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Planning for the future: core values, mission statements, and strategic thinking

I've been working on two strategic plans for programs and facilities I am directing: GIF and IGIS, and am thinking about what are the key elements in such a plan that communicates clarity, purpose, and mission. The current thinking out there seems to be to think about not just Mission and Vision, but also Core Values. Here is one from ANR that can help me think through my tasks.

ANR Mission, Guiding Principle, and Core Values


The mission of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is to serve California through the creation, development and application of knowledge in agricultural, natural and human resources.

ANR Guiding Principle

ANR’s research and extension programs serve the public good of California through the creation, development and application of knowledge addressing critical issues in agricultural, natural and related human resources, through a system of community-driven research and outreach programs with CE advisors, CE specialists, and AES scientists supporting each other.

ANR Core Values

  • The highest standards of ethical behavior, honesty and integrity, with the recognition that the trust and confidence of the public is absolutely essential to our success.
  • Academic excellence and maintaining credibility as an objective source of knowledge.
  • Scientifically valid research as a foundation for anticipating problems and developing practical solutions.
  • Responsiveness to state and local needs in California, and consideration of the global context that shapes these needs.
  • Diversity within our organization, equal access to knowledge by all people, and equal opportunity for self-reliance through education.
  • Collaboration, teamwork and mutual respect among ourselves, in partnership with other organizations, and in interaction with our clientele.
  • Academic freedom, with the recognition that individual freedom goes hand in hand with a high standard of professional responsibility and personal accountability to ANR’s land-grant mission.

NEW VTM Reshoot!

Take a look at this awesome VTM reshoot from the folks over at Geographic Resource Solutions (GRS), photographed during a recent mapping project of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Yet another great example and an incredible testament to lasting power of the VTM dataset. This particular photo was taken near the Chaos Crags Jumble in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Thanks to Ken Stumpf and GRS for sharing!

Albert Wieslander (October 1, 1925): Looking N 35 degrees W from 1/4 corner 16/17 T 31-4. Foreground dwarf timber on glacial deposit. Slope in background, section 7 and 8 Tyler Brown of GRS (September,2011): At Accuracy Assessment Site 091646 located in the Chaos Crags Jumble in Lassen Volcanic National Park

In a similar vein I recently stumbled upon another meshing of historical and contemporary photographs. The project features reshoots of the Grand Canyon and resulted in a 2012 book titled: Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe

Published by University of California Press. You can see a few of the photographer’s recent projects on their website. Historical photos are just the best!



Rescuing historic data for modern use: a cautionary tale from the past

An example of a VTM vegetation map, from Shufei LeiWe have been talking recently with the HOLOS project and the IGIS InfoBase project about the need to "rescue" data and to provide frameworks for data synthesis. I present to you a profound example of these needs: the VTM project. We are nearing launch of the new VTM website, in which the maps, plots, and photograph portions of the VTM collection are united and powered by HOLOS, open data, and sharing. The journey from paper collection to digital data has been a long one, with several cases of almost accidental and purposeful destruction. As such it is a cautionary tale about the importance of rescued and shared historical data in ecological and geographical analysis. We owe much to all the people who have contributed to the preservation and digitization of this important collection.

I spent this evening reading the oral history conducted in 1985 by Ann Lange of Albert Wieslander. It is called: California Forester: Mapper of Wildland Vegetation and Soils A. E. Wieslander, and it is a fascinating read. In addition to being a real spitfire and having very clear opinions on things (and people), he also tells this tale about the near loss in 1952 of the vegetation maps. Wieslander had made 23 of his vegetation maps available for publication through the University Press, for production and sale at a cost of $1 each. This was meant to supply funds for the rest of the maps to be published. But that didn't work out as planned.

"Not very many of the maps were sold, even though articles were written to give them publicity. I realized fairly soon that we wouldn't be able to publish any more unless we got additional money someplace.” He was "casually told one day that the University Press had written a letter to the station saying that the maps weren't selling very well, and it wanted to return the quadrangles to the station. They didn't want to handle it anymore.” A forest service employee "told the University Press the station didn't want the maps back and authorized it to dump them. I didn't know anything about this until after it was done. There was nothing I could do about it then. Imagine all these beautiful maps. They didn't even take out one as a sample.”

What!! That is so shortsighted… Anyway read on…

Wies (he refers to himself "Wies" in the interviews) then found out that the University Press couldn't understand the dumping of all those maps and alerted Paul Zinke, Forestry Professor here at Berkeley.

"So Zinke went down and got twenty copies of each of the quadrangles.”

But, we still had all the original field maps, kept at the experiment station. Just before I retired, I talked with Herbert Mason about all the printed maps having been destroyed and about how it was important to preserve the originals. Researchers could use them. He suggested that the Botany Department set up in the Life Sciences Building a plant geography room. And the main feature of this plant geography room would be the vegetation mapping project. So I moved all the files of maps and sample plots over to the Life Sciences Building. Mason went through the material and found at least a third, maybe more, of the original maps were gone.” Apparently, different national forests had been writing to the station requesting certain maps. Since they didn't have any of the printed maps, originals were sent out, with no record kept of what was sent, or to whom. 

This explains why the maps have been scattered across the state, and why it has taken so long to pull them (mostly) together again. 

"The maps then made a trip back to the station, where Dr. William Critchfield used them to write a publication called "The Profiles of California Vegetation”. "Anyway, I'm glad that was done. It was a very nice publication, and it gave proper credit to the draftsman who did the beautiful job of drafting, and to the project, and to me. Then Critchfield also worked with James Griffen, of the university, and got out another publication on "The Distribution of Trees in California." It was based on the maps and other data we had." When Wies expressed "concern about these maps and Dr. Critchfield said, "I would like to get them deposited in the Bancroft Library." I don't know whether he did it or not, but that's what he told me.”

Thank goodness that they are back on campus in the Marian Koshland Library, and the plot data, plot maps, vegetation maps, and photographs will be re-united and available for use.


OakMapper Mobile Updated (v2.4) - available now at the App Store

OakMapper Mobile has been updated (version 2.4) to take take advantage of the latest iOS interface design and requirements. It is available for download at the Apple App Store. Existing OakMapper Mobile users are encouraged to update to the latest version.

In the last 6 months, the site receives over 1,100 visitors, resulting in over 1,450 sessions this period, which is consistent with the same period last year. Visitors come mostly from the US; and within the US states, California dominates. There are 14 new registered users from the community. Participation from the community includes 4 new SOD submissions (721 total), 1 new comment about SOD, 6 new questions/feedback, and 2 new votes on whether they have seen the reported SOD cases.

Our paper published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers has been cited 17 times according to Google Scholar.

Connors, J. P., S. Lei & M. Kelly (2012): Citizen Science in the Age of Neogeography: Utilizing Volunteered Geographic Information for Environmental Monitoring, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(6): 1267-1289


Advice on writing a clear scientific paper, from Virgina Dale

Advice on writing a clear scientific paper from Virgina Dale, Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Environmental Management since 2001. She says:

  • Scientific papers are not mystery novels. It is important to present the key results in the abstract of the manuscript and to have the introduction of the paper make clear both the impetus for the study and what is be presented in the manuscript.
  • Authors need to give the greatest attention to the parts of paper most likely to be read. Most people do not read a scientific paper from beginning to end but rather first focus on the title, then the abstract, and next the figures and tables. If the information presented is of interest, then the conclusion will be perused. Only those studies that have particular pertinence to the reader will be read in their entirety.
  • Organization of the material is critical. Almost all scientific papers should follow the standard format: introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Authors should check that the methods are complete and that most figures and tables are presented in the results section.
  • Each paragraph should start with a strong topic sentence, which presents the main idea and hence is an overview of what is to come. The concluding sentence should summarize the paragraph and provide a logical flow to the next one.

Dale, V. H. 2014. Environmental Management: Past and Future Communications. Environmental Management  54:1–2


ASPRS UAS Technical Demonstration and Symposium – October 21-22, Reno, Nevada

The ASPRS Northern California Region is hosting a 2-day symposium on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in Reno, NV on October 21-22, 2014. The purpose of the event is to assemble academia, UAS developers, survey and mapping companies, government agencies, and UAS enthusiasts, to share information, showcase new technologies and demonstrate UAS systems in action (in flight). The event will be held at the Reno Stead Airport, an FAA-designated UAS test site, as well as at a symposium hotel in downtown Reno. The mission of the event is to advance knowledge and improve the understanding of UAS technologies and their safe and efficient introduction into our national airspace, government programs and business.


Flight visualization


NASA challenge announced: Open NASA Earth Exchange 2014

President Obama has announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution and promote sound science to understand and manage climate impacts for the U.S. 

Following the President’s call for developing tools for climate resilience, NEX is hosting a workshop that will feature:
  1. Climate science through lectures by experts;
  2. Computational tools through virtual labs; and
  3. A challenge inviting participants to compete for prizes by designing and implementing solutions for climate resilience.

An particularly exciting part of this initiative is the possibility to win cash prizes for innovative research ideas. You can find more information about labs and lectures here at
and to participate in the challenge, you can go directly at

Pay attention! Especially grad students and young researchers! The first part of the challenge is the ideation challenge which will close on the 31st of July, 2014 and will follow up with another solvers challenge based on the ideas as selected form the ideation challenge. This will run through October so ample time to participate and win prizes.


Job Opening: Executive Director at the GIF

The Geospatial Innovation Facility at the University of California, Berkeley is recruiting for an Executive Director (Academic Coordinator).  The mission of The Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) is to help people better understand the complex challenges facing our changing world through the acquisition, analysis and visualization of spatial data. We strive to fulfill our mission by developing engaging applications that leverage and build upon state-of-the-art geospatial and web technologies, and by providing opportunities for new researchers to learn how they can use spatial data to answer critical questions.

Responsibilities include managing the facility’s budget, spending, and new business development; delivering workshops and training; supervising a talented team of web application developer and IT staff; and managing projects, including Cal-Adapt, LandCarbon, and the Berkeley Ecoinformatics Engine; developing future vision and work plans and reports to the faculty advisory board and external oversight committee; and promoting the adoption of geospatial technology on campus.

The minimum requirement to be considered an applicant is an advanced degree in a related field by the time of application. Preferred qualifications include advanced understanding of geospatial technology and Open Source GIS and webGIS programming; excellent commination skills; experience in grant writing, fundraising, and managing large budgets; and strong leadership skills associated with project management.

Salary range is $75,000 – $95,000/annually, depending on prior experience and qualifications. Generous benefits are included (

For more information about the position, including required qualifications and application materials, go to The deadline to apply is July 31, 2014.For questions, please contact Ruxin Liu at  UC Berkeley is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.


A nice blast from the past: the map that started it all, from Tim

Forest cover in Cadiz Township, Wisconsin: 1831, 1882, 1902, 1950It is graduation season around Berkeley, which means some time to look forward to the future, and take stock of the past. For me, taking stock of the past happened unexpectedly today when, in cleaning up my desk, I found a print-out of one of Tim De Chant's earlier blog posts from Per Square Mile entitled "The map that started it all" about his early fascination with this map, from John T. Curtis, published in Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Tim is now senior digital editor at NOVA and editor of NOVA Next, which is very cool.

Tim describes the map documenting a transition from a wild Wisconsin dominated by a deciduous forest to a landscape in which the remaining woodlots are barely visible. This was proto-GIS, as Curtis recreated the scenes from survey data and his own observations, painstakingly piecing together handwritten records of the six-by-six mile township.

This is such a nice entry, and reminds me of many things: past students now gone on to great things, past times reading Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth in the 1980s in McCone Hall for an exam in Hooson's class, and my own nascent interest in all things landscape palimpsesty and patterny.

Here is my copy (at right) of the venerable tome, Volume 2, complete with its ridiculous price tag: $6.95! 

I've always been in love with maps, and am fortunate now that my career allows me to learn about them and their uses daily.  Thanks Tim for the reminder!