National Science Foundation Awards $700,000 to Rutgers’ New Master of Business and Science Program

Rutgers University’s new professional science master’s program will receive $700,000 from the National Science Foundation. The funds will support recruitment and fellowships for students seeking to augment their science backgrounds with multidisciplinary, entrepreneurial skills that add value and increase effectiveness in the marketplace.

Rutgers is among 21 schools selected from 210 applicants to receive approximately $14.5 million in total NSF funding from the Science Master’s Program funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These new master’s degrees comprise a growing segment of graduate education that aims to prepare persons with science, math and engineering backgrounds to meet the challenges of the global economy.

“This was a very competitive grant,” said Deborah Silver, director of Rutgers’ PSM program and a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Receiving this award acknowledges the hard work involved to develop a new statewide professional science master’s degree across all three campuses in Newark, New Brunswick and Camden.”

Rutgers’ program awards a master’s of business and science degree ( MBS ) and combines master’s level science courses within a scientific discipline with business and policy courses. It is offered in collaboration with Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the School of Management and Labor Relations and the graduate schools on all three campuses.

Rutgers’ MBS science concentrations include actuarial science, biomedical engineering, biotechnology and genomics, chemical and biochemical engineering, chemistry and personal care chemistry, drug discovery and development, electrical and computer engineering, food science, geospatial information systems and technology, horticulture and turf science, industrial mathematics, information technology, international agriculture, kinesiology and applied physiology, quality and reliability engineering, statistics and biostatistics, sustainability, and urban environmental science and management. Future concentrations are expected to include applied microbiology, forensic engineering, and nanotechnology.

“The degree’s modular structure allows Rutgers to combine offerings from many disciplines and quickly develop new area of specialization in response to changing industry demands,” said David Finegold, dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations and founder of Rutgers’ PSM program.

Rutgers also has introduced a BS/MBS program for highly qualified Rutgers juniors. The program enables undergraduates to begin MBS graduate courses in their senior year.

In addition to the NSF grant, Rutgers’ MBS program has received support from the Sloan Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor through the federal WIRED grant. The program aims to enroll up to 30 students in each concentration. Part-time study is possible, and online courses are being developed.

Rutgers’ MBS program recently began a collaborative relationship with Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea to facilitate student exchanges and joint academic activities, including courses, guest lecture series and visiting scholars.

“Our goal is to build at least 10 such strategic partnerships with leading universities in the fields of science, engineering and business on five continents to make Rutgers’ MBS the first truly global program of its type,” Finegold said.

Similar partnerships are under discussion in China, Australia, India, Singapore, France, Japan and other locations in South Korea, Finegold said.

A 2008 report by the National Research Council recommended that four-year research universities invest in PSM programs to help increase American industrial competitiveness.

“American businesses need workers who are not only knowledgeable in their technical fields but also have the skills that can adapt that knowledge to compete profitably in the marketplace,” Silver said. “Graduates with an MBS degree will know how to lead innovations from idea to commercialization, understand market and customer needs, know how to assess financial decisions and demonstrate leadership and team-building skills.”

For more information about the program, visit http://psm.rutgers.edu.

[Source: Rutgers news release]

Spatial Clustering and the Temporal Mobility of Walking School Trips in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada

Health & Place, Volume 16, Issue 4, July 2010, Pages 646-655

Raktim Mitra, Ron N. Buliung, and Guy E.J. Faulkner

“Interest in utilitarian sources of physical activity, such as walking to school, has emerged in response to the increased prevalence of sedentary behavior in children and youth. Public health practitioners and urban planners need to be able to survey and monitor walking practices in space and time, with a view to developing appropriate interventions. This study explored the prevalence of walking to and from school of 11–13 year olds in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada. The Getis–Ord (Gi*) local spatial statistic, Markov transition matrices, and logistic regressions were used to examine the spatial clustering of walking trips in the study area, and to document any temporal drift of places in and out of walking clusters. Findings demonstrate that walking tends to cluster within the urban and inner-suburban GTA, and in areas with low household income. Temporally persistent cluster membership was less likely within inner-suburban and outer-suburban places. The evidence suggests that interventions to increase active school transportation need to acknowledge spatial and temporal differences in walking behavior.”

New Book Highlights SDI Efforts in Europe

Building European Spatial Data Infrastructures, Second Edition, published by ESRI Press, details the European Union’s (EU) ongoing efforts to develop comprehensive, multinational spatial data infrastructures (SDIs). Designed as a reference for geographic information system (GIS) professionals and decision makers, the new edition promotes a general understanding of SDI concepts and provides examples of practical applications.

This revised edition of the book presents an overview of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) Directive, which provides the framework for EU community member states to implement regional SDIs, and the processes involved in SDI development and implementation. Benefits include greater access to current data, the reduction of redundant data, the development of collaborative projects, and comprehensive cost savings. The included case studies demonstrate how organizations across Europe are working together to maximize access to GIS data through the creation of SDIs.

“GIS applications span a very broad range, and new uses are emerging all the time,” says Ian Masser, author of Building European Spatial Data Infrastructures. “However, it must be recognized that the full potential of GIS can be realized only if the necessary SDIs are in place at the local, national, and transnational levels.”

Masser served as chairman of the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories for Europe (AGILE), president of the European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information (EUROGI), and president of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association. Since retiring from the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in the Netherlands, Masser has held visiting professorial positions in Malaysia, England, Australia, and the Netherlands. Masser has authored seven books on the subject of GIS.

Building European Spatial Data Infrastructures, Second Edition (ISBN-13: 9781589482661, 108 pages, $34.95) is available at online retailers worldwide, at www.esri.com/esripress, or by calling 1-800-447-9778. Outside the United States, visit www.esri.com/esripressorders for complete ordering options, or visit www.esri.com/distributors to contact your local ESRI distributor. Interested retailers can contact ESRI Press book distributor Ingram Publisher Services.

[Source: ESRI press release]

Illustrating Uncertainty in Climate Change with Variable Flood Levels in ArcScene and VTP

Bang Tran, Sovann Prey, and Taisha Waeny

“According to the Gippsland Coastal Board final report, 2009 “Little doubt now remains that global climates are changing. It is, however; important to distinguish between ‘natural’ variability in weather patterns caused by phenomena such as El Nino (Southern Oscillation), which causes extended periods of below average rainfall in south eastern Australia on a semi-cyclic basis, and climate change resulting from human-induced changes to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. The drought experienced in Gippsland over recent years was more closely related to a mild El Nino event (BoM, 2007) than a direct manifestation of global climate change, although it may, to a small extent be exacerbated by an ‘overprint’ of changed global climatic conditions”.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the United Nations’ Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization. It is responsible for providing the international community with authoritative advice on scientific, technical and economic issues relating to climate change.

“The aim of this research is to visually illustrate the uncertainty in Climate Change flood zones for three cases with differing water flood levels at 1m, 2m and 3m using 3D Modeling. This was chosen in response to the pressing issue of uncertainty within Climate Change.”

Azavea Awarded NSF Grant to Explore Use of Graphics Processing Units for Faster Geographic Data Processing

Azavea (formerly Avencia), an award-winning geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant of  $150,000 by the National Science Foundation to test the feasibility of using graphics processing units (GPUs) to substantially increase the performance of raster-based geographic information systems (GIS) software operations.

Most contemporary work in GIS involves one or more of three major types of activity: a) database development; b) spatial analysis and map production; and c) web-based map display.  Applications of GIS analysis technology are enormously diverse:  land planning, climate change modeling, assessing the impact of sea level rise, natural hazard risk assessment, military scenario planning, cell phone tower placement, and business siting, and many more.  Currently, these applications, which involve large amounts of geographic data-processing are usually tied to desktop workstations because of the significant amount of time, memory, and processing power required to execute the operations.  Azavea’s GPU project seeks to achieve substantial improvement in the performance of operations on raster-based image data.  The research team is optimistic about prospects for achieving processing speeds that are 10 to 20 times faster than current commercial technology and thereby enabling a whole new class of software for web and mobile devices.

In the past, GPUs have been used almost exclusively for video games and movies.  In recent years, however, scientists and researchers have begun to apply the geometric calculation capabilities of GPUs in fields ranging from fluid dynamics to medical imaging and oil exploration.  In this project, Azavea is using the OpenCL language, originally developed by Apple and now managed by Khronos Group, the nonprofit technology consortium.  With OpenCL™, Azavea hopes to create a geographic data-processing framework that can use GPUs from multiple manufacturers.

In this Phase I SBIR project, Azavea is focusing on new algorithms for several types of “Map Algebra” calculations.  Map Algebra is a widely-used conceptual framework for raster-based geospatial analysis in all of the contemporary desktop GIS tools.  It was originally developed by Dr. C. Dana Tomlin, who is also serving as a consultant on the GPU project.  In 2006, Azavea began development of DecisionTree®, a distributed geographic data processing system to accelerate one particular Map Algebraic operation.  That work proved to be quite successful and has since been applied to problems in economic development, elections, public health, and sustainability.  The GPU project is a natural outgrowth of that effort and one that builds on Azavea’s expertise in creating distributed software systems.

“This is one of the most promising efforts in which I’ve ever been involved in terms of both the fundamental algorithms being developed and their implications for real-world applications that will have a direct and profound impact on our use of geospatial data.” – Dr. C. Dana Tomlin, Professor and Co-director of the Cartographic Modeling Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania.

Azavea’s GPU-Based Raster Processing Algorithms project is supported by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program of the National Science Foundation, Directorate for Engineering, Division of Industrial Innovations and Partnerships, Award Number (IIP-0945742).

This is the sixth time that Azavea has been awarded an SBIR grant.  Previous awards were from the U.S. Department of Education (Phase I), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Phase I for two projects), and the National Science Foundation (Phase I and Phase II to develop HunchLab, Azavea’s geographic crime visualization, early warning and risk forecasting software).

[Source: Avazea press release]

Spatial Distribution and Content of Soil Organic Matter in an Agricultural Field in Eastern Canada, as Estimated from Geostatistical Tools

Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Volume 35, Issue 3, Date: 15 March 2010, Pages: 278-283

Lionel Mabit and Claude Bernard

“Soil erosion induces soil redistribution within the landscape and thus contributes to the spatial variability of soil quality. This study complements a previous experimentation initiated by the authors focusing on soil redistribution as a result of soil erosion, as indicated by caesium-137 (137Cs) measurements, in a small agricultural field in Canada.

“The spatial variability of soil organic matter (SOM) was characterized using geostatistics, which consider the randomized and structured nature of spatial variables and the spatial distribution of the samples. The spatial correlation of SOM (in percentages) patterns in the topsoil was established taking into account the spatial structure present in the data. A significant autocorrelation and reliable variograms were found with a R2 0·9, thus demonstrating a strong spatial dependence.

“Ordinary Kriging (OK) interpolation provided the best cross validation (r2 = 0·35). OK and inverse distance weighting power two (IDW2) interpolation approaches produced similar estimates of the total SOM content of the topsoil (0-20 cm) of the experimental field, i.e. 211 and 213 tonnes, respectively. However, the two approaches produced differences in the spatial distribution patterns and the relative magnitude of some SOM content classes.

“The spatialization of SOM and soil redistribution variability – as evidenced by 137Cs measurements – is a first step towards the assessment of the impact of soil erosion on SOM losses to recommend conservation measures. ”

UNH Scientist to Estimate Pre-Columbian Amazonian Population using Satellite Imagery

University of New Hampshire tropical ecologist Michael Palace has been awarded a $364K grant from NASA’s Space Archeology program to estimate the population of pre-Columbian indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin lowlands by means of satellite remote sensing technology.

Currently, population estimates vary widely – from 500,000 to 10 million – and are the subject of much controversy and debate. Among other things, knowing with more accuracy how many people might have impacted the rainforest through agriculture and development prior to European contact will help scientists understand how the Amazon Basin might withstand current pressures from deforestation, selective logging, and development.

Palace, a research assistant professor at the Complex Systems Research Center (CSRC) within the Institute for the Study or Earth, Oceans, and Space, is an expert in using satellite-borne imagery to study various aspects of tropical forests. In this project he will use hyperspectral imagery taken by NASA’s Hyperion sensor onboard the Terra satellite.

The Hyperion camera “sees” in 242 spectral bands of light, allowing scientists to identify the chemical makeup of tree leaves, which in turn is related to nutrients in the underlying soil. The more nutrient-rich leaves or specific groups of tree species seen by Hyperion will be the signature for what Palace is looking for – Amazonian black earths – sites containing soil rich in organic matter, charcoal, and nutrients and frequently associated with large accumulations of potsherds and other artifacts of human origin.

Also known as “terra preta” soils, they were created hundreds of years ago when indigenous populations slowly burned trees to make soil equivalent to “biochar,” which is extremely efficient at storing carbon and nutrients and provides fertile, productive farmland.

“There are terra preta sites all over the Amazonian basin, particularly near rivers, but no one really knows their whole distribution,” says Palace, who will collaborate with Mark Bush, an ecologist from the Florida Institute of Technology, and Brazilian archeologist Eduardo Neves of the University of San Paulo. Also collaborating on the project are Stephen Hagen, a research scientist at Applied GeoSolutions of Newmarket who received his Ph.D. at UNH, and former CSRC faculty member Rob Braswell, now at Atmospheric Environmental Research, Inc. of Lexington, Mass.

Having identified terra preta sites in the Hyperion imagery, the researchers will then build a model to “scale up” the data and identify the location of other sites across the entire Amazon landscape. Says Palace, “This will allow archeologists to go to these sites and determine if they are indeed terra preta. We should then be able to accurately estimate the indigenous population prior to colonial contact.”

At six million square kilometers, the Amazon basin contains the largest continuous rainforest in the world and constitutes 40 percent of what remains of this ecotype. Current scientific knowledge of the forest views its past as pristine with little human influence. If Palace’s research indicates there was a large population of indigenous peoples using the forest to maintain a highly productive agricultural system, it is likely that Amazonian forest vegetation was significantly altered and may be thought of as a cultural artifact, resilient to human disturbance and not an undisturbed forest.

NASA’s little-known space archeology program is getting its share of headlines primarily through research being conducted in South and Central America, including recent work that uncovered one of the largest Mayan cities in Belize.

[Source: University of New Hampshire press release via All Points Blog/Directions magazine]