Monday, November 5, 2012

Geospatial/Remote Sensing Jobs at an AmericaView Member Institution

The Michigan Tech Research Institute in Ann Arbor, MI, a member of the MichiganView consortium, is looking to hire talented people to work on applied science problems utilizing remote sensing and geospatial analysis.

Assistant Research Scientist - Geospatial Database Analyst
The Assistant Research Scientist – Geospatial Database Analyst will provide relational database and web decision support tool support for ongoing and future applied research programs focused on the application of remote sensing, geospatial analysis, and statistical data analysis to solving critical problems in earth sciences and environmental processes. Current research areas include carbon budget and emission impacts from wildfires, carbon flux modeling, improved geotemporal visualization of complex data and patterns, Arctic landscape change, Great Lakes aquatic sensing, invasive species mapping, transportation infrastructure assessment and logistics modeling, wetlands assessment, amongst others. The position is based at MTRI in Ann Arbor, MI (
Research Engineer/Scientist II - Advanced Geospatial Analyst
The Research Engineer/Scientist II – Advanced Geospatial Analyst will fulfill the need for advanced geospatial analysis, programming, geotemporal visualization, statistical analysis, and modeling. The position will need to combine analytical skills with the ability to visualize complex geospatial data. The position is based at MTRI in Ann Arbor, MI (

Applications should be submitted online through the links above.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Virginia Geocoin Adventure

The Virginia Geospatial Extension program (VGEP), in partnership with VirginiaView and the National Geospatial Technology Extension Network (NGTEN) has recently developed the Virginia Geocoin Adventure, a geospatial learning activity. The activity is appropriate for informal education, such as 4-H groups and scout troops, as well as formal educational settings such as middle and high school classrooms.

The Virginia Geocoin Adventure is an experiential geospatial learning activity that uses the hobby of Geocaching. Participants hide a geocoin – a small trackable coin – in a geocache and then “follow” their coin online as it changes locations when geocachers move it to other geocaches. Participants will learn to use a GPS receiver while placing the geocoin, and increase their geospatial awareness through coin tracking.

The Virginia View Geocoin
Additionally, there are 4 learning lessons linked to the activity that explore environmental issues and geospatial techniques. The additional activities include topics on invasive species, watershed health, landscape ecology, and remote sensing. These activities utilize free software (Google Earth) and lead participants in experiential activities that range from an aerial photography scavenger hunt, to taking basic measurements, to assessing watershed boundaries.

Virginia Trackable Geocoins are available from the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program for educators and groups (complete the online application here). In addition, Geocoin Adventure Getting Started Guide is available online at  In Virginia, educators can check out a GPS kit from local 4-H offices if they do not have access to a GPS receiver. Other organizations also provide GPS receivers and associated resources for educators as well, including several of members of the AmericaView consortium.

The Virginia Geocoin Adventure is a starting point for incorporating geospatial learning into a variety of settings in an accessible, hands-on, and engaging way. The program could easily be altered to fit other states and educational objectives.

Friday, August 10, 2012

VirginiaView Geospatial Education Workshop

During July 2012, VirginiaView (, the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program (, and three partnering Virginia community colleges organized geospatial workshops located at each of these community colleges for precollege teachers and other educators.  These workshops were funded jointly by VirginiaView and the National Science Foundation.  Each workshop introduced participants to the basics of GPS, GIS, and remote sensing.  The workshops included approaches to integrating geospatial technologies in the classroom and were cross-referenced to the applicable Virginia Standards of Learning.

The workshops were conducted by Alison Goforth, a high school science teacher from Montgomery County, Virginia, and Tammy Parece, a Ph.D. student in Virginia Tech’s Geospatial and Environmental Analysis Program.   The workshop’s two-day program was developed by Alison, Tammy, John McGee - Virginia Tech’s Geospatial Extension Specialist, and James Campbell - Professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Geography.   The workshops were hosted and supported by each of the community colleges’ faculty.   

The curriculum was divided into discrete sessions covering different topics, starting the first day with “What is GPS?”  Participants were provided with a history of GPS, instruction on the use of one particular type of GPS receiver, did an outside activity with the receiver, and then downloaded and used the gathered data in Google Earth®.  On the afternoon of the first day, they were introduced to Geocaching, using trackable VirginiaView geocoins and associated learning lessons. 

The morning of the second day was an introduction to GIS.  Participants were directed to an online GIS program and provide guidance on using the program; including adding the data acquired with the GPS receivers the previous day.  In addition, participants were guided through online searches for downloadable and free GIS data.  They learned where to find tested lesson plans, and were assisted while they actually worked through some of these lesson plans.  

The afternoon of the second day was reserved for remote sensing.   Many participants were familiar with GPS and GIS, but remote sensing was entirely new.   First, they received a brief history of remote sensing.  The initial activity introduced them to the application of stereoscopes and aerial photos.  They then progressed to an activity using on-the-ground photos as a tool to locate and identify a specific area in Google Earth®.  After remote sensing using aerial photography, satellite imagery was studied along with applications of satellite imagery in different analyses.  They explored an online Landsat Imagery viewer.   Dr. Campbell also provided preprocessed Landsat images with different band combinations, and an additional activity was conducted around these images.

By the afternoon of the second day, participants realized that they weren’t being introduced to three completely independent technologies.  They understood these technologies could be used separately but became more powerful when used jointly.   

Each participant received a binder with all documents used in the two day workshops, a DVD with the presentations - both in document and in presentation form, supplemental documents with URLs of websites accessed, and the images used in all activities.   

Participants included high school teachers representing diverse subjects – e.g. human geography, science, and math.  The workshops also attracted middle school teachers, elementary school teachers, 4-H coordinators, a master naturalist, a Red-Cross volunteer, and a nursing instructor.  One 4-H coordinator advised that she signed up for the workshops questioning how these would benefit her in her main focus area – honeybees and beekeeping.  But by the first break, her thought process was changing, and by the end of the second day, she had made detailed notes throughout both workshop days on how she was going to implement each technology and was sure that they were going to jointly change and enhance her work.   Likewise, the nursing instructor advised that she had the same concerns but as presentations of different topics and lessons occurred, and discussions on the applicability to different subjects proceeded (especially uses in medical geography), she felt that she was on the forefront of technology that was going to revolutionize her profession.    Many participants asked if additional workshops would occur next summer, continuing beyond the basics that were taught this summer.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cladophora Mapping

Cladophora is a filamentous, green algae that grows in all five Laurentian Great Lakes.  Although native, clear water created by zebra mussels and high levels of phosphorous have allowed it to become overgrown and cause local environmental problems.  As the algae sloughs off and is carried to shore, there have been outbreaks of avian botulism as well as reports of beach fouling.  Because of it's harmful effects, determining the extent of Cladophora is useful for water quality managers as well as utility operators and recreational beach-goers.

In 2011, Michigan Tech Research Institute developed a technique to use satellite imagery to track the extent of Cladophora.  Using an algorithm based on the the work of Lyzenga (Lyzenga 1978, 1981, Lyzenga et al. 2006), they depth-corrected Landsat data to map Cladophora at a test site - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore - and achieved 85% accuracy (see right).  You can view a *.pdf of the test site results or read more about the process they used here.

The algorithm was subsequently applied to the coast of Lake Michigan and charted the location of Cladophora to a depth of ~20 meters.  An interactive map of the result can be seen here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"State In A Year" Animation Tutorial from MichiganView

MichiganView has posted a number of useful tutorials on their website intended for AmericaView members.  The most recent one details the steps to creating a "State In A Year" animation - a *.gif composite of a year's worth of MODIS images.  Here's the animation from 2011:
MichiganView's tutorials range from an introduction to raster images to comprehensive guides to GDAL and Google Earth overlays.  Visit their resources page to view the full spread.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Introducing Laramie Junior High School Students to Remote Sensing Concepts and Applications

One hundred and fourteen students in Ron Whitman’s eight grade physical and seventh grade biological sciences classes (three class periods each on April 4th and 5th, 2012) learned how remotely sensed images are acquired in different regions of the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and their uses for monitoring earth surface features such as trees, crops, bare ground, water, roads, buildings, etc.

WyomingView coordinator Ramesh Sivanpillai described the differences in the interaction of earth surface features with EMR, and how those interactions result in their appearances or colors.  Students learned the uses of images collected by satellites and airplanes for monitoring the effects of beetle attacks on pine trees, deforestation, crop growth, and changes in the surface areas of lakes and reservoirs.  Mr. Whitman commented that the presentation helped “students understand the use of different electromagnetic waves for practical applications.”

In the lab, students working in teams used ALTA ™ Spectrometers to measure spectral reflectance in 10 different regions of EMR.  Next, they calculated percent reflectance values, which were then plotted against wavelength to generate the spectral signature for each leaf.  Analyses of these signatures led the students to conclude that the spectral signature of each leaf was distinct.

Hands-on lab component for measuring and calculating “percent reflectance of the four types of leaves at different wavelengths, actively engaged the students the entire lab time” Mr. Whitman said.  Sivanpillai explained the differences in the spectral signatures of different earth surface features and remote sensing scientists rely on these signatures for mapping those features.

This educational outreach activity was conducted as part of AmericaView’s Earth Observation Day activities aimed at introducing teachers and students to remote sensing science and applications.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Using satellite images, 5th and 6th grade students in a Laramie (WY) School learn about human impact on environment

With the help of satellite images fifth and sixth grade students at Mr. Tim Blum’s geography class (photo below) at the UW Lab School got a birds-eye view of how humans have impacted or modified their environments (31 January 2011).  Images acquired by satellites decades apart showed cleared forests, irrigated crop fields in the middle of the deserts, altered landscapes (new roads and water bodies), and urban growth.

As part of the Earth Observation Day (EOD) activities, WyomingView coordinator Ramesh Sivanpillai described the utility of images acquired by satellites are useful for monitoring changes on earth’s surface.   For example, Landsat images acquired in 2000 (bottom left) and 2009 (bottom right) shows the newly constructed roads (linear features), drilling pads (square features at the end of the roads), and ponds (in different shades of blue) for an area within the Powder River Basin.

The goal of EOD activities is to introduce teachers and students to remote sensing science and technology and is promoted by AmericaView.  Sivanpillai works with individual teachers in Laramie-area schools and develops remote sensing course materials that relate to the topics taught to students.

Blum and his student teachers introduced students to the human impact on the environment.  The remote sensing “presentation fit with our curriculum and the students were captivated,” Blum commented.  “Your presentation certainly made an impression on our students because the information you provided was referenced in several discussions that occurred later in our unit.”  Tailoring materials to individual class needs increases student engagement and learning.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virginia Middle School Students View the Earth’s Surface in Time and Space

By Tammy Parece, Geographic Society at Virginia Tech

On Saturday, February 25, 2012, VirginiaView, and the Virginia Geographic Society participated in Kid’s Tech University (KTU). Kid’s Tech University is a program at Virginia Tech with one primary goal: creating the future workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by sparking kids’ interest in these fields. KTU, active at Virginia Tech since 2009, invites middle school students from across the Commonwealth to participate in a university research experience. Geographic Society Members have participated on an individual basis in the past, but 2011 is the year we decided to be involved as a Society.

The title of our program was Looking Down is Looking Up: Why do we work with aerial photography? The GIS portion of the program was designed by Dr. John McGee, Associate Professor and Geospatial Extension Specialist, Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, and a leader of the VirginiaView program, and has been presented by John at KTU over the past three years. This year, John asked if the Geographic Society could provide the manpower for the event and members jumped at the chance to support student research experience. Geographic Society Members have participated on an individual basis in the past, but 2011 is the year we decided to be involved as a Society.

The program introduced participants to applications of some common geospatial tools - geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing, to provide these young minds with a new understanding of the earth. In this activity, the students used GIS to identify changes on the earth’s surface. They also examined aerial photography from three different time periods (1962, 2002, and 2008). The students explored, estimated, and measured general changes in land use during these periods. Our display was the first one the students saw when they walked through the door of the Lane Stadium West Club Box. 

At our first table, we had two laptops with GIS programs running. The students were shown how to display the different layers in GIS, zoom in and zoom out to obtain different scales, and view the changes between aerial photos of the New River Valley Mall area. Students were awed at the changes between 2002 and 2008, but flabbergasted when they saw 1962. In most instances when they saw these 1962 aerial photos, they commented “nothing is there.” When they looked closer, they were able to identify farm fields, trees, streams, and the VPI Horticulture Research Center which was located on land now occupied by a strip mall.

At our second table, Dr. James Campbell, Professor, Department of Geography, introduced students to applications of stereovision in the analysis of aerial imagery introduced students to applications of stereovision in the analysis of aerial imagery. On a portable light table students could look at a glass plate of a 1968 aerial photo of Chicago and a 1980s high-altitude color infrared aerial photograph depicting the Roanoke, Virginia metropolitan region. Using a large mirror stereoscope, students could examine coastal landforms near a Minnesota Lake, using stereoscopic capability to see subtle variations in landforms and vegetation cover.
At our third table, participcants could view episodes of the Geospatial Revolution, a video series that introduces key applications of geospatial technologies in today’s world. We discovered that parents were not the only ones extremely interested in this video - many of the middle school students could not believe the capabilities of geospatial technologies, and their significance for our society.

Observing these kinds of changes helps us understand how landscape changes influence our local communities and environments. The activity was co-sponsored by VirginiaView, a state level organization within AmericaView, a national consortium that focuses on research, outreach to K-12 and community college educational communities, and distribution of imagery to a spectrum of users at state and local levels.

At the end of the day, we were thanked by VBI officials, including Dr. Kathleen O’Hara and Dr. Reinhard Laubenbacher. They told us that they were looking forward to our participation again next year. We let them know that we are participating in the next KTU event scheduled for Saturday, March 25. The theme for that KTU session is Health, Nutrition, Biomedical Engineering, and Medicine. They asked how we could participate in such diverse topics from session to session, an insight that highlights the essence of Geographic inquiry, which seeks to illuminate interrelationships between the physical and human worlds.