USC Partners with Embanet to Support Online Masters in Geographic Information Science and Technology

Embanet, a leading global online learning services provider to the country’s top institutions, announced today that it has been selected by the University of Southern California (USC) to support the University’s online program expansion, including its renowned Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST).

A pioneer in online learning, Embanet has been partnering with prominent public and private institutions for nearly a decade, including among others Vanderbilt University, Boston University, George Washington University, and now USC. Embanet provides universities with capital, program and course development, marketing and enrollment services, online faculty training, student services, and technology hosting and support. Embanet has customized its services for USC, and will provide a suite of student services as well as marketing and enrollment support for the existing online GIST program.

“We are extremely pleased to begin our partnership with the University in support of its initiative to expand the availability of its online graduate programs,” said Stephen Fireng, president and CEO of Embanet. “Our goal is to assist USC in growing the numbers of highly capable graduates of the GIST program while ensuring that the services we provide and the pace of growth continue to reflect the quality and selectivity of the program and the institution.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, geotechnology is one of the most important emerging fields of study in the country.

“Increasingly sophisticated technology and the availability of geo-referenced data has vastly expanded the applications for the field—from public health and safety to urban planning and environmental science,” said Dr. John P. Wilson, professor of geography and director of the GIST graduate programs and GIS Research Laboratory.

Wilson helped develop and design the online Masters program to provide the sophisticated level of training needed to fill the currently unmet demand for these skills in government and industry.

“USC is committed to providing Distance Learning programs that reflect the academic quality one expects from a world class research university,” said Howard Gillman, dean of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. “Embanet understands the academic and administrative rigors of an elite private university, and this exciting partnership will enable us to provide an outstanding experience for ambitious, talented, and highly motivated students.”

[Source: Embanet press release]

Creating and Validating Object-Oriented Geographic Data Models: Modeling Flow within GIS

Transactions in GIS, Volume 14 Issue 1, Pages 23 – 42, Published Online 17 Jan 2010

Alan Glennon

“Object-oriented geographic data models provide an organizational scheme to associate domain specific meaning to primitive GIS elements like points, polylines, and polygons. Although use of data models is widespread in the GIS community, the design process is not necessarily obvious and often ad hoc. This article outlines a procedure for the creation and validation of geographic data models through the examination and distillation of use cases. As an example, the article follows the development of a data model for the spatial concept of flow. Flow, the collective movements of people, materials, or ideas, is a common driver of geographic change, not generally supported by functionality within contemporary GIS, and an abstract dynamic entity that would presumably be difficult to model. Model design was facilitated through the distillation of flow cases of tabular human migration data, Minard’s map of Napoleon’s march on Moscow, and stream channel routes in a karst watershed. Unified Modeling Language diagrams are created for each case and the models’ commonalities combined to yield a generic data model. As a means of validation, each use case was instantiated with the generic model and tested to re-create the fundamental components of flow and address predefined typical queries.”

Assessing the Vulnerability of Asian Megadeltas to Climate Change Using GIS

In Coastal Systems and Continental Margins, Volume 13: Coastal and Marine Geospatial Technologies, 2010

Colin D. Woodroffe

“Susceptibility of Asian megadeltas to climate change, including sea-level rise, is investigated using GIS. The Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Irrawaddy, Chao Phraya, Mekong, Red, Pearl, Changjiang, and Huanghe deltas began to form around 6000 years ago and have prograded since. The surface topography of active and abandoned delta plains is examined using digital terrain models derived from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data and channel morphology is investigated using radar imagery. After delta plains are abandoned they become increasingly dominated by tidal processes. Population density is estimated using gridded world population data but highly variable local microtopography and uncertainty regarding future climate changes preclude detailed vulnerability analysis.”

Physics-Based Earthquake Source Characterization and Modeling with Geostatistics

Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, April 2010; v. 100; no. 2; p. 482-496

Seok Goo Song and Paul Somerville

“Physics-based ground-motion simulation requires the development of physically self-consistent source modeling tools to emulate the essential physics of earthquake rupture. Because of the high computational demand of full-dynamic rupture modeling, the kinematic description of earthquake source processes provides the most practical way of covering a wide range of rupture and wave propagation scenarios. We apply 2D spatial data analysis tools, commonly used in geostatistics, to characterizing earthquake rupture process and developing an effective source modeling tool for strong-motion prediction. The earthquake source process is described by key kinematic source parameters, such as static slip, rupture velocity, and slip duration. The heterogeneity of each source parameter is characterized with autocoherence while the linear dependency (coupling) between parameters is characterized with cross coherence. Both zero- and nonzero-offset spatial coherence can be considered in the form of cross coherence. We analyzed both synthetic and real dynamic rupture models to demonstrate the efficiency of these new techniques and found that many important features of earthquake rupture can be captured in this way, which may be difficult to analyze, or even detect by zero-offset coherence only. For instance, the correlation maximum between slip and rupture velocity can be shifted from the zero offset, that is, large slip may generate faster rupture velocity ahead of the current rupture front, which may be important for rupture directivity. We demonstrate that we can generate a number of realizations of earthquake source models to reproduce the target coherence using stochastic modeling techniques (e.g., sequential Gaussian simulation) once coherence structures in earthquake rupture are well understood. This type of coherence analysis may provide the potential for improved understanding of earthquake source characteristics and how they control the characteristics of near-fault strong ground motions.”

GIS Spatial Analysis of Population Exposure to Fine Particulate Air Pollution in Beijing, China

Environmental Geosciences, March 2010; v. 17; no. 1; p. 1-16

Tao Tang, Wenji Zhao, Huili Gong, Xiaojuan Li, Ke Zang, Joel D. Bernosky, Wenhui Zhao, and Shanshan Li

“This research diagnoses the exposure of the residential population and the vulnerable groups of children and elderly people to air particle pollution in urban Beijing. We surveyed the air particle pollutant concentrations in the field. We used a universal kriging model in a geographic information system to interpolate the spatial distributions of each pollutant. Spatial patterns of air particle pollution were overlaid to community-level population distributions to identify the community exposures to high air particle pollution. Spatial and statistic modeling reveals that high concentration of ultra-fine air particles of particulate matter (PM) 0.3 µm is strongly associated with high-population urban communities in the southwest and central western areas in the winter season. By contrast, all the other particle sizes surveyed (PMs of 0.5, 1.0, 3.0, and 5.0 µm) indicate that high concentrations in the summer are associated with high-population communities. Reversed spatial and temporal patterns between PM 0.3 µm and other particle sizes suggest that PM 0.3 µm may have different sources of origin.”

Analytical 3D Views and Virtual Globes — Scientific Results in a Familiar Spatial Context

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 6 January 2010

Dirk Tiede, Stefan Lang

“In this paper we introduce analytical three-dimensional (3D) views as a means for effective and comprehensible information delivery, using virtual globes and the third dimension as an additional information carrier. Four case studies are presented, in which information extraction results from very high spatial resolution (VHSR) satellite images were conditioned and aggregated or disaggregated to regular spatial units. The case studies were embedded in the context of: (1) urban life quality assessment (Salzburg/Austria); (2) post-disaster assessment (Harare/Zimbabwe); (3) emergency response (Lukole/Tanzania); and (4) contingency planning (faked crisis scenario/Germany). The results are made available in different virtual globe environments, using the implemented contextual data (such as satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and auxiliary geodata) as valuable additional context information. Both day-to-day users and high-level decision makers are addressees of this tailored information product. The degree of abstraction required for understanding a complex analytical content is balanced with the ease and appeal by which the context is conveyed.”

Using Bioclimatic Envelopes to Identify Temporal Corridors in Support of Conservation Planning in a Changing Climate

Forest Ecology and Management, 258, p.S64-S74, Dec 2009

Rose, N.A. / Burton, P.J.

“Current and expected shifts in climate are threatening global biodiversity and are forcing managers to re-evaluate how they plan for the protection of species and ecosystems. We propose and illustrate a methodology for identifying geographic locations where climate is expected to remain within the tolerances of conservation targets despite a generally warming climate. Using Generation 3 of the Canadian General Circulation Model and ClimateBC (a climate interpolation and downscaling tool), bioclimatic envelopes were developed for three examples of forest conservation targets. The geographic distribution of the resulting envelopes was projected for four timeslices, and then overlaid using ArcMap GIS software. The resultant intersection of points is presumed to indicate locations of persistent climate over the study’s timeframe. Next, a target’s current mapped distribution was overlaid with the distribution of climate expected to remain within its bioclimatic envelope; the intersection of these points is considered the target’s “temporal corridor.” Current locations with persistent climate are thus expected to provide climatic continuity over time, sufficient to sustain the conservation target. Whereas landscape corridors can provide connectivity in geographic space, temporal corridors are projected to provide continuity in climatic space and over time. The identification of such locations facilitates prioritization of sites for the acquisition or designation of protected areas, and provides guidance on where other current management policies and practices can persist. The projection and mapping of temporal corridors is conceptually simple, yet this can be a powerful tool with many potential applications to assist natural resources planners and managers in a rapidly changing environment.”

Effectiveness of a Semi-Immersive Virtual Environment in Understanding Human-Environment Interactions

Cartography and Geographic Information Science, Volume 36, Number 4, October 2009 , pp. 367-384(18)

Edsall, Robert M.; Larson, Kelli L.

“Virtual environments and related technology generate interest and excitement. Their power is strengthened with empirical evidence of their utility for scientific inquiry and decision-making. This paper reports on a study to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual environment (VE) presentations about issues typical of those facing decision makers in a rapidly growing urban area. The presentations consisted of the explanation and visualization of two phenomena—groundwater overdraft and the urban heat island. The virtual environment utilized in this study, Arizona State University’s Decision Theater, is purported to help policy makers and the larger community visualize complex model output and make decisions about scientific issues. To begin to assess these claims, we carried out a user test during which a group of research participants were given two surveys, one before the presentations, to determine a priori understanding, and a second afterwards, with the same questions. This methodology allowed us to carry out within-subjects tests concerning contrasting phenomena, in order to assess two primary hypotheses: (1) knowledge and perceptions of environmental phenomena will change after the viewing, and (2) understanding will vary based on the phenomena in the presentations. Our analysis shows at least some level of support for the hypotheses, with evidence that the virtual environment positively influenced understanding, and that there may be important differences in insight generation based on characteristics of the phenomena represented. Finally, we outline critical areas of future research to further knowledge about the impact of visual VE settings on understanding and decision making.”