The Wright Brothers and Remote Sensing

Today in history, most people celebrate the invention of the airplane. Along with asking the popular question – Did the Wright Brothers invent anything else?  On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers were the first to fly a controllable self-propelled airplane. However, geospatial professionals also celebrate the Wright Brothers contribution to the field of remote sensing.

wrightbrothers.info
wrightbrothers.info

 

Continue reading “The Wright Brothers and Remote Sensing”

Nautical Miles: From Darwin to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The diaries from sea voyages are thrilling, especially those that study marine biology.  From the first entry setting down the base coordinates to later entries listing nautical miles traveled. Although they take place almost two hundred years apart,  two sea voyages  are available online this week, Darwin’s Beagle Library  from Darwin’s voyage (1831) and Clean Our Oceans Refuge Coalition (COORC)  Alguita Expedition to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014).

Continue reading “Nautical Miles: From Darwin to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

Xerces Society: Bumble Bees and Monarch Butterflies

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is about more than just bumble bees and monarch butterflies, although these are popular citizen science mapping projects.  A mind-blowing 94 percent of the more than one million species of animals in the world are invertebrates.

The Xerces Society do applied research projects to protect invertebrates ranging from how to effectively restore pollinator habitat on farms, biomonitoring of wetlands, and conserving endangered invertebrates.  Established as a non-profit in 1971, the Xerces Society is working with over 40 years of data, much of it geospatial data.  Their scientists and volunteers have been using GIS and mapping for many years. The Stable Isotope Project  analyzes patterns of reproduction, emergence, and movement among migrant species of dragonfly at different latitudes.   The Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute compare the hydrogen isotope ratio in its wings to that of the water body where the insect was captured to map migratory distance. 

 

 

Geocaching goes mainstream

In the world of advertising and marketing, it is fairly easy to guess that if something starts to show up on deal sites and clearance sections that it has either A. gone mainstream or B. jumped the shark and is no longer “cool”.  Either way, this is good news for geocaching which has shown up in some fairly mainstream places lately.

Todays, Woot megadeal site has an entertaining video, Mortimer’s Adventures in Geocaching, to sell geocaching items on sale that features their mascot, Mortimer.  Statements like “Geocaching is like a real life treasure hunt you can go on almost anywhere there is a steady population of nerds” might indicate that the Woot Seattle office has some veteran geocachers in the office.  However, finding cool Lego figurines might just be a geocacher’s dream item. Continue reading “Geocaching goes mainstream”

The Geography of Twitter

The Switch writer, Caitlin Dewey, reviewed a recent study on Twitter in her article on “Where do Twitter trends start? Try Cincinnati” for the Washington Post.  It summarizes a study done at Indiana University on where Twitter topics trend and spread.  It found that Twitter trends that start in Cincinnati tend to spread out and reach other cities more than would have been thought for a city of that size. It concluded that physical geography has an impact on social media, which is often popularly thought of as transcending geographic location, by everyone but geographers and geospatial scientists – or do they? It turns out that The Geography of Twitter is a trending topic itself in the research world. Continue reading “The Geography of Twitter”

GIS and Oklahoma Disaster

Many geospatial professionals, such as those on the GIS Stack Exchange, have asked what they can do with geospatial technologies to help in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma or for other disasters.  There are several crisis maps online including Google’s Oklahoma Crisis Map and ESRI’s Public Information Map.  The American Red Cross has the Safe and Well Communication site and a map of available shelters.   The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NOAA National Weather Service, and other

There are organizations that do crisis mapping, the most well-known being the URISA GIS Corps. Many times local areas have their own crisis mappers organizations which work with local geospatial groups, first responders, and municipalities.  The volunteer profile for Sean Bohac from RECON Environmental gives a good insight into what it is like to be a GIS volunteer in a disaster situation. Anahi Ayala Iacucci talks about other types of crisis mapping on her Diary of a Crisis Mapper website.

Crisis mapping is often an overlap of  existing geospatial infrastructure, when available, and disaster response by geospatial professionals and neogeographers. The National Academy of Sciences has an open book called, “Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management (2007)” by the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources (BESR).  The City of Moore, Oklahoma publicly available interactive map includes tornado damaged parcels from 2003 and many utilities including fire hydrants, which many towns have not located and mapped yet. They also ask that donations be made through The Red Cross.

I wasn’t able to locate any information related to directly related volunteer efforts, so please feel free to post any information you might have. Thank you.

 

 

Build Your Own Cicada Sensor

NPR had a  March story on “The Cicadas are Coming! Crowdsourcing An Underground Movement”  about the public’s involvement in predicting cicada emergence, and the time is now. If you live on the East Coast, where the Magicicada Brood II is making its “squishy and crunchy” 17-year reappearance according to Radiolab’s Cicada Tracker, be a part of citizen science tracking cicada’s. Research Scientist’s at the University of Connecticut Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department provide a tracking form, Radiolab provides instructions for a cool home made cicada sensor or a cheap soil thermometer detection method to map “Swarmageddon”.

Other cicada projects include:  The Mid-Atlantic Cicada database project is collecting brood reports to map for the mid-Atlantic region. The College of Mount St.Joseph and the Indian Academy of Science have a self-report site for mapping the Indiana brood at the IAS Cicada Web site.  According to the IAS website, Gene Kritsky, author of the Indiana Academy of Science’s book “Periodical Cicadas, the Plague and the Puzzle” found that Magicicada Brood II was mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1724 and are still found in the same place today. Leon Weinman’s poem, “Cicadas, Monticello” for Cerise Press begins, “Numberless, in cradled isolation, they nurse their common fate. Years, beneath cool pines, they wait in their white silence, emerging finally, at once, in thick surrender to the air.” While I am not sure if it refers to Jefferson’s Monticello, Georgia‘s, or somewhere else, it captures the spirit of a cicada emergence.

If you want more information on cicadas, Cicada Mania is a website “Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world”! with detailed information, maps, videos, photos, songs and a gift store. Other sources for information include:  National Geographic provides information on Cicadas at it’s website, Animal Planet explains “Why are Cicadas so Noisy?”, and University of Maryland the Cicadamanics reveal “Cicada-licoious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas” for the exceptionally curious.

 

Great Garden Worm Count

The Guardian article, “The Great Garden Worm Count Finds Our Underground Allies are Thriving” discusses the role of citizen scientists in earth worm research. According to the article, “The discovery was made thanks to a series of projects carried out by the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project and has involved more than 40,000 teams of school pupils and homeowners digging up worms and counting them.”  As part of their mission, OPAL has worked with a diverse group of citizen scientists to encourage the public to become engaged with their local natural environment. David Jones, the earthworm scientist from the Natural History Museum who designed the survey, explained how he uses the data the citizen scientists collect for the 2012 worm count. It provides a good overview of the interaction of the public and scientists working together to address interesting and overlapping concerns.

Other organizations around the world, such as the Great Lakes Worm Watch, collaborate with the public to do earth worm sampling.  The hands-on sampling methods they describe will be familiar to many biologists, gardeners,fisherman, and little kids. For example, the flip and strip is used to determine the density of earthworms on an area basis and involves flipping rocks and logs, while the hand sample involves digging up a shovel full of soil and hand sifting it to count and identify earth worms.

Both the OPAL and Great Lakes Worm Watch come up in a project search using the scistarter: science we can do together  science site which allows scientists to post collaborative projects and for interested individuals, groups, and educators to participate in projects.

AP Human Geography and Environmental Science

The AP (Advanced Placement) College Board has announced that it particularly needs AP Exam readers to score AP Human Geography and Environmental Science exams. Their website states that, “Each June, AP teachers and college faculty members from around the world gather in the United States to evaluate and score the free-response sections of the AP Exams.” In 2012 more than 11,00 readers participated, receiving an honorarium, travel expenses, and in some cases continuing education units.

The purpose of an AP exam is to provide college credit and advanced placement for high school students entering college. According to the AP website, AP placement helps students to qualify for college scholarships. The advanced placement exam for Human Geography uses the National Geography Standards with an emphasis on spatial analysis. They provide course descriptions and practice exams, which would be challenging for many geographers.  The advanced placement exam for Environmental Science is interdisciplinary and includes many elements of the geosciences. They provide an Environmental Science course description and practice exam with questions about physical geography.

For students planning to take the AP Human Geography or Environmental Science exams, there are many practice exams and study guides available in book, website, and even web app format.  The Human Geography exam takes over 2 hours and includes a 75 minute written exam section. Last year, one of the questions  was to identify three examples of walls or other barriers built by countries in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Good Luck! to all students studying for the upcoming AP exams.