University of California
Informatics and GIS Program

2017 in Review: Focused on the Long Wave of Progress

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It's amazing how quickly 2017 flew by. The dominant theme of current events this year seemed to be that of change, and not always for the better. But as the news cycle spins faster and faster, we in IGIS continued to focus on the long wave of progress, building bridges between ANR's research and extension mission and the super-exciting developments in geospatial technologies and data. Our year was extremely busy. A few of the big highlights are below.

 

Strategic Planning. We started out 2017 winding up an internal strategic planning process we began in 2016. After numerous discussions, reflections, and iterations, the result was a draft Strategic Plan for our program based around five core goals.

  1. Provide GIS training and support services across the ANR continuum and program implementation cycle
  2. Expand ANR's capacity for drone research and applications
  3. Strengthen collaborations within ANR, UC, and beyond
  4. Be a bridge for ANR to access cutting-edge geospatial data, tools, science, and research
  5. Sustain and develop ANR's flux tower network

Our Strategic Planning will continue in 2018 so we can incorporate the key recommendations from our Five-Year Program Review.

 

Five-Year Program Review. 2017 marked our Program's fifth anniversary (talk about time flying!), hence it was time for our Five-Year Review. This was a welcome opportunity as a lot has changed since IGIS was established in 2012, and we needed to assess what we've achieved and where we need to focus moving forward. The Review started with a presentation by Maggi Kelly to Program Council in January 2017, and concluded eleven months later in December 2017 with a presentation by Committee Chair Michael Cahn on the Review's key findings and recommendations. In between were numerous information requests from the Review Committee, an extremely interesting Ripple Effect Mapping stakeholder exercise in June, and a lot of behind the scenes work by the Review Committee including meetings, surveys, phone interviews, and writing. We are enormously grateful to all the members of the Review Committee, Michael Cahn for chairing the process, Jennifer Caron-Sale for coordinating everything, and all of the stakeholders who provided input through surveys, meetings, and interviews. We are looking forward to hearing the final recommendations by Program Council and Vice President Humiston early next year, and have already started to implement many of the draft recommendations. We want to use this information to make IGIS more effective and useful in the future.

 

Drone mapping the Mojave dessert,
Drone Services. As expected, our drone services program continued to take off in 2017. Thanks to the incredible efforts and boundless energy of Sean Hogan, we mapped over 4000 acres using RGB, multispectral, and thermal cameras. One of the bigger missions was 2500 acres of the Mojave desert, which Sean and Andy Lyons mapped over a week for a project studying desert tortoise habitat. To help carry the load, all IGIS staff obtained their FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot licenses in March, and we now have basic drone equipment at all staff locations. This new capacity was put to good use shortly after the wildfires in northern California, when Shane Feirer flew a series of missions for UCCE Forest Advisor Yana Valachovic and fire ecologists seeking to understand fire dynamics and impacts. We also partnered with Drone Scholar on the novel #Fly4Fall project, and helped collect images of vegetation changing color worldwide.

 

DroneCamp 2017. Another ambitious undertaking this year was our inaugural offering of a multi-day workshop called DroneCamp. We've been doing one-day drone workshops for awhile now, but the three-day DroneCamp was designed to give participants exposure to the full range of skills needed to collect data with drones safely, legally, and effectively. 36 participants from all over California and as far away as Hawaii came to Davis for three intensive days at the end of July. The curricula included a wide range of topics from mission planning, to flight operations, to visualizing the processed data. It was a huge amount of work but very successful and we've enjoy staying in touch with everyone through the new California Drone Mapping email list we launched in August. Watch this space for an announcement about DroneCamp 2018!

 

CA Land Use and Ownership Portal
CA Land Use and Ownership Portal
GIS Service Center. The GIS Service Center continued to provide support services for all things GIS in ANR. From 20-minute consultations during our online office hours, to large projects lasting several months, Shane Feirer and Robert Johnson handled over two dozen projects this year in addition to maintaining all the GIS licenses for the Division and keeping several important ANR websites up and running. A couple of projects that came to fruition in 2017 were the California Land Use and Ownership Portal, which we developed for Specialists Van Butsic and Luke Macaulay and was recently featured in Cal Ag, and the Coyote Cacher citizen science mobile app for UCCE Advisor Niamh Quinn, which is quite literally putting coyotes on the map in Southern California. We have also been working hard as the lead unit for a climate adaptation resource website for the Office of the Governor that will debut in 2018 (stay tuned for more). To keep everything organized and track progress, Shane and Robert developed a sophisticated project tracking and billing system using Google apps powered by scripts that automate tasks and generate reports (Advanced Google Apps workshop anyone?)

 

Workshops. Our workshop calendar filled up quickly. Aside from DroneCamp, we held 7 workshops on drones, 4 workshops on GIS and mobile data collection, 2 remote sensing workshops, and one workshop on spatial analysis with R. These were held all over the state in collaboration with more hosts than ever before, including RECs, UCCE offices, 3 UC campuses, and for the first time ever a private aerial imaging company. In-person workshops are a lot of effort, but we enjoy doing them and many spin-off projects have come out workshop conversations. Our workshops are complemented by an increasing number of resources on our website, including Tech Notes on important workflows and a growing number of videos on our YouTube channel. In 2018 look for a new training needs assessment that will help us continue to meet the professional development needs of the Division.

Drone workshop at DREC, February 2017
 

Connecting with Policy Makers. Policy moves slowly, but it's sets the stage for almost everything we do and is an important part of the long wave progress. Sean Hogan had a busy year, starting with a trip to Capitol Hill in April where he met with California's representatives to discuss the critical role the federal government plays in remote sensing. In November, he testified at a NIFA listening session in Sacramento, laying out what USDA can do to help the ag industry reap the benefits of the many advances in data science and technology, and later gave presentations to the Ag Commissioner offices in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. We've also stayed active with the CA Economic Summit, where Maggi Kelly co-chairs the Action Team for Working Landscapes, and other events with a lot of government presence such as CalGIS. We've also been following and writing about the proposed license changes for the extremely important National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), and standards for open data stewardship that are gaining traction and already required in the EU. Closer to home, we are proud to be one of the lead drone units within UC, and have stayed active in conversations with the UC Center of Excellence on Unmanned Aircraft System Safety on policies and procedures that ensure ANR operates drones in compliance with FAA regulations, and also joined an interagency UAV Working Group chaired by the California Natural Resources Agency.

 

Looking ahead to 2018. In 2018, we are looking forward to incorporating the recommendations from our Program Review and completing our Strategic Plan. A big theme for 2018 will be finding more and better ways to connect with and stay in touch with all parts of ANR, and expand the reach of our small staff. We already have a number of new projects in the pipeline that will keep everyone busy, in addition to the usual portfolio of ongoing GIS support, workshops and drone services. Our research work will continue tackling some of the big technical bottlenecks in working with drone data, including data management, image processing, and extracting more juice from the high resolution 3D data. We're all going to the Statewide Conference in April and will be taking part in several sessions - see you in Ontario!

 

Happy New Year everyone from us at IGIS and ANR.

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 12:18 PM
Tags: IGIS (54), Year in Review (1)

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