Advanced Geospatial Training Program in Natural Resource Management and Conservation

“Advanced geospatial training program will be available at TAMU-College Station, March 29 – April 4, 2010. The purpose of the program is to improve applications of geospatial science and technology in natural resource management and conservation. It will include the following components:

  1. intensive training sessions (4 half-days) on advanced geospatial analysis and modeling approaches and their applications in natural resource management and conservation;
  2. research seminars and lab visits (2 half-days) with TAMU faculty and graduate students to discuss current research, cutting edge technology in geospatial sciences, and opportunities for graduate study;
  3. a field trip (1 day) to Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde to learn and gain hand-on experience on how to use GPS and remote sensing to study livestock and wildlife movement and resource utilization cross heterogeneous landscapes.
  4. meetings (1 half-day) with Hispanic graduate fellows and their mentors from TAMU Graduate Diversity Fellowship Program, Hispanic Leadership Program in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sloan Minority PhD Program, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and related sciences to discuss graduate study and campus life at TAMU.”

More information

Jack Dangermond Talks About GeoDesign at TED 2010

ESRI founder and president Jack Dangermond spoke about the promise of GeoDesign at the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference earlier today in Long Beach, California (video).  Dangermond was part of Session 5: Provocation, and shared the session with a diverse group of speakers, including former CIA covert operations officer Valerie Plame Wilson, and futurist and Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand.

Watch the video

Following is a summary of Dangermond’s TED Talk:

“Japan is famous for the master designers who harmonized the use of land and structures with the environment around them, finding the right balance between building and nature. Contrast this with the sprawling, monotonous suburbia so familiar today. It’s a kind of crime against nature.

“In his book Design with Nature, Ian McHarg showed us how we could use soils, geology, vegetation, and other data to make more rational and responsible designs—what the Japanese masters internalized during their site visits. Design with Nature inspired me to create Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), where we build the technology to implement McHarg’s vision.

Jack Dangermond at TED2010, Session 5, "Provocation," Thursday, February 11, 2010, in Long Beach, California. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

“I believe that ‘designing with nature’, or GeoDesign, is our next evolutionary step. GeoDesign is both an old idea and a new idea. It reopens our minds and hearts; it puts in our hands the means to achieve what the Japanese masters did so many years ago—designing with geographic knowledge, thus living harmoniously with nature.”

‘Supra-glacial Lakes’ are the Focus of a New Penn State Study

Rising temperatures on the Greenland ice sheet cause the creation of large surface lakes called supra-glacial lakes. Now a Penn State geographer will investigate why these lakes form and their implications.

NASA awarded Derrick Lampkin, assistant professor of geography, almost $300,000 over three years to look at these lakes.

“Learning where lakes are, how they form, and how that changes through the melt season can help us really understand a lot about important processes that control how the Greenland ice sheet responds to warming,” Lampkin said.

Supra-glacial lakes form when melting water collects in pools in the lower levels of the ice sheet in melt or ablation zones. These lakes drain rapidly through cracks in the ice channeling water to beneath the ice sheet, affecting how ice sheets move and how pieces calve off into the ocean.

Researchers assumed that the influence of basal structure — the structure under the ice at the base — controls where lakes form on the surface, but the magnitude and degree of this influence are not well known, according to Lampkin. It is important to determine how surface processes and basal conditions interact to shape the ice sheet topography.

Lampkin’s work will complement other research by glaciologists at Penn State, such as Richard Alley and Sridhar Anandakrishan, in understanding how ice sheets work and contribute to sea level. He will look at a variety of existing information, including altimeter data, to create surface topography. He will model the temperatures under the ice and, using existing ice-penetrating radar data, create the basal topography. He will also look at ten years worth of high-resolution LandSat images to map lake features.

“This is an exciting time for the study of the world of ice, but unfortunately the public is not always aware of why this type of work is important,” Lampkin said.

In an effort to involve the public in the investigation of ice sheets, Lampkin has proposed an outreach program to create Facebook and iPhone applications that will allow users to map the locations of supra-glacial lakes using high-resolution satellite imagery.

The Facebook and iPhone applications will present users with pre-selected satellite imagery and a tutorial on how to spot the supra-glacial lakes. Lampkin said users who map the locations could receive some sort of incentive through points or rewards for another Facebook game.

According to Lampkin, it is important to track the development of the supra-glacial lakes, because they form and drain quickly. More people mapping these lakes will give researchers more data to learn about them. In addition, if members of the public are able to map the lakes, they might feel they have a personal stake in the study of climate change science.

“The more the public is involved and informed, the more they will understand how climate science is conducted and may be more willing to support these research efforts,” he said. Additionally, participation of this type may be the very spark to encourage a young mind to one day become an ice scientist.

[Source: Penn State press release]

Using Satellite Imagery to Identify Active Magma Systems in East Africa’s Rift Valley

Surface deformation of four active volcanoes captured on InSAR underscore possibility for human hazard, potential of geothermal resources

A team from the University of Miami, University of El Paso and University of Rochester have employed Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) images compiled over a decade to study volcanic activity in the African Rift. The study, published in the November issue of Geology, studies the section of the rift in Kenya.

“The Kenyan Rift volcanoes are part of a larger Great Rift Valley complex that extends all the way from Mozambique to Djibouti; their presence in East Africa attests to the presence of magma reservoirs within the Earth’s crust,” said Lead Author Dr. Juliet Biggs, Rosenstiel Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Miami. “Our study detected signs of activity in only four of the 11 volcanoes in the area — Suswa, Menengai, Longonot and Paka — all within the borders of Kenya.”

Small surface displacements, which are not visible to the naked eye, were captured using InSAR, a sophisticated satellite-based radar technique. Using images from European Space Agency satellites ERS and Envisat, the team was able to detect the smallest ((<1 cm) of surface displacements at a very high resolution. From 1997 – 2000 they discovered that the volcanoes at Suswa and Menengai subsided 2 – 5 cm, and between 2004 and 2006 the Longonot volcano experienced uplift of ~9 cm.  However, the most dramatic uplift unfolded at Paka, which had uplift of ~21 cm during a nine month period in 2006-2007.  This pulse of  activity was preceded by transient uplift and subsidence at a second source, associated with the magma flow through the complex underground plumbing system. Overall the events were short in duration and episodic rather than continuous, which means discrete pulses of magma were arriving at the crust, similar to a stop valve that is being turned on and off intermittently.

“The fact that these areas are so close to a major metropolitan area pose a challenge in terms of a large volcanic or seismic event” says co-author Cindy Ebinger. Suswa, Menengai and Longonot are all located in densely populated areas within 100 km of Nairoibi.

The study also provides insight as to the geothermal potential of the region. Kenya was the first African country to build geothermal energy plants to generate this renewable, environmentally friendly alternative to coal and oil.  The impact of harnessing such a resource could provide an important economic engine for the region.

Geothermal energy is generated by drilling deep holes into the Earth’s crust, pumping cold water through one end so by the time it resurfaces it is steam, which is then used to fuel a turbine, which in turn drives a generator, and creates power.

“This study demonstrates the potential for using InSAR to measure active magmatic and tectonic phenomena in Africa, allowing us to watch the processes by which continents break apart” says lead author Juliet Biggs, who has just begun a 2-year project at the Univeristy of Oxford, funded by the European Space Agency, to map the pattern of volcanic activity, dike intrusion and active faulting along the whole of the East African Rift.

[Source: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami press release]