Digital Geologic Map of Oregon Completed

ogdc5Six Year Project Compiles 345 Separate Maps/Datasets and Covers 96,000 Square Miles

The Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) has finished a six year project to develop a digital geologic map of Oregon and to compile this geologic information into a database for the entire state. This completed map and data, the Oregon Geologic Data Compilation (OGDC-5), is the most accurate, complete and up to date geologic map in Oregon’s history.

By integrating the work of many individual geologic mappers into a digital data set, the compilation becomes a “living map” that can be accessed on many different levels and can change as new information is added. The data are stored in a geographic information system (GIS) format with links to a relational database. Knowledge of and access to GIS and database software applications are essential to the use of the DVD version of the compilation.

Also being released is Open-File Report O-09-03, Preliminary Digital Geologic Compilation Map of Part of Northwestern Oregon, by Lina Ma, Ray E. Wells, Alan R. Niem, Clark A. Niewendorp, and Ian P. Madin. This map displays simplified OGDC-5 data in a map format for this portion of the state.

While OGDC-5 is primarily for users of GIS, the data from the compilation is being used for the new Oregon Sesquicentennial Geologic Map, which is being created for a general audience interested in learning more about the amazing geologic history of Oregon. This map will be available later this summer.

Earlier versions of OGDC-5 are already being used throughout the state for projects and programs ranging from the identification of groundwater resources and the locations of naturally occurring hazardous materials to mapping landslides and earthquake faults.

“By using digital mapping technology we are able to present much more detail than conventional paper maps. We will be able to better assist in the understanding of a variety of environmental, resource-availability, geologic-hazard, and land-use planning questions,” said Vicki S. McConnell, State Geologist and Director of DOGAMI.

Young Scientist Recognized for Real Time Air Pollution Monitoring System

…from The Telegraph, Calcutta, India…

“The Delhi Council of Science and Technology, under the Delhi government, has conferred the prestigious Young Scientist Award on Neeraj Garg Baruah, a resident of Guwahati and student of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

“The honour was bestowed on Baruah in recognition of his contribution to the development of the NANO-GIS Concept which involves the use of Nanotechnology-based nanowire sensors and geospatial technology for real time air pollution monitoring system.”

GIS Helps Clemson Scientists Evaluate Soils for Holding Earth’s Surplus Carbon

clemsonSoils play a vital role in dealing with the environmental impacts of rising atmospheric carbon levels — primarily carbon dioxide — from natural and human activities. Clemson University soil scientists are studying soil types, ranking them on their ability to hold carbon and preventing it from returning to the atmosphere for eons.

The Earth’s carbon budget — its balance between carbon used for plant growth and excess carbon stored — is a dynamic process. As carbon is released through fossil-fuel burning and changing land use, scientists are seeking a more accurate understanding of carbon storage and cycling.

The Earth holds carbon in what scientists call pools: reservoirs of carbon stocks stored in and on the Earth and oceans as organic and inorganic matter. Simplistically, organic carbon compounds are connected to plants or animals while inorganic carbon compounds are often linked to minerals or rocks. Soil is second only to the oceans as a carbon sink: pools into which more carbon flows in than out. Soil scientists have a better picture of soil organic carbon — soil containing decaying plant and animal matter — than soil inorganic carbon. Scientists are now studying soil inorganic carbon, theorizing it may be a key area for forming and holding carbon, preventing it from returning to the atmosphere for eons.

A team of Experiment Station scientists from Clemson University and Virginia Tech analyzed the 12 major soil groups in the continental United States, ranking them for their potential ability to form new soil inorganic carbon based on average annual atmospheric wet deposition of calcium, or the amount of ionic calcium present in rainfall. The results were first presented at the Soil Science Society of America Annual Meeting in November 2007 in New Orleans and recently have been published in the May-June 2009 issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal.

The study evaluated average annual atmospheric wet deposition of ionic calcium from 1994 to 2003 in the continental United States by soil order using spatial analysis of ionic calcium wet deposition data obtained from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program and the State Soil Geographic Database from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Using geographic information system (GIS) software, spatial data layers were developed and averaged to create a final iconic calciu wet deposition map layer. The total deposition per soil order was calculated by combining the final average ionic calcium wet deposition map layer with the generalized soil order data layer.

Results from the study revealed that the total wet deposition of ionic calcium was 8.6 × 108 kilograms, which would be equivalent to the maximum theoretical formation of 2.6 × 108 kilograms of carbon as soil inorganic calcium, barring losses due to competitive processes, such as plant uptake, erosion and deep leaching. The soil orders receiving the highest area-normalized total wet deposition of ionic calcium were Alfisols and Mollisols, non-arid soils that typically are associated with the “bread-basket” regions of the United States.

Research team member Elena Mikhailova, a soil scientist at Clemson who originally conceived the research approach, stated, “Formation of new carbonate minerals in soils — what scientists call pedogenic carbonates — represent a pathway by which atmospheric (carbon dioxide) can be sequestered. Maps of potential (soil inorganic carbon) formation and storage based on wet (ionic calcium) deposition can aid in understanding terrestrial ecosystem inorganic carbon dynamics and the way it can be manipulated to decrease (carbon dioxide) concentrations in the atmosphere.”

The research is part of an ongoing project at Clemson to study soil carbon, particularly inorganic carbon stocks, and its role in the global carbon budget. Studies will measure, profile and identify the soil carbon characteristics and regional distribution to understand conditions and develop predictive models for future soil inorganic carbon research.

CONTACT: Christopher Post, 864-656-6939, cpost@clemson.edu

Will We Decamp for the Northern Rim?

whatsnextLaurence C. Smith is professor and vice chairman of geography and professor of earth and space sciences at UCLA. He studies likely impacts of northern climate change including the economic effects in the Northern Rim. Smith has written an essay titled “Will We Decamp for the Northern Rim?” which has been published in Max Brockman’s new book What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science, which came out today.

Will We Decamp for the Northern Rim?

By Prof. Laurence C. Smith, UCLA

“Already the impacts are obvious in the extreme north, where melting Arctic sea ice, drowning polar bears, and forlorn Inuit hunters are by now iconic images of global warming. The rapidity and severity of Arctic warming is truly dramatic. However, the Arctic, a relatively small, thinly populated region, will always be marginal in terms of its raw social and economic impact on the rest of us. The greater story lies to the south, penetrating deeply into the “Northern Rim,” a vast zone of economically significant territory and adjacent ocean owned by the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. As in the Arctic, climate change there has already begun. This zone — which constitutes almost 30 percent of the Earth’s land area and is home to its largest remaining forests, its greatest untouched mineral, water, and energy reserves, and a (growing) population of almost 100 million people — will undergo one of the most profound biophysical and social expansions of this century.”…

National Science Teachers Association Launches New Online Professional Network and Learning Community

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recently launched a new online professional network and learning community to help members enhance their professional development and growth as science educators. This network offers a unique graphical interface that connects NSTA members, conference attendees, and presenters with others who share similar interests, values, and professional needs. Initially, it places you at the center of a map or target, and shows how other members in the community relate to you. Use this to find others who share your experiences, or have expertise you need.

nstaFor instance, say you need help with “teaching strategies” and “data analysis.” When you get to the graphical interface, look to the quadrant labeled “I need help with…” and hover your mouse over the pins closest to you. These will represent individuals who share some or many of the attributes you used to describe yourself, plus they happen to have expertise in those two areas.

This network’s other central feature is the ability of all users to create groups related to particular categories, such as Conference Presentations, or Professional Interest Groups. Users can create a group on virtually any topic of their choosing, invite others with an expressed interest in that topic, and begin to exchange ideas and resources. The community also includes an internal messaging system, threaded forums similar to discussion boards, calendar events, and a place to post resources (documents of any type, slide shows, even images) for collaboration. As you begin to navigate the system, you’ll find the interface intuitive and fun. As you browse through the available groups, you can join any that appeal to you and begin to access their resources, join in discussions, and view and post calendar events.  Instructions on accessing the site for the first time are below. Once you have completed your profile (and the system guides you through this step by step), you are free to explore the groups, join them, download or upload resources, and participate in the forums. Your participation will assist us in making this an effective and useful tool.

Making a community work takes participation. We know that for many of you, that is reason enough to join, but we also know some of you need a little more incentive, so as the network grows, we’ll ask key contributors to take leadership roles in driving the conversations, sharing resources, and creating calendar events. Often there will be a “Question of the Moment” pulled from active groups and posted on your “Dashboard” for all the users on the system to answer and discuss. Facilitators of groups that are highly active will be recognized both from within and outside the community and potentially rewarded with any manner of NSTA or sponsor-developed content, supplies, and support.

Science 2.0 and GIS

“The potential of Web 2.0 to bring together the isolated knowledge, tools and people for successful research and development has inspired the term Science 2.0.

“Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technologies can be used to analyse information about specific geographical regions, such as neighborhoods, zip codes, cities, or counties. Advocacy groups can analyse campaign demographics to improve voter participation on key social services issues. Consumer rights advocates can use GIS to identify where services are distributed in an area in order to better advocate for access to service and improved service delivery.”

Applying Geospatial Technology to Global Design: Ethical Considerations

Geospatial technologies are immensely important in helping us visualize physical and anthropogenic changes to earth’s climate and related systems, but ultimately their most valuable contribution lies in analyzing that change and supporting decision-making to help shape and design the future of earth systems in ways that are sustainable while still serving the purposes of humanity.  The principal goal of this blog post is to encourage a dialog on development of simple and actionable guidelines for ethical application of geospatial technologies for the purpose of analyzing, designing, and ultimately implementing purposeful changes to earth systems.

Before proposing a set of ethical guidelines for the application of geospatial technologies for supporting global design, it is helpful to look at some examples.  The review below presents some interesting and useful examples, but is in no way meant to be comprehensive.

A Note on Climate Change Ethics

Numerous papers and articles have been written about the “ethics of climate change,” their focus being primarily on humanity’s responsibility to the environment.  While such ethical considerations are important to communicate and debate, the focus of this blog post is not that humanity should be doing something to counter climate change but rather we need guidelines focused on the responsible and ethical use of technology in the shaping of decision making related to climate change.

Asmiov’s Laws of Robotics

In his 1942 short story “Runaround” in the book I, Robot, Isaac Asimov proposed his well-known three laws of robotics:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. (Asimov 1942)

Asimov later abstracted these same concepts and developed a second set of laws governing the design and use of tools more generally:

  • A tool must be safe to use.
  • A tool must perform its function efficiently unless this would harm the user.
  • A tool must remain intact during its use unless its destruction is required for its use or for safety.  (Asimov 2001)

Asimov’s laws transcended the realm of science fiction.  While we can apply some of what we learn from Asimov to the development of ethical guidelines for the use of geospatial technology in global design, the overriding theme throughout Asimov’s laws pertaining to both robotics specifically and tools generally is a focus on human safety without explicitly taking things like sustainability and the health of our planet into consideration.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Taking the first part of its title from a Richard Brautigan poem in which Brautigan envisioned a future where nature and technology are inextricably linked in a mutually beneficial relationship, Adam Greenfield’s essay on ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings provides a useful example of principals that meet the dual requirement of being both useful and humane (Greenfield 2004; Brautigan 1967).  Greenfield’s five principles are:

  • Default to harmlessness.
  • Be self-disclosing.
  • Be conservative of face.
  • Be conservative of time.
  • Be deniable.  (Greenfield 2004)

Similar to Asimov’s laws regarding tools in general and robotics in particular, Greenfield’s focus is weighted towards doing no harm to humans, but still presents us with such useful concepts as transparency and reversibility.

GISP Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct

The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) has established a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) certification program for GIS practitioners who have met minimum standards for ethical conduct and professional practice.  The GISP Code of Ethics details a number of standards for obligations to society, employers and funders, colleagues and the profession, and individuals in society (GISCI ND a).  Their companion Rules of Conduct for Certified GIS Professionals is “a set of implementing laws of professional practice that seek to express the primary examples of ethical behavior consistent with the Code of Ethics.” (GISCI ND b)

GISCI ‘s GISP Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct present a set of detailed, comprehensive, and GIS-centric guidelines on the moral and ethical responsibilities of geospatial practitioners.  Responsibility for and to the health and welfare of natural systems is not explicitly stated by GISCI, but should be clearly affirmed in any guidelines for the use of GIS in climate change modeling and global design.

Proposed Ethical Guidelines for the Application of Geospatial Technology to Global Design

As the application of GIS technology as a cornerstone of a climate change modeling and global design framework becomes increasingly more obvious, what we need is a set of guidelines that meld the nature-centric ethics of climate change with other ethical systems focused on ensuring the health and safety of humanity.  The following proposed guidelines should be carefully debated in the geospatial and scientific communities; they should be considered a starting point for a long, important conversation.

  • Actions should minimize harm to both humans and natural systems. Harmlessness, or what some ethicists refer to as the “harm test,” is the common denominator across multiple ethical systems, demanding that actions preclude any type of harm to human beings.  This is a bone of contention with those at the far end of the spectrum in the climate change debate, who some might say seemingly value nature more than human life.  Even if the goal is sustainability while still serving the purpose of humanity, it’s difficult to imagine actions which in all cases would be mutually beneficial to both nature and humans.  But one major benefit of a GIS-based framework for climate change modeling and global design is that it provides the power to analyze multiple scenarios and design the best possible future, supporting the principle that actions should minimize harm to both humans and natural systems.
  • Analysis should be complete and comprehensive. Climate change issues are complex and demand an all-inclusive and wide-ranging examination.  All relevant aspects of physical, biological, and social systems need to be considered and represented.  Multiple data layers describing the intricacies of each relevant system, an array of sophisticated domain-specific models, and use of a GIS-based framework to tie everything together and evaluate multiple future options will insure that the analysis is both complete and comprehensive.
  • Actions should be transparent and defensible. Climate change issues are often ideologically and politically charged, and global design recommendations resulting from spatial analysis and modeling could have massive positive or negative consequences on human health and welfare and earth systems.  All research, analysis, and modeling needs to be objective, keeping with high standards of scientific integrity and following the scientific method.  Results—and the methods used to obtain them—need to be clearly communicated.  (GISCI ND).   All efforts should be taken to insure that the process is transparent, and the resulting recommendations are defensible.
  • Actions should be adaptable and reversible. Adaptive systems feature feedback loops for sensing and responding to environmental changes.   (Kosko  1993)  Allenby states that “…because the potential outcomes of each action become clear only as the system adjusts, the engineer is behaving unethically if she or he doesn’t monitor the results of the chosen action, and modify them accordingly.”  (Allenby 2005).  And while the goal of using a GIS-based framework for earth systems modeling and global design is to get the most comprehensive and complete picture as possible with current technology, it would be irresponsible to assume we know everything and lock in to an option from which there is no exit should things go horribly awry.  Therefore, all actions should be adaptable and reversible.

References

Allenby, Brad, 2005.   Micro and Macro Ethics for an Anthropogenic Earth.   Professional Ethics Report.  Volume XVIII, Number 2, Spring 2005.

Asimov, Isaac, 1942.  “Runaround”.  In I, Robot.

Asimov, Issac, 2001. Robot Visions.  12 April 2001.

Brautigan, Richard, 1967.  All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.

EDCC ND.  White Paper on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change. Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change.    http://www.webethics.net/padova2008/doc/pdf/edcc-whitepaper.pdf

GISCI ND a.  A GIS Code of Ethics.  GIS Certification Institute.  http://www.gisci.org/code_of_ethics.aspx

GISCI ND b.  Rules of Conduct for Certified GIS Professionals (GISPs).   GIS Certification Institute.  http://www.gisci.org/Ethics_and_Conduct/rules_of_conduct.aspx

Greenfield, Adam, 2004.  All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Some Ethical Guidelines for User Experience in Ubiquitous-Computing Settings.  Boxes and Arrows, December 2004.  http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/all_watched_over_by_machines_of_loving_grace_some_ethical_guidelines_for_user_experience_in_ubiquitous_computing_settings_1_

Kosko, Bart, 1993. Fuzzy Thinking: The New Science of Fuzzy Logic.