PARC Forum: Location-based Advertising 101

parcThursday 12 Nov 2009 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC,
3333 Coyote Hill Rd, Palo Alto, California, USA

Blair Swedeen, Placecast

As the location-based services business leveraging the growth of GPS embedded in mobile phones continues to grow explosively, the opportunity is emerging for advertising and marketing to consumers based on knowledge of location through opt-in passive methods like GPS or expressed location like search.  In this talk, Blair Swedeen, a thought leader in the burgeoning location-based advertising space will give an overview of the landscape and how marketers are looking to take advantage of location awareness to improve marketing and advertising services.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Taking Volunteers to Map Ash Trees

…from the Citizen-Times

“Researchers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are inviting people to volunteer as Citizen Scientists from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday to map locations of ash trees in the park.

“Volunteers will learn how to identify ash and other common trees found in the Smoky Mountains, read a topographic map, and use a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit. The ash trees are at risk from the invasive, non-native Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle that can travel undetected in firewood and nursery stock from quarantined areas of the country into new locations in the Park. The data that is collected will help park staff map the locations of ash trees parkwide to monitor the health of the forest and detect future infestations.”

University of Wyoming Becomes Informational Partner in GeoMAPP Project


The 2008 digital map layers of sage grouse habitat, energy development and human settlement characterize resource management issues existing in Wyoming over the past 5-10 years.

The University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC), University Libraries and Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WyGISC) have been welcomed by the Library of Congress as informational partners in the Geospatial Multistate Archive and Preservation Partnership (GeoMAPP).

The GeoMAPP effort works to preserve “at-risk” and temporally significant digital geospatial content. Geospatial data layers containing information about land parcels, zoning, roads and jurisdictional boundaries change frequently. Existing copies of these data are often at risk of being overwritten when updates or changes are made and these superseded snapshots of data are then lost for future use and analysis.

Ben Goldman, manager of digital programs at the AHC, says UW’s acceptance as a GeoMAPP partner was based on the quality of UW’s work as well the university’s strong reputation.

Goldman will work along with Steve Boss, head of library systems, and Jeff Hamerlinck, WyGISC director, to lead UW’s partnership with GeoMAPP. Wyoming is one of just two lead actors in the GeoMAPP effort to be based at a state’s flagship university; the University of Wisconsin is the other.

For more information on GeoMapp, go to the official Web site at

[Source: University of Wyoming news release]

    Mapping Communities in Large Virtual Social Networks

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

    Mapping Communities in Large Virtual Social Networks: Using Twitter Data to Find the Indie Mac Community

    Michiel van Meeteren, Ate Poorthuis, Elenna Dugundji
    Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands

    “This paper describes a multi-method approach to delineate a ‘real world’ community of practice from a large N dataset derived from the social networking site Twitter. The starting point is previous qualitative research of a virtual community of independent (“indie”) developers who create software for Apple’s Macintosh and iPhone platforms. Indie developers have been active on Twitter from an early stage on and they use Twitter to sustain interactions between peers, exchange technical information and for viral “echo chamber” marketing. The publicly available Twitter API is used to mine a network consisting of several million edges, which is sized down to a large network containing roughly 1 million edges through several pruning methods. The fast greedy algorithm is then used to detect subgraphs within this large network. Triangulation with qualitative data proves that the fast greedy algorithm is able to distill meaningful communities from a large, noisy and illdelineated network. The accuracy of this approach gives rise to the discussion of the value for businesses and market research, since it offers opportunities to identify and monitor target audiences at a finely grained level. However, we should be wary of the serious consequences with regard to privacy and ethics. The proposed multi-method approach allows micro level inferences from a macro dataset of which the individual Twitter user might be completely unaware. The results could have consequences for the anonymity of key persons behind the scenes of social and political movements or any other communities whose members are active on Twitter or other social networks.”

    Climate Change, Nitrogen Loss Threaten Plant Life in Arid Desert Soils

    Mojave Desert research shows that nitrogen is second only to water in importance

    In the Mojave Desert winds howl across this hottest place in North America, blowing sands across Death Valley and through empty ghost towns, swirling across treeless land for hundreds of miles. But even in the otherworldly Mojave, life thrives. The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), an indicator species for this desert, defines the Mojave’s boundaries. In spring when the rains come, brightly colored flowers bloom in profusion–nature’s paintbrush on an otherwise monotone landscape.

    Now the Mojave’s plant life, sparse as it has always been, is facing new challenges. As Earth’s climate warms, arid soils lose more nitrogen, which could lead to deserts with even less plant life than they sustain today.

    Available nitrogen is second only to water as the biggest constraint to biological activity in arid ecosystems, but ecologists have struggled to understand the balance of the input and output of nitrogen in deserts. For the first time, however, researchers have discovered a mechanism that balances the nitrogen budget in deserts: Higher temperatures cause nitrogen to escape as gas from desert soils.

    The researchers’ results, published in this week’s issue of the journal Science, suggest that most climate change models need to be altered to consider these findings.


    Nitrogen loss in a non-desert system happens primarily through biological processes and water leaching. In a desert, in the summer, however, the soil layer heats up so much that microorganisms are not active enough to release nitrogen; neither is there enough water to cause significant leaching. Researchers have found that the heat itself causes large reactive nitrogen species evaporation. Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation

    “This discovery is completely reorganizing how we think about nitrogen in desert ecosystems,” said Robert Sanford, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s division of environmental biology, which funded the research.

    In the past, researchers focused on biological mechanisms in which soil microbes near the surface produce nitrogen gas that dissipates into the air, but ecologists Jed Sparks and Carmody (“Carrie”) McCalley, both at Cornell University and co-authors of the paper, found that non-biological processes are playing a bigger role in nitrogen losses from soil to air.

    “This is a way that nitrogen is lost from an ecosystem that people have never accounted for before,” said Sparks.  “It allows us to finally understand the dynamics of nitrogen in arid systems.”

    He and McCalley used instruments sensitive enough to measure levels of nitrogen gases in parts per trillion. These instruments had never before been applied to soil measurements.

    The researchers covered small patches of soil in the Mojave Desert with sealed containers to measure a group of more than 25 different compounds containing oxidized nitrogen, as well as ammonia gases, that escaped from desert soils.

    To rule out the role of light in this process, McCalley kept light constant but varied the temperatures in lab experiments.

    “At 40 to 50 degrees Celsius (about 100 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit), we found rapid increases in gases coming out of the soil regardless of the light,” McCalley said.

    Midday ground temperatures in the Mojave average about 65 C (150 F) and may exceed 90 C (close to 200 F).

    “Any place that gets hot and dry, in all parts of the world, will likely exhibit this pattern,” said Sparks.

    The Mojave Desert covers a large part of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona. The Mojave receives less than ten inches of rain a year, and in Death Valley, the air temperature may surpass 49 C (120 F) in late July and early August. After temperature, wind is the most significant phenomenon in the Mojave.  Both temperature and precipitation range widely, in all seasons, across the desert.

    Further temperature increases and shifting precipitation patterns due to climate change may lead to more nitrogen losses in arid ecosystems, making their soils even more infertile and unable to support most plant life, according to McCalley. Although some climate models predict more summer rainfall for desert areas, the water, when combined with heat, would greatly increase nitrogen losses, she said.

    “We’re on a trajectory where plant life in arid ecosystems could cease to do well,” said McCalley.

    More nitrogen oxides in the lower atmosphere creates ozone near the ground, which contributes to air pollution and increases the greenhouse effect that warms the planet. With deserts accounting for 35 to 40 percent of Earth’s surface, and arid and semi-arid lands the most likely areas for new human settlements, air quality issues, loss of soil fertility, and further desertification need to be considered as the climate warms, the researchers said.

    They also pointed out that most climate modelers now use algorithms that only consider biological factors to predict nitrogen gases coming from soils.

    “The code in climate models would have to change to account for abiotic impacts on this part of the nitrogen budget,” McCalley said.

    The research was also funded by Cornell’s Andrew Mellon Student Research Grants.

    [Source: National Science Foundation news release]

    Airborne Nitrogen Affects Aquatic Ecosystem in Alpine Lakes


    Green Lake 4 in the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains has high nitrogen levels. Credit: James Elser

    Scientists compare results from more than 90 freshwater lakes

    The impact of airborne nitrogen released from the burning of fossil fuels and widespread use of fertilizers in agriculture is much greater than previously recognized, according to research results published in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

    It extends even to remote alpine lakes.

    Examining nitrogen deposition in alpine and subalpine lakes in Colorado, Sweden and Norway, James Elser, a limnologist at Arizona State University (ASU) and colleagues found that, on average, nitrogen levels in the lakes were high, even in those lakes far from urban and agricultural centers.

    The paper, “Shifts in lake N:P stoichiometry and nutrient limitation driven by atmospheric nitrogen deposition,” presents experimental data from more than 90 lakes.

    The results also show that nitrogen-rich air pollution has already altered the lakes’ fundamental ecology.

    “These findings reveal that nitrogen enrichment of the atmosphere, caused by humans, is altering global patterns of lake chemistry and productivity in ways likely to impact the structure and functioning of these ecosystems,” says Alan Tessier, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s division of environmental biology, which funded the research.

    Plant plankton or phytoplankton, like all plants, need nitrogen and phosphorus for growth. “Inputs from pollution in the atmosphere appear to shift the supplies of nitrogen relative to other elements, like phosphorus,” says Elser.

    The increase in the availability of nitrogen means that phytoplankton growing in lakes with high nitrogen deposition are now limited by how much phosphorus they can acquire.

    “And phosphorus-limited phytoplankton are a poor food source,” says Elser. “They’re basically ‘junk food’ for zooplankton, which in turn are food for fish.

    “Such a shift could potentially affect biodiversity. However, we don’t know the extent because, unlike in land-based ecosystems, the impacts of nitrogen deposition on aquatic systems have not been widely studied.”

    Elser’s collaborators include researchers Tom Andersen and Dag Hessen from the University of Oslo; Jill Baron of the United States Geological Survey and Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University; Ann-Kristin Bergström and Mats Jansson with Umeå University, Sweden; Koren Nydick of the Mountain Studies Institute in Colorado; and Marcia Kyle and Laura Steger at ASU.

    By combining studies from several researchers, Elser says, “we were able to achieve a more global picture of how nitrogen is affecting a range of lakes, and come to firmer conclusions about the effects of its deposition.”

    Elser and Hessen hope to expand on these findings. In addition, Elser hopes to perform similar studies in China “where atmospheric nitrogen pollution is extremely high,” he says, “but is as yet unstudied.”

    [Source: National Science Foundation news release]

    NASA Seeks Student Payloads for High-Flying Research Balloon

    nasa-largeNASA is accepting applications from students at U.S. colleges and universities who want to send their experiments to the edge of space on a high-flying scientific balloon.

    The annual NASA project provides near space access for 12 undergraduate and graduate student experiments to be carried by a NASA high-altitude research balloon. The flights typically last 15 to 20 hours and reach an altitude of 23 miles. Experiments may include compact satellites or prototypes.

    The experiments are flown aboard the High Altitude Student Platform, or HASP, a balloon-born instrument stack launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility’s remote site in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The goals of the project are to provide a space test platform to encourage student research and stimulate the development of student satellite payloads and other space-engineering products.

    HASP seeks to enhance the technical skills and research abilities of students in critical science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The project is a joint effort between NASA and the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium.

    NASA’s HASP houses and provides power, mechanical support and communications for test articles and instruments. It can support approximately 200 pounds of student payloads. Since 2006, the HASP program has selected 44 payloads for flight, the work of more than 200 students from across the United States.

    A question-and-answer teleconference for interested parties will be held Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. EST. The deadline for applications is Dec. 18. NASA is targeting fall 2010 for the next flight opportunity. NASA expects to make selections in January 2010. Teleconference dial in information, application materials and technical details are available in the Call for Proposals document at

    Information about NASA’s scientific balloon program is available at

    More information about NASA’s education programs is available at

    [Source: NASA press release]

    Map of the Day: Neotropical Biodiversity Protected Areas

    …from the ESRI Map Book, Volume 24


    “This map of neotropical protected areas, including indigenous areas, was prepared for the Latin American Congress of National Parks and Other Protected Areas, held in Bariloche, Argentina, September 30 to October 6, 2007.

    “Data for the protected and indigenous areas came largely from the United Nations Environment Programme—World Conservation Monitoring Centre’s World Database of Protected Areas, with significant additions from sources in Conservation International. Elevation data is from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. Drainage and political boundaries are from ESRI.

    “Information on the map is presented in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, as was appropriate for this important international conference. The large-format (36 × 34-inch) map shows the neotropical protected areas of the western hemisphere at a scale of 1:9,700,000, and uses an equal area azimuthal projection centered on 77°W longitude and 5°S latitude. The key map, at a scale of 1:100,000,000, is in the same azimuthal projection.

    “Courtesy of Conservation International.”