Jul 182011
 

Today we  had a Meeting with Mike Bailey, the Countryside Council For Wales (CCW) manager of the 2,300 Hectare Dyfi National Nature Reserve (NNR) that sits in the Western end of the Dyfi catchment. This NNR has areas of raised bog, sand dune and estuary within its boarders. Of particular interest for many of the projects at IGES is the raised bog area of the reserve which represents the largest area of such habitat in Wales.

Mike is helping out with several IGES projects ongoing on the raised bog. This is a valuable and fascinating habitat consisting of an area of raised peat sitting some three or four meters above the surrounding landscape. This removes much of the influence of underlying geology and watertable and leads to the development of unique and fragile habitats that have been much reduced in area and quality across Western Europe through peat digging in the past and present.

CCW is putting considerable time and money into the area with land purchase and habitat management aimed at restoring the fringes of the raised bog that have been degraded in the past by conversion to agricultural land and by peat cutting for fuel and horticultural use.

Mike is a case study for the project and is a provider of data that will be accessed by many users at IGES. He may also be able to benefit from students (postgraduates and undergraduates) adding value to some of his data with their own analysis.

The National Nature Reserve is surveyed and monitored in a variety of ways both for CCW and for postgraduate research. This has lead to the formation of a hotspot of data within the Dyfi catchment. Mike’s visit is particularly inspiring in the way he can help to visualise the geospatial data that we have collected . Understanding how records of species at particular x and y coordinates actually translate into understanding the health and nature of a very valuable and visually dramatic landscape really helps to bring this project alive.

The long term needs of ecological habitat management also emphasise the importance of long term data conservation. With some ecological management only showing its results over many years, the ability to safely conserve data and then to be able to rediscover it possibly a generation later will be a tough test for the best practice models for spatial data use and management this project aims to create.

 Posted by at 16:23 msc, phd, undergraduate, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Visit from Mike Bailey; Countryside Council for Wales
Jul 152011
 

As you know from previous blog entries the Dyfi Virtual Observatory (DVO) is a similar project to IGIBS and is also based at  Aberystwyth.  I had a meeting with Nicola from the DVO yesterday and we agreed to help each other out with  data sets where possible.  I thought it would be good to give a little more detail on their project so you can see how it compliments IGIBS.

The DVO is aiming to provide anyone, with an interest in the Dyfi catchment area, with a resource to process spatial data for a range of uses. Their plan is to be holders of data sets that can then be analysed and the results used privately or publicly.  To achieve this and to add processing power it is planned to make use of Cloud Computing. One example they are working on is flood risk calculation, which has obvious overlap with the  kinds of data IGIBS is looking at.

The focus of the project is more socioeconomic than IGIBS but nevertheless any extra data sets that we gain access to, that are tailored to the Dyfi area, will be of benefit to IGIBS and the end users here at IGES.

Thee `DVO web site is immenent but in the mean time you can see some impresive photos of the Dyfi area on their photostream at  flicker

 Posted by at 12:02 asides Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Dyfi Virtual Observatory
Jul 072011
 

Within IGES, key people representing users (undergraduates, postgraduates, research staff and academics, external users) have been identified as ‘case studies’ to support the IGIBS and demonstrate the beneifts for teaching and research.

Within IGEs, undergraduate students have access to a wide range of modules.    This project will focus on the Dissertation module and also the third year modules “Geographical Information Systems” and “Earth Observation from Aircraft and Satellite”.   New material is being developed revolving around these latter two modules which will also utilise web-based mapping and the datasets made available for the Dyfi Biosphere.  The opportunities for undertaking dissertation work within the catchment will also be promoted to students as suprisingly (and for the first time in many years) none from IGES focus on the Dyfi.   However, we are talking to dissertation students in other Departments to seek their involvement.

Aberystwyth University has recently launched a suite of five new Masters Courses focusing on remote sensing and GIS, Geography, Planetary Exploration, the Living Environment and Computer Science.  The material collated for the Dyfi catchment will be playing a key role in these courses, with the content of modules also conveying techniques developed in IGIBS.   As a case study, Jonathan Brownnet (a current student on the Masters course Remote Sensing and GIS) is investigating the use of multi-temporal remote sensing data for quantifying forest change in the Dyfi catchment and its likely impact on hydrological dynamics.   His work is being followed as part of IGIBS. 

At the Ph.D. level, Alisdair Cunningham is working also on methods of change detection from remote sensing data and he will be providing datasets for the project which will be made available to students and staff within IGES.  Becky Charnock is also commencing a Ph.D. in September on examining whether changes observed from remote sensing can be related to losses or gains of floral and faunal diversity.   Becky previously worked on IGIBS and will continue to contribute.

Our Map Librarian staff, Antony Smith and Ian Gulley, are also helping to make the IGIBS a success.  In February, IGES launched its new digital map library which is providing students with opportunities to explore geographical datasets delivered over the web and to input their own.   A key component is to utilise the Map Library facilities such that the datasets acquired for the Dyfi are full available to the range of users.

We are also linking with external research organisations including Forest Research (Dr. Hugh Evans), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), EcologyMatters and the Welsh Government and helping to support a wide range of initiatives.   The project is also linking with the NERC Virtual Observatory project being undertaken at Aberystwyth University that also focuses on the Dyfi Biosphere.   There are also strong connections with the BIOSOS project through myself.   This project is focusing on using remote sensing data to characterise and monitor Natura 2000 sites, of which Cors Fochno (Borth Bog) is one.   A component of the project is to collect new datasets over the summer period which will be fed into IGIBS.

Steve Walsh is working to ensure the success of the project over the next four months and will be putting up blogs on a near daily basis so stay tuned for updates.

 Posted by at 10:34 Project Management, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Users of IGIBS: An update
Jun 062011
 

The two lists of benefits below is neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive.

Any collaborative project can be a tricky balancing act and competing agendas is a well known rock upon which many a ship has foundered.  Significant effort was expended when putting the IGIBS proposal together and at project initiation to make it clear we are concentrating on deriving mutual benefit.

Benefits to the wider university sector:

  • The demonstration of Shibboleth being used to protect public authorities data and services could lead to greater interoperability between the academic and public sectors
  • The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” should provide guidance for other universities and assist EDINA and the JISC in developing the academic SDI.
  • Increased use and enhancements of key elements of the UK academic SDI, ie, Go-Geo! GeoDoc, ShareGeo.
  • If it works, the “WMS Factory” tool could become a service that EDINA offers.  A means of publishing data that will interoperate with the network services being established by the public sector
  • Equally, it is intended that the tool can downloaded and installed locally by any organisations (not necessarily just in the academic sector) who wishes to make it easier for their users to publish data
  • The mapping application could emerge in the longer term as a key (geospatial) component of a future Dyfi Biosphere web presence, and not just in respect of research and education.
  • The mapping application could be an example of an application integrating public and academic sector data that can be repeated elsewhere

Benefits to the host institution (in this instance, the Institute of Geography and Earth Science at the Aberystwyth University):

  • Improved provision of educational resources (inventory of data, collection of data and knowledge of data access services) related to the local area, ie, the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area
  • Greater understanding of open geospatial interoperability standards feeding into course development
  • Greater understanding of research data management issues potentially leading to improved departmental practices

What is not listed above are the benefits that might reasonably be expected to accrue outside the academic sector.  For example, to the public sector and to citizens, eg, people living within the Dyfi Biosphere area.  While the latter is not the primary focus of this short project, we are mindful of the role of academia and the need to make broader community contributions where possible.

 Posted by at 20:12 Project Management Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on 2 of 7: Wider IGIBS Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution
Jun 042011
 

One of the many goals of IGIBS is to generate Web Map Services that will be used in conjunction with INSPIRE type View Services which themselves are compliant with the INSPIRE Technical Guidance for View Services version 3.0. To that end, it made sense to take the following basic INSPIRE criteria into consideration when making our choice of tools:

  1. Support for the LANGUAGE request parameter in a GetCapabilities Request.
  2. Support for “extended attributes” including elements extending the
    _ExtendedCapabilities substitution group of the WMS 1.3.0 schema with a custom
    xsd.
  3. Support for the optional WMS 1.3.0 parameters wms:identifier, wms:AuthorityUrl and wms:LayerLimit

Up till ~3 weeks ago (May 12th) no stable release of either geoserver or mapserver satisfied any of the above criteria.

Mapserver Customisation

In order to make IGIBS services INSPIRE compliant we are using a customised version of mapserver 5.6.6. The customizations involve backporting selected features from the development tree of version 6.0 plus our own additions to add support for the LANGUAGE parameter and the extended attributes in the GetCapabilites response. The code is available for perusal here for any interested parties. It comprises a patch against mapserver 5.6.6 plus a sample mapscript wrapper that can be run as a cgi to provide an INSPIRE compliant View Service. Since Mapserver 6.0 the patch should no longer be necessary, but the mapscript wrapper is still required.

Latest Developments

On May 12, 2011 mapserver released version 6.0 and geoserver released version 2.1.0. As part of that release, Geoserver got funding from the Ordnance Survey to add support for the aforementioned INSPIRE spec as a plugin and can now satisfy all of the above criteria, while mapserver only got support for the wms:Layerlimit attribute.

Conclusion

The choice of software depends on one’s requirements. For a national mapping agency seeking INSPIRE compliance it seems that geoserver 2.1.0 is currently the best route. For the purpose of IGIBS, we will stick to the modified mapserver 5.6.6 for the following reasons:

  • Speed. Mapserver has performed considerably faster in our tests involving rendering and reprojection of geospatial data, which is crucial for the dynamically generated services of IGIBS.
  • Flexibility. Mapserver can be very easily scripted in a high level language for prototyping and experimentation.
  • Tried and trusted modifications to ensure compatibility while still being flexible enough to follow the fluid INSPIRE specs.
  • Geoserver does not yet fully support all parts of the INSPIRE TG e.g. the  “scenario 2” mentioned in the standard.

Please feel free to submit any comments.

 

Jun 032011
 

The overall aim of the IGIBS project is to try and improve the relationship between the UK’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as manifested through the UK Location Programme (UKLP) and the UK’s academic SDI.

Our main objective is to focus on use cases emerging from research and education related to a particular area – the UNESCO designated Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.  Once articulated, these user requirements will drive the creation of two pieces of software of wider applicability and assist Aberystwyth University in developing resources for use by local students.

We are building on much prior art, especially in the area of Access Control.  EDINA runs the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF) and, while it might not be fashionable, the reality is that many SDI resources, eg, data and web services, are going to stay protected.  This is true both of INSPIRE at the European scale and the UKLP nationally.  We aim to show how Shibboleth (the open source software that underpins the UKAMF) can be used to enable a wider range of use cases, so that UK students can get access to both open and protected resources, eg, from UK public authorities like Welsh Government.

We expect that the main four products resulting from this project will be:

  1. Working prototype of a “WMS factory” tool
  2. Simple mapping application
  3. Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level
  4. Demonstration of UK access management technology being used to secure public sector services in combination with academic sector services

SDI is underpinned by open geospatial standards like the OGC’s Web Map Service (WMS).  The “WMS factory” tool will allow users to upload their data and instantiate a WMS so that their data can then be viewed online, via a simple mapping application, in conjunction with reference data from Welsh Government.

Shibboleth is already used in academia, we extend its use here to demonstrate how public sector data can be made securely available to authenticated and authorised users within academia.

The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES) has ambitions to improve the way it educates students in the use of open geospatial interoperability standards and intends using the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area as an exemplar.  To this end we are conducting an inventory of data for the area and creating a repository for educational use.  The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” will feed into this activity as well as provide guidance for the wider university sector.

Jun 022011
 

Hope all those concerned with getting some favourable coverage for Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere are watching their televisions of an evening right now; specifically BBC2 for the next few weeks as Springwatch, that stalwart of Aunties nature programming is at Ynys-hir!

Isnt it brilliant turning on the box and seeing the intrepid trio sitting out on that decking with the evening sun on Mynydd y Llyn in the background?  I am unhappy to hear about the heron numbers going down, shocked by the cannibal Barn Owls, and flabbergasted nobody has pointed a camera at the Pied Flycatchers yet, did I miss that?  Being from Scotland, I get such a kick out of seeing these wee beauties round here – they are pretty scarce elsewhere.

 

Pied Flycatcher – photo by Rainbirder (Steve Garvie) 

Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Seriously though, this is a great advert and national recognition for some of whats best about the Dyfi area, hope somebody steering Biosphere Reserve developments is taking notes.

 

May 232011
 

Last Wednesday (18th May) I attended a meeting of the Dyfi Biosphere Research Forum at Aberystwyth University.  Chaired by Mike Woods of the Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences, the meeting showcased a selection of the wide range of different research activities that have taken place (or are underway) in the Dyfi Biosphere area.

  • Chris Lea (Welsh Assembly Government) gave the keynote stressing WAGs support for R&D in the area, particularly as it relates to the work of the Sustainability and Environmental Evidence Division
  • Palma Blonda (CNR, Italy) and Richard Lucas (Aberystwyth University) gave an overview of the EU funded BIOdiversity multi-source monitoring system: from Space TO Species (BIO-SOS) project
  • Mike Bailey (CCW): dipped into what is obviously a deep mine of personal knowledge of the area and presented on recent research in the core conservation zone of the Dyfi Biosphere
  • Mike Hambrey (Aberystwyth University): gave a fascinating presentation on the last glaciation in Wales with a focus on the Dyfi catchment
  • Paul Brewer (Aberystwyth University) outlined some surprising results in a presentation entitled “Altered morphodynamics in the tidally-influenced lower Dyfi: re-thinking catchment management, flood risk & material fluxes”
  • Yours truly (Chris Higgins) presented on IGIBS (IGIBS_BDB_Research_Forum_May11) emphaising that the project needs input, eg, via the questionairre from this group if it is to benefit Dyfi related R&D and bring further resources into the area
  • Mike Christie (Aberystwyth University) gave a very erudite presentation on a hot subject that I think we will be hearing a lot more about: Valuing ecosystem services
  • Ambra Burls (Independent researcher) and her guest Zena Willmot from Coed Lleol talked about very pertinent related work – Environment and health
  • Man (apologies, didnt catch the name and not on the programme) from Centre for Alternative Technology talked about the groundbreaking work CAT is doing in relation to “Building adaptation for climate change”
  • Finally, Michael Woods (Aberystwyth University) spoke on “The Dyfi biosphere in context: research from the Wales Rural Observatory.”  Again, very apposite, some very surprising insights and all the more interesting as coming at the question of Biosphere related research from a different angle

We had 20-30 minute at the end for a brief plenary discussion.  Lots of good ideas here but no time to go into any of them in any real depth. At the risk of pre-empting the minutes, IMHO, a couple of themes started to emerge:

  • Need to broaden the scope of the Research Forum to include greater representation from the social sciences
  • Must bear in mind the need to engage with the wider community
  • Terms of reference need nailed down
  • Lack of resourcing a problem

Of course, the IGIBS project has some resources (at least up until November 2011) and, as project manager, I volunteered that the project team would do what we can to help as long as it aligns with the project objectives.

The one thing we can help with is laying firm foundations for getting the most out of online Geographic Information and managing Dyfi Biosphere research related data.  Our hope is that the work we do in this short project helps you and others like you inititiate and execute future projects in the area.  To lay this foundation well, we need input from stakeholders in the Dyfi Biosphere and from the research forum in particular.  Please fill in the questionnaire, even if its only a partial response.

 Posted by at 20:13 Project Management, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere Research Forum meeting
May 092011
 

In the last couple of days I have met with a number of people who have previously or are currently working on projects within the Dyfi Biosphere. I have asked what data sets they have available and what their requirements of this tool would be.

I have met with Anthony Smith, the map curator in IGES. He agrees that the IGIBS data and tool would be very useful for both students and staff. The data acquired would also add to and help to update the map library. It also seems that many data sets relating to maps within the library are actually held among various researchers within the department. This currently makes it difficult for anyone to locate data sets relating to catalogued maps. The use of Geodoc for metadata recording and management might improve this situation but ultimately the Dyfi Biosphere and IGIBS mapping application would make all the information available in one site.

Alisdair Cunningham is a PhD student and is studying and developing methods for detecting habitat and land-use change in Wales using remote sensing. He will be concentrating his research on the Dyfi Biosphere area. He has many data sets available for the use of this project which have now been collated and stored safely along with other lists of data we are accumulating. Alisdair has said the proposed IGIBS tool and mapping application would be very useful for his research as it would draw together data sets compiled by other researchers. It could also act as a place to store his data sets so that they are easy to access, view, and compare. He would particularly like to use the LiDAR data from the Dyfi Biosphere.

In the process of collating the data sets for this project we have acquired LiDAR data of the area from a Dr. Angela Harris who is a lecturer at Manchester University and has been researching the use of remote sensing in monitoring northern peatland hydrology. She has also provided hyperspectral data and aerial photographs which will be very useful for Professor Richard Lucas who is working on a BIOSOS project in the Dyfi Bioshere and again for Alisdair Cunningham’s PhD research.

Already this project is linking people and their data sets with each other and should eventually prove to be a valuable and expanding resource to all researching and learning about the Dyfi Biosphere.

Apr 202011
 

Meeting with Mike Bailey (Senior Reserve Manager for the Dyfi National Nature Reserve) of the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) to discuss the sampling of habitats across Borth Bog from the 26th April (for three days). Three areas were considered for sampling to support the BIO-SOS project. Datasets linked to Borth Bog were discussed and Mike will complete a data table with Becky.

 Posted by at 15:23 User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Mike Bailey BIO-SOS meeting