Informatics and GIS Program
University of California
Informatics and GIS Program

IGIS Blog

Drone Technology Workshop at Desert Research Extension Center Crosses Borders

Earlier this month, IGIS held another two-day workshop on using drones for agriculture and land management. As with previous workshops, the material included drone technology, safety and regulations, principles of remote sensing, mission planning, flight operations, and data analysis. Although the winds were too strong on the first day to fly, we couldn't have asked for nicer weather the second day and everyone got to try to their hand at the flight controller.

UC Cooperative Extension Advisor Pratap Devkota practices flying a drone while IGIS drone instructor Sean Hogan (left) looks on

 

Wes Matejovsky from the Imperial Irrigation District brings in a drone in for landing
 

We were also quite fortunate that the timing coincided with DREC's Farm Smart program. Farm Smart is a winter educational outreach program at DREC which caters to 'snowbirds' who descend upon the Imperial Valley from all over the country each winter to enjoy the pleasant weather. For six weeks, Farm Smart organizes half-day visits to the center including presentations, cooking lessons and a tractor tour of the center. Sean Hogan gave presentations to three Farm Smart groups on their farm wagons, explaining the how modern drones work and are being used to monitor crop health and growth. The local paper, The Imperial Valley Press, covered the day and wrote a story that appeared the following day.

Sean Hogan explains drone science for Farm Smart visitors

We were especially pleased to have a good contingent of workshop participants from Mexicali across the border. At a time when the headlines are filled with talk about walls, it was heartening to see the great potential for cross-border collaboration in ag technology. Many of the participants were from the Faculty of Engineering at La Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, where they are working on developing new sensors and navigation systems. Another group of participants came from the Imperial Irrigation District, whose many responsibilities includes monitoring hundreds of miles of irrigation canals.

From our perspective, the value of workshops goes well beyond the development of technical skills and knowledge. We love to hear about different applications of spatial technologies, and bring together diverse audiences with different areas of expertise and interests. These are the core ingredients of innovation and collaboration, which is the essence of Cooperative Extension. From this perspective, the DREC workshop was not only a great success in teaching a couple dozen people how to fly drones, but will continue to yield benefits that we can hardly anticipate.

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 8:20 AM
Tags: DREC (1), drones (1), IGIS (35), workshops (3)

Repost - New mobile app to track close encounters with coyotes

 
A coyote pup is captured on a game camera in Irvine. Hikers can use the Coyote Cacher app to report coyote sightings.
A coyote pup is captured on a game camera in Irvine. Hikers can use the Coyote Cacher app to report coyote sightings.

As urban coyote numbers rise, the animals are increasingly crossing paths with residents. There have been police reports of coyotes attacking pets and even people, but there has been no place to report casual coyote encounters. Now there is a new mobile app to help keep track of where those wily coyotes are coming into contact with people. Hikers and people walking their dogs can use Coyote Cacher, created by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, to report coyote sightings.

“I'm so excited about this app because it will help us to collect better information on coyote conflict in California,” said Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, who studies human-wildlife interactions. “Coyote conflict appears to be particularly high in Southern California and it seems to be emerging in other areas. The information people provide through Coyote Cacher will help inform government agencies, wildlife researchers, park managers and residents to make better coyote management decisions.”

By reporting encounters with coyotes in their neighborhoods, residents can share information to help neighbors keep their pets and children safe.  

“There is a coyote encounter map that will allow the public to keep track of what is happening in their areas,” said Quinn, who is based in Orange County.

Individuals can use the app to check a map to see locations of coyote sightings. Pet owners may decide not to let their pets out at night unsupervised in areas where coyotes have been reported. 

Coyote Cacher's map shows locations of coyote encounters. Green dots are the lowest level alert, yellow indicates a pet interaction and red, the most serious, warns of an attack on a pet on a leash or person.

“The app allows users to sign up for email alerts,” Quinn said. “These alerts – green, yellow and red – notify users when there is a coyote encounter reported in their zip code.”  

Green is the lowest alert level and will give alerts for all coyote encounters in the user's zip code, from sightings to a person being bitten. Yellow will not alert users about sightings, but will let them know about all levels of pet interactions, including pets being chased or attacked off-leash by coyotes, and red alerts. Red is the highest alert level and allows for users to be informed only about the more serious incidents, for example, a coyote attacking a pet on a leash or biting a person. 

“This app will also allow me to gather baseline information on coyote activity and the success of community hazing,” Quinn said.

Community hazing involves people shouting and waving their arms at coyotes and generally being obnoxious to make the nuisance animals afraid of humans.

“It would be great if everyone would do this when they see a coyote, but at the moment this is not really happening,” Quinn said. “Also, coyotes in Southern California appear to take a lot of risks and come in close contact with humans so community hazing may not deter them.”

More intense hazing, like shooting them with paintball guns, might be more effective techniques for government agencies to manage urban coyotes, she said.

To find out if any of these techniques work, the UC wildlife scientist would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.   

Quinn would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.
Quinn would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.

“We are seeking funding to collar coyotes to find out more about their activity and social structure and how they react to different types of management,” Quinn said. “We would need to figure out if the effects of the hazing are long-lasting, or if the coyotes just revert to ‘bad behavior' when the hazing is stopped.”

Although Quinn's research is focused on California, Coyote Cacher can be used anywhere in the United States. The website also offers information about urban coyotes.

Coyote Cacher can be used on a computer or on a mobile device at http://ucanr.edu/CoyoteCacher.

The Coyote Cacher app was designed by UC ANR's Informatics and Geographic Information Systems and funded by UC Cooperative Extension in Orange County.

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 11:13 AM
Tags: Coyote Cacher (1), coyotes (1), IGIS (35), Niamh Quinn (1)

Calling all grad students: Need a research project? We got questions!

One of the core missions of IGIS is to conduct research that pushes the envelope of spatial science and spatial technologies for applications in agriculture and natural resources. To achieve this, we provide a wide array of research support services for ANR staff and their collaborators, from trainings, to proposal consultations, to online office hours. We also have a long list of research questions that guide our own research, and we are always on the lookout for good research partners.

If you are a graduate student or upper-division undergrad with a research interest that overlaps one of our areas of work, we'd love to hear from you. We generally don't have ready-to-go project proposals to hand out, but we'd be happy to talk with you to help develop your interests and point you to some useful resources.

We particularly welcome interest from UC Berkeley graduate students in the College of Natural Resources. Why CNR? Because students from departments in CNR are eligible for a summer research funding from the Graduate Student in Extension program. Note however the application deadline for summer 2017 research fellowships is approaching soon - Friday March 3rd.

See below for a summary of some of our main research areas. If you'd like to find out more, feel free to drop us an email or sign-up for our online office hours.

IGIS Research Areas

Needs assessments. GIS professionals are generally quite good at spatial analyses and working with all manner of mapping tools. However there is an ongoing need to better understand the information needs of specific audiences and the contexts in which they operate. Hence we are always interested in the spatial data information needs of decision makers at all levels, including community groups, non-traditional growers, public land managers, environmental stewardship groups, planners, non-profits, etc.

Long and short-term perspectives of forest change. California's forests are undergoing change at both long and short time scales. Understanding these processes is essential for managing our forests in a changing environment. IGIS helped digitize historical records including harvest reports going back to the late 1800s, vegetation surveys from the 20s-50s, and research reports from the UCANR Research Extension Centers going back to the 30s. We are also keenly interested in how spatial data and technologies can help us understand and manage California's current mass tree mortality crisis.

Spatial technology R&D. The convergence of several technological advancements has resulted in data collection capabilities that would have been a pipe-dream just 10 years ago. From affordable drone imaging to distributed environmental sensor networks, we can measure more environmental properties and at a finer scale than ever before. But what do we do with all this data, and how do we transform these exciting technologies into user-friendly “turn-key” systems for growers and natural resource managers? There is a lot more R&D work needed to harness these exciting technologies for applied science and real-world applications.

Drones and agriculture. The Lindcove Research and Extension Center focuses on the improvement and evaluation of citrus development, including irrigation practices, sensor systems to measure tree and fruit properties, and integrated pest and disease management. We have recent high resolution drone imagery for the Center, as well as health data on individual trees and orchards. An extremely useful data analysis project would be to correlate vegetation indices from the drone data with measurements of tree health collected in the field. This would be of great interest to the citrus industry, and more generally help us understand how to use drones to support California's large agriculture sector. 

Urban-rural connections. To support California's growing cities and economy, we need to protect and improve the ecosystem services upon which so much of state's economy and quality of life depends. Ironically however, the environmental and economic importance of natural and working landscapes is often not on the radar screen of policy makers. GIS is the perfect tool to measure, model, and visualize the connections between urban and rural areas. We need case studies, models, policy papers, decision support systems, and a whole lot more.

 

If none of these research areas strikes your fancy, check out the presentations from all the UCCE Academics who participated in the recent Cooperative Extension Showcase at UC Berkeley. 

Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 8:58 PM
Tags: GSE (1), IGIS (35), research (1)

IGIS Drone Services Featured at Parrot Education Blog

IGIS is thrilled to have a fantastic relationships with Parrot S.A. (one of the largest consumer drone corporations in the world), and Parrot's subsidiary company, Pix4D (the leading developer of drone data processing applications in the world), who together have been have been extremely generous and supportive of the IGIS drone program, and the UC System at large.

Please check out Parrot's Educational Blog, which recently featured an outstanding short article on IGIS's research into rangeland applications of drone technology, including the use of Parrot's Sequoia multispectral camera, by clicking here:

A new kind of cattle guard:  Parrot Sequoia imagery for rangeland management 

Also - Please stay tuned for the upcoming February 2017 issue of California Agriculture, which features an article on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for agriculture and natural resources (co-authored by myself, Dr. Maggi Kelly, Brandon Stark, and Dr. YangQuan Chen), which will also be accompanied by an editorial written by Dr. Kelly on the need for a coordinated approach to scale up drone research and teaching across the UC system.

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 10:43 AM
Tags: drone (3), IGIS (35), UAS (1), UAV (6), unmanned aerial system (1), unmanned aerial vehicle (1)

IGIS Developed "Wild Pig App" in the news!

IGIS is in the news for the development and release of the Wild Pig Damage App!  The app was recently higlighted by Julia Mitric, Food And Sustainability Reporter with Capital Public Radio.

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2016/12/02/scientists-seek-crowd-sourced-data-to-map-land-damaged-by-wild-pigs

Description of the App:  The UC ANR's University of California Cooperative Extension and Informatics and GIS Program have developed a GIS-based mobile application for Apple and Android devices that will collect wild pig damage on range, forest and agricultural lands over time. By taking at least three locations the app will map acreage and geographic location of wild pig damage reported by the users. Cell service at the site is not required to collect data.

The data will be uploaded to a UC ANR server for use by the UC advisors and the specialist that created the app so they may analyze and report data at a county, region, state, national or international level. Private property and user identities are blocked from the general public to maintain the privacy of the users. Public land managers can also use the app. The first efforts are focused on California.

Potential users include ranchers, farmers, forest land owners, managers, and agency personnel such as UCCE Advisors, NRCS, Wildlife Services, etc. In addition, citizen scientists could also report damage on public lands or on private lands if they have access permission by the land owner.

The screen shots below illustrate how the app appears on an Android device

Posted on Monday, December 12, 2016 at 10:37 AM
Tags: IGIS (35), Mobile App (1), UCANR (8), UCCE (1), Wild Pig Damage (1)

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