Less of Our Light for More Star Light: Join the 5th Worldwide Globe at Night 2010 Campaign, 3-16 March 2010!

What: The Globe at Night Campaign

When: 8pm to 10pm local time, 3-16 March 2010

Where: Everywhere

Who: You! (Everyone!)

How: See http://www.globeatnight.org


With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many urban dwellers have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies and maybe never will. This loss, caused by light pollution, is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars. Even though light pollution is a serious and growing global concern, it is one of the easiest environmental problems you can address on local levels.

Globe at Night is an annual 2-week campaign in March that helps to address the light pollution issue locally as well as globally. This year the campaign is March 3-16, 2010. You are invited along with everyone all over the world to record the brightness of your night sky by matching its appearance toward the constellation Orion with star maps of progressively fainter stars found at http://www.globeatnight.org/observe_magnitude.html. You then submit your measurements on-line at http://www.globeatnight.org/report.html

with your date, time and location. A few weeks later, organizers release a map of light-pollution levels worldwide. Over the last four 2-week Globe at Night campaigns, volunteers from over 100 nations have contributed 35,000 measurements.

To learn the five easy steps to participate in the Globe at Night program, see the Globe at Night website at http://www.globeatnight.org.   You can listen to our 10-minute audio podcast on light pollution and Globe at Night at http://365daysofastronomy.org/2010/02/03/february-3rd-the-globe-at-night-campaign-our-light-or-starlight/

For activities that have children explore what light pollution is, what its effects are on wildlife and how to prepare for participating in the Globe at Night campaign, see the new activities at http://www.darkskiesawareness.org/DarkSkiesRangers.

Monitoring our environment will allow us as citizen-scientists to identify and preserve the dark sky oases in cities and locate areas where light pollution is increasing. All it takes is a few minutes during the March 2010 campaign to measure sky brightness and contribute those observations on-line. Help us exceed the 15,000 observations contributed last year. Your measurements will make a world of difference.

Wall Street Journal: More Scientists Treat Experiments as a Team Sport

…from the Wall Street Journal

Massive Collider, a Global Collaboration, Has a Bumpy Start; but Sometimes the Work of Crowds Yields Wisdom

“If all goes well, researchers Friday may power up the Large Hadron Collider — a $6 billion particle accelerator near Geneva. The atom smasher is so large that a brief status report lists 2,900 authors, so complex that scientists in 34 countries have readied 100,000 computers to process its data, and so fragile that a bird dropping a bread crust can short-circuit its power supply — as occurred earlier this month.

“Far from trouble-free, the proton accelerator is resuming operations after a catastrophic breakdown in 2008 that triggered a year of repairs and recriminations. Its large research teams operate on such an elaborate scale that project management has become one of science’s biggest challenges.

“Around the world, scientists are cutting across boundaries of place, organization and technical specialty to conduct ever more ambitious experiments. Inspired by such cooperative enterprises as Linux and Wikipedia, they are encouraging creative collaborations through networks of blogs, wikis, shared databases and crowd-sourcing.”

Cellphone App to Make Maps of Noise Pollution

…from New Scientist

“Cellphones could soon be used to fight noise pollution – an irony that won’t be lost on those driven to distraction by mobile phones’ ringtones.

“In a bid to make cities quieter, the European Union requires member states to create noise maps of their urban areas once every five years. Rather than deploying costly sensors all over a city, the maps are often created using computer models that predict how various sources of noise, such as airports and railway stations, affect the areas around them.

“Nicolas Maisonneuve of the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, France, says that those maps are not an accurate reflection of residents’ exposure to noise. To get a more precise picture, Maisonneuve’s team has developed NoiseTube, a downloadable software app which uses people’s smartphones to monitor noise pollution. “The goal was to turn the mobile phone into an environmental sensor,” says Maisonneuve.”

NASA Invites Citizen Scientists to Help Improve Map of Mars

Are you bored working on Open StreetMap?  Are you submitting basemap corrections to Google and increasingly finding yourself thinking “there has to be more to life than this”?  Well NASA has a new way for you to volunteer your time to not just make the world a better place, but make the solar system a better place.

NASA and Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., have collaborated to create a Web site where Internet users can have fun while advancing their knowledge of Mars.

Drawing on observations from NASA’s Mars missions, the “Be a Martian” Web site will enable the public to participate as citizen scientists to improve Martian maps, take part in research tasks, and assist Mars science teams studying data about the Red Planet.

“We’re at a point in history where everyone can be an explorer,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With so much data coming back from Mars missions that are accessible by all, exploring Mars has become a shared human endeavor. People worldwide can expand the specialized efforts of a few hundred Mars mission team members and make authentic contributions of their own.”

Participants will be able to explore details of the solar system’s grandest canyon, which resides on Mars. Users can call up images in the Valles Marineris canyon before moving on to chart the entire Red Planet. The collaboration of thousands of participants could assist scientists in producing far better maps, smoother zoom-in views, and make for easier interpretation of Martian surface changes.

By counting craters, the public also may help scientists determine the relative ages of small regions on Mars. In the past, counting Martian craters has posed a challenge because of the vast numbers involved. By contributing, Web site users will win game points assigned to a robotic animal avatar they select.

With a common goal of inspiring digital-age workforce development and life-long learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, NASA and Microsoft unveiled the Web site at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles this week. The site also beckons software developers to win prizes for creating tools that provide access to and analysis of hundreds of thousands of Mars images for online, classroom and Mars mission team use.

“Industry leaders like NASA and Microsoft have a social responsibility as well as a vested interest in advancing science and technology education,” said Walid Abu-Hadba, corporate vice president of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft. “We are excited to be working with NASA to provide new opportunities to engage with Mars mission data, and to help spark interest and excitement among the next generation of scientists and technologists.”

To encourage more public participation, the site also provides a virtual town hall forum where users can expand their knowledge by proposing Mars questions and voting on which are the most interesting to the community. Online talks by Mars experts will address some of the submitted questions. Other features include interactive tools for viewing Martian regions and movies about people who study Mars in diverse ways.

“Mars exploration inspires people of all ages, and we are especially eager to encourage young people to explore Mars for themselves,” said Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “We are delighted to be involved in providing the creative opportunity for future explorers to contribute to our understanding of Mars.”

“The beauty of this type of experience is that it not only teaches people about Mars and the work NASA is doing there, but it also engages large groups of people to help solve real challenges that computers cannot solve by themselves,” said Marc Mercuri, director of business innovation in the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft.

The Mars Exploration Program is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

To enroll as a virtual Martian citizen and start exploring, visit http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov

[Source: NASA press release]

Free U.S. Earth Imagery Sharpens Shared View of Global Challenges

USGS Director McNutt a Leader in U.S. Delegation at International Conference

Free, easily accessible U.S. satellite data enables any citizen, scientist, or analyst who can use the information to contribute to a shared vision of the challenges facing our planet.

That’s the message the newly-appointed director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Marcia McNutt, plans to deliver when representatives of 80 governments and over 50 participating organizations convene at the international Group on Earth Observations (GEO-VI) meeting, November 16-17, in Washington, D.C.

“Our policy of providing free Landsat data supports a central GEO goal: to promote global distribution of earth observation data,” said McNutt. “With a continuous record of earth observation since 1972, Landsat provides the most complete set of land surface information as well as a vital historical perspective for researchers, decision makers, and commercial users around the world.”

From over 400 miles above Earth, the scale of Landsat imagery makes it particularly useful in understanding natural and human-induced changes to the planet. The data enable a wide array of investigations — from supporting disaster relief efforts to making agricultural crop assessments to correlating environmental conditions with famine, biodiversity, and human health.

Beginning with the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972, Landsat, a joint operation of USGS and NASA, has produced over two million space-based, moderate-resolution, land remote sensing images. The massive data archive is maintained at the USGS-EROS facility in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“As the world’s increasing population is compelled to face the effects of climate change and the limitations of water, petroleum, and other vital resources, the broad availability of images from Landsat and other earth observation satellites benefits both developing and developed countries,” said Dr. McNutt. McNutt became the 15th USGS Director on November 5.

USGEO, the American contribution to GEO, is sponsored by 15 federal agencies and two White House offices.

“I am very pleased to note that it was the agency I now direct, USGS, that opened the Landsat archive to the world free of charge,” McNutt continued. “Since the archive was opened, over 1 million images have been provided to users from 180 countries — a resounding success.”

For further information, visit:

[Source: USGS news release]

Structuring User-Generated Content

New Tools Enable Public Participation in GIS Database Development

For many years ESRI has promoted the idea of “GIS for everyone”, and more recently the pace of this movement has accelerated thanks to the Internet.  We tend to think of “GIS for everyone” as broad, practically universal access to data and GIS/mapping tools.   But another facet is public participation in that fundamental, essential component of GIS—building and maintaining the geospatial database.

Traditionally, geospatial database are “owned” by the creators of the geographic knowledge, which are typically the individuals or groups charged with building and maintaining the databases that support their organizational missions.  These databases are considered “authoritative,” meaning that they meet the standards of the organizational creators and are suitable to meet the needs of their intended applications.  But this database workflow has its critics.  “One of the criticisms leveled at GIS has been its insistence on a single point of view,” said Michael Goodchild, professor of geography at University of California, Santa Barbara.  To address such criticism, Goodchild says that we need a framework “in which individuals are able to assert their own views of their surroundings and play a part in local decision making.”

In the GIS realm, user-generated content (UGC) refers to geographic knowledge created by “end users” or the general public.  UGC is considered “assertive” geospatial data; while the provider of the data may be confident in its accuracy, this does not necessarily guarantee the data meets the information standards of the organization, or that it is suitable for the intended application.

Concerns about UGC are many.  In contrast to GIS-based data, which is organized with consistent data models and collected systematically, UGC is mostly observational, qualitative, and very rarely collected systematically in a science-based framework. It typically does not have an organized foundation, nor is it associated with metadata, and there is no responsibility with respect to the organization or individual who reported it.

So is there value in UGC in a GIS environment?   Yes.  There are many ways that GIS users can take advantage of the rapidly growing amount of UGC on the Web. They include:

  • Using the data to validate data analysis and compilation efforts
  • Using geotagged photos to enrich the multimedia dimension of a GIS
  • Associating the observational data to other layers for query and enrichment of the GIS
  • Integrating citizen/consumer comments with public policy systems
  • Finding suggestions and recommendations about particular places
  • Enhancing the systematic inventories of things like place names and other observational data

This method of collecting observational geographic data and engaging the public is very powerful, especially for community involvement in collaboration and communicating about situational awareness. “I think the most significant new opportunity lies in the fact that a substantial fraction of the human population now has access to mobile phones and, hence, to electronic networks,” said Goodchild.  “Mobile phones could be used to acquire and share damage assessments in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and to develop detailed databases for community planning.”

Structure is Key

The key to useful, actionable UGC is collecting the data in a structured manner.  The USGS-Caltech ‘Recent Earthquakes’ application (http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/recenteqs/) is as an interesting example of how to do this right.  ‘Recent Earthquakes’ lets people report their earthquake experiences over the web, but it doesn’t ask them to rate the intensity of the earthquake directly.  Instead, it walks people through a more objective, structured series of questions to help determine how strongly they felt the earthquake.  “On the back end, the application determines how ‘intense’ the experience was as an aggregate of responses to individual questions,” said Matt Artz, ESRI’s GIS and science marketing manager.  “The web-based map is an interesting and useful service in itself, but potentially even more useful is that the answers to the individual questions also form a very useful data set for further analysis.”

ESRI has been building functionality, such as the new ‘featurelayer’ capabilities in ArcGIS 9.4, to support such structuring of UGC, and Web API’s for capturing UGC are being developed.   Structured user-generated content becomes another geographic layer in the geodatabase.  Advanced applications such as analysis, modeling, forecasting, management, and planning are enabled by structured data.  ESRI will continue to develop enabling technology that builds these concepts into ArcGIS and make it an integral part of the GIS system architecture.

“User created data that’s validated through essentially a cloud framework is going to take over,” said Larry Orman, executive director of Green Info Network.  “You can’t fight with that.  Individuals are really going to play a major role in the way we (create) information.”


The Power of the People

“There are already signs that the traditional authorities are willing to work with citizens,” said Goodchild.  “In the UK [United Kingdom], for example, the Ordnance Survey has developed a program that encourages volunteers to provide geographic information about their local communities, and volunteers are playing an increasingly important role in ensuring that authoritative sources of geographic information are accurate and kept up-to-date.”

“Our military has a slogan: ‘Every soldier is a sensor,” said ESRI president Jack Dangermond.  “With UGC, every citizen is a sensor.  This is another chapter in democracy, opening up and letting citizens participate in the development of geographic databases,” said Dangermond.

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.”

Designing for Doubt: Citizen Science and the Challenge of Change

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

Designing for Doubt: Citizen Science and the Challenge of Change

Eric Paulos, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

“Vast quantities of data are collected about us and our world: credit card transactions, movements and traffic flows, social networks, disease outbreaks, bird migrations, and flowers blossoming. These datasets span a wide range of public and private information and contexts. However, it is the emergence of a host of mobile phone based citizen sensing platforms that is poised to become the dominant contributor to our datasets. In this paper we outline this important new shift in mobile phone usage – from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement instrument”. We propose to explore how these new personal measurement instruments enable an entirely novel and empowering genre of mobile computing and research called citizen science. More importantly we highlight a set of challenges and focus specifically on the need for introducing design strategies for engaging these datasets that encourage doubt rather than promoting blind acceptance of fact as a path towards social change.”

GIS for Climate Change Bibliography, Part 5: Disaster Management

Cyclone Leaves Its Mark on the Map: Analyzing and Monitoring Myanmar’s Damaged Rice Production Regions

Mass Casualty GIS Data Management System (from Complaint to Grave)

Planning for Disaster by Pinpointing Populations Vulnerable to Hazards

Storm Surge and Flood Vulnerability in Cumberland County, NJ

Using the U.S. National Grid for Preparedness and Response

Managing Spatial Information to Utilize Disaster Records for Community Safety

13-County Houston—Galveston Region: Population Inside the 100 Year Floodplain (2035)

Combining GIS and Statistical Analyses to Support Global Pandemic Preparations

Evaluating HIV/AIDS Programs: Mapping Affected Populations Fills Information Gap

GIS for Medical Emergency Preparedness: Siting Medical Distribution Centers in an Emergency

Hurricanes on the U.S. Gulf Coast

Rhode Island Critical Resources—Preliminary Flood Vulnerability Analysis

Capacity Building Workshop on GIS-Based Hazard Risk Information Systems

Determining Flood Event Evacuation Areas & Floodwater Inundation with GIS

Disaster Response Application for Non-governmental Organizations

FEMA-ERT-N Geospatial Intelligence Unit: GIS and Disaster Response

Hazards Analyst: North Carolina’s New Tool for Disaster Preparation/Response

Key Investment Pays Worthwhile Dividends

Long Term Recovery and GIS

Providing Real-time Spatial Data for Flood Response

Risk Analysis and ArcGIS Schematics – California Delta Levees

Special Population Planner 4: An Open Source Release

Constructing COP of EOC at Niigata-ken Chuetsuoki Earthquake, 2007

Development of DSS for Mitigation of Flood Related Damage

Disaster Mitigation Models for the City of Redlands

Flood Mitigation Using GIS

GIS in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief

Lee County, Florida, ArcGIS Server Mobile Damage Assessment Tools

Mapping Successful Incident Response

Registration & Repatriation of Disaster Evacuees: A Geospatial Approach

Using Mobile GIS in Assessing Impacts of Historic Iowa Flood

Web Based Geographic Intelligence for Emergency Management Practitioners

Application of Multi-objective Shortest-Path and Allocation Analysis for Flood Prevention

Embedding GIS in Disaster Simulation

Estimating Evacuation Ratio in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

Geospatially-Enabled Geographic Response Plans

GIS Improves Community Readiness Saving Lives During Emergency Disaster

GIS in Severe Weather Impact Analysis

A GIS Tool to Determine Affected Population

Levee Inspection and Reporting System

Harris County Flood Control District Custom Map Book Series

Tsunami Inundation Zones

Disaster and Recovery: The Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on Gulfport, Mississippi

Enhanced DFIRM

The Asia Pacific Natural Hazards and Vulnerabilities Atlas

Harris County Storm Surge Inundation Zones

Ground Elevations Compared to Static Base Flood Elevations for the City of Seabrook

Sarasota County, Florida—An Assessment of Disaster Vulnerability

Kyoto City Multi-Hazard Maps

Rhode Island Critical Resources—Preliminary Flood Vulnerability Assessment

Mapping Flood Risk and Vulnerability in the Lower Mekong Basin

FEMA and Local Governments Battle Hazards with a New GIS Tool

GIS Supports Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster Relief

Turkish Government Bases National Emergency Response System on GIS

South Carolina Devises Earthquake Preparedness Plan with GIS

Urban Information Systems for Earthquake-Resistant Cities

In Japan, Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake Damage Assessment Data Is Gathered More Efficiently Using GIS

Bibliographies in this series: