University of Alaska Fairbanks Geobotanist Maps New Trails in Climate Change Research

…from The Sun Star

“Pursuing multidisciplinary studies brings many atypical experiences, as a UAF biologist discovered last year while trying to protect his expensive equipment, and his head, on a bumpy truck ride on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. Dr. Donald “Skip” Walker’s research takes him to some rough country, but not usually on the way to the airport.

“For those interested in geobotany, Walker encourages an interdisciplinary approach. He recommends courses “in geography, soils, geology, hydrology, climatology, taxonomy, analytical skills, GIS is almost essential these days – and remote sensing.” He also mentions the importance of fieldwork. “Whether it’s observing birds, or plants, or clouds, or whatever, you’re observing nature and how it operates. I think that’s true with whatever people do,” he said. “I think it’s one of the most difficult [aspects] because it requires so many different interdisciplinary skills. But it’s highly rewarding … if you can last.””

Short Course Offerings at the 2010 MidAmerica GIS Symposium, 18 – 22 April in Kansas City, Missouri

“The 2010 MidAmerica GIS Symposium will offer a series of short courses to enhance our concurrent sessions. These courses give you a chance to receive some in-depth training that you can immediately use! There are 25 distinct course offerings from Sunday through Thursday of the Symposium (April 18 – 22). These short courses provide opportunities for beginners and advanced professionals in a variety of topics in both computer lab and classroom settings. These include:

  • Intro to GIS, ModelBuilder, Geodatabases, Python;
  • ArcGIS Server API’s, Web 2.0, Web Design;
  • Emergency Response, Remote Sensing, Cartography, LiDAR;
  • Map Book, The National Grid, GIS for Rural Communities, Mobile GIS;

“Short courses range from ½-day to full-day instruction. Prices are as follows:

  • With Symposium Attendance Discount:
    • ½-day: $60
    • Full-day: $120
  • Short Courses Only:
    • ½-day: $90
    • Full-day: $180

“See 2010 MAGIC Short Course Offerings for a complete listing and don’t let your favorites get full before you get a chance to sign up!”

Smithsonian Ecologists Discover Forests are Growing at a Faster Rate

…from the Smithsonian Institution

“Parker began his tree census work Sept. 8, 1987—his first day on the job at the Smithsonian. He recorded and tracked trees 2 centimeters or more in diameter, identifing them to species and marking each tree’s exact coordinates on a map.

“By knowing its species and diameter, McMahon, who specializes in data-analysis and forest ecology, is able to calculate the biomass of a tree. “Walking in the woods helps, but so does looking at the numbers,” he says.

““We made a list of reasons these forests could be growing faster and then ruled half of them out,” Parker says. The reasons that remained included increased temperature, a longer growing season and increased levels of atmospheric CO2.”

Distributed Research Communities, GIS, and the Open Science Grid

National Science Foundation TeraGrid Workshop on Cyber-GIS,

2-3 February 2010 – Washington, DC

Ruth Pordes

“Starting from an initial grass-roots effort between NSF and DOE projects around 2001, a collaboration of domain and computer scientists, software developers, and IT came together to form the Open Science Grid Consortium (OSG) in 2005. The Consortium aims to support common end-to-end distributed computing solutions for a broad set of research communities. The OSG provides computing services, software and support for its members. Communities can build and operate their own autonomous Cyberinfrastructures (CIs), selecting which services and/or software they depend on from the OSG. The Consortium has also built a shared, nationally distributed infrastructure to which a community or computing facility can connect its resources. The federated model to which the OSG works allows for each CI to be independent or integrated as much as desired. OSG services and software are currently used by more than twelve research communities, more than seventy universities and laboratories, and more than six campus/regional infrastructures. While mainly in the US, there are several sites in Central and South America, Taiwan, Korea and, most recently, China.”

URISA Leadership Academy, 14-18 June 2010, Baltimore Baltimore, Maryland

“A Leadership Academy for the GIS Practitioner

  • Do you see GIS potential in every industry/application?
  • Do you recognize GIS as a major enabling technology to help achieve most goals?
  • Do you want to make a positive difference in the world around you using GIS?
  • Do you understand the power of visualizing and spatially analyzing information?
  • Are you frustrated by others in your organization that just don’t “get” GIS?
  • Are you overwhelmed by your management responsibilities?

“If you can answer “yes” to two or more of these questions, then the URISA Leadership Academy (ULA) is for you.

“The entire five day program, the only leadership training program of its type, is tailored to industry leaders and practitioners faced with unique challenges of GIS leadership and management and who want to make an impact leveraging the power of GIS.

“URISA Leadership Academy (ULA) attendees will work together in a collegial environment designed to foster networking during the session and to enhance your professional network outside the Academy. The Academy is a full-service conference. Each day, ULA members will learn, dine, and socialize together. To that end, each day is structured to promote and encourage strong relationships between instructors and attendees.”

The Nature Conservancy Deploys ESRI Technology for Climate Trend Analysis

The Nature Conservancy Climate Wizard, powered by ESRI, displays free maps of historic climate change and future projected change. Climate Wizard offers scientists, planners, environmentalists, and public users an intuitive means to understand and compare climate change models useful to decision making.

ESRI has had a longtime commitment to environmental sciences and is working with many organizations dedicated to meeting the challenges of climate change ( For many years, ESRI has supported Nature Conservancy efforts to protect our planet by providing environmental expertise and geographic information system (GIS) technology.

The new ESRI-powered version of Climate Wizard was first demonstrated at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-15) in Denmark. It allows anyone to click a map location and get up-to-date data of climate change trends. A user can also choose between different climate change models to predict impacts on that location.

Climate Wizard uses 16 models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Program (CMIP 3) published for the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report. The user selects a model or ensemble of models from a menu and displays them on a GIS map interface.

These new displays replace previous static climate map images with live Web mapping services. An important new capability available due to this improvement enables users to query the 16 different climate change projections for three carbon emissions scenarios at specific locations. They can see the range of future climate projections in graph and tabular formats and view and analyze dynamic data using GIS functionality to see highly specific details relevant to their unique projects. They can also download the climate change data in GIS format.

An extension of Climate Wizard—a future climate model comparison application—allows users to directly compare different model outputs for a chosen area.

The Nature Conservancy launched Climate Wizard in January 2009, with the intent of making climate change a place-based issue so that people would consider how changes in the earth’s climate affect them. The original objective was to build a state-of-the-art framework that could easily accept new data as it is coming from modeling agencies and put this information into the hands of researchers quickly and easily. The addition of ArcGIS Server technology to the tool in December 2009 has made a big step toward achieving this objective by providing live Web mapping services and maps that can be queried on the fly, as well as improved Web application mashup capabilities. The Climate Wizard project is a collaborative effort of the University of Washington, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Southern Mississippi, and ESRI.

“ArcGIS Server has made it possible for our vision of Climate Wizard to come into fruition,” says Evan Girvetz, senior scientist with the Conservancy Global Climate Change Program. “We feel this tool is now on the cutting edge of GIS technology. The framework is there, and users can get the maps and information they need to better plan for future climate in specific places.”

Chris Zganjar, information specialist for the Conservancy Global Climate Change Program, has been dedicated to the project since its inception. “GIS brings sophistication to the Climate Wizard. We can now serve vital climate change data to the practitioner with an easy-to-use tool,” notes Zganjar. “Real data that virtually scales down to a person’s backyard brings the issue into personal space.”

In its development of the GIS framework for Climate Wizard, ESRI Applications Prototype Lab used the beta version of the next release of ArcGIS Server.

[Source: ESRI press release]

Happy World Wetlands Day!

…from Environmental Concern

“There are people all over the world working for wetlands. On World Wetlands Day, celebrated on February 2 each year, these people collectively stand up and proclaim the benefits of wetlands.

“On February 2, 1971, countries around the world came together and signed the Convention on Wetlands (an Intergovernmental Treaty) – the first ecologically focused convention – Ramsar, Iran. Since then, 158 countries have signed the Treaty, including the U.S., and 169 million hectares of wetlands (1828 sites) have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance. In the U.S. there are currently 25 designated sites. The U.S. National Ramsar Committee (USNRC) was formed to support the goals and objectives of the International Convention on Wetlands.”