Project BudBurst: Community-based Plant Research

Large-scale data collection is an important aspect of understanding our enivornment and the patterns of change both seasonally and throughout history. However, analyzing the biosphere of communities all over the country, let alone the world, is both time-consuming and expensive. Similarly to the BioBlitz we experienced early this year, Project BudBurst ( aims to change the nature of data collection by recruiting volunteers from all 50 states to track seasonal changes in the plant species of their communities. The project partners with a number of organizations, including the National Park Service, National Geographic, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in order to maintain this initiative.

The aim of this project is to gain as much information as possible about national effects of climate change on various species. The data about plant phenophases is collected by the organization and made public through published reports. In addition to the data produced through this project, Project BudBurst also aims to educate the public about the importance of phenology in understanding changing environments. The group describes plants as the base of the food chain, which makes them the staple of any environment and a good way to measure changes in the entire biosphere of an area, since anything that affects plants generally affects all other areas of the related ecosystems. One major type of change that can be seen through the study of phenology is human impact on both small-scale and large-scale environments.  Project BudBurst gives people a way to personally connect to their surrounding natural environment and view first-hand the impact their community has through human activity. Hopefully, this type of national citizen engagement with the environment will lead to greater care and protection of our remaining natural spaces.

Tracking Ocean Explorations with the NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a website called ocean explorer, which allows you to track the recent ocean explorations by the NOAA from 2001 to the present. Each exploration provides extensive data that was collected and used, and gives an extensive background as well as the mission’s motivation. There are constant updates of new findings and new missions for each exploration, so you can see what has been found already and what the researchers are hoping to discover. Each exploration also provides photos and maps to help explain where it is taking place, and why the exploration is important to the certain area. The website provides a digital atlas that shows all of the current explorations around the world, allowing you to click on a certain mission and use GIS tools to examine dive locations, dive tracks, and ship tracking. You can also quickly view the education, data and summary of each mission on the map.

This website can help connect the general public to the advances in geographical research, and help inform them of what work is being done around the world to further the knowledge of our oceans. It also will help keep the public aware of the past history of the world, and what artifacts are found in oceans that help piece together important historical events.

How the Parks of Tomorrow will be Different?

America’s most special places will always be beautiful, but a warming climate forces us to accept that they can’t be frozen in time.

Assateague Island National Seashore, which sits on a 37-mile-long sliver of land just off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, is gradually shuffling westwards 1. Hurricanes and Northeasters have driven sand from the beaches across island into the bayside marshes. The entire island is shifting closer to the coast.

Scientists expect that as the climate changes, the storms will likely strengthen, sea levels will keep rising, and Assateague’s slow westward migration may accelerate1. The staff at the National Park is preparing for these changes. The storms have destroyed the parking lots 6 times in 10 years. The park’s crew worked to adapt to the storms and created toilets, showers and beach shelters that could be moved quickly.

These adaptations, however did not take into account Climate Change. The seashore is one of the first national parks in the country to explicitly address and accept, the effects of climate change. The park will try to adjust to the changes, rather than fighting them. It will continue to move as the island moves, shifting its structures with the sands.

Dude Where’s our Water? Drought conditions across the United States

Although, news media coverage of the California drought has fizzled over time, the reality is that many parts of my home-state continue to be under “Extreme” or “Exceptional” drought conditions.

The United States Drought Monitor (USDM) is a useful tool in analyzing current drought conditions across the United States. The USDM is a joint project by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

With weekly comparisons, data tables, and even GIS data (among other useful tools), anybody can log on and examine the different effects of drought conditions. Users can examine specific attributes such as percent of normal rainfall and the Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI) of a given state.

As the drought in California and other parts of the United States drag on, it is important to be informed about conditions and develop plans to save water.


The Spatial History Project

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This is the website for the Spatial History Project at Stanford University, a research project run by, “principle investigators,” like tenured faculty, visiting scholars, and graduate students in collaboration with staff, research affiliates, and collaborators. The goal of this project is twofold. First: to encourage these principle investigators to craft creative research questions and to use problem solving as a method of investigating these questions. In pursuance of this the Project encourages the use of technologies in novel ways and the creation of new custom technologies. The Project believes that the spatial analysis of all topics is helpful, and so, it is common practice for their teams to aggregate and then visually analyze both spatial and other data. Not every visual on the website has yielded a finalized conclusion or peer reviewed study, nevertheless each is useful. Their second main goal is to put out easily attainable, easily digestible data. In doing this, the Spatial History Project aims to invigorate other studies and to provide a broad knowledge base for anyone interested.


“Many of our visualizations are experimental and only a few eventually become final products. We embrace visualization as a way not simply to illustrate conclusions, but a means of doing research… All that we create — including tools, data, and lessons learned — is intended for the scholarly commons to be added to, subtracted from, reworked, and recombined.”

Tracking Water Quality in the United States

Tracking Water Quality in the United States

Nicole Murgia

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an in-depth look at water quality in the United States. Through a program referred to as the “Watershed Assessment, Tracking, and Environmental Results System” (WATERS), anyone can access details of water quality of watersheds across the country. The program was designed under the Clean Water Act to improve communications regarding water conditions among the government and citizens.

WATERS allows anyone to access information regarding the quality of the nation’s surface water through a variety of different data tools. The data program provides information such as the designated uses of bodies of water, water quality monitoring results, and assessments of water qualities.

One of the helpful programs that is included on the site is called “How’s My Waterway”. This tool allows the user to enter their current location and observe the water conditions of nearby bodies of waters. Once selected, one can view updated condition and pollution reports of the waterways near them. In addition to the technical report, the EPA provides an option to read the report in an edited, “Plain English” version that makes the scientific terms used understandable for the average citizen.

Programs like WATERS allows everyone to stay informed on the quality of the waters around them as well as the hydrosphere as a whole.

Plate Tectonics Map

This map, provided by is an interactive map of the major Tectonic plates of the world and how/when they are known to move. Each dropped pin states the name of the plate as well as it’s recent history.

It also designates whether or not it is a plate boundary and specifies the difference between volcanic chains, faults, and other tectonic movement/action. It also has links to informative articles on the different plate types and different fault lines around the world.

It also details the different types of boundaries (divergent, convergent, transform) and teaches about Earth’s Internal Structure.

Overall, a very useful website for those looking to better understand Plate Tectonics and how/where they affect the world.




Gap Analysis Program (GAP) Protected Areas and Land Cover Data Viewer

This geographic website is for the Gap Analysis Program (GAP) Viewer of the USGS for Protected Areas and Land Cover Data.

Separated into two different viewers for user clarity, the viewers provide users ranging from the public to professional land managers a spatially explicit inventory of the Protected Areas of the United States and a consistent nation-wide inventory of vegetation and land-use patterns for the United States.

This compilation of data types for the Gap Analysis Program is being served by the United States Geological Survey for aid in conservation, land management, planning, and recreation, amongst other uses.  In order to increase collective knowledge, these interactive maps are designed to disseminate up to date, concise, and specific data to facilitate the planning and management of biological diversity on a local, regional, and national scale.

Data viewers like these can be exceptionally helpful to both grab data and see data without the need to use any local semblance of a Geographical Information System.  In accordance with our national park projects and our final projects, I could see these viewers becoming exceedingly helpful in data gathering and analysis.  I encourage you to check them out and see how you can utilize them!



Water Use in the United States

This section of the United States Geographic Survey website deals specifically with the water use in the United States. The National Water-Use Information program collects and spreads the data. This data is gathered at county levels and then compiled by state, leading to the final culmination at the national-level.

By analyzing this data, we gain a better understanding of the hydrosphere. We can see where and how this resource is being utilized by exploring the different water use categories. These categories include, public supply, domestic, irrigation, thermoelectric power, industrial, mining, livestock and aquaculture. This data also accounts for surface & groundwater use as well as trends in water use. Looking at this data on a state level helps us understand why certain states differ so vastly compared to others. Not only can we analyze current data, but the section for trends helps us see how we have recently decreased freshwater withdrawal.

With the limited amount of available freshwater, it is important for us to be aware of our current water use and freshwater withdrawal overtime. This is the main objective of the USGS Water-Use Data and Research program. The importance of the data has led the program to develop improved water-use data through state water-use resources. This has to be a priority if we want to maintain our hydrosphere.



Observe the sea ice extent everyday-MASIE

Winter is coming, and North Pole is about to reach to its coldest time. The ice extent will be very noticeable, and it can reflect the climate change when we compare the data over the range.

As temperature drops, the Oceanic seawater gets frozen and extends in size as ice. In the polar area where the temperature can drop to extremely low temperature, the daily changing in the size of the extent can be observable . MASIE-NH,stands for the Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent – Northern Hemisphere, is operated by National Ice Center (NIC) in cooperation with the NOAA and U.S Navy . Unlike Sea Ice Index(SII) that only use passive microwave data to give graphical view of the ice extent, MASIE uses data from the Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System(IMS) which also relies on visible imagery with higher degree of resolution(4km instead of 10km) so the ice edge would probably be more accurate.

MASIE divides the region into sixteen pieces that covers furthest to Russia and Canada for people to see the difference. The area marked as white is where the ice is extended. Time series plot on yearly basis is also provided on surprisingly, the extent is decreasing in speed and getting later for the event to start every year during pre-winter time, such phenomenon should more or less bring up further questions and researches towards the relationship between ice extent and climate change.