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Informatics and GIS Program

Posts Tagged: annual review

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.


Posted on Friday, January 17, 2020 at 4:42 PM
Tags: annual review (4), igis (65)

IGIS 2019 Year-in-Review Part II. Impact on UC ANR's Public Value Statements

This is the second of a two part series on IGIS impacts in 2019. See also: IGIS 2019 Year in Review Part I. Impact on UCANR's Strategic Goals Framework

ANR Public Values

PV #2. Developing a Qualified Workforce for California

Training and professional development continue to be two of the pillars of our mission. We started off 2019 with a needs assessment for ANR staff and academics on GIS training, broadly defined. We last did a survey like this in 2014, so were curious about where the demand has shifted. With a healthy 360 responses, the results revealed strong demand for GIS training across the board, including traditional desktop software, as well as newer online platforms and tools to collect and work with data.

In 2019 we were pleased to work with UCCE Forestry Advisor Ricky Satomi to develop and implement a new curricula on GIS for foresters. With support from a RREA Grant, we developed a brand new two-day Forest GIS workshop, and offered it in five locations: Santa Rosa, Humboldt State, South Lake Tahoe, Redding, and Berkeley. Each workshop sold out within 48 hours, and nearly as many people were on the waitlist (85) as participated (118) - more signs that natural resource professionals everywhere want to upgrade their GIS skills. The reviews were excellent, with an overall rating of 4.5/5, with the biggest complaint being that we should have made it longer!

Shane Feirer helps a participant at Forest GIS workshop in Santa Rosa, March 2019
Shane Feirer helps a participant at Forest GIS workshop in Santa Rosa, March 2019

Our drone mapping and regulations workshops continue to be popular as well. This is not a surprise as the technology is still rapidly evolving, has a wide range of applications, and we are one of the few outfits that can bring together all the equipment, a half-dozen flight instructors, and vetted data processing exercises needed for a comprehensive multi-day training. We repeated our partnership with The Wildlife Society Western Section, UCNRS Hastings Reserve, and California Dept of Fish and Wildlife with another offering of Drone Technology and Regulations for Natural Resources, reaching 26 participants. This year we added a capstone project, which allowed participants to practice everything they had learned over the past three days to complete a simulated ‘turkey census' mission. It was a great model we hope to use again.

Hastings Natural History Reserve Director Jen Hunter lands a DJI Phantom 3, April 2019
Hastings Natural History Reserve Director Jen Hunter lands a DJI Phantom 3, April 2019
Workshop participants learn to stitch drone images with photogrammetry software, April 2019
Workshop participants learn to stitch drone images with photogrammetry software, April 2019

DroneCamp 2019 was our biggest training ever, with 65 participants. To handle such a large group, we held concurrent indoor and outdoor sessions, with flight practice at the UCSC Fort Ord Reserve. It was hugely successful, but we never could have pulled it off without the support from CSU Monterey Bay, the UC Center of Excellence on UAS Safety, Monterey Bay DART, and a team of flight instructors from UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Berkeley, and UC NRS.

Maggi Kelly at DroneCamp 2019
Maggi Kelly at DroneCamp 2019
DroneCamp 2019 Participants, CSU Monterey Bay
DroneCamp 2019 Participants, CSU Monterey Bay

Some of our favorite workshops in 2019 were with the Karuk Department of Natural Resources (KDNR) in northern Humboldt County. This is part of a larger project studying and managing forests for agro-ecological resilience, in collaboration with CE Specialist Jennifer Sowerwine. In May, we adapted our standard Story Map training for a youth audience, then made the long drive to Orleans to teach two groups of middle school students to how to make Story Maps. This was part of school project and play the kids produced on Coyote's Journey, one of the Karuk Tribe's traditional narratives. On that and another trip in the fall, we held field training on drone mapping, and collected imagery for two monitoring plots. Two other workshops for the Karuk Tribe focused on mobile data collection apps, which will go a long way toward helping manage several ambitious monitoring programs. These efforts will continue and expand in 2020, when KDNR gets their own ArcGIS Enterprise server.

Karuk Dept of Natural Resources Drone Flights, May 2019
Karuk Dept of Natural Resources Drone Flights, May 2019

We continued to upgrade our training materials to keep up with the latest developments in software. There's been a huge shift in the world of desktop GIS in the last couple of years, with industry giant ESRI announcing the retirement of the venerable ArcMap suite in the early 2020s, and pumping out new features for ArcGIS Pro. The transition has been bumpy for a lot of people, but is a lot easier with a workshop that explains the layout of the new software. With the assistance of our GIS Service Center, Maggi upgraded all the labs for her undergraduate GIS class at UC Berkeley, giving us a rich pool of material to build upon. The Forest GIS workshop series we pioneered with Rick Satomi also featured the newer version of the software, and highlighted its interoperability with cloud based storage, visualization, and processing. Andy also did a major upgrade to his Spatial Analysis with R workshop, which he offers every semester at Berkeley, incorporating standards from the new sf R package, which has been a game changer in the R world.

PV #3. Safeguarding Abundant and Healthy Food for all Californians

Many of our GIS and drone projects support research and extension in food systems, both on and off-farm. Some of the notable examples in 2019 include:

We continue to develop and maintain web tools like the Marin County Master Gardener Community Gardens Map that help people connect with healthy food systems and build communities. The latest project to join the fold is a pilot web app for Alameda Urban Agriculture in collaboration with Rob Bennaton (UCCE Alameda & Contra Costa Counties). Still a work in progress, underneath the web map was a year-long process to build consensus and gather input from the east bay urban ag community, and an innovative data architecture whereby site managers give permission to have their garden appear on the map and update their garden info. This work will continue in 2020.

We also expanded our collection of GIS projects that safeguard food safety and help producers cope with a changing climate and pest threats. We built the Huanglongbing Proximity web app for Beth Grafton-Cardwell (UCR / LREC) to help homeowners assess their risk for HLB infection and consider replacing their citrus trees. In a similar vein, we built the California Waterfowl Tracker for Maurice Pitesky (CE Specialist UC Davis) to help poultry producers, regulators, and risk managers in the Central Valley assess their risk for avian influenza from migrating waterfowl, and take protective action. Under the hood, the map uses a machine learning approach developed by Jeff Buler at the University of Delaware to predict waterfowl density, updated daily based on remotely sensed temperature, precipitation, soil moisture content, flooded rice cover, and wetland cover. Even more cool, historical patterns are derived from weather surveillance radars stations that can measure the densities of waterfowl near their roosting locations.

An invasive species that impacts the bottom line for ranchers is the hideous Medusahead weed. To help ranchers make choices about what type of management strategy to use (or none at all), in 2019 we developed a calculator to estimate the returns on managing Medusahead for Jeremy James (SFREC).

Early detection is a critical component of managing invasive species, but is particularly difficult when the invasive species is similar in appearance and traditional field inspections are resource intensive. To assess whether multispectral drone imagery might play a part in early warning systems, we flew 5 acres of fields infected with weedy rice with a Matrice 100 drone for Whitney Brim-DeForest (UCCE - Sutter and Yuba Counties). The answer's complicated. Check back in 2020 for details.

Another challenge growers must contend with is increasingly variable weather conditions. Short term seasonal forecasts are available, and getting increasingly accurate, however delivering this data into a form useful to growers remains a big bottleneck. In 2019, we started a new multi-year project with Tapan Pathak (CE Specialist UC Merced) to develop agro-climatic decision support tools for growers. Although not yet ready for public release, we've already cracked the two most daunting technical pieces - tapping into live seasonal forecast data from NOAA, and integrating these data streams in a user-friendly interface via the industry standard Django open-source web development platform. These technological building blocks will reap dividends for years to come.

Water scarcity and variability is arguably the most worrisome consequence of climate change for California agriculture, and an active area of ANR research. We had several drone mapping projects in 2019 to better understand the complex relationships between genetics, irrigation, crop management, productivity, and climate. We flew and processed over 300 acres of orchard data for Ali Montazar (CE Specialist Davis) for a project investigating the response of orchard trees to irrigation practices in the Imperial Valley. In a similar vein, we processed and analyzed drone images for 70 acres of almond orchard for Brady Holder (Kearney REC), including the notoriously difficult thermal band. We also collected drone data for over 40 acres of mature micro-irrigated citrus orchards in the San Joaquin Valley for Daniele Zaccaria (CE Specialist, UC Davis) to improve models of evapotranspiration.

The M100 comes in for a landing after collecting multispectral images at Russel Ranch
The M100 comes in for a landing after collecting multispectral images at Russel Ranch

Other drone mapping projects supported more basic research on the complex relationships between plant genetics, growth, phenotypes, and soil and water conditions. Drones have a real niche in measuring interactions between system components due to their remarkable ability to generate both 3-dimensional and multispectral models of vegetation. In 2019, we mapped nearly every individual plant over 50 acres for a spatial database of crop and flowers species, under Karl Krist (UC Davis Foundation Plant Services). The data will be used to compare productivity and phenotypic expressions in relation to genotype, soil, and water conditions.

We also flew a pistachio orchard at Russell Ranch for Ewelina Jacygrad (UC - Davis) - eight times! These time series data can be overlayed thanks high accuracy ground control points, and will be used to quantify structural changes in the orchard over the growing season. 

PV #4. Protecting California's Natural Resources

Managing natural resources is getting increasingly more sophisticated. Part of our technology mission is helping managers take advantage of new tools and data for better management and to comply with increasingly technical regulatory requirements. In addition to the series of GIS workshops for professional foresters (see PV2 above), we worked with Ricky Satomi and Larry Forero (both UCCE Shasta County) to create an online stock pond volume calculator that helps landowners comply with new reporting requirements under SB588. As described in a technical paper about the project, the calculator generates a depth-capacity curve based on very simple measurements, from which the landowner can report pond volume based purely on the current water depth from a simple staff gague.

Also in support of sustainable rangeland management, Andy Lyons was coauthor on a paper that looked at the differences in grazing pressure between heritage and conventional cattle in semi-arid rangeland. Using the tlocoh R package he wrote to analyze movement patterns, we were able to quantify that heritage breeds are better equipped to take advantage of dispersed resources during periods of water scarcity.

Another long-term thread our research approach is revisiting historic imagery and map data to better understand the present and manage for the future that we wish to see. This continued in 2019 with an extremely ambitious and challenging analysis of a 53,000-acre watershed in Humboldt County with Lenya Quinn-Davidson and Yana Valachovic (both UCCE Humboldt County). Starting with literally dozens of scanned 1948 aerial photos, Sean Hogan began the painstaking task of orthorectifying them (not easy in mountainous terrain with sparse roads!), and then classifying the landscape into coniferous and broadleaf forests. This later step required developing new classification workflow due to the lack of spectral information. The hard work paid off, and for the first time ever we can do a detailed comparison with vegetation classes from contemporary remotely sensed data.

Post-fire landscape recovery is another area of active research where the fine spatial resolution of drone data provides a unique lens. In 2019 we completed analyzing the data from the extremely large mapping mission (3500 acres) we flew at Hopland REC for John Bailey (UCANR HREC), after the River Fire burned over half the property in July 2018. Those data are now available for researchers. We completed another post-fire monitoring project in 2019 for Leslie Roche (CE Specialist, UC Davis), mapping over 570 acres of rangeland in Lassen and Modoc Counties. That area had also burned a few years back, and the classified imagery will be used to better understand plant succession after a fire and strengthen guidelines for adaptive range management.

Other drone projects focused on basic ecology and development of new analytical techniques. Our collaborative monitoring program with the UC Natural Reserve System (Becca Fenwick, UCNRS) remains our largest ongoing drone project. Under the California Heartbeat Initiative (funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), we are helping NRS collect time series drone data at 10 of the 40 NRS sites in California to better understand the interaction between plants, soil, and water. In 2019 we mapped 1300 acres at 7 NRS sites, and supported the NRS team with training, equipment maintenance, and data management. We also built a data portal for NRS and started to populate it with processed drone imagery as well as other baselayers.

To capture lessons in addition to data, we published a paper in 2019 where we experimentally tested how precisely drone imagery can detect changes in plant water content. Using an experimental design we ran at Blue Oak Ranch, we tested different altitudes, times of the day, and vegetation indices. The results reveal that drone imagery is in fact fairly effective in picking up differences in plant water content (much better than satellite imagery, which we tested also), but there are some best practices to follow. For details see Easterday et al (2019).

Experimental plots to test the sensitivity of drone data to plant water content. Easterday et al 2019
Experimental plots to test the sensitivity of drone data to plant water content. From Easterday et al (2019)

Another natural resource project examined wildlife habitat for endangered voles in the Mojave Desert. We flew over 500 acres for PI Stephanie Castle (UC Davis) in the ironically named Tecopa Marsh, about half way between Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve. Although we've mapped habitat in desert areas before, but this was an especially challenging project as the extreme heat required us to land the drone every 15 minutes. Eventually we got it all done, and the data are illuminating resource requirements and behavior of this charismatic yet endangered species.

PV #5. Building Climate-Resilient Communities and Ecosystems

We continue to be the administrative lead for developing and maintaining the Climate Adaptation Clearinghouse, California's official information portal for climate adaptation, which we launched in 2018 with the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility. In 2019, we added additional local and regional planning resources to the Clearinghouse, as well climate risk assessment guidelines developed for the financial sector by powerhouse firms like Moody's Investor Services and S&P Global Ratings. In 2020, look for even more California endorsed adaptation resources, including a digital version of the California Adaptation Planning Guide.

We were excited to launch in 2019 a new three-year project with Cal-Adapt with funding from the Strategic Growth Council to develop decision support tools with Cal-Adapt data for agriculture and natural resources. This is part of a broader wave of extension efforts in ANR around climate adaptation, of which we participated in a number of initiatives in 2019 including the Ranching and Range Management in a Drying Climate workshop at Sierra Foothill REC, where Andy presented on climate data for rangelands, the Advancing Climate Change Policy and Environmental Justice Symposium at Elkus Ranch, the Rangeland Climate and Drought workshop series, and the Climate Change Program Team annual meeting. Our piece of the new Cal-Adapt project is to conduct needs assessments in agriculture and natural resources, and develop programming tools to make it easier to work with Cal-Adapt data outside the website. We already have working prototypes of extensions for R and Python, and are currently seeking beta testers (if you're a R or Python user and would like try them out, let us know!).

Also building steam in 2019 was our continued support for the Karuk Tribe in northern Humboldt County, who made significant progress establishing a longitudinal monitoring system for agroecological resilience in forested areas home to traditional food and fibre resources. Supported by a USDA grant, this work addresses one of the most vexing and important questions about climate change - how local ecosystems will respond to expected changes in the macro environment, and how holistic management approaches that native people have practiced for generations can also adapt. Our role has been to provide technology support and innovation for the Karuk - UC Berkeley Collaborative team, including training and development of mobile data collection apps, and drone data collection. 

PV #7. Developing an Inclusive and Equitable Society

IGIS is actively involved in efforts to address the lack of diversity in geospatial technologies through the provision of workshops that focus on underserved clients. We have conducted workshops in Spanish and English that included students from Mexicali, Mexico, and we have delivered several workshops with several Native American Tribes. In 2019, IGIS developed and delivered workshops in collaboration with Jennifer Sowerwine (CE Specialist UC Berkeley) on geospatial technology (Story Map training for youth, development of mobile data collection tools and drone mapping for agro-ecological resilience) in concert with the Karuk Tribe's climate change adaptation project. Additionally, at our annual DroneCamp, we developed a student scholarship program aimed toward under-represented groups, and we actively include women instructors in the program.

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 9:07 AM
Tags: annual review (4), igis (65)

IGIS 2018 in Review

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect back on what we've accomplished and where we've been, so we can see where we're going. 2018 was another good year for IGIS, with a number of notable accomplishments and new initiatives.

2018 was all about the TEAM

Our 5-year Program Review which began in January 2017 wrapped up in early 2018. VP Glenda Humiston wrote in her conclusions from the review, "IGIS is a very important service for academics across UC ANR as well as a bridge for ANR to access cutting-edge geospatial data, tools, science, and research." She indicated that "IGIS should focus on expanding its capacity and reach with drones (both people and equipment)", which we have done.

Our new Drone Technician and Data Analyst, Jacob Flanagan, has streamlined our drone data acquisition and processing workflow, enabling IGIS to significantly increase its capacity for drone services to ANR and its affiliates.

And, of course we gained a new GIS Wunderkind with the birth of Eleanor Johnson!

2018 was all about DRONES

DroneCamp 2018 was a huge success in San Diego. This has become our flagship training event, and one of the most comprehensive short courses on drone regulations, operations, and data analysis found anywhere in the country. This year we almost doubled our capacity by splitting up flight instruction (the instructional bottleneck) across two days, which worked great thanks to amazing support from our local host, the UC San Diego Environmental Health and Safety. Every year our training curriculum improves, and this year's program included visits to the UCSD DroneLab and the Wide Angle Virtual Environment (WAVE) facility. It will be hard to top UC San Diego as a venue (but we'll try in Monterey for Drone Camp 2019!).

Thanks to Jacob's help, this year we captured over 6,500 acres of drone imagery (~2.6T data) all over California. Our largest drone project this year was a massive mapping mission at HREC after the River fire burned over half the property in July. We mapped nearly 3,500 acres in both RGB and infrared to help researchers understand fire dynamics and ecology, and collected a dozen aerial 360s over burned areas. We were able to complete such a large mission in part due to our new fixed-wing eBee drone, which has almost double the flight time of our big quadcopters.

IGIS Drone Flights, 2018

2018 was all about RESEARCH

In addition to the many research projects we support through GIS services and drone data collection, members of the IGIS team were authors on several excellent papers that came out in 2018.

Identification of Citrus Trees from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Imagery Using Convolutional Neural Networks

Visiting graduate student Ovidiu Csillik developed a workflow to detect trees from drone imagery using machine learning in eCognition, with imagery from Lindcove REC.

Csillik, O., J. Cherbini, R. Johnson, A. Lyons and M. Kelly (2018). "Identification of Citrus Trees from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Imagery Using Convolutional Neural Networks." Drones 2(4): 39.

From the Field to the Cloud: A Review of Three Approaches to Sharing Historical Data From Field Stations Using Principles From Data Science

Kelly Easterday's review of digitizing historical data, with a highlight on historical HREC research reports and the use of Machine Learning to pull information from scanned documents.

Easterday, K., T. Paulson, P. DasMohapatra, P. Alagona, S. Feirer and M. Kelly (2018). "From the Field to the Cloud: A Review of Three Approaches to Sharing Historical Data From Field Stations Using Principles From Data Science." Frontiers in Environmental Science 6(88).

Modeling Climate Suitability of the Western Blacklegged Tick in California

This is Shane Feirer's excellent modeling work on Ixodes pacificus (ticks) in CA in collaboration with Prof. Bob Lane and the CA Department of Health.

Rebecca J Eisen, Shane Feirer, Kerry A Padgett, Micah B Hahn, Andrew J Monaghan, Vicki L Kramer, Robert S Lane, and Maggi Kelly (2018) Modeling Climate Suitability of the Western Blacklegged Tick in California. Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 55, Issue 5, 29 August 2018, pp. 1133-1142.

UAVs in Support of Algal Bloom Research: A Review of Current Applications and Future Opportunities

UC Berkeley grad student Chippie Kislik did an excellent review of the use of drones for algal bloom research.

Kislik, C., I. Dronova and M. Kelly (2018). "UAVs in Support of Algal Bloom Research: A Review of Current Applications and Future Opportunities." Drones 2(4): 35.

2018 was all about COLLABORATION

We continued our long partnership with the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) at UC Berkeley, and the UCANR California Naturalist Program to build the Climate Adaptation Clearinghouse. This flagship project created a one-stop-shop information portal for climate adaptation, led by the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. IGIS developed a custom Story Map template to view climate adaptation stories from around the state, as well as an administrative interface that will allow OPR staff to continue to maintain and update the content.

We also began a new collaboration with the UC Natural Reserve System (UCNRS) and their California Heartbeat Initiative (CHI), involving drone data collection across 10 of the NRS reserves as part of a multi-year, multi-site study on water-soil-vegetation interactions. The results will not only help us understand how California's ecosystems will respond to a changing climate, but we also enhancing the toolkit of data collection and analysis methods.

We partnered for the first time with The Wildlife Society Western Section and NRS Hastings Natural History Reservation to offer a customized version of our DroneCamp curricula tailored for biologists. Complemented by drone pioneers  in wildlife biology, and representatives from the CA Dept of Fish and Game and USFWS, the formula worked extremely well. We like collaborating on intensive multi-day trainings, because it allows us to concentrate on the curricula, meet drone experts from other fields and organizations, and get help with the many moving parts a multi-day training involves. We're please to repeat the Drones for Biologists training in April 2019.

We were also extremely excited to launch a multi-year collaboration with the Karuk Department of Natural Resources and UCANR Specialist Jenny Sowerwine. The project title is a mouthful, "Karuk Agroecosystem Resilience and Cultural Foods and Fibers Revitalization Initiative: xúus nu'éethti – we are caring for it", but the essence is a series of research and capacity building activities by the Karuk tribe on cultural food and land management practices, and environmental monitoring. Our piece will be seven GIS workshops, drone flights, and research support over the next three years. We love the long-term and highly interdisciplinary nature of the initiative, and the first two workshops on Story Maps and 360 Photography went great in October 2018. Much more on this in 2019.

The IGIS Service Center continued to expand out our technical portfolio with numerous projects with researchers and staff throughout UCANR and UC. Some highlights include:

  • We created a webapp called the "Waterfowl Tracker" for Maurice Pitesky from UC Davis VetMed, showing real-time estimated waterfowl density in California's Central Valley. Designed to help poultry producers know when wild waterfowl are in their area, the app analyzes satellite data with a machine learning algorithm on a daily basis, and overlays the results with historical NEXRAD radar data and waterfowl habitat. It's a good example of how web GIS can bring the latest science to producers.
  • A dead tree biomass webapp allows you to visualize and download the estimated biomass of trees that died from drought and insect attack in California between 2013 and 2017. Under the hood, this webapp showcases the work of UC Berkeley graduate student Carmen Tubbesing, and is another good example of using technology to bring science to the public.
  • We made numerous enhancements to CalLands, a webapp that highlights land ownership and the distribution of cropland and natural habitat in California at the county and parcel level, for Specialists Luke Macaulay and Van Bustic.

2018 was all about TRAINING

Providing training in GIS, data collection, and data analysis has been at the core of our mission since 2012. Our training program has evolved as technology and needs change, and we continue to refine how we support the UCANR's network in an increasingly data-intensive world (stay tuned for a survey on workshop preferences).

We continue to teach in-person workshops on Introductory GIS, both desktop and web based. 2018 was also the year we officially migrated all our GIS workshop material to ArcGIS Pro - the successor to ArcMap which is going away. It's not that bad! If you'd like some handholding making the transition, see what's coming up on our training page.

Responding to a demand for higher-level GIS skills, we taught workshops on Spatial Data Analysis with R, GIS for Professional Foresters, LiDAR Data Processing, and Drone Technology for Biologists. As more and more people come to the workplace with basic GIS skills from college or grad school, we see the demand for advanced and applied trainings to continue.

Forestry GIS Workshop, Redding CA

We added a new workshop to our portfolio in 2018 - Immersive Visualization with 360 Photography. Our inaugural offering of 360 Photography was for the Karuk Department of Natural Resources, who are looking at 360 photos to accompany an environmental monitoring program. Like other geospatial technologies, 360 hardware and software have advanced by leaps and bounds in the last few years, but there are still many moving parts to using 360 photography effectively for research and extension. It's a lot of work to create a brand new workshop, but the hard work paid off and we see a lot of potential for this moving forward - virtual tours of RECS, bringing ANR clientele to the field, environmental education, etc.

We continue to partner with collaborators in our training programs. In fact, all but one of our workshops 2018 were conducted with partners, including Shasta County UCCE, GreenValley International, The Wildlife Society Western Section, UCSD Environmental Health and Safety, the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility, and the Karuk Agroecosystem Resilience and Cultural Foods and Fibers Revitalization Initiative.

We continued to increase our online support programs, which are growing slowly but surely. We saw a steady pickup in our online office hours, and made extensive use of Zoom for all kinds of Tech Support. We also ventured into webcasting, streaming two workshops on YouTube and Zoom, both which went well and continue to benefit people via the recording. Online training works great for specialized technical topics, and we'll continue to develop these formats in 2019.

2018 was all about SERVICE TO UCANR

Helping tell ANR's story is one of our favorite program areas. California is huge and the work of land grant institutions is inherently complex, but geospatial technologies give us powerful tools to convey the reach and impact we're having. More of this to come in 2019!

We built the UCANR Footprint webapp and underlying data to visualize the academic footprint of Advisors and Specialist in California. The breadth of the our distribution is impressive, but the webapp also reveals areas where more academic staff and funding are needed.

We also designed a new wall map of the UCANR system, showing not just Cooperative Extension offices and RECS but also descriptions of four programmatic components of UCANR and logos of the Statewide Program and Institutes (can you name them all?). Next time you have a question about ANR's work at the local and state level, this is a good place to start. By early 2019, we're hoping every ANR office in the state has a copy of the map.

We continued our participation in ANR tent at the 2018 World Ag Expo talking to visitors about ANR programs and drones in agriculture. The World Ag Expo is one of the highlights of our year, and we'll be back in 2019.

World Ag Expo, Tulare, 2018


None of this could have been possible without the help of a long list of collaborators, and phenomenal program support from UCANR. We'd like to thank everyone who helped make 2018 such a productive year, and all the best in 2019!

Posted on Monday, December 31, 2018 at 1:03 PM
Tags: annual review (4), IGIS (65)

2017 in Review: Focused on the Long Wave of Progress

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: annual review (4), igis (65)
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