Friday, December 13, 2013

Southwestern: A Virtual Tour

In the rapidly advancing technological age, virtual environments are becoming increasingly prevalent.  Video games and virtual reality have put the users in the middle of the action to immerse them in a completely simulated setting.  Is this just a phase?  Or, will virtual reality be a major component of spatial learning and understanding for future generations?  Before, Southwestern University’s virtual tour is comprised of photos and brief snippets of information.  By using and working with Google, the user can navigate the campus similarly to Google Streetview.  Now, it is a virtual environment, made up of 360-degree panorama points where the user can look up, down, and all around the SU campus from their computer or smartphone.  This innovative use of the Google platform to work with a virtual tour of campus has not been done in this capacity before and would test the limits of this tool and of virtual environments in general.

The Effect of Damming on the Blanda River Flow Regime

Iceland is one of the only countries in the world that can claim to have a completely clean energy portfolio.  The demand for hydropower is still increasing, and Iceland has dammed many of its rivers to meet this need at the expense of their riparian ecosystems.  The regulation of flow regimes and creation of reservoirs has had a significant impact on the ecosystems in and around the rivers of Iceland.  The Blanda River has been utilized for hydropower since the early 1990’s, and will be used to model the effect of the dam on the downstream flow regime using Digital Elevation Modeling and Flow Accumulation.  By using these models along with river flow data, we will be able to analyze the effects felt as a result of the dam.

Oldest Churches in Georgetown

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Proper Systems of Land Use: Farming


Global Consequences of Land Use
Jonathan A. Foley et al. Science 309, 570 (2005);
DOI: 10.1126/science.1111772 

When thinking about Land Use, the general population tends to think more on a scale of deforestation, habitat destruction, logging, and farming. Things that are relatively brought up or seen in your daily activities. In this study about Land Use, it is concluded that "subsistence agriculture, clearing tropical forests, intensifying farm production and expanding urban centers" is changing the makeup of the worlds landscapes and at the expense of the environment. 

An example of this is found through comparing different types of land and the trade offs of human activity on these land types. 

In these diagrams we find that while maintaining a Natural Ecosystem is beneficial to the ecosystem, we clash with the ecosystem as we do not benefit financially and do not benefit from the land we considered to be "not used". In an Intensive Cropland, we essentially destroy the natural landscape and soil makeup. There is no natural regulation other than possibly restarting a new crop every year. If you look at the Cropland with Restored  Ecosystem Services, it is depicted that there is a mutual abundance of natural and human based eco-services. 

While food and crop production has been beneficial in supporting the human population, particularly in the U.S, there is a correlation with intensified farming and environmental damage. eg: Increased use of fertilizer correlates to poor water quality, soil erosion and overgrazing leads to complete loss of arable land. 

The continuance of uninformed farmers, ranchers, and land owners not practicing sustainability with the land the practice on will ultimately result in a more widespread disaster of climate change. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Abstract: Food Miles Behind Nepali Coffee

Nepal’s coffee sector has grown dramatically within the past decade and is predicted to continue expanding in the coming years. The demand for Nepali coffee in both local and international markets is increasing; Nepali coffee is steadily establishing a firmer position in the world coffee market. While some of the coffee farmers that comprise Nepal’s coffee sector operate independently, many have organized themselves into coffee cooperatives to share resources, expand market access, and secure higher premiums for their beans. The effects of these cooperatives often extend beyond coffee farming to other domains of members’ lives. With a predicted increase in coffee production and number of coffee cooperatives, it is worthwhile to evaluate how cooperatives are reshaping the lives and livelihoods of their members. By using GIS mapped out the food miles behind Nepali coffee from the farmers, to the cooperative, to the storefront, mainly using data coordinates. This research provided insight regarding the challenges for coffee farmers and the effort that is behind every cup of Nepali coffee.