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geospatial matters

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Saturday
Jun062015

Spatial Data Science @ Berkeley May 2015

Bootcamp participants outside historic Mulford HallOur bootcamp on Spatial Data Science has concluded. We had three packed days learning about the concepts, tools and workflow associated with spatial databases, analysis and visualizations. 

Our goal was not to teach a specific suite of tools but rather to teach participants how to develop and refine repeatable and testable workflows for spatial data using common standard programming practices.

On Day 1 we focused on setting up a collaborative virtual data environment through virtual machines, spatial databases (PostgreSQL/PostGIS) with multi-user editing and versioning (GeoGig). We also talked about open data and open standards, and modern data formats and tools (GeoJSON, GDAL).

Analyzing spatial data is the best part! On Day 2 we focused on open analytical tools for spatial data. We focused on one particular class of spatial data analysis: pattern analysis, and used Python (i.e. PySAL, NumPy, PyCharm, iPython Notebook), and R Studio (i.e. raster, sp, maptools, rgdal, shiny) to look at spatial autocorrelation and spatial regression. 

Wait, visualizing spatial data is the best part! Day 3 was dedicated to the web stack, and visualization. We started with web mapping (web stack, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Leaflet), and then focused on web-based visualizations (D3).  Web mapping is great, and as OpenGeo.org says: “Internet maps appear magical: portals into infinitely large, infinitely deep pools of data. But they aren't magical, they are built of a few standard pieces of technology, and the pieces can be re-arranged and sourced from different places.…Anyone can build an internet map."

All-in-all it was a great time spent with a collection of very interesting mapping professionals from around the country (and Haiti!). Thanks to everyone!

Friday
Jun052015

Alice's first webmap at Forestry Camp

Here is my first webmap I made a camp!  This represents Berkeley's population from 2007.  

Tuesday
Jun022015

UC ANR group wins extension award

Several UC Cooperative Extension and UC scientists have been awarded the Western Extension Directors Association Award of Excellence for work to address the outbreak of sudden oak death in California. Led by Yana Valachovic, the group developed extension programming that achieved outstanding accomplishments, results and impacts in addressing this important issue. We were recognized for: 

  • understanding the issue and situation; 
  • working with stakeholders;
  • having a research base and an extension focus;
  • evidencing multidisciplinary and collaborative components;
  • incorporating innovative approaches;
  • achieving impacts; and
  • developing scholarly products. 

The people involved in the group award are: Yana Valachovic, Steve Swain, Matteo Garbelotto, Janice Alexander, Lisa Bell, Bendan Twieg, Dave Rizzo, Steve Tjosvold, David Lewis, Doug McCreary, Katie Palmieri, Kerri Frangioso, Jim MacDonald, Ellie Rilla, Maggi Kelly, Rick Standiford, Chris Lee, Doug Schmidt, Brice McPherson, and Richard Dodd. 

Tuesday
May122015

Wow! New world view Chrome plugin

Kelly turned us on to this plugin from Google. Each time you get a new tab on your browser, you get treated to a new picture of the earth! But, check this one out: 

From Drebkau, Germany. I have no idea what this is an image of - could it be grain fields of some kind, or is it just someone at Google's garage sale carpet? Any thoughts? 

Here is another view of the same area:

Wednesday
Apr292015

Governor Brown's new Executive Order, issued today is a banner day for our climate change efforts

From Bruce Riordan, at the Climate Readiness Institute. 

Bay Area Climate Stakeholders: Governor Brown's new Executive Order, issued today is a banner day for our climate change efforts. 

1. The Executive Order sets a new interim goal for GHG reduction—40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

2. The Executive Order, for the first time, outlines a series of steps the State will take to address climate adaptation and resilience. 

See the press release, reaction from world leaders, and the full Executive Order at: http://gov.ca.gov/home.php

Monday
Apr272015

Kelly Lab SPUR Students Visit Point Reyes National Seashore

Kelly Lab SPUR Students Drew Adamski and Ryan Avery have been participating in lab research all semester.  In particular they have been helping classify trails within the Pacific West's National Parks.  This month we were lucky enough to travel out with them to Point Reyes National Seashore to see some of those trails in person.  We were also lucky enough to spend the day with Chief Ranger Schifsky who was kind enough to talk to us about what issues different trails in the park were facing and which trails seemed to be changing most rapidly.  Chief Schifsky was also kind enough to show us some of the points in the park where the landscape had changed dramatically over time due to fire, restoration projects, or differing management strategies.  Overall it was a really inspiring and informative trip!

Friday
Apr242015

AAG wrap up 2015

Photo of Chicago from Frank Kehren, Flickr Creative Commons LicenseI focused on a series of CyberGIS sessions at AAG this year. This was partly to better situate our spatial data science ideas within the  terminology and discipline of Geography, and partly to focus on a new topic for me in AAG conferences. There were a number of organized sessions over three days, including a plenary by Timothy Nyerges from UW.  Talks ranged in topic: online collaboration, participatory analytics, open tool development such as python-based tools for parallelization of GIS operations, case studies of large area computation, introduction to languages that might be less familiar to geographers (e.g., Julia, R).

There was a session that focused on education in which ideas about challenging in teaching “cyberGIS” to undergraduate students, among other things. Additionally, Tim Nyerges gave the CyberGIS plenary: "Computing Complex Sustainable Systems Resilience" in which he made the case that CyberGIS is a framework for studying socio-economic systems, resilience, and system feedbacks.

About the term Cyber. I am not alone in my dislike of the term "CyberGIS" (Matrix 4, anyone?), but it seems to have stuck here at AAG. In many of the talks “cyber” meant “bigger". There were mentions of the “cyber thing”, which I took to be a placeholder for cluster computing. However, there are many other terms that are being used by the speakers. For example, I saw talks that focused on participatory, structured, analytic-deliberation from UW, or high performance geocomputation from ORNL; the latter term I think better captures what earth system science people might recognize. Many talks used as their entry point to Cyber the proliferation of data that characterizes modern geography and life.

These sessions were organized through an NSF-funded center: The CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies http://cybergis.illinois.edu/.  Their formal definition of CyberGIS is:  “geographic information science and systems (GIS) based on advanced infrastructure of computing, information, and communication technologies (aka cyberinfrastructure)". They say it "has emerged over the past several years as a vibrant interdisciplinary field and played essential roles in enabling computing-, data- and collaboration-intensive geospatial research and education across a number of domains with significant societal impact."

And of course, we had excellent talks by the Kellys: Kelly presented on our VTM work: "Quantifying diversity and conservation status of California's Oak trees using the historic Vegetation Type Mapping (VTM) dataset” as part of an organized Historical Ecology session. Alice presented her paper: "Policing Paradise: The Evolution of Law Enforcement in US National Parks" as part of the session on Green Violence 2: Interrogating New Conflicts over Nature and Conservation.

Goodbye Chicago! You provided a wonderful venue, despite the cold!

Friday
Apr242015

Historical data and the NRS

Just got off a call with a group of people focusing on historical data discovery at the Natural Reserve System (NRS). This process is part of the recently funded Institute for the Study of Ecological Effects of Climate Impacts (ISEECI). People in the group include:  

Of particular note was the introduction of the Online Archive of California, which is a collection of metadata about historical archives. Peter is adding all his data to the OAC. His work was funded through a Research Opportunity Fund grant through UCOP, and a NSF grant.  The process the NRS has used is different than what we have done with the REC data. They have assembled metadata from the research reports from the stations, and full digitization can be opportunisic and focused on particular questions. There is a Zotero database of publications that have resulted from the reserves. 

Other important links:

The metadata data from research applications submitted through RAMS - tends to be incomplete as we rely on PI's to proof the entry and then submit it. 

http://nrs.ucop.edu/MetaData.htm

The reference database, this has had extensive work done on it, and should be fairly complete. Lynn's working on a complementary database for Santa Cruz Island historic data, which will be made available. 

http://nrs.ucop.edu/bibliography.htm

Climate data - currently hosted on DRI's website, and data should be available for download.

http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/ucnrs/index.html

Wednesday
Apr082015

SimplyMap & PolicyMap

Today I went to a great D-Lab Workshop on Demographic Mapping Tools.  Berkeley's GIS and Map Librarian, Susan Powell walked us through the use of several very easy to use mapping tools available through UC Berkeley.  Both are really great for quickly visualizing data from many different sources. 

#1: SimplyMap:  http://sm2.simplymap.com/index.html

Pros: This interface allows the easy visualization of census data (back to 1980), crime data, as well as lifestyle and market data.  SimplyMap is accessible with a UC Berkeley login and can be accessed through the Berkeley Library website.  It allows you to export data as shapefiles or image files, has a table-building function, and allows limited data filtering and masking.  The data provided come with metadata.  Most data available can be visualized down to the census tract or zipcode level.  You can save and share maps from your private account.

Cons: You cannot combine variables or years of data in the map itself, but you can do this in SimplyMap's table building function and export that.  The user interface is not always simple or straightforward. 

Above: Dollar amount spent at restaurants in Berkeley in 2014 by census tract. Map created using SimplyMaps.

#2 PolicyMap: http://ucberkeley.policymap.com/maps

Pros: PolicyMap includes census data (back to 2000), housing, health, government programs, crime, and education data.  Like SimplyMap this allows the quick and easy visualization of data in a single year.  PolicyMap also allows you to upload and overlay your own data with its existing datasets and generally allows for a bit more overlaying of datasets--point data can be added on top of polygons.  You can generate quick pre-defined reports on specific cities or areas.  You can also define a custom study area in PolicyMap.  It has a table-builder as well as a really great data-dictionary that explains where its data come from.  

Cons: There are no private accounts.  All of Berkeley has a single account, so you can see everyone else's data, and they can see yours.  Thus, you must log-in through UC Berkeley's website to gain access.  This datasharing may not be an absolute con, but it is a little weird.  PolicyMap does not allow you to export shapefiles, but it does allow you to build tables that can be easily joined with shapefiles if need be.  It too has some user-interface quirks that could probably be improved upon. 

Sunday
Apr052015

New VTM retakes, this time from Heather

Plus sa change, plus sa la meme chose. Thanks to Heather Constable, who went out exploring near Morro Bay. Here is one of her retakes. 

Date of original photo: Feb 25, 1936, taken in San Luis Obispo County, California, US. Looking north toward Morro Bay. Shows almost dense stand of Arctostaphylos morroensis in foreground. Quad name: Cayucos. Quad number: 132B. Reference to map: 1. Photographer: Albert Wieslander.