Science Communication Workshops for Scientists: Communicating Your Science

…from the American Geophysical Union…

Sunday, 13 December 2009, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Pacific Room I, San Francisco Marriott Marquis Hotel, 55 Fourth Street (corner of 4th & Mission)

“This small, practical, morning workshop (30 participants maximum) offers useful tips and practice during the workshop at explaining your work to a variety of nonscientist audiences. Early-career scientists and graduate students are especially welcome.”

NASA’s TRMM Satellite Provides a Rainfall Map of Mirinae’s Flooding Rains


TRMM Precipitation Analysis showed Mirinae's rainfall from Oct. 26-Nov. 2 from the Philippines to landfall in Vietnam. Tropical storm, typhoon and tropical depression symbols show locations, date and time. Rainfall totaled over 200 mm (~7.8 inches) in an area southeast of Manila in the Philippines. Parts of Vietnam received over 275 mm (~10.8 inches). Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

Typhoon Mirinae drenched the Philippines and Vietnam over the last two weeks. Typhoon Mirinae dropped heavy rain over the central Philippines after hitting as a category two typhoon with wind speeds of 85 knots (~98 mph). Mirinae weakened to a tropical storm as it moved into the South China Sea but briefly increased to typhoon strength just before hitting Vietnam on Monday, November 2 in the southern coastal province of Phu Yen.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite is managed by NASA and the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA. From its vantage point in space, TRMM flew over Typhoon Mirinae during its lifetime and catalogued its rainfall.

TRMM-based, near-real time Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. was used to monitor rainfall with Mirinae. Rainfall totals were calculated for the period from October 26 to November 2, 2009. Tropical storm, typhoon and tropical depression symbols were overlaid to show the locations of Mirinae from when it came ashore in the eastern Philippines until being downgraded to a tropical depression over Vietnam.

The TRMM rainfall analysis indicated that Mirinae dropped heavy rainfall with totals over 200 mm (~7.8 inches) in an area southeast of Manila in the Philippines. Typhoon Mirinae dropped heavy rainfall over a much larger area of Vietnam with a small area having rainfall totals over 275 mm (~10.8 inches). As with typhoon Ketsana in late September, Mirinae pulled moist air from the South China Sea and forced it up over terrain causing the heaviest rainfall to occur north of the typhoon.

Typhoon Ketsana took a similar path to Mirinae when it caused disasters in the Philippines and Vietnam in late September 2009. Tropical storm Ketsana took a more northern track, also making a final landfall in Vietnam.

Heavy rain amounts (from satellites) and flood potential calculations (from a hydrological model) are updated every three hours globally with the results shown on the “Global Flood and Landslide Monitoring” TRMM web site pages (

Text credit: Hal Pierce, SSAI/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

[Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center news release]

Living Maps: New Data, New Uses, New Problems

…presented at “Engaging Data: First International Forum on the Application and Management of Personal Electronic Information”, MIT,  12 – 13 October 2009…

Living Maps: New Data, New Uses, New Problems

Christophe Aguiton, Dominique Cardon, and Zbigniew Smoreda

Sociology and Economics of Networks and Services Department, Orange Labs, Paris, France

“In this paper, we address some sociological and political issues linked to the emerging of distributed, real-time ‘living maps’. A ‘living map’ is a merger between a territory map and a dynamic localized flows representation creating visual information where places, people, activities, and time are mixed together. Starting with the hypothesis of transformation in urban meeting manners, we propose a typology of living maps and we discuss the social and privacy issues linked to each type of use.”

Allan Schmidt talks about the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis

Allan Schmidt talks about the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis, in Nick Chrisman 2006 ESRI Press book “Charting the Unknown: How Computer Mapping at Harvard Became GIS.”  Introduction by Jack Dangermond.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Allan Schmidt was executive director of the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis from 1967 to 1981, and is now retired.

North Atlantic Fish Populations Shifting as Ocean Temperatures Warm


Map showing shifts in distribution of many fish stocks in the Northeast U.S. (Credit: Janet Nye, NEFSC/NOAA)

Southern Species like Atlantic Croaker May Become Common in New England Waters

About half of 36 fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, many of them commercially valuable species, have been shifting northward over the last four decades, with some stocks nearly disappearing from U.S. waters as they move farther offshore, according to a new study by NOAA researchers.

Their findings, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, show the impact of changing coastal and ocean temperatures on fisheries from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Canadian border.

Janet Nye, a postdoctoral researcher at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. and the lead author of the study, looked at annual spring survey data from 1968 to 2007 for stocks ranging from Atlantic cod and haddock to yellowtail and winter flounders, spiny dogfish, Atlantic herring, and less well-known species like blackbelly rosefish. Historic ocean temperature records and long-term processes like the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation dating back to 1850 were also analyzed to put the temperature data into context.

“During the last 40 years, many familiar species have been shifting to the north where ocean waters are cooler, or staying in the same general area but moving into deeper waters than where they traditionally have been found,” Nye said. “They all seem to be adapting to changing temperatures and finding places where their chances of survival as a population are greater.”

Nye and coauthors Jason Link, Jonathan Hare and William Overholtz of NEFSC selected the 36 species to study because they were consistently caught in high numbers in the Center’s annual spring bottom trawl survey. They also represented a wide range of taxonomic groups, and were known to be commercially or ecologically important. NEFSC, headquartered in Woods Hole, conducts annual spring and fall trawl surveys and has the world’s longest time series of standardized fishery population data.

The researchers looked at where the fish were caught and their biomass, or the estimated total weight of the population, in each year of the survey.  For each stock they estimated the center of abundance, average depth, the range or area that the stock occupied, and the average temperature at which each stock was found.

They also took into account fishing pressures on the species over time, as well as natural cycles in ocean temperature. Ocean temperatures have increased since the 1960s and 1970s, and the authors found significant changes in species distribution consistent with warming in 24 of the 36 stocks studied.

Ten of the 36 stocks examined had significant range expansion, while 12 had significant range contraction. Changes in a species range can be affected by both temperature changes and fishing pressure, with heavily fished stocks appearing more sensitive to climate change and often showing a larger shift.  Seventeen of the 36 stocks occupied increasingly greater depths, and three stocks occupied increasingly shallower waters.  However, the temperature at which each stock was found did not change over time, suggesting that fish are moving to remain within their preferred temperature range.

Fish species can respond to changes in ocean temperature in a variety of ways. The stock can move poleward to avoid warmer water temperatures, or move into deeper waters than they have previously been found.  If fish cannot change their geographic or depth distribution, there may be changes in growth, reproduction and mortality rates. As a result, the size of the population may increase or decrease depending on the temperature preference of the species.  Most species in the study were found to be responding to warming ocean temperatures in one of these ways.

“The fact that we see responses in many species consistent with what you would expect with warming, but in different types of species that have experienced different historical fishing pressure, suggests that we are already witnessing the response of fish to a warming scenario,” Nye said. “The community structure is changing from cool-water to warm-water fish species. These trends will likely continue”.

While consumers will find familiar fish species at their local fish markets for the foreseeable future, fisherman may have to travel farther to catch some species until eventually it will not be economical.

“Consumers in the Northeast, for example, may eventually start seeing less familiar species like Atlantic croaker at local markets and on restaurant menus as southern and Mid-Atlantic species move northward into New England waters,” Nye said. “The fish appear to be adapting to a changing environment, and people will as well over the next few decades.”

The authors say the study has implications beyond the Northeast U.S.  “It is another example of the need for an ecosystem-based management approach to our fisheries,” said co-author Jason Link, a fisheries biologist at NEFSC’s Woods Hole laboratory. “Many factors, temperature among them, influence the status of a fish stock, and we need to be aware of all of those factors and consider them in management decisions. Looking at ‘the big picture’ helps put each piece of the puzzle in perspective.”

[Source: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) news release]

Ecosystem Management Decision Support System

emdsThe Ecosystem Management Decision Support (EMDS) System is an application framework for knowledge-based decision support of ecological assessments at any geographic scale.  EMDS integrates state-of-the-art GIS as well as knowledge-based reasoning and decision modeling technologies in the Microsoft Windows environment to provide decision support for a substantial portion of the adaptive management process of ecosystem management.  EMDS is built and maintained by a consortium consisting of the U.S. Forest Service, InfoHarvest, Rules of Thumb, and The Redlands Institute (University of Redlands).

Map of the Day: Mapping Ecosystem Services in the Sierra Nevada, California

…from the ESRI Map Book, Volume 24


“Natural ecosystems provide many services ranging from necessities, such as food and water, to services, such as erosion control, flood regulation and storm protection, to cultural values of open space for recreation and spiritual renewal. The Natural Capital Project, a partnership between Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund, is developing, testing, and applying innovative methods for mapping ecosystem services, including water, agricultural production, carbon sequestration, and pollination.

“The northern Sierra Nevada, which extends from south of Lake Tahoe to Lassen Volcanic National Park, is home to exceptional natural, cultural, and recreational resources of statewide and global significance. The region also faces immediate threats from development and catastrophic wildfire as well as the likelihood that global climate change will significantly affect the region’s natural resources.

“Shown here are four ecosystem services in the Northern Sierra Nevada: water yield, water retention, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity. These maps represent the first step in mapping the delivery, distribution, and economic value of ecosystem services in the Sierra Nevada of California.

“Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.”

Quote of the Day

“…the idea of trying to build machines that suck CO2 out of the air and then somehow store it is pretty clearly worth researching. That said, trees already do this quite well and our tree-planting technology is fine. Rather than wait around for the hypothetical ‘artificial trees’ of the future why not just plant more trees?”

Matt Yglesias