Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Azimuth Incorporated and Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research, and Innovation Center (MATRIC) have received grants from FEMA to create a simulation that models "what-if" scenarios. The result, Modeling & Simulation (M&S) Capability for Resource Consumption and Consequence Management, combines GIS with aspects of gaming, similar to programs like SIMS. Users have control over certain perameters, like total number of evacuees, percentage of evacuees seeking shelter, average fuel economy per vehicle, and hospital bed availability, and by defining these parameters can construct response scenarios. The M&S program then runs this scenario and shows the consequences of that particular response plan.
Emergency planners can model an infinite number of scenarios using more than 30 parameters chosen by experts - or they can add their own to meet new requirements. As in SimCity, players start with a finite quantity of resources and must allocate them wisely. Users can compare multiple simulations to see which response plan works best in a particular scenario; the program can produce reports for a specific resource (like hospital beds); temporal functionality is another feature, allowing users to pause, play, fast-forward, and rewind. The system allows a high level of interactivity and experimentation with alternative plans: "scenario options are limited only by the user's imagination".
The M&S program has been used to model potential consequences of an evacuation if the Bluestone Dam in Hinton, West Virginia were to fail. Emergency planners used a barrier polygon tool to simulate inaccessible areas as well as a flood inundation map provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the WV National Guard to identify shelters and hospital resources that would be unavailable during the emergency.
The program is continually being developed to provide new options and new tools. The underlying technology of the program can also be applied to model disease spread and animal migration. The usefulness of this program is unlimited; emergency planners can prepare like never before. They use the computer simulation in a trial-and-error process to learn and overcome flaws; in real time, they will be prepared with the best plan for the particular scenario.
The advancement of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the past few decades have allowed it to become a powerful tool in cancer research. The ability to connect data to location and pinpoint it on a map has proven to be useful in the incidence of cancer in populations, pushing researchers to focus on sociodemographic rather than only biomedical factors in treatment, prevention, and resource allocation programs.
Specifically, GIS can be used to study three dimensions of epidemiology: person, place and time. The person dimension is the focus of sociodemographic data, including such factors as age, sex, and race. Undoubtedly, the most innovative application of GIS is to the dimension of place, as it allows researchers to study large or small geographic areas in a variety of lenses. Through the use of GIS, the dimension of time, including such factors as the date of diagnosis, death or recurrence of cancer, can be connected with these other dimensions.
These systems offer unique ways of handling data. Some GIS functions include the abilities to integrate data from several sources, measure the degree to which people are exposed to carcinogens such as pesticides, and even smooth over any irregularities in the data that may be over-emphasized. Most notably, GIS creates the opportunity to represent these data visually, on many kinds of maps and using many types of features. For instance, researchers may represent cancer cases on a map with dots, then add polygons to represent areas with potential hazards. This broad representation then allows researchers to study risk factors on an individual level with more traditional methods, such as cohorts.
Another important GIS tools for cancer research include spatial analysis. The primary application of spatial analysis is to test for clusters of cancer cases, which prompts researchers to search for possible risk factors in that geographic area. However, spatial analysis is increasingly being used for periodic monitoring of known cancer clusters as a part of surveillance programs instead of programs that react to cluster alarms after they occur.
Finally, GIS can also be used for prediction and estimation in the use of mathematical models. Using spatial interpolation, researchers can estimate the level of carcinogen exposure in certain locations.
Of course, there are limits to the use of GIS. Because it involves a collection of data from several sources, researchers must be careful in creating statistics and interpreting data. This is especially true in rural areas, where inferences about patterns in a large population may not be applicable to a small, sparse number of people.
Despite these limitations, the functions of GIS in data management, visualization, spatial analysis, and modeling have clearly become useful devices for cancer research. The use of GIS has even become transformative, prompting stronger emphasis on sociodemographic factors and environmental exposure.
Nsajafabadi, A.T., and M. Pourhassan. “Integrating the geographic information system into cancer research.” Indian Journal of Cancer 48, no. 1: 105-109. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.
Monday, January 30, 2012
A study lead by Z. Aslıgül Göçmen and Stephen J. Ventura in the public planning agencies of Wisconsin has proven insightful as to why so many barriers to GIS implementation exist, and what may be done to improve usage and effectiveness of GIS in the planning workplace. Early researchers saw barriers as falling under one of the three realms of technological limitations, organizational factors or institutional issues.
In addition, the role of planning support systems (PSS) which are tools that aid planning processes and functions, and often are GIS-based. PSS capabilities consist of projections that would take place under given scenarios, and are often relevant for multiple stages in planning. Notably, PSS users need not have sophisticated technical capabilities to accomplish what they do.
In 1999, the state of Wisconsin passed the Wisconsin Comprehensive Planning Law, which mandated that municipalities and counties (those engaging in official mapping, subdivision regulation or zoning) prepare comprehensive plans by 2010, proved to be the most comprehensive of planning efforts in the state’s history. This makes Wisconsin, which has seen its implementation level rise from 30% before the law to 38% with an additional 34% preparing plans in 2008.
The study surveyed barriers to GIS use in planning, starting with a 2007 web survey of Wisconson planning practitioners. 1,192 individuals from 256 public agencies were invited, and the 265 responding participants (48% response rate) were given open-ended survey questions to identify the top three barriers to use in their own departments’ planning efforts. They gave responses for GIS as well as PSS. Supplemental follow-up interviews with 20 practitioners also helped solidify results and give reasoning behind them. Questions ranged from size of department to accuracy of data, and results showed a number of factors such as training and funding as impediments to GIS use (see Figure 1 below).
Results can also be seen in response to impediments to PSS use (Figure 2 below).
The study recommended several remedial steps that would help implement GIS into the planning environment effectively. Currently, only about 10% of planning departments in the U.S. have requirements related to GIS.
Recommendations included first, workshops and classes to highlight the potential uses of GIS for various analytical, public participation and visualization purposes. Another recommendations included Internet-based training, accessibility of workshops, the opportunity to discuss the future of GIS in workshops (most classes do not go beyond basic technical functions), and to promote networking within the GIS community.
A concerned effort remains, persistently wanting to implement GIS functionality in the realm of local government. The question remains as to the future uses of GIS, but perhaps understanding the technology itself can lead to a greater understanding of where GIS will be in the coming years.
Source: Gocmen, Z. J. (2010). Barriers to GIS Use in Planning. Journal Of The American Planning Association, 76(2), 172.
- Van Der Perk, M., J. R. Burema, P. A. Burrough, A. G. Gillett, and M. B. Van Der Meer. "A GIS-based Environmental Decision Support System to Assess the Transfer of Long-lived Radiocaesium through Food Chains in Areas Contaminated by the Chernobyl Accident." International Journal of Geographical Information Science 15.1 (2001): 43-64. Print.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Recent interest in the health hazards of unsafe drinking water has led researchers to the study of water supply which involves a look at how water goes from “catchment to the consumer”. Water Safety Plans (WSP) which are risk assessment and risk management reports are developed prior to the development of a water plant. Researchers are becoming more interested in how spatial analysis using GIS can be incorporated into WSP analysis.
Using a water safety plan for a groundwater supplier in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, researchers used GIS to evaluate how land-use patterns and watershed relationships affect the quality of the water supply. First, spatial analysis is used to map areas of vulnerability in the population such as schools or hospitals. This analysis is called a kernel density estimation and is used to understand which populations are most vulnerable to water shortages and water pollution (figure 1). The second part of the analysis is to map areas of high risk for groundwater contamination based on the land-use pattern. For example, agricultural areas present a higher risk for contamination of groundwater from pesticides than undeveloped land. Researchers used landsat images to derive these land-use patterns and the compiled map allows for a visual of how and where land-use patterns and water contamination intersect.
To understand how watershed processes affects the area, chlorine concentrations (mg/l) were calculated and mapped spatially to view how the river interacts with the aquifer. Levels high in chlorine indicate regions where the low aquifer water levels allow the river to infiltrate the aquifer. This calculation allows researchers to understand the dynamics of aquifer recharge and to see which sites of the aquifer are more vulnerable to the river’s dynamics. Lastly, a similar analysis can be conducted using nitrogen calculations to map the regions where agricultural production impacts the greatest parts of the aquifer. Overall, researchers estimated areas of high risk to lack of water access and contamination, giving an overview of the challenges for providing access to clean and quality water.
Wienand, I., U. Nolting, and T. Kistemann. (2009). Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) as an instrument of water resource management: a case study from a GIS-based Water Safety Plan in Germany. Water Science & Technology (60.7) 1691- 1699.
African elephants are the world’s largest land mammals, but are constantly battling for survival against poachers. With human population increasing in Africa, humans are expanding into areas dominated by elephants and other species causing an overlap and direct contact with each other forcing elephants to transfer to other areas.
|Areas where African Elephants and Humans Overlap |
|Areas with permanent water sources |
With the information finally gathered and put into maps using GIS, researchers could now express their concerns for the African Elephants and find people welling to manage projects in hopes of relocating the elephants into reduced conflict zones, ultimately providing the elephants a better life.