Month: November 2010
The world has been set right as we return to our GISDay tradition of talking with our friend Rick Lawson of Esri about a variety of GIS topics such as trends, education, and great GIS tools. Included in our conversation are the new Explore Your Place History tool and the gallery of tools from Cybertech.
This post was written as a guest post for the MyWonderfulWorld blog for Geography Awareness Week. Be sure to head over and check out more of the MWW blog-a-thon for GAW.
Continuing Geography Awareness Week, we would like to talk about a topic that brings together geospatial technologies (it is GIS Day after all) with this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme of Freshwater. Water quality assessment is a crucial issue in many parts of the world due to causes such as pollution in manufacturing countries, scarcity in arid regions, and issues of access in urban areas. While Earth Observation Day is still a few months away (April 8, 2011), we wanted to take a look at geographic information gathered from remote sensing technologies to understand how this imagery can be used in studying water quality and other water-related issues.
There are a number of remote sensing studies that have taken advantage of spectral responses of specific phenomena to look at how light of different wavelengths can capture various water quality issues including sediments suspended in water, algae blooms, aquatic plants, and water temperature. Additional studies of these spectral responses have also been used to derive information on salinity (pdf) , water clarity, and other water topics. The United States and the European Union, for instance, both have water quality mandates that have been supported through the use of remote sensing imagery, and they are not alone in the use of such imagery to address this need.
In addition to studies that look at water quality, remotely sensed data has also been used to support a wide range of studies that deal with other water issues, such as identifying spatial changes in water bodies, by providing researchers with detailed views of an area. For example, remotely sensed data has been crucial in monitoring the contraction of the Aral Sea in central Asia, as well as other important bodies of water throughout the world. Other examples include mapping oil spills such as the spill this past summer in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or change detection to track snow pack or glacial melt.
While information derived from aerial or satellite images can support the large area assessment of surface water sources, it is often supported through the use of other location information/technologies. In-situ sensors are used by agencies such as the USGS. A network of fixed location sensors is maintained that can be used to ground truth certain aspects of water quality. In the case of studies that look at locations other than those with static location sensors, GPS receivers are used to record locations, such as in the case of randomly sampled ground truth test sites.
Of course, the information that is captured and classified using remote sensing can be fused with other types geographic information to provide users and consumers with a contextual, and often richer, understanding of water quality issues. An article from the Summer 2009 issue of Imaging Notes, for example, talks about some of the GIS tools that are used in water quality modeling. The wealth of tools that can be brought to bear to assess water quality issues are growing and now include a number of geospatial technologies. So remember, even though we only celebrate Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day once a year, there are many amazing resources and research projects out there that utilize remotely-sensed information to help us understand and try to solve many of today’s pressing environmental issues, including water quality and availability.
One of my favorite geography related songs is “Yakko’s World” from the Animaniacs Cartoon Series. When I went to find they lyrics recently, I was surprised to find that there was a Facebook page devoted to “I know all the lyrics to Yakko’s World” and a spirited debate about the countries referenced in the song. Obviously, song is a time-honored way to learn countries, planets, presidents, and even U.S. States. Erik Ribak is the goldmine of geography related songs up until 2009. National Geographic Xpeditions has a wonderful “geography and history through music” lesson plan. NatGeo Music also has an “aural tour” of the world through music which is frequently updated.
We found our way back, once again, to Geography Awareness Week. As you are probably aware, this year’s theme is Freshwater and we will be touching on the topic in our guest post on the MyWonderfulWorld blog on Wednesday, but we have our standard fair of daily podcasts planned for right here on veryspatial.com as well. We have quite a few interviews with academic departments and educators from the recent GeoINT conference that we will be highlighting through the week along with a few posts about the joys of Geography. And as always we will have a special podcast episode on Wednesday for GIS Day. We will be kicking everything off tonight with Episode 278 that will highlight our conversation with Merrill Johnson of the University of New Orleans. Be sure to check it, and the rest of Geography Awareness Week content, out this week.
Also, along with Geography Awareness Week this is also American Education Week sponsored by the National Education Association.
The Guardian UK interviews volunteers and family members who have used an digital library of war graves around the world in their article, “How to visit a virtual grave: A digital photography project allows families to see the final resting place of relatives who died in battle for the first time.” The War Graves Photographic Project (TWGPP), is an online “library” of war grave photos documented by volunteers worldwide. The mission of The War Graves Photographic Project is to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, MoD grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel to the present day and make these available within a searchable database. They accept images from anywhere in the world where military personnel were based or conflicts occurred. Other on-line war data searches include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall website and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Many countries have online databases of war memorials including the U.K. National Inventory, which includes all memorials including bus shelters, sundials, park benches; Queensland War Memorial Directory, Australian War Memorial Directory including war diaries; and Canada’s Virtual War Memorial Directory.
If Sherlock Holmes was alive today, like he is in the modern day Sherlock TV Show, he would use geospatial technologies and extensive closed circuit camera systems (CCTV) to solve crime. This isn’t purely speculation, because as co-creator of the tv series Steve Moffat points out, Sherlock Holmes was a modern detective during his time. In today’s world, law enforcement face cuts and are looking for solutions such as London’s Metropolitan Police Service using special or volunteer constables to cut costs. It provides hands-on training for volunteers who might later decide to pursue it full time. The London Metropolitan Police Department or “Scotland Yard” invented the crime analysis pin map in the 1820’s and continue to utilize the most updated GIS technologies. Internet Eyes is a controversial effort to allow the public to “to monitor live CCTV feed from our Business Customers, and notify them the instant a crime is observed” for a reward. It’s not difficult to imagine Sherlock Holmes using modern day geospatial technologies to solve crimes. As Holmes cried in the Adventure of the Copper Beeches, “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.” — a true geospatial analyst at heart.