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GIS

Celebrate GIS Day Annually and Don’t Forget the Cake!

Since my introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  some 15 years ago, GIS day is one of those days that I look forward to annually. GIS day is usually on the Wednesday of Geography Awareness Week in November.  It is the one day set aside to show how geographic intelligence touches everyone and provides excellent forum for users, like myself, to showcase unique GIS accomplishments.(See my previous blog –  Counting the population is as easy as 1, 2, 3 with the help of GIS).

This November, (November 14, 2018) hundreds of organizations from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Caribbean will be hosting gatherings that will serve to ignite the imagination of the future geospatial innovators who will move our planet forward using GIS.  All registered users who will be hosting an event for GIS day 2018 is displayed on www.gisday.com. It is indeed a global event.

Users in the Caribbean region are joining in as well.  Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Trinidad have already registered their events.

Montserrat is no exception. Our event is registered too!

In the past, to add to the sweetness of this event we have often added a cake to the celebrations.  Here are a few pictures of the cakes we have had to celebrate GIS day in Montserrat over the years.

Now there is absolutely no reason not to love GIS day! Find an event close to you and use the opportunity to learn more about this exciting technology and its amazing capabilities.

 

 

 

 

Disaster Risk Reduction, Mapping

Counting the Population is as Easy as 1, 2, 3 with the Help of GIS

 

My three year old is fascinated with counting. Probably one of the most memorable instances of her enthrallment was her sounding off “1, 2, 3, 4” as a family of sisters occupied the bench directly behind us in church. “Four, Mommy, Four!” she shouted as she also pointed it out on her fingers. Seen from my toddlers enthusiasm, there is an innate nature in all of us to know “how many?”.

Conducted on average, every 10 years, the purpose of a census is to gather information about a population’s housing conditions, demographics, social and economic characteristics. It includes collecting data like age, gender, education and employment. It helps us to answer questions like: how many children in your country have completed secondary education? Or how many 20-year olds who live in a particular area and are unemployed? Or how many people in total live on your island? Basic information, such as these, are important for the purposes of planning, development and the improvement in the quality of life for a territory’s citizens.

Counting the population of any country, regardless of the size, can be seen as a daunting task. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), provides a platform, however, to enable data collectors to be more efficient in locating buildings and ensuring that this intimidating work is made a lot more manageable.

In its last count of the population, the Montserrat Statistics department enlisted the use of GIS in the Montserrat 2011 Population and Housing Census to ensure that the enumeration data collected was as accurate as possible. Some visual representations of the data were produced, such as the map below which shows the usual resident population of 4,922 based on gender (male and female) and region (northern, central and southern).

Source: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Montserrat-At-A-Glance.pdf

The leader* and the team from the statistics department had a clear vision of how the country should be divided in terms of Enumeration Districts and Areas. Some areas were demarcated using naturally occurring features on the landscape, such as ghauts and mountains, and others were demarcated using man-made features like roads. A total of thirty-six enumeration areas were created and detailed maps were prepared for each area. This allowed the areas to be divided into manageable sections and allowed the data collector, with training in map reading, to be more efficient in canvassing the area. The demarcated enumeration areas now provide a base for the collection of additional data and allows for easy comparison and correlation of datasets in preparation for the 2020 round of censi.

The Montserrat 2011 Population and Housing Census benefited from imagery, which was recently collected in 2010 (see my previous blog at https://wp.me/pa7Lux-7o).  The one-year time difference was considered negligible, allowing for a certain level of confindence in the accuracy of the maps, which were produced. Any missing building footprints were drawn on the map while the area was being canvassed, and then later updated. For any future census activity, access to current imagery will play a huge role in its success. Current imagery can be analysed using tools in GIS which will help to determine changes since the last count. One special way of determining change is to use image classification techniques and compare with previous imagery. Utilising this method, new buildings footprints can be identified and quickly extracted using GIS tools and models.

Furthermore, a census provides data, which is critical for disaster risk reduction. Knowing the spatial distribution of the population and its demographic details is key in increasing a Government’s ability to take appropriate action and reduce the loss of human life. Population density maps provide an outlook to assess risk before and the quantification of a population affected after any disaster.

*This post pays tribute to the late Mrs. Katrina Ryan who was the head of the Statistics Department at the time of the Montserrat 2011 Population and Housing Census in Montserrat. She had an endearing passion for the accuracy of statistical data. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Disaster Risk Reduction, Imagery, Mapping

Satellite Imagery is A Powerful Visual Aid in GIS and Disaster Response

The earthquake events of August 21, 2018 which shook Venezuela, Trinidad and other neighbouring countries (https://www.usgs.gov/news/magnitude-73-earthquake-venezuela) reminded me that not all disasters can be predicted or come with a warning. Videos which showed the impact of the earthquake quickly filled my social media timeline, causing me to reflect on the training I had undergone as project manager for the International Charter Space and Natural Disasters (https://disasterscharter.org). This organization, once registered with, provides a series of support through the use of satellite imagery to assist in the aftermath of a disaster.

Satellite imagery is a form of remotely sensed data with proves useful in the occurrence of an unforeseen event and provides a powerful visual aid when utilized with a geographic information system (GIS). Disaster risk managers are better able to assess their region’s risk when they are able to compare pre and post disaster images.  This type of analysis enables relief workers to identify changes in the landscape, such as buildings which are no longer standing and roads which are obstructed. It is an efficient way to identify damage and conduct rapid impact and needs assesments. GIS supports the use of satellite imagery to locate damaged facilities, identify the type and amount of damage and begin to establish priorities for action.

As satellite sensors improve, satellite imagery is becoming more useful. One of my favourite places to explore satellite data is the USGS Earth Explorer Portal (https://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/). It provides an interface where one can search the available sensors to see the data that is available for a particular area of interest. The advantage of the USGS Earth Explorer is that it houses data from the Landsat Programme which has a 40+ year track record of image acquisition. It allows for free downloading of data over chronological timelines while providing a long list of satellites to choose from.

Additionally, capturing my interest for hours on end is the USGS Earth Now Viewer (https://earthnow.usgs.gov/observer). This viewer is truly remarkable as it shows the position of the Landsat sensor in real-time. It also gives a visual of the satellite images being collected when the sensor scans the earth.

The Landsat Program began with Landsat-1 in 1972 and Landsat- 9 is planned for 2023. Over the years, Landsat has enhanced the number of spectral bands, spatial resolution and spectral resolution. Landsat 1-3 sensors collected data in only 4 bands and at 60 meter resolution. Over time, this has improved, as Landsat 8 now collects in 11 spectral bands varying from 15 meter to 100 meter.

The Sentinel Satellites of the Copernicus Programme also provide free satellite imagery which can be downloaded at the Copernicus Open Access Hub (https://scihub.copernicus.eu/dhus/#/home). The Sentinel-2 provides some improvement to the Landsat data with sharper imagery of up to 10 meters. Sentinel-2 monitors more frequently with a revisit time of 5 days and captures land changes in 12 spectral bands, each ranging from 10 – 60 meters pixel size. The USGS Sentinel2Look Viewer (https://landsatlook.usgs.gov/sentinel2/viewer.html) allowed me to browse through some sentinel-2 imagery. I found relatively cloud free imagery of Montserrat (shown below) which was acquired on 12th April 2018. This is a plus as cloud-free imagery is not always available due to our location and climate.

With the assistance of a skilled technician, satellite imagery can be utilized effectively in disaster management especially during the response stages. By combining spectral bands and performing image classification techniques the capabilities of remotely sensed data can be fully utilized in disaster management.

 

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Mapping, Uncategorized

Drones: Four reasons to use them in GIS and Mapping

 

I remember May 2010. Not only because it was the last time since the Montserrat Soufriere Hills Volcano’s dome collapsed, triggering a pyroclastic flow which completely covered the remnants of W.H. Bramble Airport. I remember May 2010 because I rode shotgun in a unique airplane.

This was an airplane which had a hole in the underside of it. Mounted and fitted in the hole was a camera. Not just any camera, it was a camera with unique specifications, designed for taking aerial photographs. After monitoring the weather for days and looking for a “space in the clouds” as it was termed, the mission began by travelling over to the neighbouring island of Antigua. I recollect that on the day of the flight we had to have all hands on deck, pushing the plane out of the hanger.

 

 

The flight plan was scribbled on a piece of paper, which the pilot displayed in front of him for the duration of the exercise. Riding shotgun, I took in the amazing vista of being up and above my beautiful island of Montserrat. We flew in an easterly to westerly pattern, for a number of days covering the island with images from the sky. The technician constantly gave instructions to the pilot to ensure that we were having a certain percentage of overlap in the images as they were being taken. Furthermore, the post-processing of the images was a lengthy one, as they had to be cleaned, corrected and geo-referenced in order to be used appropriately. After about six (6) months we finally had the complete set of imagery in our hands.

So much has evolved in eight (8) years. Aerial photographs are now been captured by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) commonly known as drones.

Here are four (4) reasons why I think drones should be used in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping:

Reduction in Cost – Drones provide a less costly way of acquiring remotely sensed data than the traditional method of a plane and pilot. There would be no need to need to hire a skilled pilot and pay exorbitant fees for the use of an aircraft and rental of a hanger, if drones are used. Drones provide an acquire once, use many times option, thereby significantly reducing cost.

Reduction in Risk – Although I thoroughly enjoyed the vista and scenery provided from the plane, there was an evident risk to human life. As the term “unmanned” suggests, drones reduce the risk to human life, as there is no man on-board. Moreover, drones do not possess human characteristics of becoming tired or getting distracted. These qualities do prove advantageous when collecting large amounts of data.

Reduction in Time – Drones provide a significant reduction in the time taken to acquire the imagery and the time taken to process the acquired image. Instead of taking months to see the output of one’s work, this is made available instantaneously as the data is being captured. Adjustments can also be made while flying, because the data can be visualized as it is being collected. Drones nowadays come equipped with global positioning systems (GPS) which allows for autonomous flying of pre-planned flight paths, thereby saving time in the field.

Increase in Quality – The output of drone images are becoming increasingly better. Drones can get closer to a scene than a plane can, thereby allowing for greater quality and detail in the imagery which is being captured. Appropriate specifications for the camera which is mounted on the drone, is key.

As reported, about a week after the May 3rd 2018 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, drones were deployed and started flying over the widening lava flows. This is thought to be the first time drones were being used to capture critical images and data above a volcano during emergency response efforts. (https://statescoop.com/amid-hawaiis-volcanic-eruption-drones-and-maps-revealed-hidden-fissure).

Utilizing newly acquired information and comparing it with pre-disaster information, gives a clear understanding of what transpired. Imagery collected from drones becomes a powerful resource once it is fed into a GIS. In emergency response situations, drones provide a quick overview with reliable visuals without putting first responders at risk.

 

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Uncategorized

Five (5) things GIS has taught me about Disaster Management

I am no stranger to the impact of disasters having survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and witnessed the Soufriere Hills Volcano disrupt everything I knew about life in Montserrat since 1995.

As I listened to the reports on the experience of our neighbouring islanders who were affected by the super hurricanes of 2017, Irma and Maria (which I now simply refer to as IRMARIA), I empathized.  Now as I watch reports of the experience of the residents of El Rodeo, Guatemala in dealing with the eruption of Volcan de Fuego which erupted on June 6, 2018, I am driven to share a bit of how my work can help countries manage disasters better.

Geospatial technologies have improved in recent years and are more efficient and reliable to enhance our planning, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery from disasters.  The majority of data needed for these phases of emergency management is spatial, and once it is spatial it can be mapped and utilized effectively.

Over the years, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has taught me a few things in relation to disaster management. Here are five (5) of them:

1.       Most emergencies don’t allow time to gather information.

2.       During an actual emergency there is no time for guessing or estimating, it is critical to have the right data, at the right time.

3.       Lack of appropriate information leads to poor planning and poor decision making.

4.       GIS provides a mechanism to centralize and visually display critical information during an emergency.

5.       GIS saves time, money and lives!

The road to recovery is often very difficult for anyone faced with loss after the impact of a disaster. Many of us on Montserrat however, built up our resilience as we reflect on the loss of homes – not just houses. We have embraced the challenge of recreating the places we lost. Unbelievably,  the Government Headquarters building in Plymouth was newly constructed and the Glendon Hospital was newly refurbished at the time of the eruption. Personally, I often reflect on the town centre which was thriving and bustling as it created jobs, enhanced livelihoods and held memorable spaces, such as “Evergreen Tree” and the “market” for social interaction.

A specialism in GIS allowed me the opportunity to support recovery efforts by utilizing data and producing maps that helped to manage evacuation paths, relocate families safely to shelters, assist in ash clean-up efforts by tracking progress and by utilizing the output of modelling scenarios to identify future impact areas.  GIS provides a mechanism to forge ahead and recover despite the impact of a disaster. Montserrat is now in a phase of re-development and GIS has contributed significantly to this. I do look forward to telling you more about how GIS can be used in disaster management.

 

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Uncategorized

Don’t get lost!

When was the last time someone gave you directions to get to a party at a friend’s house? They would usually say something like this. “Do you know where Mr. T lives? Well, when you pass by the big hairy mango tree in the corner by Mr. T’s house, turn left and follow the road until you meet the bridge crossing in the ghaut. After you pass the bridge, take the next right onto the dirt road. You will see an orange house with a white fence. Keep going along that road, then you will see a white, upstairs and downstairs house with red shingles on the roof. The party will be by my friend Mr. D, who lives in the blue house, two houses down from there”.

The reality is, that in the absence of proper addressing systems, especially in the Caribbean, we rely on directions like these from our friends. Thankfully, however, even without noticing, we all use geospatial data.

By answering the question, “Do you know where Mr. Z lives?”, you are being given a moment to find your point of reference for orientation. All directions that follow are then referenced to this known location.

Similarly, the geographic location of real-world features on earth (natural or constructed) is what powers geospatial data. By utilizing the appropriate co-ordinate system, these locations can be displayed in the right location on a map.

 

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Uncategorized

This special spatial journey begins here….

Welcome to LRR Geospatial Consultancy. Over the past 15 years, I have been a passionate leader of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I am keen to share my knowledge on the applications and use of GIS and get everyone as excited as I am about this amazing technology and its use in making our lives much more improved. This forum provides me with the opportunity to share my experiences, interests and applications on the use of GIS with you. Step into my world and join me on this SPATIAL journey!

 

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.