipline includes, said Keith Woodward, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

So for a historical perspective, this type of database would be helpful looking at a timeline of how geographers defined their field, Woodward said."

The database is a compliation of 10,290 dissertations ranging back to the late 1800's with the goal of understanding the trends, concentrations, and expansion of Geography as a discipline over time. 

Although currently unpublished (look out for an article in Geographical Review early 2015) there are a few preliminary findings and possibilites that sound immensly interesting:

"The study maps which universities have high percentages of dissertations focused on domestic or foreign regions, and also shifts in which regions of the world were popular topics for dissertations."

"A database of dissertations could provide a glimpse into what academics are interested in and how their focuses shifts as de-colonization and globalization occurs, Woodward said."

"Much of the focus so far has been on the words within the dissertation titles and how they’re used. Geographers today like to explain the field as a study of space and place, Mapes said. But those words didn’t become popular in dissertations until the 1960s."

Read the full article here and look out for an article in Geographical Review early 2015.




Workshop: create maps for Ebola's first responders

Workshop: HOW TO CREATE MAPS FOR EBOLA's FIRST RESPONDERS which are used by Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, WHO and others. The workshop quickly shows how to easily use a humanitarian mapping freeware so anyone can contribute to this global mapping collaboration.


Easy‐to‐Learn and Then Map on Your Own Time

Volunteer now! Join contributors world‐wide and help create the maps which are being used in the fight against Ebola. Easy to make, these maps are for first responders including the World Health Organization, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and others.

Come and Learn how to map rooftops in cities and the paths and roadways to remote villages using Open Street Map and satellite images. First responders need your help today.

  • You’ll learn about this global collaboration

  • You’ll see how to use OpenStreetMap’s humanitarian mapping freeware which is quickly becoming the communication tool used by international first


  • And, you can share your ideas on how you can participate in this collaborative effort.

D‐LAB (356 Barrows Hall)

Thursday, October 30th, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Friday, October 31st, 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.


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