IGIS 2019 Year-in-Review Part I. Impacts on UC ANR's Strategic Goals

Welcome to the final IGIS year-in-review of the decade! 2019 was another productive and satisfying year, full of innovation, outreach, and collaboration. Our work this year has been guided by ANR Strategic Goals and contributed to the Public Value Statements. In this Part I, we highlight our impact toward ANR's Strategic Goal framework. In Part II, we discuss our contributions toward UC ANR's Public Value Statements.

ANR Strategic Goals

Strategic Goal #1. Strengthen Research and Extension Partnerships

Our work as a technology unit puts us in an enviable position to collaborate widely both within UC ANR as well other UC units, state agencies, and beyond. Our expertise in geospatial technology, combined with the domain knowledge our ANR academics, multiplies the impact and efficiency research efforts. Some of our key UC ANR collaborators in 2019 included:

  • Adina Merenlender, California Naturalist Program. We assessed climate literacy by analyzing what is taught in climate change courses in higher education around the country.
  • Ali Montazar, UCCE Imperial & Riverside Counties. Assessment of alternative crops and irrigation practices for water conservation in the Imperial Valley.
  • Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Riverside and Lindcove Research and Extension Center. Web map of distribution of Asian Citrus Psyllid and huanglongbing disease in California. App for growers and homeowners to determine location in relation to HLB detections.
  • Brady Holder, Kearney Research and Extension Center. Acquired and processed UAV imagery for use in the evaluation of the potential use of aerial imagery in detecting weedy rice in California rice fields.
  • Daniele Zaccaria, UC Davis. Helped update Information on Evapotranspiration of Mature Micro-irrigated Citrus Orchards in the San Joaquin Valley using uavs.
  • Dohee Kim, UCCE Los Angeles County. County program distribution maps.
  • James Schaeffer, UCCE Fresno County. Alkaliweed reporting tool in Survey 123.
  • Jeremy James, Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center. Online calculator for the financial returns of invasive species management, siting infrastructure for experimental plots.
  • Jenny Sowerwine, UC Berkeley. Story Map training for youth, development of mobile data collection tools and drone mapping for agro-ecological resilience.
  • John Bailey, Hopland Research and Extension Center. Acquired and processed UAV imagery following the 2018 River Fire.
  • Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UCCE Humboldt County. Analyzed historic and current aerial imagery to assess Douglas Fir encroachment in Oak woodlands the Humboldt County.
  • Leslie Roche, UC Davis. Acquired and processed UAV imagery for work related to the UC ANR - Rustici Grant, that monitored Post-fire plant succession in Lassen and Modoc Counties, for adaptive management of working rangelands.
  • Maurice Pitesky, UC Davis. Developed an app for tracking high density waterfowl and potential avian flu.
  • Rick Satomi, UCCE Shasta County. Woody Biomass database, Pond Volume Calculator, GIS training for Foresters.
  • Rob Bennaton, UCCE Alameda and Contra Costa County. Bay Area Urban Ag Map.
  • Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE Fresno & Tulare Counties. Mapped Southeast Asian Farms in relation to Disadvantaged Communities.
  • Stephanie Castle, UC Davis. Acquired and processed UAV imagery for Tecopa Marsh data to assess endangered vole habitats
  • Tapan Pathak, UC Merced. Agro-climatic decision support tools.
  • Whitney Brim-DeForest, UCCE Sutter and Yuba Counties. Evaluated the potential for aerial imagery in detecting weedy rice in California rice fields.

Stepping it up a notch, we developed and strengthened several major Institutional Collaborations in 2019. Institutional collaborations start with individuals, but to enable significant amounts of resource sharing add another layer involving sub-awards, MOUs, and laborious project management and reporting systems. There's more overhead to be sure, but the results are worth it!

In 2019 we had the good fortune to continue our collaboration with the UC Natural Reserve System on the California Heartbeat Initiative. This ambitious project is centered around collecting longitudinal multispectral drone images at 10 UC reserves across CA. In 2019 we flew 1300 acres at 7 reserves for the CHI project, and provided additional support training UC NRS employees and helping them develop a data management system for the long-term.

Monterey Bay DART, Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB), and UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve were our primary partners in putting on our third annual DroneCamp. DroneCamp is our flagship training event, and if you haven't been to one in a while it's continued to get bigger, more comprehensive, and with a more polished curriculum. Monterey Bay DART is a non-profit spearheading technology focused regional development in the Monterey Peninsula, including an industry UAS symposium that we scheduled to align with DroneCamp. CSUMB provided amazing logistic support and modern facilities for the data processing sessions (e.g., imagine a computer lab with 40 high-powered Alienwares!). Our flight practice sessions were held at the beautiful nearby UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve. Although it took a lot of effort to coordinate all the pieces, the joint program went brilliantly and we're getting the band back together for 2020.

Our long-term collaboration with the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) ramped up this year with the launch of a new three-year project funded by the Strategic Growth Council. The goal of the project is to develop new ways to access complex climate data from California's official portal for climate data, Cal-Adapt, also managed by the GIF. Under the new project, we are conducting climate needs assessments for climate data in agriculture and natural resources, and developing new software tools to make it easier to access and analyze both historic and forecast climate data. Maggi, Sean and Andy also continue to be regular instructors at the GIF's GIS workshop series.

We maintain collaborations with the State agencies through a number of projects. We continue to be the lead unit developing the California Adaptation Clearinghouse, with funding by the Governor's Office of Planning and Research and technical work done by the GIF. We are a members of the California Natural Resources Agency UAS Work Group, along with Dr. Brandon Stark from the UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety. This has led to some valuable collaborations, including the participation of the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife in our drone workshops at Hastings Reserve. Sean is also a regular at the Ag Day at the State Capital, where he talks about applications of GIS and drone data in agriculture.

Strategic Goal #10. Generate Revenue and Optimize Resource Deployment

IGIS was instrumental in assisting ANR and UC partners secure external grants. Some highlights in 2019 include our work with Tapan Parthik (UC - Merced), who received grant support from the USDA Climate Hub to build a Climate App for clientele, and our work with the Geospatial Innovation Facility (UC Berkeley), who received grants from the California Strategic Growth Council and the Governor's Office of Planning and Research for climate change planning. A key part of why these grants were successful was the partnership between the GIF and IGIS, in which IGIS provides content, networking and technical innovation in web mapping. Our drone services program has helped a number of ANR partners secure external funding to complete their mapping missions: Of the 10 drone projects we flew in 2019, mapping nearly 6,000 acres of croplands, rangelands and forests in California, 90% of the support came from external funding sources.

Strategic Goal #12. Modernize Technology and Facilities Infrastructure

IGIS has always had a close connection with the REC system. We've maintained and hosted spatial data for the RECs for years, because making data discoverable and accessible is essential for planning, administration, and coordinating science on field stations. However finding REC data was clunky. In 2019, we used a new data sharing platform from ESRI called OpenData to build a new user-friendly REC System Data Portal. Some of the layers are public, and some of them are restricted to ANR employees, but all of them are documented and discoverable.

Internally, we made a good bit of progress cracking the holy grail of data sharing and discoverability - drone data! Drone data are massive and diverse. Unlike satellite imagery, which is decades old, there are no industry standards for drone metadata, platforms to submit data, or government heavyweights like NASA or USGS to create the incentives to develop and adopt standards to make data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (i.e., FAIR). However this is changing rapidly, and we are trying to be at the front of the wave. In 2019, we finally got all our drone data in one place, and are working to catalog it, archive it, and make it discoverable for future researchers.

RECs are also some of our biggest collaborators for GIS projects. In 2019 we conducted a solar radiation analysis to help Sierra Foothill REC (SFREC) locate experimental warming plots for an exciting study on climate change impacts on forage production. In a similar manner we analyzed the topography on SFREC to help them plan deployment of wireless mesh relay stations.

Building upon what we learned organizing our collection of drone imagery, we built the data architecture for the massive drone mapping mission we flew for Hopland REC after the 2018 River fire. Those data are now available for fire ecology researchers in the coming years in a well-organized and documented platform.

Our network of Cooperative Extension offices are also unfortunately vulnerable to fire, as we came to learn again in 2019. Working closely with David Alamillo (UC ANR EH&S), we did a GIS analysis of the wildfire risk for each of our 54 offices throughout the state and published the results as a web map. The results will be used to help keep our facilities and staff safe by planning risk reduction strategies as well as examine wildfire response plans to.

Strategic Goal #13. Streamline Administrative Functions

The versatility of the GIS and data management technologies we use enables us to help other ANR units plan, evaluate, and communicate their programs more effectively. An example of this is the map we built this year for LA County UCCE (PI Dohee Kim), showing the distribution of their programs and impact. We've done similar projects for the Master Gardener program in Marin County, and hope to do more of this next year to help counties who are feeling increasing pressure to convey their programmatic value to local and regional partners. While we can't take credit for it, we were also thrilled to see the California Naturalist program use what they learned in one of our Story Map workshops to create a Story Map of CalNat Volunteer Profiles and Impact, and provided support to other units in our online Office Hours to create story map versions of annual reports.

At the Division level, we built the UC ANR Footprint web app to visualize the academic footprint of CE Advisors and Specialists. Initially designed as a general planning tool, we then enhanced the map and underlying to support the position call process. Tools like this can help make diverse types of information more manageable, and help leadership direct resources where it will have the most impact.

Strategic Goal #15. Tell UC ANR's Story

Maps and data visualizations are powerful tools for telling stories, and the majority of our web app projects help tell UC ANR's story through our clients. In 2019, we also gave over 25 public presentations reaching over 2300 people. Not included in this number are the dozens of people we met at the World Ag Expo. The 2019 World Ag Expo was notable not only for the rainy weather, but for our on-camera interview with a local TV outfit on applications of drone imaging in agriculture. Over the year we also passed out dozens of copies of the UC ANR Map we designed in 2018, and made plans for an updated version in 2020.

IGIS Drone Pilot and Data Analyst Jacob Flanagan speaks to the local media at the 2019 World Ag Expo
IGIS Drone Pilot and Data Analyst Jacob Flanagan speaks to the local media at the 2019 World Ag Expo

Next: continue reading about IGIS's 2019 contributions toward ANR's Public Value Statements in Part II.


By Andy Lyons
Author - Program Coordinator
By Maggi Kelly
Author - Director, Statewide IGIS Program, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist
By Sean Hogan
Author - IGIS Academic Coordinator II
By Shane Feirer
Author - Geographic Information Systems - Supervisor II
By Robert Johnson
Author - GIS Programmer