Category Archives: SAL

VAMLIS 2018 Winners

University of Richmond students from the Advanced Spatial Analysis course took home 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the Undergraduate Web Map competition at the 2018 VAMLIS Virginia GIS Conference in Virginia Beach. Congratulations to these amazing students!!!

Check out their web maps below!

Left to Right
Emily Routman (1st), Stanford Lee (2nd) and Conor Tenbus (3rd)

The winners with their Professor/Mentor Kim Browne, Director of the Spatial Analysis Lab

 

 

1st: Emily Routman ’20

Immigrants account for around 17% of Dallas’ population, and they have a big impact on local businesses, jobs, and more. I am going to analyze–by census tract–which immigrant populations (by country of origin) are more likely to cluster together, and which are less likely to.

2nd: Stanford Lee ’19

I used American Community Survey (ACS) 2016 data from the US Bureau of the Census and United States Geological Survey National Land Cover Database (NLCD) to create a weighted index model on the vulnerability of populations within the City of Richmond. This vulnerability index is my contribution to the Urban Heat Island Project collaboration with the Science Museum of Virginia. The vulnerability factors from the ACS data were: poverty rates, racial demographics, age demographics, education levels, and unemployment rates. Land cover data specifically aimed towards identifying land cover classes in the areas of the vulnerable populations will also be analyzed. The main objective of this project is to identify locations showing the most vulnerable areas within the City of Richmond so they can be compared with areas of extreme temperature.

3rd: Conor Tenbus ’18

GfK MRI is a survey and analytics company that completes an annual Survey of the American Consumer. Part of this survey includes MLB game attendance and an MLB “Super Fan” Poster/WebMap App Abstracts from the 2018 VA GeoCon 9 | Page designation. Using this data (provided by ArcGIS Business Analyst) at the county (maybe hex bins) level, I will analyze “fan-ship” intensity in relation to proximity to nearest MLB ballpark.

Do These Buttress Roots Make My Trunk Look Big?

Post by Kim Browne 

The past four summers I’ve had the good fortune of leading students to Australia for an intensive field experience which includes visits to two World Heritage sites: the Wet Tropics of North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. These sites are connected (literally and littorally) by the rain that falls along the narrow strip of forests along the mountainous coast, by the sugarcane fields the rivers pass through on their way to the sea, by the mangroves which filter nutrients and sediment, and by a thousand other processes that are critical to the health of these important ecosystems.

But today, the main connection I want to write about is the one I felt to my study abroad as an undergraduate at James Madison University in the summer of 1987. During this intensive field biology course in the Ecuadorian rainforest and the Galapagos Islands (think Darwin) we saw buttress roots, crossed altitudinal gradients, and witnessed things few people ever witness. How many people get to swim with sea lions in the Galapagos? Witness blue-footed booby’s feeding their young? Watch an anaconda slide off a log into the river?

My friend Emily in the Ecuadorian Amazon with a tree with large buttress roots

My friend Emily in the Ecuadorian Amazon next to a tree with large buttress roots

I’m very fortunate to have had those experiences and my students are equally fortunate. Many of the Islands I visited in the Galapagos nearly 30 years ago are now closed to visitors (due to damage and pests). Lonesome George, a giant tortoise we saw at the Charles Darwin Research Stations died in 2012.  The Amazon is in trouble.

I wonder and worry about the Reef. I wonder if in 30 years my students will be reminiscing about that thing of the past called the Great Barrier Reef.  Snorkeling this year (after unprecedented coral bleaching) was striking and saddening compared to my experience just one year ago. The reef is in trouble. The destruction of these large rainforest trees (aka carbon storage tanks), combined with other factors (including carbon emissions from our flights), is putting the reef in serious danger.

I’ve since returned to my lab where four high school students are being mentored by two of my lab interns. The students are contributing to an inventory of trees on campus. They are recording the GPS coordinates, diameter, height, and species of trees. Using this information they will estimate biomass and carbon stored. The data collected will help us better understand the role of trees in our world and will help the students connect the trees they see every single day to things like the Great Barrier Reef and Global Climate Change.

Giant fig tree in the Paluma Rainforest

Elaborate root structures in the Paluma Rainforest

 

Richmond Math Science Investigators (MSI) in the SAL

Post by Marissa Parker ’16

This summer, the SAL is hosting four rising 10th grade students from Richmond Public Schools in the Richmond Math Science Investigators (MSI) program. The goal of MSI is to increase the number of students pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The students are interested in the sciences and hope to pursue STEM fields in college and beyond. The MSI Program spans five weeks.

Our four students knew little about geography when they entered the program, but now are learning to connect their interests in natural/life sciences and engineering to geography and GIS. In the SAL, the students are learning about earth systems and physical geography relating to climate change, how to create basic maps in ArcMap, what GIS is and how to apply it, and how to conduct fieldwork while contributing to our campus tree inventory.

Take a peek at our students’ reflections on the first week…

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Shanaya:

During the summer a group of high school students and I engage in a 5 week program with mentors from the University of Richmond. The program starts on Monday and ends on the Thursday of that particular week. This week was very interesting learning about maps and the concept of GIS. We evaluated different maps that relate to GIS and how you can input different data.

Jonathan:

I learned a lot over the past few days. Each day in the afternoon we watched these really exciting and fun videos on different countries that explained a lot of the country’s characteristics. We talked about GPS and used one to locate different locations on campus. We looked at maps and talked about the different aspects of them and finding other aspects dealing with maps. Today we looked at GIS which is a system used to view maps and help us as people make decisions for our everyday life. We used a program on the computer and experimented with it. My favorite part was everything I did because it served a purpose in my learning and knowledge gaining and it was very fun.

Markee:

I learned that the Costa Rica flag has red, white, and blue colors. Working in ArcMap is fun and simple to use. Many people use it today to get around or just find different locations of where they want to travel.

Stephon:

I have learned several things this week. I learned about cartographers, projections, and scales. I now know about various types of projections such as the Mercator and Peters map projections. The Mercator map projection is the typical map that we use today. However, it isn’t proportionate and makes northern continents such as North America, Europe, and Asia appear more important than southern ones like South America, Africa, and Australia. On the contrary, the Peters projection emphasizes southern continents and makes them seem more important. I also learned more about how cartographers use GIS (Geographical Information Systems). Lastly, I learned about how scales show ratios of distances in the real world.

Stay tuned for more reflections from our wonderful MSI students!!!

Geo-Referencing the Jepson Quad

Post by Shaquille Christmas ’15

This post was from February 2016

This week students in the GEOG 280 course “Maps and Geovisualization” got a taste of how challenging it was for early Cartographers to survey an area, and draw what they saw—with a high level of accuracy. Students went into the Jepson quad and created a sketch of what they saw and tried to match their drawing to a true scale.

Next, their drawings were scanned and imported into ArcGIS; a tool I am sure early Cartographers would be proud of.

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Using the georeferencing tool, students then tried to match the different points on their map to the actual lay of the land as closely as possible. Many students had done such a good job that their hand drawn maps were georeferenced within a few feet to the actual distance on the ground which was an amazing site to see. Overall, it was a fun and eye opening exercise in which students gained a greater appreciation for the work of early Cartographers.

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Note from Taylor:

From a teaching perspective, I found this lesson to be highly effective not only at teaching students how to georeference maps, but also how to understand scale. They each had the opportunity to create their own scale for their hand drawn map. Each student could take their own approach to developing their scale, either by walking out the paces, estimating with their eyes, laying down on the ground to use their height, or even bringing a tape measure (which we didn’t allow them to use, just to make it a little more challenging). However, they realized that with a tape measure they could have gotten even more accurate with their scales, although they didn’t need it as Shaquille mentioned! This was a fun lab to do with students who haven’t taken GIS or other geography courses before, and we will likely incorporate it into future georeferencing and scale lessons.

 

GIS in Action: DC2RVA Field Trip

Post by Shaquille Christmas ’16

A couple weeks ago we visited the Richmond office of  Henningson, Durham, and Richardson, Inc (HDR), which is an architectural, engineering and consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska. UR alum and former SAL researcher extraordinaire Bridget Ward recently started working there as a GIS consultant in the transportation division. Bridget and her colleagues spoke to us about the DC to Richmond South East High Speed Rail project they are spearheading the planning for. They detailed the different ways in which HDR uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to support not only the DC to Richmond rail project, but also many of their other projects. These uses include preparing bids for contracts, performing analysis for various departments before and during construction, and especially communicating with the public. Below is a map they created showing the proposed rail route.

DC to Richmond (2)

One of the other interesting projects they talked about was an expansion of Route 460 that was delayed and ultimately drastically changed due to another contractor using inaccurate data to make decisions about impacts on wetland health. Since we have worked with wetland data on several projects over the summer it was cool to see how important accurate and detailed analysis is, and how detrimental careless errors can be!

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Overall, our time spent at HDR was both invaluable and inspiring. Bridget and her team gave us several homework projects of cool tool and methods we should learn to prepare for working in a professional and team environment. It is my hope that other students are getting experiences such as this, and are receiving advice on how to best put their GIS skills to use as they consider potential career paths.

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Streetview for Trails: Online Mapping with Terrain360

Post by Jared Goldbach Ehmer ’17

This week in the SAL, we continued working with Ryan Abrahamsen from Terrain360.  Last week we modified visual hierarchies on basemaps to make them more aesthetically pleasing.  To do this, we used the open source program called Mapbox. Mapbox required us to code in CSS, something none of us had ever actually done.  While most of us had coded in some regard in the past, it was either a new language to learn or a new experience altogether.  The basemaps we created and visually modified are used to house the trails and panoramas mapping them.

Hollywood_Rapid

View from Hollwood Rapids on part of Terrain360’s online map of the James River. Found here: http://t360.it/QN0010

Mud_Creek_Trail

Example of what a trail looks like in Terrain360. This is the Mud Creek Trail near Ancarrow’s Landing. Found here: http://t360.it/QN0010/0/0/1

This week, we were given the opportunity to actually go out and take the pictures that will go on basemaps like the ones we created.  Using a Canon Rebel T3i with a wide-angle lens on a carbon fiber tripod with a 60 degree rotatable head provided by Terrain360, we were able to take wonderful and accurate panoramas.  While in the field, a series of 6 portrait-aspect pictures were taken that overlapped for about a third of their girth due to the wide-angle lens.  A GPS (Global Positioning System) was brought along with the camera to record where the photos were taken so the photos could then be linked to geographic coordinates.  Once back in the lab, these pictures could be stitched together to form a seamless panorama and placed on a map with the attached GPS coordinates.

Ryan walked us through a few camera basics to get us all up to speed with a basic level of camera aptitude.  Each panorama, or series of six shots, was unique and everything had to be adjusted for that particular location.  For each series of shots, we adjusted white balance, shutter speed, and focal point.  The white balance was adjusted for sunny, cloudy, shady, fluorescent, or incandescent lighting.  For most of our shots, we switched between the first three outdoor Kelvin levels.  Shutter speed was probably the main variable that was changed for each shot, for it may still be sunny out, but the level of light and exposure that we wanted to capture would have been different.  Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds, our particular camera having a range of 30 seconds to one four-thousandth of a second.

RunningTrails

There are three running trails on the campus of the University of Richmond that we photographed, the blue, the gold, and the red.  These trails can be seen in the map above.  In addition to the three running trails on campus, we also photographed the Gambles-Mill trail and the route you can take from it to the Huguenot Flatwater Park. The trail starts by running along the Country Club of Virginia golf course, eventually meeting River Road at the River Road Shopping Center.

We crossed River Road over to Huguenot Road and followed it down all the way across the Huguenot Memorial Bridge. Then we followed the cloverleaf exit and took the left onto Riverside Drive and then a quick right onto Southampton Road to arrive at Huguenot Flatwater Park.  Because each panorama needed to be about 20-30 feet apart and customized accordingly, even a simple walk around half the lake could take about two and a half hours to capture fully.

In the coming week, we will be both stitching the photos together to form the actual panoramas and placing them on the basemaps with the geographic coordinates. We have tried a few so far and are still working out kinks with the process. However, the “mess ups” are pretty cool to look at! To see our work and all the other places that Terrain360 has covered, go to http://www.terrain360.com/.

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Attempt at stitching a panorama of the bridge on the Blue Trail over the lake

This project was interesting to us not only because it helps an organization doing cool work, but the skills we are learning are very applicable to other projects we might do. In terms of technological application, this project exhibits directly correlation to utilization in both Virtual Tours of Campus as well as a Virtual Tour Showing Students the way to Huguenot Flatwater Park.  The virtual tour of campus would be beneficial for prospective students and especially for students that are unable to travel to visit the campus in person.  Having a photographed route to Huguenot Flatwater could also encourage more students to make the trip down to Huguenot Flatwater Park.

Winter Workshop Series

Wed., January 21, 10:30-11:30 am
Web Mapping with CartoDB
Tuesday, January 27, 10:30-11:30 am
ESRI Maps for Microsoft Office
Thursday, February 5, 3:00-4:00 pm
“How to Lie with Maps”
Wed., February 18, 3:00-4:00 pm
Mapping in ArcGIS Desktop
Tuesday, March 3, 10:30-11:30 am
Interpolating U.S. Census Data

Summer in the SAL 2014

While not hard at work, we may take a break by completing some geography-themed jigsaw puzzles!

School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean the SAL has been asleep! Instead, we have remained a busy, active place, with many students working on environmental and geospatial research projects. Here’s a quick update of what’s been happening (so far) this summer in the SAL.

  • Hunterr P. ’15, the second University of Richmond student to take advantage of the 3-2 program we have with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University (he will start pursuing his Master of Forestry this fall but will receive his undergraduate degree from UR in the Spring of 2015), continues to work on a project with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Using a healthy combination of ENVI and ArcGIS, Hunterr has been working to analyze and classify LANDSAT imagery covering the state of Virginia. His work will help the DCR create a statewide development vulnerability model—which natural areas in the state are most at risk of development?
  • Heather C. ’16 and Meghan M. of the College of William and Mary have been helping Dr. Todd Lookingbill prepare a Natural Resources Condition Assessment (NRCA) report for the Booker T. Washington National Monument, located near Roanoke. The NRCA reports, which have been or will be written for many of the units of the National Park Service, analyze the current condition of natural resources in those parks and try to elucidate long-term trends about their resources. In particular, the reports use lots of maps to communicate their results. Dr. Lookingbill has worked with students on prior NRCA reports, including one for Shenandoah National Park; while Booker T. Washington is a much smaller park, there is still a great amount of work involved in creating the report.
  • Will H. ’15 is working with Dr. Mary Finley-Brook on her continued efforts toward making the University of Richmond campus a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly place. Will has taken various trips to other universities and conferences to learn about their sustainability efforts and is researching how to implement some of those ideas here. He’s even making some maps to document his findings!

In addition to all this student research, we’ve had a few other notable events. SAL Director Kim Klinker just got back from leading her annual summer study abroad trip to Australia; she has created a storymap showing where the trip went, complete with student reflections about each day’s activities. The University’s Information Services department will be updating the SAL computers later in the summer, updating our software to ArcGIS 10.2 so that our students stay on the cutting edge of GIS technology. Kim and Andrew will be traveling to the Esri Education GIS Conference in San Diego and will present a talk about our campus mapping efforts; they will also get to attend a few days of the big Esri International User Conference, following the Education Conference. And of course, the “World Famous” Spatial Analysis Lab seeks to again dominate the Gottwald Games, a series of lighthearted games held by the science departments labs, to be held next week. Be on the lookout for our custom t-shirts, and start brushing up on your geography skills—we’re hosting a game this year too!

And finally, our current GIS Technician, Andrew Pericak, will be stepping down at the end of this month so that he can began his Master’s study in the fall. Andrew will also be attending the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where he will pursue a Masters of Environmental Management. But the SAL will not be devoid of a Technician! The Department of Geography and the Environment has hired a new Technician, Chris Brown (as Kim says, No, not that Chris Brown,) who will be starting July 1. Chris brings lots of great technical and analytic GIS experience to the SAL, so hopefully the transition from one Technician to the other will go smoothly.

We here in the SAL are excited for all our exciting summer projects and activities. Yet sooner than we can imagine, the Class of 2018 will be arriving on campus. We look forward to greeting them in August and introducing them to the world of GIS!

Mapping toxic sites in Virginia with the UR Law School

Sachs reportThe University of Richmond comprises five schools serving both undergraduate and graduate students. The School of Arts & Sciences houses a majority of the undergraduate student body, but the School of Law is where most of the University’s full-time graduate students study. While the Spatial Analysis Lab falls under the purview School of Arts & Sciences, we are excited when we get to help some of the University’s other schools; we recently had such an opportunity when we got to assist the School of Law.

Law Professor and Director of the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies Noah Sachs, alongside third-year law student Ryan Murphy, have released a report titled A Strategy to Protect Virginians from Toxic Chemicals, which is freely available at the preceding link. The report, which proclaims itself as “the first comprehensive examination of the sources of toxic releases in Virginia and the potential exposure of Virginians to harmful chemicals,” calls for increased attention regarding toxic chemicals in the environment because of their potential to lead to health problems and recommends how the Commonwealth can start to limit toxic exposures.

While the authors worded the report in common English, the release of toxic chemicals to the environment may not be a topic with which everybody has a lot of familiarity. That’s where the Spatial Analysis Lab stepped in, creating some simple-to-understand maps that showed the extent of sites containing toxic substances throughout Virginia. You can find these maps in the report, but we’ve included them in this post as well.


This first map looks at Superfund sites in Virginia. Superfund is the EPA’s program to clean up toxic waste sites; the NPL, or National Priorities List, is essentially a big list of these sites, so sites that have been removed may have already been sufficiently cleaned up.

The next map shows any facility in Virginia storing over one million pounds of toxic substances in 2011.

And this final map looks at Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action sites in Virginia. RCRA is a law designed to regulate the disposal of toxic wastes. Click here to access the EPA’s interactive map.

The Spatial Analysis Lab is glad to offer assistance to Professor Sachs on this project. We look forward to continuing helping the Law School, and indeed the University of Richmond’s four other academic schools, in upcoming semesters!