Cicadas, Locusts, and Mapping

Throughout history, cicada and locusts have produced fascination, food, and frustration, among other f words. The Cicada Mania site “Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.” provides TONS of information on cicadas. Other calls for citizen scientists include those of University of Georgia, Dept. of Entomology, asking for pictures and locations of cicadas and shed cicada skins. Their call recommends that parents participate with their young children because their children will not see this amazing event again until they are adults.

Many countries have set up citizen science watches to keep tabs on what is happening this year. According to a Charlotte news report, the 14 state Cicada Watch citizen science project had hundreds of volunteers in Mechlenberg County, NC alone this year. Other watch projects across take place across the globe. The Australian Government of Agriculture,Fisheries, and Forestry has an up to date section for “Current Locust Situation and News“. The Desert Locust Watch is produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for desert regions such as the Sudan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia,

Spatial mapping and fish

The R2 Fish School Kit that has been featured on TV shows like ABC News and Animal Planet teaches your fish to play basketball, fetch, and more. It was developed by Dr. Dean Pomerleau and his son Kyle. Their goldfish “Albert Einstein” is the current Guinness World Record holder for the pet fish with the most tricks. These aren’t just parlor tricks, researchers like Dr. Pomerleau have been studying fish intelligence, especially spatial intelligence for a long time.

A study by Seraphina Chung, of the Department of Human Biology, University of Toronto examined the use of different type of mazes to better understand the use of spatial learning by fish in their daily life. Other companies, such as FishBio use different spatial technologies like remote sensing, sensors, and 3-D side-scanning sonar to GPS fish habitats and migration routes.

If you are interested in learning more about fish intelligence and considering the amazing spatial ability of migrating fish, spring is a great time to participate in a citizen science fish count. The Town of Plymouth, Maine Environmental Resources and many others have already started participation in fish counts. If it is too late to do it now in your area, you can mark your calendar for next year.

Understanding Risk and Resilience to Natural Hazards

In this week’s podcast we talked to USGS Geographer Dr Nathan Wood. Located at the USGS Western Geographic Science Center, Nate discussed an array of research locations in the interview that revolved around helping communities understand their vulnerability or risk to natural hazards such as volcanoes, tsunamis and other hazards. In the interview he highlighted a recent informational publication titled Understanding Risk and Resilience to Natural Hazards available on the USGS website.

The document talks about the process of working with communities to make them aware of potential natural hazards risks in their area and provides examples from each of the west coast states, Hawai’i, and Florida.

Check it out to get more great information about Nate’s work at the USGS.

Your Spatial Backpack

When I was reading this month’s issue of Backpacker magazine, I started to fold down pages that contained geospatial apps and other features. After I had folded down most of the pages in this month’s magazine, I decided I would post some of my favorites. On their website, Backpacker has a section for app tools such as Backpacker Destinations which allows users to access trips and trails, save and upload trails, and share information via social media. There is a similar, less extensive type of app for Android called My Tracks which overlays routes onto Google maps. My favorite was the Backpacker Survival School which is like a course in being Bear Grylls. The iPad app teaches you what to do if you get lost or find yourself attacked by a bear. The magazine contained a full page ad for OpenCaching.com and their geocaching Bill of Rights.

New Jersey’s lost acres

It’s amazing how often life immitates blog. For a class on qualitative GIS, I put together a Google Earth narrative history of growing up in north west New Jersey. I started with an up close Google Earth view of the lush green forested mountains and rolling farmland hills that I think of when I think of my home state, but I didn’t actually say where I was from until I zoomed out to show the shape of NJ. If I could have found a heart shaped shape file to use, I would have. It is interesting to geospatially visualize the dramatic growth that has happened in New Jersey in a relatively short period of time.

This is why I enjoyed reading the New York Times article from August 2010 which reviews a report done on “Changing Landscapes in the Garden State” by Rowen and Rutgers Universities. Rowan University hosts an interactive companion site of animated maps from their report to illustrate two decades of urban growth and open space loss in New Jersey from 1986 through 2007. The report and interactive maps are part of an ongoing collaboration between the Geospatial Research Lab at Rowan University and the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University examining New Jersey’s urban growth and land use change.

The MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize

If you are a student team or professional start-up anywhere in the world, The MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize $100K Entrepreneurship Competition is now open. According to their website, “MIT student teams, other student teams, and professional start-up teams are eligible to participate in the Energy Track only. The process will include networking and team building events, professional mentoring and skills development, along with a unified judging process.” Entries are due February 28th and must include a 1,000 word business plan executive summary and small 10 page power point presentation. Their vision includes enabling technologies such as sensors and integrated systems or planning.

Australian Flood Maps

Like many recent weather-related disasters, the media and on-line websites have started to increasingly use interactive maps to explain disasters such as Guardian UK and other news outlets coverage of the current Australian flooding. In most areas where flooding is a problem, flood maps are very important not only for planning, such as the work done by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, but also for insurance purposes. In fact, flood insurance has been a major topic of debate over the past few years in Australia, and GIS plays an important part in it as demonstrated in a 2009 ESRI Australia Insurance Flood Map and Risk Policy Pricing video.

The flooding reminded me of a 1988 science fiction disaster book I read called “The Drowning Towers” by distinguished Australian writer George Turner, which explored what would happen to society, if Australia flooded. It is considered one of the top science fiction novels of all time, but at the time it was written the idea of a flood on such a huge scale was considered to be unbelievable. It is interesting to me because disaster fiction always seems related to the geographical background of the person writing it, flooding has always been a very real problem in Australia. Corbis images has pictures of the Brisbane, Australia flood of 1893, Walking Melbourne has many historic photos includes ones of the 1863 flood, while the Australian Bureau of Meteorology provides a brief history of Queensland floods.

Finally, a national appeal has been started to raise funds, accept donations, and provide resources through the Queensland government.

Sustainable Seafood App

There are many restaurant apps around that rely on users to input location on their locale or sites they visit to create a national or international database.

The most recent one I have found out about is The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood WATCH Project FishMap which asks users to share information on the locations of restaurants and markets for sustainable seafood. It provides seafood pictures and a list of seafood that is ocean friendly.

According to the Seafood WATCH website, they make
recommendations using science-based, peer reviewed, and ecosystem-based criteria. They state that “Since 1999, we’ve distributed tens of millions of pocket guides, our iPhone application has been downloaded more than 240,000 times, and we have close to 200 partners across North America, including the two largest food service companies in the U.S.”

The downloads and partners are important because voluntary apps are only as useful as the quantity of participants and quality/reliability of the information they enter.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

In 2008, Sue posted about the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Renewable Energy Laboratory Atlas that was in development. I ran across the completed NREL FTP site with geospatial toolkits and GIS data by the NREL GIS team. They analyze wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other energy resources and provide corresponding GIS data. This includes a beta version of their MapSearch of maps created by the team. I had the honor of attending (sitting in the audience) a surprisingly tense and exciting National Middle School Science Bowl many years ago, so it was interesting to find out that NREL manages the National Middle School Science Bowl for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

NASA Earth Science Hurricane Katrina retrospective

To mark the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall in the Gulf Coast, NASA Earth Science has released this short video retrospective of some of the imagery and analyses that were used to track and visualize Hurricane Katrina