Remapping an Ancient Mammoth Site in South Dakota

mammoth_7…from ArcUser magazine…

Scientists at a South Dakota research center are remapping the location of bones of Ice Age mammoths with GIS to preserve the context of the find and allow for the automation of quantitative analyses.

The Mammoth Site recently embarked on a project to completely remap the bone bed using the latest technology. The center upgraded the GIS software to ArcGIS 9.2, bought a Trimble robotic transit, and improved site photography. These upgrades vastly improved map quality and opened the doors to hitherto impossible research.

Marine Debris Mapping In California

serviceatsea…from The GIS Institute and Service At Sea

We have been partnering with SeaLife Conservation in their efforts to raise awareness of marine debris, its sources, and its ill effects on ocean creatures and ecosystems. The main offices of SeaLife Conservation are the 65′ sailing vessel, Derek M Baylis, built specifically for research and conservation work. While running an experiential program called “Science Under Sail” with The Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the crew began removing plastic from the water while they discussed ocean issues with participants. By the time we met them in 2007, they were marking location of the debris with GPS as it was removed from the water, and SeaLife volunteers began producing basic maps of the debris fields. In 2008 we facilitated a GIS software grant from the ESRI Conservation Program, and we donated a laptop to run the GIS software on. This year, with the help of Douglas Scott from Avalanche Mapping (Boulder, CO), we configured Trimble Nomad GPS receivers with a custom interface to simplify data collection, reducing the time, labor, and skill involved in maneuvering to, netting, and collecting debris data as it is spotted in the bay.

The Science Under Sail program informs the way people see and think about marine ecosystems, and plastics. Plastics do not break down – they only break apart. Thus in the oceans, no matter what size, shape, or color, plastic resembles some living creature, which means some other living creature eats it, and eventually dies with indigestible plastic in its body. Another major problem addressed in the program is entanglement of animals in plastics and other derelict fishing gear. If you are in Monterrey, this half-day trip is really worth your time. Find more info, and see a cool video of Science Under Sail on the Monterrey Aquarium web site.

The efforts of SeaLife Conservation are now shifting – to raise awareness of where debris (mainly plastics) are coming from. SeaLife was responsible for convincing all the food vendors in Monterrey to stop using Styrofoam containers, as that was the most common debris found in the bay a few years ago. Now they are involved in several plastic bans in the multi-county San Francisco Bay area.

Researching the Bat Population in Dunbar Cave

lblred“Dr. Barrass worked with Mr. Mike Wilson of the APSU [Austin Peay State University] Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to make maps of the cave and use those to plot out where the bats hang out. The Bat study students enter the cave at least once a month and record data as to where they find the bats. Comparing that data over time and seasons they know that Pipistrelles use only certain chambers within the cave and avoid others. That is most likely due to human impacts-like the burned chamber, he says. Pipistrelles seem to like congregating in groups and they hope to identify the location of a maternity roost (females gathering for care of their young).”

“Reverse Drift” Modeling Helps with Air France Flight 447 Recovery

sarops…from GovCon

“The Coast Guard assisted the French authorities by applying their new, advanced SAR software system called the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS) that generates optimized search area predictions for objects missing at sea. Recovery of bodies and debris is significant not only for families, but for crash investigators, said Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“SAROPS includes a ‘reverse drift’ capability, which predicts a search area based on the location where floating wreckage is found. This enables search planners to develop optimal search patterns, maximizing the probability of successfully locating search objects. By tracking information on when and where debris is found, the SAROPS system works backward using the weather, wind and sea conditions over a specified period of time to estimate a probable location of the plane. Based on this position, search efforts can be focused to find the plane’s flight data recorders.”

Dr. Jorg-Rudiger Sack Appointed to HPCVL Chair

hpcvlThe High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory (HPCVL) has announced the appointment of three HPCVL-Sun Microsystems of Canada Chairs in Computational Science and Engineering.  One of the three scientists is Dr. Jorg-Rudiger Sack of Carleton University.   Dr. Sack is a major contributor to important research in Canada, and was amonst the original investigators who established HPCVL.

Dr. Sack is currently researching intelligent systems for Geographic Information Services (GIS), working to develop intelligent maps that can be customized and sent to devices such as cell phones or PDAs. Using the lab’s parallel computing resources, he is developing applications to enhance mapping features based on individual needs and context, such as maps that rotate to match the user’s location.

A Schmahl Science Workshop: Get Involved

SSW logoA Schmahl Science Workshop (SSW) was formed in 1996 to provide hands-on science activities for kids in a free-form environment. Starting from garage workshops with 4 children, SSW has grown. Since 1996, we have served over 60,400 students and over 4,000 teachers.  Each of these students on average participates in 20 workshops a year resulting in over 1,019,735 student contacts since our founding.  In the 2007-08 academic year we served 20,273 preK-12th grade students. In the 2008-09 academic year we will serve over 25,000 preK-12th grade students at 120 schools in 28 school districts.

We are a partnership of students, parents, teachers, scientists and science professionals who have come together to help foster this interest in science. SSW networks with professors, scientists, and educators throughout the USA. A Schmahl Science Workshop goes on-site, off-site, any site —anywhere. We will take our program to anyone who wants to learn.

Geographic Literacy in U.S. by 2025?

ngs-logoDaniel C. Edelson, Vice President for Education, National Geographic Society writes about geographic literacy in the Spring 2009 issue of ArcNews.

“…we are in the process of launching the second phase of our campaign for geographic literacy. The goal of this campaign is to approach universal geographic literacy. Specifically, we set a goal to achieve 80 percent rates of geographic literacy in all 50 states by 2025, where geographic literacy is defined as the ability of students to apply geographic skills and understanding in their personal and civic lives. We set a second goal to achieve 50 percent geographic fluency in all 50 states at the same time. Geographic fluency is a higher standard, which we define as preparation sufficient for successful postsecondary study in subjects that require geographic skills and understanding (e.g., international affairs or environmental science).”

New GIS Training Class for Natural Resource and Field Conservation Staff

serviceatsea…from The GIS Institute and Service At Sea

We are pleased to announce the availability of our new GIS Training class, ArcGIS for Natural Resource and Field Conservation. The course materials were donated by Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI, to help us raise money for the non-profit work we do as The GIS Institute. We’ve shaped these materials into a fantastic three (or five) day instructor-led class. In short, we’ve blended sections of the ESRI ArcGIS Desktop II, Desktop III, and Spatial Analyst class, and integrated datasets from several partners in the conservation GIS and natural resources management specialty areas. We’ve also added some custom GPS material for both Garmin and Trimble equipment. Taking this class will provide students with top-notch course materials, combined with data and experiences from organizations and people who work in these GIS applications regularly.

All after-cost proceeds from the sale of this course go DIRECTLY to the general fund of The GIS Institute, our not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. Your purchase of on-site training, or sending participants to a regularly scheduled class, is direct support for our endeavors, which foster GIS and mapping capacity amongst people working for the planet.

Next classes:

Many thanks to Jack, Miriam Schmidts, and to all the ESRI staff who have made this course a reality. We are also thankful for the people and partner organizations that allowed us to feature their datasets in the class; GeoEye and the Ross-Edwards family (Long Caye/Lighthouse Reef, Belize), Kruger National Park (South Africa), Orangutan International Foundation (Indonesia) and the USDA Forest Service. These contributions have allowed us to make the course one of a kind, international, and applicable to a wide range of organizational needs and technical processes.