Wrap-up from ESRI User Conference 2019 Day 3

Day 3 Highlights

Note to Self: Remember the User Types: Viewer, Editor, Field Worker, Creator, GIS Professional

Wednesday morning I went to ArcGIS Apps for the Field so that I could get my head around all the different and new tools that can be used to collect field data. And sister, there are a lot of them. There are of course the capture apps that we know and love - Survey123 and Collector - but there are also apps for all the steps of the field operations: planning, coordination, monitoring and navigation to sites. These apps include: Explorer, Workforce, Tracker, Operations Dashboard, QuickCapture, and Navigator. Excellent session.

Apologies to the NRC for borrowing the tagline…

Apologies to the NRC for borrowing the tagline…

I then went to two Women in GIS events: the “Ask Me Anything” panel of women leaders, and then the Women in SIG lunchtime session where I was the guest speaker. The panel was super inspiring and included Whitney Kotlewski, Nicole Franklin, Dierdre Bishop, Wan-Hwa Cheng, and Miriam Olivares. These passionate and smart women shared very diverse experiences in life, in their careers, and in GIS. We saw a hot-off-the-presses video from Black Girls MAPP, which was so great. Why haven’t BGMAPP been featured at the ESRI Plenary Session? My session was a lot of fun, with a great turnout and good questions. I talked about my ideas around “Mapping for Impact” and what that means in terms of #people, #data, and #tools. Here is one of my slides. This is what I think about all day. Very pleased that this kind of networking is going on, and that panel in the morning session was extraordinary. 

Afternoon sessions had me try to ingest as much as possible about cutting-edge tools. I focused first on QuickCapture. This looks like a promising app for classroom teaching, field sampling, and citizen science. And I am not the only one who thought so - the room was full and so I watched the workshop livestream from another room. Some points: fully customizable collection forms via Designer, can collect points, paths, photos, text, maybe voice in the future, and can connect to external high accuracy GPS antenna. More to do! Then, to close out the day, it was a toss-up between Architecting my ArcGIS Online or more Kenneth Field showing off 3D Cartographic Techniques. Of course I chose 3D. This was an immersive presentation with Kenneth Field (the self-proclaimed “3D skeptic”) and Nathan Shepard guiding us through some of their favorite 3D visualizations and how they make cartographic choices in 3D. The good news is most of the things you know from 2D cartography are relevant in 3D. The bad news is that there are some vis challenges like perspective distortion and hidden content with 3D. But also, 3D might be overkill. When do you use 3D? When is 2D good enough? After all, 2D mapping is awesome. To discuss this (and provide lots of friendly banter back and forth) they showed us an example of 2D vs 3D by mapping the arctic fox on her journey from Norway to Canada. I liked the 2D version myself. They also looked at the classic Minard map of Napoleon’s journey to and from Moscow in 2D and 3D. Lots of good stuff to dig in to. Thanks to Nathan Shepard and Kenneth “I quite like spinny globe thingys” Field. Good stuff.

Wrap Up from Day 2
Wrap Up from Day 1

Wrap-up from ESRI User Conference 2019 Day 2

Day 2 Highlights

Morning sessions included using ArcGIS Pro for Lidar analysis. This was a great overview of working with LAS files within ArcGIS Pro: data formats, including LAS related data structures multipoints and multipatches, data diagnostics to examine data quality and coverage, and basic processing of Lidar data in ArcGIS Pro. Very useful. Thanks to ccrawford. Next Shane and I checked out Data Science in ArcGIS Pro: Using R and Python. This is an update from last year’s session on R and Python in ArcGIS, and again we started with the classic battle of the bands. The python demo showed PySAL, and how to do a quick spatial econometric analysis in PySAL within Pro. Need more time, obvi. The R demo was a nice walk through of data input - vector and raster - via the R-bridge, and showed how easy the framework is. Very useful. 

Afternoon sessions included a bunch of stuff, but the highlight was the always funny, always useful, always inspiring wizards of cartography Kenneth Field, John Nelson, and Edie Punt and Mapping with Style. Another great session! Edie discussed the excellent Styles capacity in Pro, which I am aware of but not an expert at. She helpfully pointed out some key things to pay attention to: USE STYLES FOR COLOR CONTROL! because of the new graphics engines used in Pro, TRANSPARENCY is available on all colors, and will be transferred to your PDF! Also, color locking is great! And color brewer schemes are available in Pro Styles. So much love! Interspersed with Edie’s slide were John and Kenneth delivering their usual hilarious take on making beautiful maps: John showed off some nice and creative new published styles: Firefly, Imhof, and Lego; and Kenneth presented a whimsical case study bringing to life a 1930s map of Redlands using the watercolor style from John. See other styles here. Good day.

Wrap-up from Day 1

Wrap-up from ESRI User Conference 2019 Day 1

ESRI UC 2019 Day 1 Highlights - The Plenary Sessions

The morning session as usual was a flood of high-level vision about GIS (this year’s catchphrase is “see what others can’t”); as well as key shout-outs of new tech wizardry we can expect in the next software update. Jack spent some time discussing the concept of the human nervous system as an analogy for GIS: an intelligent nervous system to respond to, analyze, and use complex spatial data. The goals of this network remind me of the goals of cooperative extension: Learning, Sharing, Collaborating, and Engaging Communities. We also heard about the new NatureServe biodiversity/imperiled species database. This gathers field work from biologists on critical imperiled species and fills in the gaps using predictive species modeling (RF) on jupyter notebooks. The maps are validated via a network of scientists. Seems like they should connect with iNaturalist.org stat.

ESRI2019_2.jpg

Lunch was kick-ass fish tacos, FYI.

New Tools in ArcGIS Pro 2.4 include some coooooool stuff. What I am excited about:

  • Story Maps updates are rad. Gotta get after it. Already available.

  • I can customize my basemaps using the Vector Tile Editor;

  • Calendar heat maps are now provided;

  • YAY! Through the “History” tab we can capture analysis workflow and turn into processing model automatically;

  • Pixel editor – OMFG. What new devilry is this. I want in.

  • Slice multipath tool to cut, clip and visualize 3d objects;

  • Viz of real material properties in 3D (e.g. light reflection, waves in water, etc.);

  • Parcel fabric: cadaster parcel processing: topology, editing, COGO measurements; helpful for deed changes and deed edits;

  • ArcGIS Monitor: This is like a dashboard for administrators of ArcGIS Enterprise to monitor web performance times, diagnostics, and utilization analytics, plus others.

The afternoon session usually packs in important examples of groups using GIS internationally. 2019 was no exception. The speakers included Ambassador Stefano Toscano and Olivier Cottray from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining. They showed the Mine Action program, that uses GIS to find and destroy mines. This involves using community input from Survey123 to target searches for mines and mine destruction. Olivier Cottray says “webapps and webmaps have been game-changers for us”. He closed with this critical example: modern warfare – such as in Mosul and elsewhere - has led to mass-scale urban destruction and mines being left not only in the ground, but in buildings, above ground. Imagine what this means for search and destroy: it is now a 3D problem.  We heard from Naftali Honig, Evan Trotzuk, Geoff Clinning who work in the Garamba National Park in the Congo basin about their Conservation Intelligence framework to combat illegal poaching.  In the last panel, we heard from Jane Goodall and E. O. Wilson on an informal panel moderated by Jack. Wilson laid out his top three challenges for human kind: climate change, fresh water shortages, and mass extinctions. He talked about his HalfEarth program, and also gave us a primer on biodiversity from global to microbial scales. We need to discover, characterize, and map all remaining species on earth, creating a true science of ecosystem organization in aid of conservation and earth sustainability. Finally, we got to hear from Jane Goodall. Her work is so inspiring. At the heart of all her conservation and science work, are the importance of empowering women, the role of traditional knowledge in biodiversity conservation, using local decision making, and supporting education. She offered us passion, humor, hope, while frankly discussing the stark realities of a changing climate and the rise of the political right and widespread corruption. Her work and voice still instructs us on the power of the human intellect and indomitable human spirit to make positive change.

ESRI2019-1.jpg


Inspiring stuff.

DroneCamp2019 was a blast!

301517display.jpg

DroneCamp2019 has wrapped, and it was a lot of fun. We held DroneCamp2019 (the 3rd annual event) in Monterey in collaboration between us (IGIS) and Monterey DART. As usual, DroneCamp was a multi-day affair with one day focused on the technology, regulations and research, one day focused on the drone data workflow, and one day focusing on flying skills: takeoffs and landings, automated flying, and watching eBee barrel rolls. We held the meeting sessions at CSUMB and flew out at the gorgeous UCSC NRS Fort Ord Reserve. Lots of fun. Here are some pics (flight pics are more fun than classroom photos I guess!).

Clockwise from left: the group; Fort Ord Reserve; Fort Ord Reserve; the lovely matrice; data workshop.

Clockwise from left: the group; Fort Ord Reserve; Fort Ord Reserve; the lovely matrice; data workshop.

Flight practice at fort ord reserve. Plus some wildflowers.

Flight practice at fort ord reserve. Plus some wildflowers.

campers posing with uavs.

campers posing with uavs.


DroneCamp 2019 Student Scholarships

We are very pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 student scholarship awards for DroneCamp 2019. We were able to leverage seed support from the open access journal Drones (dedicated to research on the design and applications of drones) to support three wonderful young scholars to attend DroneCamp 2019 in Monterey CA in June. Here is a little bit about each of them.

Reyes headshot.JPG

Melinda Reyes is the recipient of the Drones scholarship. A computer science student at Northeastern University, Melinda aims to improve precision agriculture tools that measure and advance soil health and soil-based carbon capture via data collected by UAVs. Her ultimate goal is to ensure food security in a changing climate. She is passionate about UAVs and their applications in agriculture, and is a future leader in agricultural innovation.  She comes to DroneCamp to learn to fly drones, to learn more about current applications in the field, and to meet others interested in UAVs' agricultural applications and applications for good.

zackdinh_portrait.JPG

Zack Dinh is the recipient of the IGIS student scholarship. He is a M.S. student in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He is working with Professor Iryna Dronova at UC Berkeley on wetland restoration monitoring in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Together, they are interested in using UAV-captured optical imagery and point clouds to detect vegetation patch heterogeneity, and plant growth. He comes to DroneCamp to learn about best practices for using UAVs for field research as well as networking with others who are engaged in this type of research. He has some experience flying UAV surveys and processing imagery, and is interested in learning more about fixed-wing vehicles, sensors, and data processing techniques.

Anish Photo.jpg

Anish Sapkota is the recipient of the IGIS student scholarship. He is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. He is working in the Irrigation and Water Management Lab under the supervision of Dr. Haghverdi. His research focuses on the effect of water-stress conditions in landscape and agricultural crop species, and he seeks to develop irrigation management strategies to save water while increasing production, and soil and plant health. His research involves collection of data from a range of handheld sensors that measure stomatal conductance, biomass growth, and soil moisture. These data will be combined with NDVI and NDRE data from field and UAV-based sensors to determine the stress level in plants and their response to varying rates of irrigation. He comes to DroneCamp to continue to gather skills in the geospatial domain, and to learn how to fly drones, and process UAV data.

Congratulations to each of you!

Wrap-up from the Geospatial Software Institute (GSI) Workshop: “Towards a National Geospatial Software Ecosystem”

My wrap-up from a very engaged and provocative 1.5 day workshop on geospatial technology futures, hosted by the CyberGIS Center: “Towards a National Geospatial Software Ecosystem”. First: great group of cool peeps all hyper-engaged in geospatial data, tools, use cases, science, and community. Second: fun to be involved in big-picture thinking on what a geospatial software institute might look like if it was to be built from scratch. Finally, I was on the panel discussing core questions bridging use cases and core technical capabilities, and I share my reflections of the workshop here.

  • Question 1. Are there any significant gaps between the use cases and core technical capabilities that GSI should address?
    • Training needs: beyond GIS training – “spatial data science” training, for K-12; undergrad; graduate; veterans; professionals
    • Easy ways to get access to cloud storage and computation, and for different datasets like UAVs. There are examples like CyVerse (from Tyson Swetnam) and others
    • Data integration: Data assimilation, Data fusion, Sensor triangulation.
      • Whatever you want to call it – this remains a challenge for geospatial experts and beginners alike. And it is especially a challenge when you work across disciplines (e.g. the work of SESYNC from Mary Shelley and Margaret Palmer, SESYNC, University of Maryland)
    • Dynamics: Spatio-temporal and real-time data streams: sensor networks, social media, cube sats
    • Resolution:
      • in space (e.g. the new Antarctic DEM from Paul Morin, University of Minnesota);
      • in time (e.g. cubesats, sensor networks; social media);
      • in depth?: going under-ground (from Debra Laefer, NYU)
    • We love FAIR for data. What about FAIR for tools: make tools Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-usable
  • Question 2: What does the CyberGIS Geographic Software Institute (GSI) need to do to address community needs and contribute to the national CyberInfrastructure ecosystem?
    • Link strongly with existing diversity-supporting frameworks: HBCU; community colleges; tribes; networks such as @WomenWhoCode, @LadiesOfLandsat, @BlackGirlsCode, @500womensci, @RLadiesGlobal, etc.
    • More of these workshops! Multi-disciplinary meetings of people with tight/packed agendas and make use of workshop attendees between workshops; what can we do to spread the word
    • Create GSI Data Institute or Bootcamp or Faculty Education Mentoring Network
    • Support standards for data and software standards to promote interoperability
    • Support frameworks for data and software discovery and interoperability: FAIR for data; FAIR for tools

Conclusion: Super Fun. Learned a Ton. Plus parting words from Michael Goodchild: It is not location that matters, it is context. Location provides context; context allows integration: with data, between disciplines, between people, between tools. "Let's get above the layers".

ESRI User Conference 2018 wrap-up

As always, the Plenary session was an immersive and emotional showcase of the power of mapping. Running through Monday’s talks was a sense of urgency for we GIS people to save the world. This is what JD calls “societal GIS”, or “embracing the digital transformation and leverage the science of where”. Shane and I had a great time. Some key news from the Plenary:

  • ESRI is in every K-12 school in the US; JD announced it will be offered to every K-12 school in the world. JD gave a special award to two inspirational teachers - Mariana Ramirez and Alice Im from the Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School in LA. Not a dry eye in the house: starts at 22.21 on this video. I hope they can hook up with @strtwyze
  • The work of Thomas Crowther, Professor of Global Ecosystem Ecology at ETH Zürich (@crowthelab) is inspirational. His talk here. They estimate 3T trees globally, with room for 1T more. (See paper here.)  Gonna be checking out his tree data on the Living Atlas (global maps of tree density, diversity, carbon uptake, and reflectance).
  • A great demo from JD Irving, a private Canadian forestry, transportation and products company heavy into sustainability and GIS. All there properties are managed using ArcGIS + R. Demo here
  • ESRI is showcasing some key "Solution Configurations" that are bundled software products focused on high-priority areas such as: 1) community engagement ("Hub"); 2) interior spaces ("Indoors") and, 3) smart cities ("Urban"). The highlighted snazzy urban planning 3D vis tools (demo here) will be giving UrbanSim a run for their money. Might we work RUCS2.0 into a "Solution Configuration" for working landscape planning? 

Plus some highlights of what I learned overall: 

Data updates

  • Wow. ESRI's Living Atlas of the World has some amazing resources. Living Atlas is ESRI’s curated web data portal that links seamlessly with Pro. It has tons of data on environment and imagery. Want Sentinel-2 imagery, NAIP, or MODIS thermal? Want global climate and weather data? Want to easily play with Open Street Map or other vector tiles within your GIS project? It is all in the Living Atlas. This will be a game changer for class. Plus TC’s tree data. Gonna be checking this out.
  • Unstructured data can be added to your workflow now, this is text, etc. This is big. 
  • ESRI is offering editable access to Open Street Map within Pro. 

Software updates (mostly about Pro)

  • Pro is the way to go, but ESRI will continue to support ArcMap “for years to come
  • New stuff in ArcGIS Pro related to Image Analysis:
    • Sensor support has been expanded; plus new formats supported, eg. netcdf. Pro supports mosaic datasets, they call mosaics the optimum data model for image management. 
    • ESRI is now supporting “oriented” imagery - StreetView Imagery, oblique imagery, etc. Easily integrate things like iPhone photos within your Pro project. They call this working in “image space” rather than “map space”.
    • Ortho Mapping within ESRI has 3 solutions: Drone2Map (stand-alone software), within ArcGIS Pro (using the Image Server license), and OrthoMaker (web interface).
    • New release of Pro has full motion video support. (Upcoming releases will have more deep learning algorithms, multi-patch editing in stereo, and pixel editing.)
    • There are so many cool things going on on the imagery front in Pro, makes me excited.
  • New stuff in ArcGIS Pro in general:

    • Adding an unstructured data format - e.g. text!
    • 3D editing and 3D voxel support.
    • Machine Learning is increasingly embedded in ESRI workflows, and when that is not enough, ML is also possible via linkages with external resources (via R, TensorFlow, MXNET, AWS tools, etc.).
    • ESRI increasingly recognizing that people work in and outside of ESRI software: R-Bridge, Python API, Jupyter Notebooks makes external linkages super easy. 
  • ESRI is working to support cloud-based storage and computing with support via AWS and Azure; Optimizing raster storage and caching in multiple formats; and the ability to point to existing cloud storage
  • Plus, for your inexpensive GPS needs, consider the new Trimble Catalyst antenna + ESRI Collector might be the way to go, but it is windows/android specific for now. iOS compatibility is "on a horizon" as of now.
  • A quick note about ArcGIS online (ESRI's complete mapping and location intelligence platform). It has 6M subscribers (!), making 1B maps a day (!!). (Did I get those numbers right?)

Notes for classes/workshops

  • GIS-stat-analysis-py-tutor on GitHub. 
  • ESRI provides many Learning templates for us who are dreading converting all our ArcMap labs to Pro: https://www.esri.com/training/ and https://www.esri.com/training/learning-plans/
  • ESRI is also working on providing templated best practice workflows to help teach concepts. They call them, at least in Image Analyst "Imagery workflows". Might be useful in class/workshops. 

The new ESRI terminology might be a useful organizing structure for class: A GIS is a system of: 

  • Record: storing spatially indexed information
  • Insights: via analysis
  • Engagement: through mapping and visualization

As always a great conference!

#DroneCamp2018 is in the bag!

We've just wrapped up #DroneCamp2018, hosted at beautiful UC San Diego. 

This was an expanded version from last year's model, which we held in Davis. We had 52 participants (from all over the world!) who were keen to learn about drones, data analysis, new technology, and drone futures.  

Day 1 was a flight day from half our participants: lots of hands-on with takeoffs and landings, and flying a mission; 
Day 2 covered drone safety and regulations, with guest talks from Brandon Stark and Dominique Meyer;
Day 3 covered drone data and analysis;
Day 4 was a flight day for Group 2 and a repeat of Day 1. 

We had lots of fun taking pics and tweeting: here is our wrapup on Twitter for #DroneCamp2018.

NASA Data and the Distributed Active Archive Centers

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile, but thought I’d catch up a bit. I am in beautiful Madison Wisconsin (Lake Mendota! 90 degrees! Rain! Fried cheese curds!) for the NASA LP DAAC User Working Group meeting. This is a cool deal where imagery and product users meet with NASA team leaders to review products and tools. Since this UWG process is new to me, I am highlighting some of the key fun things I learned. 

What is a DAAC?
A DAAC is a Distributed Active Archive Center, run by NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). These are discipline-specific facilities located throughout the United States. These institutions are custodians of EOS mission data and ensure that data will be easily accessible to users. Each of the 12 EOSDIS DAACs process, archive, document, and distribute data from NASA's past and current Earth-observing satellites and field measurement programs. For example, if you want to know about snow and ice data, visit the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) DAAC. Want to know about social and population data? Visit the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Data Center (SEDAC). These centers of excellence are our taxpayer money at work collecting, storing, and sharing earth systems data that are critical to science, sustainability, economy, and well-being.

What is the LP DAAC?
The Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) is one of several discipline-specific data centers within the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The LP DAAC is located at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. LP DAAC promotes interdisciplinary study and understanding of terrestrial phenomena by providing data for mapping, modeling, and monitoring land-surface patterns and processes. To meet this mission, the LP DAAC ingests, processes, distributes, documents, and archives data from land-related sensors and provides the science support, user assistance, and outreach required to foster the understanding and use of these data within the land remote sensing community.

Why am I here?
Each NASA DAAC has established a User Working Group (UWG). There are 18 people on the LP DAAC committee, 12 members from the land remote sensing community at large, like me! Some cool stuff going on. Such as...

New Sensors
Two upcoming launches are super interesting and important to what we are working on. First, GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation) will produce the first high resolution laser ranging observations of the 3D structure of the Earth. Second, ECOSTRESS (The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station), will measure the temperature of plants: stressed plants get warmer than plants with sufficient water. ECOSTRESS will use a multispectral thermal infrared radiometer to measure surface temperature. The radiometer will acquire the most detailed temperature images of the surface ever acquired from space and will be able to measure the temperature of an individual farmer's field. Both of these sensors will be deployed on the International Space Station, so data will be in swaths, not continuous global coverage. Also, we got an update from USGS on the USGS/NASA plan for the development and deployment of Landsat 10. Landsat 9 comes 2020, Landsat 10 comes ~2027.

Other Data Projects
We heard from other data providers, and of course we heard from NEON! Remember I posted a series of blogs about the excellent NEON open remote sensing workshop I attended last year. NEON also hosts a ton of important ecological data, and has been thinking through the issues associated with cloud hosting. Tristin Goulden was here to give an overview.

Tools Cafe
NASA staff gave us a series of demos on their WebGIS services; AppEEARS; and their data website. Their webGIS site uses ArcGIS Enterprise, and serves web image services, web coverage services and web mapping services from the LP DAAC collection. This might provide some key help for us in IGIS and our REC ArcGIS online toolkits. AppEEARS us their way of providing bundles of LP DAAC data to scientists. It is a data extraction and exploration tool. Their LP DAAC data website redesign (website coming soon), which was necessitated in part by the requirement for a permanent DOI for each data product.

User Engagement
LP DAAC is going full-force in user engagement: they do workshops, collect user testimonials, write great short pieces on “data in action”, work with the press, and generally get the story out about how NASA LP DAAC data is used to do good work. This is a pretty great legacy and they are committed to keep developing it. Lindsey Harriman highlighted their excellent work here.

Grand Challenges for remote sensing
Some thoughts about our Grand Challenges: 1) Scaling: From drones to satellites. It occurs to me that an integration between the ground-to-airborne data that NEON provides and the satellite data that NASA provides had better happen soon; 2) Data Fusion/Data Assimilation/Data Synthesis, whatever you want to call it. Discovery through datasets meeting for the first time; 3) Training: new users and consumers of geospatial data and remote sensing will need to be trained; 4) Remote Sensible: Making remote sensing data work for society. 

A primer on cloud computing
We spent some time on cloud computing. It has been said that cloud computing is just putting your stuff on “someone else’s computer”, but it is also making your stuff “someone else’s problem”, because cloud handles all the painful aspects of serving data: power requirements, buying servers, speccing floor space for your servers, etc. Plus, there are many advantages of cloud computing. Including: Elasticity. Elastic in computing and storage: you can scale up, or scale down or scale sideways. Elastic in terms of money: You pay for only what you use. Speed. Commercial clouds CPUs are faster than ours, and you can use as many as you want. Near real time processing, massive processing, compute intensive analysis, deep learning. Size. You can customize this; you can be fast and expensive or slow and cheap. You use as much as you need. Short-term storage of large interim results or long-term storage of data that you might use one day.

Image courtesy of Chris Lynnes

Image courtesy of Chris Lynnes

We can use the cloud as infrastructure, for sharing data and results, and as software (e.g. ArcGIS Online, Google Earth Engine). Above is a cool graphic showing one vision of the cloud as a scaled and optimized workflow that takes advantage of the cloud: from pre-processing, to analytics-optimized data store, to analysis, to visualization. Why this is a better vision: some massive processing engines, such as SPARC or others, require that data be organized in a particular way (e.g. Google Big Table, Parquet, or DataCube). This means we can really crank on processing, especially with giant raster stacks. And at each step in the workflow, end-users (be they machines or people) can interact with the data. Those are the green boxes in the figure above. Super fun discussion, leading to importance of training, and how to do this best. Tristan also mentioned Cyverse, a new NSF project, which they are testing out for their workshops.

Image attribution: Corey Coyle

Image attribution: Corey Coyle

Super fun couple of days. Plus: Wisconsin is green. And warm. And Lake Mendota is lovely. We were hosted at the University of Wisconsin by Mutlu Ozdogan. The campus is gorgeous! On the banks of Lake Mendota (image attribution: Corey Coyle), the 933-acre (378 ha) main campus is verdant and hilly, with tons of gorgeous 19th-century stone buildings, as well as modern ones. UW was founded when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the UW System. It was the first public university established in Wisconsin and remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. It became a land-grant institution in 1866. UW hosts nearly 45K undergrad and graduate students. It is big! It has a med school, a business school, and a law school on campus. We were hosted in the UW red-brick Romanesque-style Science Building (opened in 1887). Not only is it the host building for the geography department, it also has the distinction of being the first building in the country to be constructed of all masonry and metal materials (wood was used only in window and door frames and for some floors), and may be the only one still extant. How about that! Bye Wisconsin!

Mapping fires and fire damage in real time: available geospatial tools

Many of us have watched in horror and sadness over the previous week as fires consumed much of the beautiful hills and parts of the towns of Napa and Sonoma Counties. Many of us know people who were evacuated with a few minutes’ notice - I met a retired man who left his retirement home with the clothes on his back. Many other friends lost everything - house, car, pets. It was a terrible event - or series of events as there were many active fires. During those 8+ days all of us were glued to our screens searching for up-to-date and reliable information on where the fires were, and how they were spreading. This information came from reputable, reliable sources (such as NASA, or the USFS), from affected residents (from Twitter and other social media), and from businesses (like Planet, ESRI, and Digital Globe who were sometimes creating content and sometimes distilling existing content), and from the media (who were ofen using all of the above). As a spatial data scientist, I am always thinking about mapping, and the ways in which geospatial data and analysis plays an increasingly critical role in disaster notification, monitoring, and response. I am collecting information on the technological landscape of the various websites, media and social media, map products, data and imagery that played a role in announcing and monitoring the #TubbsFire, #SonomaFires and #NapaFires. I think a retrospective of how these tools, and in particular how the citizen science aspect of all of this, helped and hindered society will be useful.  

In the literature, the theoretical questions surrounding citizen science or volunteered geography revolve around:

  • Accuracy – how accurate are these data? How do we evaluate them?  

  • Access – Who has access to the data? Are their technological limits to dissemination?

  • Bias (sampling issues)/Motivation (who contributes) are critical.

  • Effectiveness – how effective are the sites? Some scholars have argued that VGI can be inhibiting. 

  • Control - who controls the data, and how and why?

  • Privacy - Are privacy concerns lessened post disaster?

I think I am most interested in the accuracy and effectiveness questions, but all of them are important.  If any of you want to talk more about this or have more resources to discuss, please email me: maggi@berkeley.edu, or Twitter @nmaggikelly.

Summary so far. This will be updated as I get more information.

Outreach from ANR About Fires

Core Geospatial Technology During Fires

Core Technology for Post-Fire Impact

 

Wrap up from #DroneCamp2017!

UC ANR's IGIS program hosted 36 drone enthusiasts for a three day DroneCamp in Davis California. DroneCamp was designed for participants with little to no experience in drone technology, but who are interested in using drones for a variety of real world mapping applications. The goals of DroneCamp were to:

  • Gain an broader understanding of the drone mapping workflow: including
    • Goal setting, mission planning, data collection, data analysis, and communication & visualization
  • Learn about the different types of UAV platforms and sensors, and match them to specific mission objectives;
  • Get hands-on experience with flight operations, data processing, and data analysis; and
  • Network with other drone-enthusiasts and build the California drone ecosystem. 

The IGIS crew, including Sean Hogan, Andy Lyons, Maggi Kelly, Robert Johnson, Kelly Easterday, and Shane Feirer were on hand to help run the show. We also had three corporate sponsors: GreenValley Intl, Esri, and Pix4D. Each of these companies had a rep on hand to give presentations and interact with the participants.

Day 1 of #DroneCamp2017 covered some of the basics - why drone are an increasingly important part of our mapping and field equipment portfolio; different platforms and sensors (and there are so many!); software options; and examples. Brandon Stark gave a great overview of the Univ of California UAV Center of Excellence and regulations, and Andy Lyons got us all ready to take the 107 license test. We hope everyone here gets their license! We closed with an interactive panel of experienced drone users (Kelly Easterday, Jacob Flanagan, Brandon Stark, and Sean Hogan) who shared experiences planning missions, flying and traveling with drones, and project results. A quick evaluation of the day showed the the vast majority of people had learned something specific that they could use at work, which is great. Plus we had a cool flight simulator station for people to practice flying (and crashing).

Day 2 was a field day - we spent most of the day at the Davis hobbycraft airfield where we practiced taking off, landing, mission planning, and emergency maneuvers. We had an excellent lunch provided by the Street Cravings food truck. What a day! It was hot hot hot, but there was lots of shade, and a nice breeze. Anyway, we had a great day, with everyone getting their hands on the commands. Our Esri rep Mark Romero gave us a demo on Esri's Drone2Map software, and some of the lidar functionality in ArcGIS Pro.

Day 3 focused on data analysis. We had three workshops ready for the group to chose from, from forestry, agriculture, and rangelands. Prior to the workshops we had great talks from Jacob Flanagan and GreenValley Intl, and Ali Pourreza from Kearney Research and Extension Center. Ali is developing a drone-imagery-based database of the individual trees and vines at Kearney - he calls it the "Virtual Orchard". Jacob talked about the overall mission of GVI and how the company is moving into more comprehensive field and drone-based lidar mapping and software. Angad Singh from Pix4D gave us a master class in mapping from drones, covering georeferencing, the Pix4D workflow, and some of the checks produced for you a the end of processing.

One of our key goals of the DroneCamp was to jump start our California Drone Ecosystem concept. I talk about this in my CalAg Editorial. We are still in the early days of this emerging field, and we can learn a lot from each other as we develop best practices for workflows, platforms and sensors, software, outreach, etc. Our research and decision-making teams have become larger, more distributed, and multi-disciplinary; with experts and citizens working together, and these kinds of collaboratives are increasingly important. We need to collaborate on data collection, storage, & sharing; innovation, analysis, and solutions. If any of you out there want to join us in our California drone ecosystem, drop me a line.

Thanks to ANR for hosting us, thanks to the wonderful participants, and thanks especially to our sponsors (GreenValley Intl, Esri, and Pix4D). Specifically, thanks for:

  • Mark Romero and Esri for showing us Drone2Map, and the ArcGIS Image repository and tools, and the trial licenses for ArcGIS;
  • Angad Singh from Pix4D for explaining Pix4D, for providing licenses to the group; and
  • Jacob Flanagan from GreenValley Intl for your insights into lidar collection and processing, and for all your help showcasing your amazing drones.

#KeepCalmAndDroneOn!

Wrap up from the Esri Imagery and Mapping Forum

Recently, Esri has been holding an Imagery and Mapping Forum prior to the main User Conference. This year I was able to join as an invited panelist for the Executive Panel and Closing Remarks session on Sunday. During the day I hung out in the Imaging and Innovation Zone, in front of the Drone Zone (gotta get one of these for ANR). This was well worth attending: smaller conference - focused topics - lots of tech reveals - great networking. 

Notes from the day: Saw demos from a range of vendors, including:

  • Aldo Facchin from Leica gave a slideshow about the Leica Pegasus: Backpack. Their backpack unit workflow uses SLAM; challenges include fusion of indoor and outdoor environments (from transportation networks above and below ground). Main use cases were industrial, urban, infrastructure. http://leica-geosystems.com/en-us/products/mobile-sensor-platforms/capture-platforms/leica-pegasus-backpack
  • Jamie Ritche from Urthecast talked about "Bringing Imagery to Life". He says our field is "a teenager that needs to be an adult". By this he means that in many cases businesses don't know what they need to know. Their solution is in apps- "the simple and the quick": quick, easy, disposable and useful. 4 themes: revisit, coverage, time, quality. Their portfolio includes DEIMOS 1, Theia, Iris, DEIMOIS-2, PanGeo + . Deimos-1 focuses on agriculture. UrtheDaily: 5m pixels, 20TB daily, (40x the Sentinel output); available in 2019. They see their constellation and products as very comparable to Sentinel, Landsat, RapidEye. They've been working with Land O Lakes as their main imagery delivery. Stressing the ability of apps and cloud image services to deliver quick, meaningful information to users. https://www.urthecast.com/
  • Briton Vorhees from SenseFly gave an overview of: "senseFly's Drone Designed Sensors". They are owned by Parrot, and have a fleet of fixed wing drones (e.g. the eBee models); also drone optimized cameras, shock-proof, fixed lens, etc (e.g. SODA). These can be used as a fleet of sensors (gave an citizen-science example from Zanzibar (ahhh Zanzibar)). They also use Sequoia cameras on eBees for a range of applications. https://www.sensefly.com/drones/ebee.html
  • Rebecca Lasica and Jarod Skulavik from Harris Geospatial Solutions: The Connected Desktop". They showcased their new ENVI workflow implemented in ArcGIS Pro. Through a Geospatial Services Framework that "lifts" ENVI off the desktop; and creates an ENVI Engine. They showed some interesting crop applications - they call it "Crop Science". This http://www.harrisgeospatial.com/
  • Jeff Cozart and McCain McMurray from Juniper Unmanned shared "The Effectiveness of Drone-Based Lidar" and talked about the advantages of drone-based lidar for terrain mapping and other applications. They talked through a few projects, and highlighted that the main advantages of drone-based lidar are in the data, not in the economics per se. But the economies do work out too. (They partner with Reigl and YellowScan from France.)  They showcased an example from Colorado that compared lidar (I think it was a Reigl on a DJI Matrice) and traditional field survey - the lidar cost was 1/24th as expensive as the field survey. They did a live demo of ArcGIS tools with their CO data: classification of ground, feature extraction, etc. http://juniperunmanned.com/
  • Aerial Imaging Productions talked about their indoor scanning - this linking-indoor-to-outdoor (i.e. making point cloud data truly geo) is a big theme here. Also OBJ is a data format. (From Wikipedia: "The OBJ file format is a simple data-format that represents 3D geometry alone — namely, the position of each vertex, the UV position of each texture coordinate vertex, vertex normals, and the faces that make each polygon defined as a list of vertices, and texture vertices.") It is used in the 3D graphics world, but increasingly for indoor point clouds in our field.
  • My-Linh Truong from Riegl talked about their new static, mobile, airborne, and UAV lidar platforms. They've designed some mini lidar sensors for smaller UAVas (3lbs; 100kHz; 250m range; ~40pts/m2). Their ESRI workflow is called LMAP, and it relies on some proprietary REIGL software processing at the front end, then transfer to ArcGIS Pro (I think). http://www.rieglusa.com/index.html

We wrapped up the day with a panel discussion, moderated by Esri's Kurt Schwoppe, and including Lawrie Jordan from Esri, Greg Koeln from MDA, Dustin Gard-Weiss from NGA, Amy Minnick from DigitalGlobe, Hobie Perry from USFS-FIA, David Day from PASCO, and me. We talked about the promise and barriers associated with remote sensing and image processing from all of our perspectives. I talked alot about ANR and IGIS and the use of geospatial data, analysis and viz for our work in ANR. Some fun things that came out of the panel discussion were:

  • Cool stuff:
    • Lawrie Jordan started Erdas!
    • Greg Koeln wears Landsat ties (and has a Landsat sportcoat). 
    • Digital Globe launched their 30cm resolution WorldView-4. One key case study was a partnership with Associated Press to find a pirate fishing vessel in action in Indonesia. They found it, and busted it, and found on board 2,000 slaves.
    • The FIA is increasingly working on understanding uncertainty in their product, and they are moving for an image-base to a raster-based method for stratification.
    • Greg Koeln, from MDA (he of the rad tie- see pic below) says: "I'm a fan of high resolution imagery...but I also know the world is a big place".
  • Challenges: 
    • We all talked about the need to create actionable, practical, management-relevant, useful information from the wealth of imagery we have at our fingertips: #remotesensible. 
    • Multi-sensor triangulation (or georeferencing a stack of imagery from multiple sources to you and me) is a continual problem, and its going to get worse before it gets better with more imagery from UAVs. On that note, Esri bought the patent for "SIFT" a Microsoft algorithm to automate the relative registration of an image stack.
    • Great question at the end about the need to continue funding for the public good: ANR is critical here!
    • Space Junk.
  • Game-changers: 
    • Opening the Landsat archive: leading to science (e.g. Hansen et al. 2013), leading to tech (e.g. GEE and other cloud-based processors). Greg pointed out that in the day, his former organization (Ducks Unlimited) paid $4,400 per LANDSAT scene to map wetlands nationwide! That's a big bill. 
    • Democratization of data collection: drones, smart phones, open data...
The panel in action

The panel in action

Notes and stray thoughts:

  • Esri puts on a quality show always. San Diego always manages to feel simultaneously busy and fun, while not being crowded and claustrophobic. Must be the ocean, the light and the air.
  • Trying to get behind the new "analytics" replacement of "analysis" in talks. I am not convinced everyone is using analytics correctly ("imagery analytics such as creating NDVI"), but hey, it's a thing now: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytics#Analytics_vs._analysis
  • 10 years ago I had a wonderful visitor to my lab from Spain - Francisco Javier Lozano - and we wrote a paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003442570700243X. He left to work at some crazy startup company called Deimos in Spain, and Lo and Behold, he is still there, and the company is going strong. The Deimos satellites are part of the UrtheCast fleet. Small world!
  • The gender balance at the Imagery portion of the Esri UC is not. One presenter at a talk said to the audience with a pointed stare at me: "Thanks for coming Lady and Gentlemen".

Good fun! Now more from Shane and Robert at the week-long Esri UC!

Wrap up from the FOODIT: Fork to Farm Meeting

UC ANR was a sponsor for the FOODIT: Fork to Farm meeting in June 2017: http://mixingbowlhub.com/events/food-fork-farm/. Many of us were there to learn about what was happening in the food-data-tech space and learn how UCANR can be of service. It was pretty cool. First, it was held in the Computer History Museum, which is rad. Second, the idea of the day was to link partners, industry, scientists, funders, and foodies, around sustainable food production, distribution, and delivery. Third, there were some rad snacks (pic below). 

We had an initial talk from Mikiel Bakker from Google Food, who have broadened their thinking about food to include not just feeding Googlers, but also the overall food chain and food system sustainability. They have developed 5 "foodshots" (i.e. like "moonshot" thinking): 1) enable individuals to make better choices, 2) shift diets, 3) food system transparency, 4) reduce food losses, and 5) how to make a closed, circular food system.

We then had a series of moderated panels.

The Dean's List introduced a panel of University Deans, moderated by our very own Glenda Humiston @UCANR, and included Helene Dillard (UCDavis), Andy Thulin (CalPoly), Wendy Wintersteen (Iowa State). Key discussion points included lack of food system transparency, science communication and literacy, making money with organics, education and training, farm sustainability and efficiency, market segmentation (e.g. organics), downstream processing, and consumer power to change food systems. Plus the Amazon purchase of Whole Foods.

The Tech-Enabled Consumer session featured 4 speakers from companies who feature tech around food. Katie Finnegan from Walmart, David McIntyre from Airbnb, Barbara Shpizner from Mattson, Michael Wolf from The Spoon. Pretty neat discussion around the way these diverse companies use tech to customize customer experience, provide cost savings, source food, contribute to a better food system. 40% of food waste is in homes, another 40% is in the consumer arena. So much to be done!

The session on Downstream Impacts for the Food Production System featured Chris Chochran from ReFed @refed_nowaste, Sabrina Mutukisna from The Town Kitchen @TheTownKitchen, Kevin Sanchez from the Yolo Food Bank @YoloFoodBank, and Justin Siegel from UC Davis International Innovation and Health. We talked about nutrition for all, schemes for minimizing food waste, waste streams, food banks, distribution of produce and protein to those who need them (@refed_nowaste and @YoloFoodBank), creating high quality jobs for young people of color in the food business (@TheTownKitchen), the amount of energy that is involved in the food system (David Lee from ARPA-E); this means 7% of our energy use in the US inadvertently goes to CREATING FOOD WASTE. Yikes!

The session on Upstream Production Impacts from New Consumer Food Choices featured Ally DeArman from Food Craft Institute @FoodCraftInst, Micke Macrie from Land O' Lakes, Nolan Paul from Driscoll's @driscollsberry, and Kenneth Zuckerberg from Rabobank @Rabobank. This session got cut a bit short, but it was pretty interesting. Especially the Food Craft Institute, whose mission is to help "the small guys" succeed in the food space.

The afternoon sessions included some pitch competitions, deep dive breakouts and networking sessions. What a great day for ANR.

Distillation from the NEON Data Institute

So much to learn! Here is my distillation of the main take-homes from last week. 

Notes about the workshop in general:

NEON data and resources:

Other misc. tools:

Day 1 Wrap Up
Day 2 Wrap Up 
Day 3 Wrap Up
Day 4 Wrap Up

Day 2 Wrap Up from the NEON Data Institute 2017

First of all, Pearl Street Mall is just as lovely as I remember, but OMG it is so crowded, with so many new stores and chains. Still, good food, good views, hot weather, lovely walk.

Welcome to Day 2! http://neondataskills.org/data-institute-17/day2/
Our morning session focused on reproducibility and workflows with the great Naupaka Zimmerman. Remember the characteristics of reproducibility - organization, automation, documentation, and dissemination. We focused on organization, and spent an enjoyable hour sorting through an example messy directory of misc data files and code. The directory looked a bit like many of my directories. Lesson learned. We then moved to working with new data and git to reinforce yesterday's lessons. Git was super confusing to me 2 weeks ago, but now I think I love it. We also went back and forth between Jupyter and python stand alone scripts, and abstracted variables, and lo and behold I got my script to run. All the git stuff is from http://swcarpentry.github.io/git-novice/

The afternoon focused on Lidar (yay!) and prior to coding we talked about discrete and waveform data and collection, and the opentopography (http://www.opentopography.org/) project with Benjamin Gross. The opentopography talk was really interesting. They are not just a data distributor any more, they also provide a HPC framework (mostly TauDEM for now) on their servers at SDSC (http://www.sdsc.edu/). They are going to roll out a user-initiated HPC functionality soon, so stay tuned for their new "pluggable assets" program. This is well worth checking into. We also spent some time live coding with Python with Bridget Hass working with a CHM from the SERC site in California, and had a nerve-wracking code challenge to wrap up the day.

Fun additional take-home messages/resources:

Thanks to everyone today! Megan Jones (our fearless leader), Naupaka Zimmerman (Reproducibility), Tristan Goulden (Discrete Lidar), Keith Krause (Waveform Lidar), Benjamin Gross (OpenTopography), Bridget Hass (coding lidar products).

Day 1 Wrap Up
Day 2 Wrap Up 
Day 3 Wrap Up
Day 4 Wrap Up

Our home for the week

Our home for the week

Day 1 Wrap Up from the NEON Data Institute 2017

I left Boulder 20 years ago on a wing and a prayer with a PhD in hand, overwhelmed with bittersweet emotions. I was sad to leave such a beautiful city, nervous about what was to come, but excited to start something new in North Carolina. My future was uncertain, and as I took off from DIA that final time I basically had Tom Petty's Free Fallin' and Learning to Fly on repeat on my walkman. Now I am back, and summer in Boulder is just as breathtaking as I remember it: clear blue skies, the stunning flatirons making a play at outshining the snow-dusted Rockies behind them, and crisp fragrant mountain breezes acting as my Madeleine. I'm back to visit the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) headquarters and attend their 2017 Data Institute, and re-invest in my skillset for open reproducible workflows in remote sensing. 

Day 1 Wrap Up from the NEON Data Institute 2017
What a day! http://neondataskills.org/data-institute-17/day1/
Attendees (about 30) included graduate students, old dogs (new tricks!) like me, and research scientists interested in developing reproducible workflows into their work. We are a pretty even mix of ages and genders. The morning session focused on learning about the NEON program (http://www.neonscience.org/): its purpose, sites, sensors, data, and protocols. NEON, funded by NSF and managed by Battelle, was conceived in 2004 and will go online for a 30-year mission providing free and open data on the drivers of and responses to ecological change starting in Jan 2018. NEON data comes from IS (instrumented systems), OS (observation systems), and RS (remote sensing). We focused on the Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) which uses 2, soon to be 3 aircraft, each with a payload of a hyperspectral sensor (from JPL, 426, 5nm bands (380-2510 nm), 1 mRad IFOV, 1 m res at 1000m AGL) and lidar (Optech and soon to be Riegl, discrete and waveform) sensors and a RGB camera (PhaseOne D8900). These sensors produce co-registered raw data, are processed at NEON headquarters into various levels of data products. Flights are planned to cover each NEON site once, timed to capture 90% or higher peak greenness, which is pretty complicated when distance and weather are taken into account. Pilots and techs are on the road and in the air from March through October collecting these data. Data is processed at headquarters.

In the afternoon session, we got through a fairly immersive dunk into Jupyter notebooks for exploring hyperspectral imagery in HDF5 format. We did exploration, band stacking, widgets, and vegetation indices. We closed with a fast discussion about TGF (The Git Flow): the way to store, share, control versions of your data and code to ensure reproducibility. We forked, cloned, committed, pushed, and pulled. Not much more to write about, but the whole day was awesome!

Fun additional take-home messages:

Thanks to everyone today, including: Megan Jones (Main leader), Nathan Leisso (AOP), Bill Gallery (RGB camera), Ted Haberman (HDF5 format), David Hulslander (AOP), Claire Lunch (Data), Cove Sturtevant (Towers), Tristan Goulden (Hyperspectral), Bridget Hass (HDF5), Paul Gader, Naupaka Zimmerman (GitHub flow).

Day 1 Wrap Up
Day 2 Wrap Up 
Day 3 Wrap Up
Day 4 Wrap Up

DS421 Data Science for the 21st Century Program Wrap Up!

Today we had our 1st Data Science for the 21st Century Program Conference. Some cool things that I learned: 

  • Cathryn Carson updated us on the status of the Data Science program on campus - we are teaching 1200 freshman data science right now. Amazing. And a new Dean is coming. 
  • Phil Stark on the danger of being at the bleeding edge of computation - if you put all your computational power into your model, you have nothing left to evaluate uncertainty in your model. Let science guide data science. 
  • David Ackerly believes in social networking! 
  • Cheryl Schwab gave us an summary of her evaluation work. The program outcomes that we are looking for in the program are: Concepts, communication, interdisciplinary research
  • Trevor Houser from the Rhodian Group http://rhg.com/people/trevor-houser gave a very interesting and slightly optimistic view of climate change. 
  • Break out groups, led by faculty: 
    • (Boettiger) Data Science Grand Challenges: inference vs prediction; dealing with assumptions; quantifying uncertainty; reproducibility, communication, and collaboration; keeping science in data science; and keeping scientists in data science. 
    • (Hsiang) Civilization collapses through history: 
    • (Ackerly) Discussion on climate change and land use. 50% of the earth are either crops or rangelands; and there is a fundamental tradeoff between land for food and wildlands. How do we deal with the externalities of our love of open space (e.g. forcing housing into the central valley). 
  • Finally, we wrapped up with presentations from our wonderful 1st cohort of DS421 students and their mini-graduation ceremony. 
  • Plus WHAT A GREAT DAY! Berkeley was splendid today in the sun. 
 

Plus plus, Carl B shared Drew Conway's DS fig, which I understand is making the DS rounds: 

From: http://drewconway.com/zia/2013/3/26/the-data-science-venn-diagram

From: http://drewconway.com/zia/2013/3/26/the-data-science-venn-diagram

AAG 2017 Wrap Up: Day 3

Day 3: I opened the day with a lovely swim with Elizabeth Havice (in the largest pool in New England? Boston? The Sheraton?) and then embarked on a multi-mile walk around the fair city of Boston. The sun was out and the wind was up, showing the historical buildings and waterfront to great advantage. The 10-year old Institute of Contemporary Art was showing in a constrained space, but it did host an incredibly moving video installation from Steve McQueen (Director of 12 Years a Slave) called “Ashes” about the life and death of a young fisherman in Grenada.

My final AAG attendance involved two plenaries hosted by the Remote Sensing Specialty Group and the GIS Specialty Group, who in their wisdom, decided to host plenaries by two absolute legends in our field – Art Getis and John Jensen – at the same time. #battleofthetitans. #gisvsremotesensing. So, I tried to get what I could from both talks. I started with the Waldo Tobler Lecture given by Art Getis: The Big Data Trap: GIS and Spatial Analysis. Compelling title! His perspective as a spatial statistician on the big data phenomena is a useful one. He talks about how data are growing fast: Every minute – 98K tweets; 700K FB updates; 700K Google searches; 168+M emails sent; 1,820 TB of data created. Big data is growing in spatial work; new analytical tools are being developed, data sets are generated, and repositories are growing and becoming more numerous. But, there is a trap. And here is it. The trap of Big Data:

10 Erroneous assumptions to be wary of:

  1. More data are better
  2. Correlation = causation
  3. Gotta get on the bandwagon
  4. I have an impeccable source
  5. I have really good software
  6. I am good a creating clever illustrations
  7. I have taken requisite spatial data analysis courses
  8. It’s the scientific future
  9. Accessibly makes it ethical
  10. There is no need to sample

He then asked: what is the role of spatial scientists in the big data revolution? He says our role is to find relationships in a spatial setting; to develop technologies or methods; to create models and use simulation experiments; to develop hypotheses; to develop visualizations and to connect theory to process.

The summary from his talk is this: Start with a question; Differentiate excitement from usefulness; Appropriate scale is mandatory; and Remember more may or may not be better. 

When Dr Getis finished I made a quick run down the hall to hear the end of the living legend John Jensen’s talk on drones. This man literally wrote the book(s) on remote sensing, and he is the consummate teacher – always eager to teach and extend his excitement to a crowded room of learners.  His talk was entitled Personal and Commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Remote Sensing and their Significance for Geographic Research. He presented a practicum about UAV hardware, software, cameras, applications, and regulations. His excitement about the subject was obvious, and at parts of his talk he did a call and response with the crowd. I came in as he was beginning his discussion on cameras, and he also discussed practical experience with flight planning, data capture, and highlighted the importance of obstacle avoidance and videography in the future. Interestingly, he has added movement to his “elements of image interpretation”. Neat. He says drones are going to be routinely part of everyday geographic field research. 

What a great conference, and I feel honored to have been part of it. 

AAG Boston 2017 Day 1 wrap up!

Day 1: Thursday I focused on the organized sessions on uncertainty and context in geographical data and analysis. I’ve found AAGs to be more rewarding if you focus on a theme, rather than jump from session to session. But less steps on the iWatch of course. There are nearly 30 (!) sessions of speakers who were presenting on these topics throughout the conference.

An excellent plenary session on New Developments and Perspectives on Context and Uncertainty started us off, with Mei Po Kwan and Michael Goodchild providing overviews. We need to create reliable geographical knowledge in the face of the challenges brought up by uncertainty and context, for example: people and animals move through space, phenomena are multi-scaled in space and time, data is heterogeneous, making our creation of knowledge difficult. There were sessions focusing on sampling, modeling, & patterns, on remote sensing (mine), on planning and sea level rise, on health research, on urban context and mobility, and on big data, data context, data fusion, and visualization of uncertainty. What a day! All of this is necessarily interdisciplinary. Here are some quick insights from the keynotes.

Mei Po Kwan focused on uncertainty and context in space and time:

  • We all know about the MAUP concept, what about the parallel with time? The MTUP: modifiable temporal unit problem.
  • Time is very complex. There are many characteristics of time and change: momentary, time-lagged response, episodic, duration, cumulative exposure
    • sub-discussion: change has patterns as well - changes can be clumpy in space and time. 
  • How do we aggregate, segment and bound spatial-temporal data in order to understand process?
  • The basic message is that you must really understand uncertainty: Neighborhood effects can be overestimated if you don’t include uncertainty.

As expected, Michael Goodchild gave a master class in context and uncertainty. No one else can deliver such complex material so clearly, with a mix of theory and common sense. Inspiring. Anyway, he talked about:

  • Data are a source of context:
    • Vertical context – other things that are known about a location, that might predict what happens and help us understand the location;
    • Horizontal context – things about neighborhoods that might help us understand what is going on.
    • Both of these aspects have associated uncertainties, which complicate analyses.
  • Why is geospatial data uncertain?
    • Location measurement is uncertain
    • Any integration of location is also uncertain
    • Observations are non-replicable
    • Loss of spatial detail
    • Conceptual uncertainty
  • This is the paradox. We have abundant sources of spatial data, they are potentially useful. Yet all of them are subject to myriad types of uncertainty. In addition, the conceptual definition of context is fraught with uncertainty.
  • He then talked about some tools for dealing with uncertainty, such as areal interpolation, and spatial convolution.
  • He finished with some research directions, including focusing on behavior and pattern, better ways of addressing confidentiality, and development of a better suite of tools that include uncertainty.

My session went well. I chaired a session on uncertainty and context in remote sensing with 4 great talks from Devin White and Dave Kelbe from Oak Ridge NL who did a pair of talks on ORNL work in photogrammetry and stereo imagery, Corrine Coakley from Kent State who is working on reconstructing ancient river terraces, and Chris Amante from the great CU who is developing uncertainty-embedded bathy-topo products. My talk was on uncertainty in lidar inputs to fire models, and I got a great question from Mark Fonstad about the real independence of errors – as in canopy height and canopy base height are likely correlated, so aren’t their errors? Why do you treat them as independent? Which kind of blew my mind, but Qinghua Guo stepped in with some helpful words about the difficulties of sampling from a joint probability distribution in Monte Carlo simulations, etc. 

Plus we had some great times with Jacob, Leo, Yanjun and the Green Valley International crew who were showcasing their series of Lidar instruments and software. Good times for all!

GIF Bootcamp 2017 wrap up!

Our third GIF Spatial Data Science Bootcamp has wrapped!  We had an excellent 3 days with wonderful people from a range of locations and professions and learned about open tools for managing, analyzing and visualizing spatial data. This year's bootcamp was sponsored by IGIS and GreenValley Intl (a Lidar and drone company). GreenValley showcased their new lidar backpack, and we took an excellent shot of the bootcamp participants. What is Paparazzi in lidar-speak? Lidarazzi? 

Here is our spin: We live in a world where the importance and availability of spatial data are ever increasing. Today’s marketplace needs trained spatial data analysts who can:

  • compile disparate data from multiple sources;
  • use easily available and open technology for robust data analysis, sharing, and publication;
  • apply core spatial analysis methods;
  • and utilize visualization tools to communicate with project managers, the public, and other stakeholders.

At the Spatial Data Science Bootcamp we learn how to integrate modern Spatial Data Science techniques into your workflow through hands-on exercises that leverage today's latest open source and cloud/web-based technologies.