Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Land Cover and Water Sources

Land cover and available space has been a country-wide issue since its meager beginnings after the revolutionary war. Back then to solve spatial problems with population we just expanded and developed previously undeveloped land. However we now know the error of our ways and understand the dangers of too much land cover and deforestation. This poses a problem for developing nations that are seeing large populaiton increases in areas of large biodiversity such as Malaysia. Too much land cover for an island nation, like Malaysia, would increase impervious ground surfaces, decrease infiltration rates, and increase runoff rates; which would cause low base flow during the dry seasons leaving Malaysia with not enough water to provide for its citizens. Malaysia cannot indefinitely develop its rainforests without endangering itself.

Mustafa, Amin, Lee, and Shariff researched the hydrology behind land development and land cover. They know that "understanding how the land use changes influence the river basin hydrology, will enable planners to formulate policies to minimize the undesirable effects of future land use changes." They found that in the Upper Bernam River Basin of Malaysia the change in total peak flow was 28% from 1989-1993 and 11% from 1993-1995. This can be quite a problem for a nation with a growing population.

Mustafa, Amin, Lee, and Sharrif's research and model can be applied to many other countries facing similar problems balencing development and land coverage with wildlife preservation and water sequestration. Providing developing countries with tools and solutions now can help preserve rainforest land and keep base water flow at a level that can support a growing population.

Mustafa.Y.M., M.S.M Amin, T.S.Lee, & Shariff A.R.M. (2012). Evaluation of Land Development Impact on a tropical Watershed Hydrology Using Remote Sensing and GIS. Journal of Spatial Hydrology, 5(2), 16-30.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A "Neographical Education"? The Geospatial Web, GIS and Digital Art in Adult Education

     Every time you take a picture and post it online with your iPhone, you are unknowingly adding your part to an important part of geography that’s been rapidly expanding since the 1990’s—neogeography. Neogeography is “traditional geography as well as all forms of personal, intuitive, absurd or artistic explorations and representations of geographical space, aided by new technologies associated with the Geospatial Web” (71). So, in other words, the technology you use to express yourself with that photo is expanding geography to a whole new level that is more personal and artistic than ever before.

     But, photos are only one portion of the information that is becoming easier and easier to identify. Technology is growing, and neogeography is becoming more and more prevalent through the mediums below:

     If geography is a physical science, than neogeography can be considered the social science behind it, cataloging historical and social experiences at a personal-individual level. While this is not a new phenomenon, it’s exploded with new technology in the past years such as the ability to upload images to the internet and tag posts. This new method could even be considered an art project, as a new database is being gathered with each piece of information collected and saved, keeping geographic information linked with personal information like a rose pressed between the pages of a book. This interlinks users worldwide.

     And as we speak, technology is becoming easier and easier to use. Eventually everyone will be able to be a GIS professional, with the help of user-friendly interfaces and programs. Education of geography and its many elements will be easier than ever, and everyone will have the means to contribute to the field in the palm of their hands.

Bob. Same-place-different-time-photos-12. N.d. Photograph. Lincoln. The Chive. Resignation Media, LLC, 31 Oct. 2010. 
     Web. 18 Feb. 2013. <
Papadimitriou, Fivos. "A "Neographical Education"? The Geospatial Web, GIS and Digital Art in Adult Education." 
     International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 19.1 (2010): 71-74. Routledge. Web. 19 Feb. 

The Validity and Usefulness of Laws in Geographic Information Science and Geography

     We all know about Tobler’s First Law of Geography, stating “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things." Tobler’s law is the frame work for all things GIS, the concept that backs up the entire field of geostatistics logically. But is one law for the whole discipline of geography truly enough?

     To understand the difference between a law, a principle, a theory and a norm is to see that there is little distinction between them. What makes each statement valuable is not the ability to call it one thing or another, but the simplicity and elegance of its meaning, and how valid and true it is. Laws are meant to be facts—“facts provide the evidence for geographic processes, the evidence from which processes are inferred, and the boundary conditions needed to simulate their effects” (Goodchild 301).

     Tobler’s Law has much value in GIScience, giving words to what we have considered too obvious to note in everyday life. An example of Tobler’s Law in action is taking measurements of temperature. One cannot measure temperature in every square foot of every section of the earth, so it is acceptable to measure temperature for an area and assume that all places in close proximity to that area share the same temperature. It is in this way and more that Tobler’s Law “…forms the conceptual foundation for the entire field of geostatistics” (301). Every method requires the validity of the law and its application.

     But could there be possible candidates for additional laws? There are several principles that make sense:

  1. The principle of spatial heterogeneity by Harvey: there is no concept of an average place on the earth’s surface “comparable to the concept of an average human” (302).
  2. The Eden Effect: any extreme condition is possible on the earth’s surface if one reaches far enough
  3. Fractal principle: geographic phenomena reveal more detail the more closely one looks, and this process reveals additional detail at an orderly and predictable rate
  4. The principle that “two distinct conceptualizations of geographic information are possible—as collections of countable, discrete objects littering an otherwise empty space and as finite set of continuous fields, or functions of location” (302).
  5. The uncertainty principle: the geographic world is complex and any attempt to represent it isn’t perfect

     So, perhaps one day there will be an organized system to represent the certainties of geography, helping people understand the world around them and leading to more breakthroughs that may help us further our knowledge of the world around us.

Goodchild, Michael E. "The Validity and Usefulness of Laws in Geographic Information Science and Geography." 
     National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis and Department of Geography (2004): 300-03. Web.

Schmitt, Harrison. The Blue Marble. 1972. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2013. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Topography-based Analysis of Hurricane Katrina Inundation of New Orleans

Geospatial information is important for responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes.  The data collected during the hurricane Katrina incident was high resolution making the information very informative and useful.  Lidar is a remote sensing technology that has improved drastically over the last decade and is now used commonly as a tool for taking topographical surveys.

Much of the data used by the geospatial  users that responded to Katrina collected their information from the internet for free.  The Lidar data proved to be very useful to the responders for its mapping capabilities providing vital information on the depth of flooding after the breach in the levees.  The data had to be accurate in order for the government to start taking actions and estimate the time needed for relieving the city of the extreme excess of water.  This data’s speed of output proved vital for the relief effort.  It has also proven to be highly effective in the research of how to develop and go about reconstructing the city and infrastructure in the future.  If hydrologic analysis reveal specific area’s were flooding is at the most dangerous levels as in the figure below, then buildings can be strategically remade in order to help disperse the flood waters.  It can also be used to make prestorm simulations more accurate and effective for future events.

Gesch , Dean. (2005). Topography-based Analysis of Hurricane Katrina Inundation of New Orleans. Retrieved from

Learning as a Geographical Process

     The topic of how we as humans learn is increasingly prevalent in our world today. As the field expands, theorists find themselves asking—is learning as a geographical process the correct way to think about learning?

     There are many reasons to ask such a question, one being that the field of human geography is so diverse and divided by so many sub disciplines that there is a lack of communication. Categories can range from cultural geography to GIS, and anything and everything in-between. The question at hand unites all disciplines and gives them a common problem to discuss. According to Simandan, the problematic of geographic learning should concern all geographers equally.

     Humans’ ability to learn is the attribute central to our species that singles us out from others, which is why its study should be of the utmost importance to geographers. Before, it has been focused on as the foreground of other intellectual pursuits rather than the focus, and learning has never been firstly geographical. The centrality of representations, more specifically the representationalist views that memory is the environment of thought versus the nonrepresentationalist views that environment is the memory of our thought, is just one topic that needs to be examined. Behavioral geography is another, particularly the cognitive process in special decision making and human geography.

     There is much to be learned from the theme of learning as a geographical process. It connects two disciplines, learning and geography, in many creative and diverse ways that have much to contribute to both fields alike. One may look forward to the discoveries and breakthroughs that may come from their studies!

Alte Buecher. 2006. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. 15 Feb. 2006. Web. 02 Feb. 2013.
Simandan, Dragos. "Learning as a Geographical Process." The Professional Geographer(2012): n. pag. UTD Austin. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

"The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters"

     Natural disasters do not affect all people equally; certain groups of people are systematically disadvantaged due to cultural, economic, and social factors. Inequalities in access to resources and opportunities leave certain groups, such as women, more vulnerable to the damages caused by natural disasters. This is evident through the existing large scale gender differences in mortality rates following natural disasters.

141 countries were sampled from 1981 - 2002. 
Factors that increase natural disaster casualties:
1. low economic development
2. poor quality government 
3. high inequality

1. natural disasters kill more women, or at younger ages
2. the bigger the disaster, the stronger effect of the gender gap
3. the higher a woman's socioeconomic status, the weaker the effect of the gender gap

     Geographers have argued that there is little about these results that is natural. Geography, using GIS, is unique in its ability as a social science to link spatial patterns of risk to socioeconomic factors, and will be crucial in a continued study of vulnerability science.

Neumayer, Eric, and Thomas Plumper. "The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981-2002." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97.3 (2007): 551-56. Web.

Northern Ireland- Religious Distribution

Northern Ireland has always had a strong religious background.  Catholicism is the most prevalent of the religious sects.  This study is a good idea of "lying with maps".  The map below shows the percentage of Catholics in certain areas of Northern Ireland. 
   This next map refers more to the mingling of different religions.  In another way, it refers to the areas having multiple religions. 
So the first map is representing only one religion being prevalent in areas, the second map shows the inter mingling.  First of all, both maps' color schemes are off, in my opinion.  Usually red is used to display high concentrations and things like that and blue is used to show low concentrations or things like that.  If one only looks at the first map, one would think that Northern Ireland is extremely segregated religiously, especially around Belfast.  However, considering high population in comparison to other parts of the country, the second map shows how much more diversity there is in that area.  Actually, the areas toward the borders are actually those with the least amount of religious inter mingling.  This is just a case where having multiple maps to display information is more helpful than having only one map to avoid lying with maps.

Application of GIS in Re-introduction of Red Deer in National Park Fruška Gora (Vojvodina, Serbia)

The Fruška Gora ecosystem places a great deal of importance on the Reintroduction of the European deer. Yet, the reintroduction process is quite expensive and complex to say the least. With the assistance of GIS paired various other tools and processes the Fruška Gora National Park was able to increase the park's red dear population from 36 to 61 in less than 1 year. This particular reintroduction project involved 3 stages (GIS was utilized in the first and third stages):  

  1. Building a shelter for the animals
  2. Acquiring and socializing individuals
  3. Monitoring the deer population

There were multiple stages involved in the creation of digital map of Fruška Gora. It should be noted that ArcGIS 9.3 was utilized in the digitalization stage of this project. The first stage consisted of collecting materials (i.e. scanning topographic maps, etc.). These scanned materials were then subjected to Georeferencing, which involved assigning geographic coordinates, a projection, and control points. Database construction was the next step in this process, followed by digitalization (the process of transferring info from a scanned to a digital format). Those involved in the project then created a digital elevation model using the database. This ultimately led to the construction of shelter for the animals after examining factors such as natural food sources, human pressure, etc.

Deer During Transport
Position of Fruška Gora Mt in Serbia
Terrain Slope in "Ravine" Shelter

It is fascinating that GIS was an essential component of this particular reintroduction process. It allows scientists and other individuals to see aspects of a particular natural environment that might otherwise go unnoticed. This is particularly important when considering the fragile nature of animal reintroduction. Keep in mind that the practices highlighted in this article can be applied to similar endeavors around the world.

Ristić, Z. Z., Marković, V. V., Barović, V. V., Ristanovic, B. B., & Marković, D. (2010). APPLICATION OF GIS IN RE-INTRODUCTION OF RED DEER IN NATIONAL PARK FRUšKA GORA (VOJVODINA, SERBIA). Geographia Technica, 9(1), 58-66.

Predicting The Spring Abundance Distribution Of Red-legged Partridge Populations In Agricultural Regions Using Environmental Models And An Application For Game Management

Rapid increases in human population coupled with steadily receding wildlife areas create a need for the application and implementation of game management in areas across the globe. A number of factors (i.e. land use, agriculture, land cover, climate, soil, etc.) are essential in formulating successful game management systems. Geographic Information Systems can prove to be incredibly useful and unique tools in this relatively delicate process. GIS plays an increasingly important role in regional wildlife biology and management, because it grants individuals the ability to store, display, and analyze complex data. Furthermore, it assists in the development of models designed to utilize data in efforts to predict factors such as population distribution among various species of wildlife.
This article describes the authors, Victoriano Peiro and Charles Blanc's, attempt to develop a tool to assist the management of the red-legged partridge in France.  If it is utilized properly, this tool could assist game administrators to predict the abundance of partridges in specific hunting areas, ultimately allowing them set harvest quotas months prior to the opening of hunting season. The red-legged partridge is one of the most popular game birds in France, thus population management is quite important.
The authors indicate that the main goal of their study was not to offer definitive statements pertaining to habitat-abundance relationship. Instead, they attempt to highlight the possibility of pairing various approaches for modeling (with respects to wildlife management) with GIS in order to assist wildlife ecologists and administrators analyze and display data associated with the distribution of the red-legged partridge. It should be noted that this process could be applied to hundreds of different game animals around the globe.

PEIRO, V., & BLANC, C. P. (2011). Predicting the spring abundance distribution of red-legged partridge populations in agricultural regions using environmental models and an application for game management. Folia Zoologica, 60(3), 203-213.

Expanding Temperatures in China

     China has been experiencing incredible growth since its economic reforms in 1978, though this has been accompanied by severe environmental impacts. One way to measure these impacts is through surface temperature.  Urbanization, which has been occurring rapidly in China, results in the change of land use and temperature. Urban areas, due to the high volumes of concrete and other impervious surfaces, tend to store more heat than rural areas. The increase in surface temperature is most noticeable in areas that were previously used for the main purpose of agriculture, such as the Zhujiang ('Pearl River') Delta.


     The delta has a subtropical climate. Average precipitation ranges from 1600 - 260mm, of which 80% occurs during April - September. Flooding is common, making the Zhujiang Delta one of China's richest agricultural areas. From 1989 to 1997, 12.82% of the land in the Zhujiang Delta has been converted from farms and cropland to urban areas. GIS shows that the areas experiencing urban expansion correlated with those that were experiencing increasing surface temperatures. The Delta's surface temperature increased by 13.01K, demonstrating that changes in one part of the environment can have effects on other parts, as well. This study has also provided alternative and more efficient means of researching environmental impacts without having to collect field data or preform empirical observations.

Weng, Q. "A Remote Sensing-GIS Evaluation of Urban Expansion and Its Impact on Surface         Temperature in the Zhujiang Delta, China." International Journal of Remote Sensing 22.10 (2001): 1999-2014. Web.


Geographies of Development: New Maps, New Visions?

The terminology of "Third World" versus "First World" has been largely discarded by development and aid workers and researchers.  These terms were originated in a post-colonial world, where the First World consisted of the West (and later Japan) and the Third World was the remainder, the former colonies in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Now, however, with an increasingly globalized economy, the face of development is rapidly changing face.  This article addresses the question, "Where are and what then remains of the geography of the development of the Third World?"

With the retirement of the "Third World", new terminology has been proposed by various fields.  In some recent geography papers there has been talk of the "two-thirds world" or the "majority world".  In anthropology and other social sciences, there has been a focus on the "global South".

In development circles, the "BRICs" (Brazil, Russia, India, China) have been emphasized for their place in the category of rapidly developing countries and for marking them as the possible economic super-powers in the future.  They are also called "emerging markets" (EMs).  China and India have already been making significant impacts on the global market for their production of finished goods (think textiles and electronics) where Brazil and Russia are expected to be global leaders in the exportation of raw goods (think timber and beef, and oil, respectively).  Occasionally areas of the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Kuwait, are included into the BRIC categories as well for their massive place in the oil markets.

Lately, "Third World" has made a more recent arrival as an adjective, not of an area of the globe, but as a way to describe sections of the United States with low standards of living-- think post-Katrina New Orleans.  This is merely one example of the importance of categories for the purpose of geopolitics, foreign aid, and development research.  "Today, although profound geopolitical and geo-economic shifts are evident, arguably what particularly merits geographical scrutiny is the way that these are represented."

The discussion of the terminology used to describe areas of the globe is not active simply for the purpose of academic masturbation, but because "ideas such as BRICs are more than merely descriptive labels. They become means of making mental maps and claiming the future."

James D. Sidaway (2012): Geographies of Development: New Maps, New Visions?, The Professional Geographer, 64:1, 49-62

Efficency in Urban Planning

Traffic is an ever growing problem in today's world, particularly in rapidly developing countries. All those cars need a place to park and the spaces aren't available. A case study in Tehran has examined how to use GIS technology to find ideal locations for parking lots in order to reduce traffic, travel time and add convenience to the lives of citizens.

Five factors were taking into account to find the ideal location for public parking: distance from travel absorption centers (such as malls, administration buildings, historical sites and other frequented locations), access to roads, proximity to public transport, price of land, and limiting factors (such as zoning and proximity to spaces that inhibit construction). The researchers then weighed the factors to show importance based on the opinions of experts. After analyzing the data, a map was developed with favorable areas shown with the highest value, along with existing parking lots and limiting factors.

Researchers found that the most suitable land was often near subways and that most existing parking lots were not in the most preferred areas. It was suggested that in the future, civil engineers should consult data before building parking lots to find the most efficient and convenient locations.

Iman Ghiasi, et al. "Developing Optimal Zones For Urban Parking Spaces By Arc GIS And AHP." Indian Journal Of Science & Technology 5.11 (2012): 3618-3622. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Capabilities of Community Based GIS

We know from this class that GIS is incredibly useful in a variety of disciplines. However, a few years ago, a research project was done to understand the feasibility of ‘public participation geographic information systems.’ This fairly recently developed idea promotes the public's  “use [of] GIS to incorporate information held by local communities into the planning process, to address concerns articulated by community participants and groups, to reduce inequalities in public access to information and technology, and to develop and make spatial information more adaptable for community use” (Wood 2005, 159). Communities themselves understand their specific “sense of space” and what is important to them, much more so than an imported researcher, thus could use GIS technology to illustrate their concerns. Justin Wood, from Lancaster University in England, worked with several community groups in Edinburgh, Scotland to help identify “issues groups faced regarding the potential use of maps, spatial information and GIS in facilitating community involvement” (Wood 2005, 161).  

He introduced the groups to MapInfo Windows GIS, but found that very few members of the community had any understanding of what GIS actually was, never mind its capabilities for community outreach. To illustrate to full capabilities of the technology, Wood addressed the common complaint in the area that that the Green Belt in Edinburgh was disappearing by creating a map to show the increase in development and loss of countryside in the area. 

However, Wood discovered that at least one person in each group contacted was interested in working with GIS, whom he then taught the ins and outs of the program. The members found the following issues had the highest potential for GIS use:

(a) Strategic coverages of a wider area (e.g. a city and its surrounds).
(b) Coverages following a selected strategic feature, for example a major proposed walkway route along a river or disused railway line, and interlinking paths.
(c) Local coverages which seamlessly linked or crossed community boundaries, and the features of concern to neighbouring community groups.
(d) Views of local features of interest from within one community only.
(e) Selection of a specific local feature such as a farm field or woodland.

     Wood found that, after being trained, the community preferred  GIS over paper maps, as they would be able to keep electronic record of data, which then could be updated from year to year, as well as a multitude of other benefits, such as illustrating the far-reaching benefits of grants. GIS helped the community view maps not as simple two-dimensional objects, but as interactive tool that could be linked with pictures and detailed area histories, which lead to the rethinking of issues and their interconnectivity, which could now be linked and illustrated more effectively. Further, while GIS can depict problems from a specific neighborhood, it also is cable of crossing these boundaries, to exemplify how the problems transcend the “artificial boundaries,” and help facilitate inter-community projects.

     Therefore, while there are still major complications in wide-scale usage of GIS technology, including copyright issues, the cost of the program and future updates, as well as the scarcity of people with GIS skills, who could help with training and organization, this study demonstrated the potential for GIS use in a community setting as a practical facilitation tool" for engagement and to develop partnerships throughout the area (Wood 2005, 167). To adequately achieve this potential in application, however, it is necessary for a community to have “ongoing support from a facilitator, or a key volunteer with GIS skills”  (Wood 2005, p.168) This study not only indicates the applicability of GIS in community outreach, as well as its conceivable accessibility to the general public, with training, but represents an option for us students, learning these technological skills, to help empower and assist in community development in the future.

Wood, J. (2005). ‘How green is my valley?’ Desktop geographic information systems as a community-based participatory mapping tool. Area, 37(2), 159-170. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2005.00618.x

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Drought Severity Assessment in Arid Area of Thal Doab using Remote Sensing and GIS

Droughts are one of the worst types of natural disasters.  Unlike tornadoes and hurricanes, which destroy the landscape within seconds, droughts drain the vitality out of the environment slowly.  After prolonged droughts the environment is left as a desert wasteland making it impossible to inhabit with the exception for the hardiest of plants and animals.  Droughts have recently become a major cause for concern in Pakistan, an agriculturally dependent country.  After analyzing several functions and anomalies, Shaheen and Baig have determined that the droughts have become worse and worse, “the drought from 1999 to 2001 was the worst in the last 50 years” (As shown in the figure below).

As a result, crop yields are declining at an increased rate.  In 2007, the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) indicated that there was an increase in rainfall helping to relieve the environment.  Overall the droughts have become more severe and more widespread showing that as time progresses more and more of the region studied shall become desert like with harsh living conditions.  Shaheen's report supports the belief that in order for the studied region to produce a higher crop yield, the region must have more rain.  Without more rain, the area of usable land for agriculture will continue to diminish, forcing the local inhabitants to find alternative means for providing for themselves and their families.

Shaheen Asthma, Baig Muhammad (2011). Drought Severity Assessment in Arid Area of Thal Doab using Remote Sensing and GIS. International Journal of Water Resources and Arid Environments 1(2): 92-101.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jen's Austin Food Links


Hot spots are on the rise and no I'm not talking about places where you can get the strongest Wi-Fi service connection for your laptops and smart phones.  According to a study in Dallas, Texas, micro-urban heat islands are appearing due to the lack of shade from trees in rising urban areas where buildings, parking lots and neighborhoods outnumber shade trees.  Micro-urban heat islands (MUHI) are places within urban areas that produce high levels of heat.  The shade that trees are able to provide to nearly everything help lessen the amount of  direct exposure to the sun they receive.  But when trees are cut down and buildings are built up, not only are ecosystems being destroyed but also an effective energy saving system is being eliminated.  

"In the last fifty years, the average temperature of downtown Los Angeles has increased by 2.8” (5°F). Most urban areas around the world with populations greater than 100,000 have heat islands that are 14S”C (2-8°F) warmer than rural temperatures" (Semrau, 1992).  Due to the increase of hot spots which results in an increase in temperature, more energy is having to be used to cool down areas.  The way to decrease heat areas is to increase the amounts of shade trees. 

 This study used satellite data, LANDSAT TM, to map micro-urban heat islands along with comparing urban versus rural temperature variations.  Results show that UHIs were radiative in nature, with highest temperatures in the center and cooled outward toward tree canopy.

Figure I. Display of GIS layers used to map MUHls. A, shows extracted tree canopy and water over
TM band 4; B, is color-coded thermal image from TM band 6. Blue to red represents cooler to warmer
temperatures: C, shows trees and MUHIs; D is display of TM band 4 superimposed with MUHIs

Aniello Cathy, Morgan Ken,  Busbey Arthur, and Newland Leo (1994). Mapping Micro-Urban Heat Islands Using LANDSAT TM And A GIS. Computers & Geoscience. Vol. 21, No.8.