Sep 202011
 

One of the goals of IGIBS is to allow users to generate protected WMS services using SAML-based access control. The technology behind this is based on  prior research done in the past few years by EDINA for the EU funded ESDIN project. The ideas produced by the project have been successfully tested within the OGC Shibboleth Interoperability Experiment – see also the INSPIRE2011 page on this blog.

In order to access a protected WMS generated by the IGIBS factory tool one needs either:

  1. A modified desktop client that supports the SAML ECP protocol.
  2. The browser-based IGIBS mapping client.

Anyone interested in using a desktop client to access IGIBS protected services is encouraged to download the EDINA-modified version of Openjump. Further information about how the Enhanced Client or Proxy (ECP) profile works is available at OASIS.

As far as browser-based clients are concerned, the main challenge in accessing a protected WMS from a browser is that AJAX applications use the XMLHttpRequest Object which does not support creating new cookies and HTTP redirects. These operations are however crucial for satisfying the requirements of the SAML2 Web-Browser SSO profile. This shortcoming also applies to OpenLayers which will not connect to a protected WMS without some extra configuration and JavaScript code changes. To that end, EDINA  has made available a patched version of Openlayers which allows XMLHttpRequest with cookies and redirection using a novel approach which is explained in detail here.

For the above reasons IGIBS browser-based client uses the EDINA version of OpenLayers as a base. Interested parties are very much encouraged to download it and provide feedback and/or criticism for further improvements.

 

 Posted by at 16:12 Mapping Application, Security, Techie, WMS Factory Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on WMS Access Control within IGIBS
Jul 202011
 

Alisdair is a PhD case study for the IGIBS project. He is 8 months into a PhD that is developing a tool to interpret almost ant kind of imagery into part of a time line for mapping habitat change.  You can view his university profile here.  He says that the key descriptors for this work are  “universal” and “precise”. So he is aiming create a tool that can be applied to images from Landsat , IRS  and SPOT for example and from these data  he is trying to draw out both changes in extent of habitats since 1975 and in timings of changes within a season. So he might be able to look at loss of semi-natural woodland through felling  and to identify changes in the timings of tree bud burst that might relate to climate change. 

In order to make  data created at different times precisely comparable he needs to perform some complex processing of imagery and to  filter out variable factors that distort the images, such as atmospheric quality.  This means that his data requirements for the PhD are very wide ranging and have covered satellite and aerial data from the past 35 years detailing ground cover, atmospheric quality  and many things in between. 

There are also issues around the accessibility of data that will be worth exploring for the IGIBS project as some of his source data is commercially protected but much of his output and analysis might be  more freely available. So some data will only be  for University use while other parts of his work will be more accessible.  

While the ultimate aim is to provide change maps for the whole of Wales, the pilot study is covering Borth Bog (Cors Fochno in Welsh) in the Dyfi Biosphere and so will provide a suitable case study for IGIBS. 

In particular this case study will highlight some major areas of the IGIBS project.

  1. His need for such a wide range of geospatial data  from differing  sources could  feed into recommendations for metadata and data discovery aspects as well as security issues and intellectual property rights.
  2. He will be producing maps of habitat change that could be useful to landscape researchers, WAG agencies, and many other categories of data users and so he is attempting to   establish a link with the National Library of Wales so that his research can establish a  resource for future use.
 Posted by at 11:59 phd, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Alisdair Cunningham – IGES PhD student
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 132011
 

A quick hello from your newest member (Steve Walsh) I now have my feet under the desk at Aberystwyth and look forward to working with you all. I will try and keep up regular blogs on developments….

I had a meeting with Jonathan Brownett yesterday and got some very useful insights into the use of spatial data from the coal face …….Below is a brief summary of Jonathan’s section of the project’s case study.

Jonathan Brownett – IGES MSc student 

Project 

 Jonathan is looking at land cover change in the Dyfi Catchment over an 8 year period using a mixture of data from LANDSAT 7 and field parcel data (LPIS) from the Welsh Government. He has also made use of the Digimap service to access OS MasterMap data and elevation and shape file data accessed from within from IGES. 

Jonathan is then relating this data to the relatively new Land Cover Classification System (LCCS) which uses pre defined classifiers that can be applied to a level of detail suitable for a particular project. With this method he should be able to track changes in 20 or so categories of vegetation, bare land and water covered areas. 

Combined with some confirmation of actual ground cover species Jonathan should then be able to describe some of the major land cover changes  that have happened in the Dyfi catchment (very similar in extent to the Dyfi Biosphere area). 

He is well underway with his work and should have his data analysed buy the end of July and should receive some expert help in using LCCS from Lucile who will be visiting the Department from France and will be bringing her expertise in carrying out LCCS ground survey to the Dyfi Biosphere area. 

Relevant experience for the IGIBS case study 

In several ways Jonathan is a very useful case study as he has recently come from a Conservation BSc and has experienced GIS and Remote Sensing courses and the functioning of an SDI in two academic departments. With his MSc thesis he is now   discovering the intricacies of accessing data from external agencies and discovering the wealth of data held by individual researchers with their own approaches to metadata creation. He is also being forward thinking and has suggested that some of his data might be suitable to use for undergraduate teaching so suggested that he will discuss the best way to make available the research data he has generated with his supervisors.

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.

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 162011
 

An important part of the data collation for this project is to make sure we know what level of access is allocated to the data. For example some data sets will have sensitive data which would not be for general viewing whilst others will be available to most and students will be able to use it for their research.

We have recently received data set lists from Paul Brewer at IGES and Colin Chapman at WAG. Paul Brewer has given us a list of hydrology data sets as well as LiDAR data and aerial photography for the Dyfi catchment that would be available for all students and academics to access. Some of these data sets have been noted by Jonathan Brownett, MSc student who would like these to help with his thesis research. We have also acquired a list of data that WAG may be able provide. These may contain sensitive data and will have user restrictions. Both Paul Brewer and Colin Chapman should have other data lists available to us at a later date.

 Posted by at 12:14 msc, phd, undergraduate, User Reqs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Access to data.
May 132011
 

Today I met with Jonathan Brownett an MSc student studying at IGES who is hoping to complete a thesis which will investigate land cover change over the Dyfi catchment area using remote sensing. He will use this method to determine the effects of land cover change on the hydrology of the area.

He would find this project very useful in compiling his thesis and already from the list we have compiled he has highlighted a number of data sets that he would like to have access to, to help him complete his thesis. So far there are at least 10 data sets that we have collated that will be useful to him.

After this I made a trip to Ynyslas where the Dyfi Reserve Manager Mike Bailey from CCW was able to locate a number of useful vegetation data sets initially taken from quadrats within the Cors Fochno bog area of the Dyfi Biosphere. This data will be of use to Professor Richard Lucas, academic from IGES and Alisdair Cuningham, PhD student who will be able to use this data for the BIOSOS project which they are working on.

I also received a list of IGES undergraduate proposed thesis titles and so far none of these are focusing on the Dyfi Biosphere. The Dyfi Biosphere is an area which could prove to be a huge resource to such students in terms of research already carried out in this area and the boundless possibilities it poses for more research. The proposed tool/mapping application could be used as a valuable tool for educating these students allowing them to discover the resources it holds.

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