Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interesting finds in aerial photography

Every once in a while I encounter really interesting stuff when looking at digital elevation models and imagery in a GIS.  Today is one of those days. In the image below (40.8154 N 119.3856 W decimal degrees) the stream in the upper part of the image is flowing in two directions.  On the USGS topographic map it is named Rock Creek and flows to the south, but in the aerial photography it is quite evident that it also flows to the north at least some of the time.

In the image below I've zoomed in and see that a small jeep track may have caused an entire stream to shift from one basin into another (at least part of the time).

Interestingly, all of this is uphill and to the west of the cool and funky attraction known as Fly Geyser adjacent to the Black Rock Desert.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Text of Section 11 - The Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017 (S.1253)

Update: Section 11 of the proposed Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017 did end up getting removed.

Although the title of my last blog post "The Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017 (S.1253) intends to kill our jobs" may sound dramatic and unlikely, a quick read of section 11 in the bill shows that it is clearly not.  The vast majority of GIS professionals are not licensed engineers, surveyors, and architects.  While I very much appreciate the work that these folks do the implications of Section 11 of this bill are big.  This bill essentially means that geological maps will be made by engineering firms rather than by structural geologists.  Habitat mapping will be done by engineering firms rather than federal, state, and academic biologists.  Weather maps won't be made by NOAA and NWS any more.


    (a) In General.--The Committee and each covered agency shall, to 
the maximum extent practical, rely upon and use private individuals and 
entities in the United States for the acquisition of commercially 
available surveying and mapping and the provision of geospatial data 
and services. The Federal Government shall not commence or continue any 
surveying and mapping activity to provide, duplicate, or compete with a 
commercial product or service if the product or service is available on 
a more economical basis from a commercial source
    (b) Definition.--For purposes of selecting a firm for a contract 
under chapter 11 of title 40, United States Code, the term ``surveying 
and mapping'' shall have the meaning given the term ``geospatial data'' 
in section 2 of this Act.
    (c) Modification of Federal Acquisition Regulation.--Part 36 of the 
Federal Acquisition Regulation (48 C.F.R. 36.000 et seq.) shall be 
revised to specify that the definition of the term ``architectural and 
engineering services'' includes surveying and mapping services and the 
acquisition of geospatial data, to which the selection procedures of 
subpart 36.6 of such part 36 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation 
shall apply. 

The Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017 (S.1253) intends to kill our jobs

Nevada's own senator, Dean Heller, is sponsoring legislation that will make it illegal for anyone but a licensed engineer to procure federal government contracts having to do with anything geospatial.  The language of this act is very broadly worded.  In fact, it is so broadly worded that it actually would apply to "all information tied to a location on Earth".  This is clearly a money grab on the part of the surveying and engineering community, and an attempt to squash GIS and remote sensing as we know it.  Please take a look at the statement released by the Association of American Geographers - and please take a look at the full text of the bill at - .  Finally, if you live in Nevada contact Dean Heller at .  GIS and geospatial data goes way beyond engineeringor surveying.  It affects virtually every corner of science and social science.  Please make your voice heard.  Orrin Hatch of Utah, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Mark Warner of West Virginia are also co-sponsors of this money-grab legislation.  Please let you congressional delegation know that you oppose this legislation.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New masters students in the Weisberg Lab

These past two weeks have seen the addition of two new lab members joining the Great Basin Landscape Ecology Lab.  Joe Brehm and Anna Knight are both starting master's programs in natural resources. Joe comes to us from the Great Basin Institute where he worked as a data administrator.  Anna comes to us by the way of USGS in Moab, UT. Joe's thesis will take our cheatgrass die-off mapping to the next level. In addition to extending the analysis to Skull Valley, Utah, there will be methodological improvements to the remote sensing and a more thorough assessment of the spatial pattern of die-offs.

Anna's project is aimed at understanding which watersheds in the Great Basin are susceptible to long-term degradation, like erosion and incision.  Dave Board and myself have already calculated watershed morphometrics for thousands of watersheds in the Great Basin, which will help feed into Anna's analysis.

Congratulations Anna and Joe.  I look forward to getting to work with both of you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Spatial join to transfer attributes in ArcGIS

Having uniform attributes can be imperative to ensuring that datasets are compatible with one another. Recently I found a nice quick trick to transferring attributes in ArcGIS without using the "transfer attributes" tool in the Spatial Adjustment toolbar.  Simply pick two non-overlapping vector layers and run the Spatial Join tool with the target layer as the layer that does not yet contain the field that you want and the join layer as the layer with the fields that you want.  Voila.  You end up with all of the fields from the join layer in the target layer, but with empty attributes waiting to be populated.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Honorable Mention for the Outstanding Paper Award in Landscape Ecology

I was really excited to learn that a paper that I was an author on had been chosen for the Honorable Mention for the Outstanding Paper Award in Landscape Ecology by the US Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology. Last month I attended the meeting in Baltimore, MD to accept this award on behalf of our team and got to meet some excellent folks and catch up with some friends.  The paper is entitled "Dilts TE, Weisberg PJ, Leitner P, Matocq MD, Inman RD, Nussear KE, Esque TC (2016) Multiscale connectivity and graph theory highlight critical areas for conservation under climate change. Ecological Applications 26:1222-1237." In their e-mail the awards committee wrote "Your paper provides a valuable contribution to the science of landscape ecology by providing a unifying, multi-scale framework and some valuable guidance for when and where to apply differing approaches for assessing species-specific connectivity. We were also excited by the application of graph theory to both climate change and land use change scenarios."   The photo above is me with Ross Meentemeyer taken by Jeff Hepinstall-Cymerman. Thank you US-IALE for this honor.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Monarch butterfly and milkweed models the western U.S.

Today Matt Forister and I presented the results of our habitat modeling work for monarch butterflies and milkweeds for the western U.S. I've been involved in this research now since January 2017 and am very excited about having some preliminary maps and models ready. The work is an extension of the 2015 habitat modeling effort by Madeline Steele while she was at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Our work is a collaborative effort by University of Nevada Reno, the Xerces Society, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and others. I'm excited to get to work with such an iconic species, and I hope that through conservation and societal awareness of pesticides we can halt the decline of one of the most beautiful insect species in the world.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cheatgrass die-off paper is now in print

Our paper about remote sensing of cheatgrass die-off patches is now in print in Ecological Indicators. To read our paper click HERE or request a PDF from myself or one of the other authors.  Since this paper we've done more mapping of cheatgrass die-offs in Skull Valley of western Utah and have a new graduate student coming on board next month to take the die-off mapping to new heights.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New remote sensing paper on cheatgrass die-offs

At last! Our paper "Development of remote sensing indicators for mapping episodic die-off of an invasive annual grass (Bromus tectorum) from the Landsat archive" has been accepted in Ecological Indicators. The image below shows some of our mapped die-off polygons overlaid on a Landsat composite image (SWIR2, SWIR1, and NIR bands in the red, green, and blue channels).  Yellow areas have a high probability of being mapped as a cheatgrass die-off area.

Monday, March 27, 2017

New version of Maxent software and paper out

It looks like Phillips and company has a new open-source version of Maxent out as well as an accompanying paper -