Flagstaff – Then and Now

I’ve been working on a repeat aerial photography project with NAU’s Cline Library (this is the second part, the first part was (here) and below is an additional proof of concept element for a proposed Hanks Internship that I’m hoping to find a student to work on this fall. The images on the left are based off 0.5m resampled orthoimages for Flagstaff taken in 1959 by Andre M. Faure. The images on the right are corresponding (same resolution, same location) but from 2014. The viewer is based off of Jan Pieter Waagmeester’s Leaflet.Sync plugin and the images (1959 & 2014) are served up by Mapbox.

1959 2014

Click here to open the display as fullscreen!

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Flagstaff in 3D – circa 1959 via A.M. Faure and Cline Library

The following is something I produced as a proof of concept for a proposed Hanks Internship with Cline Library this fall (if you know of any students, please send them my way!). The scene was produced from 122 aerial photographs take by Andre M. Faure in 1959 and covers the majority of Flagstaff, AZ. Faure was a city planner for Tucson from 1941 to 1968. Prior to his arrival in Tucson, Faure served as a planning consultant in Connecticut and a town planner in New Jersey. He worked with the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County on various projects in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of which are aerial photographs of Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona used by Faure for city planning in 1959, and they are available for online viewing in the Colorado Plateau Digital Archives.

Flagstaff – 1959

The Dorothy T. and James J. Hanks Cline Library Endowment supports Northern Arizona University students for research in repeat photography. A primary goal is to locate and document camera stations of photographs held by Special Collections and Archives, with emphasis on images from the Colorado Plateau. Cline Library Hanks Scholars enhance the library’s photographic collections by increasing knowledge and discovery in the natural or social sciences. Hanks Scholars are given a unique opportunity to develop an appreciation of the value of historic photographs and repeat photography. NAU’s Special Collections and Archives is the official repository for the James J. Hanks Collection.

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Prezi on introducing spatial statistics

Last semester, I provided a couple of guest lectures in Margaret Moore’s Landscape Ecology class on spatial statistics. Spatial statistics, tools that hold a special place in my heart, are commonly used for understanding data distributed in a space where positions and distance have meaning; and are highly useful tools in forestry and ecology. This prezi is meant to be a brief introduction, and is expanded upon in my 599 class.
I had completely forgotten to publish the prezi, so here it is…. I hope some of you find it useful.

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Final thoughts on my F2F assignment in Nepal

When I decided to volunteer with Winrock International’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, and while I was assured by a fellow volunteer that I would be taken care of, I never anticipated how great this opportunity could be. Upon arrival and throughout my time in Nepal, Winrock’s small (maybe 5 people) but dedicated team made me feel right at home, making it easier to focus on my task at hand – increasing the data handling and analysis capacity of young, experienced, faculties and selected post-graduate students through the application of R.

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Chhan and family invited me to have dinner at their home while in Kathmandu. It was, hands down, the best meal I ate while in Nepal.

My primary contacts in Nepal were Dr. Vrigu Duwadi and Mr. Chhan Bhattachan with Winrock, and Dr. Mohan Sharma, Professor and Continuing Education Center Director with the Agriculture and Forestry University of Nepal. I can’t say enough good things about these individuals. All of my activities while on assignment were coordinated through this team (with the invaluable inclusion of Krishna, our driver) to assure that we were delivering information that was pertinent to the audience and that facilities and logistics essential to the success of the training were available. In addition, all of these individuals had a hand in making sure I also got to tour campus, visit cultural and natural resources sites, and generally ensure that I received the best Nepali experience possible (which I think comes natural to them). I have to mention a special thanks to my friend, Chhan, who spent almost every waking hour with me and was largely responsible for how I experienced Nepal. You a competent statistician, an intellectual, and an exceptional host.

To some degree, I approached this assignment expecting very little, and being totally prepared to “wing it” if need be. Everything I read about traveling to Nepal was that most non-Nepali visit to trek in the Himalayas, but it’s generally not the place you just up and decide to visit. Essentially, most people traveling here, plan, save an prepare for months. This was a little unnerving for me, but I think it added to my experience and alleviated many preconceptions or unreal expectations.

Given all of these factors, I’ll summarize my time in Nepal by listing a few things I learned on this trip (in no order of importance and they’re not all serious):

  1. We, as Americans, should be grateful that we have clean water and a dependable power supply. We should also be thankful we have food security, transportation safety regulations, and a well-developed sanitation system.
  2. I’ve said this before – that a good driver is worth their weight in gold – but the exchange rate has gone up after my trip to Nepal and especially during my time in Kathmandu. A good driver is worth 6x their weight in gold.
  3. I really do love American food (and craft beer) and missed it greatly. I’m especially grew tired of lagers and missed American ports and brown ales. I also missed eating raw greens…
  4. Kathmandu, and some of the larger cities like Bharatpur are extremely polluted. It doesn’t take away from its beauty, they’re just polluted. People here at home have been asking what it was like to see the Himalayas, and I have to explain that due to the smog, I never saw them. Not once. It’s sad, but the Nepali people’s sewage and waste infrastructure has failed to keep up with their urban expansion, leaving them with a serious problem. Crossing a Bagmati river in Kathmandu revealed piles of floating garbage (not a new issue) and the lack of pollution or emission standards is readily apparent as mini- and micro-buses, bikes, and all forms of vehicles constantly pump black fumes into the atmosphere.
  5. Gender equality (albeit still a work in progress) is a beautiful thing and it’s good to seen Nepal making positive strides in this arena
  6. It’s impossible to talk about the effects of disturbances in mixed-conifer systems when the other party’s talking the importance of increased crop yields to feed the hungry or integrated pest management to reduce the impact of pesticides on human health (think DDT concerns in the US, circa 1940s only with humans). Some of the professionals I spoke with expressed interests in deforestation and land degradation, largely anthropogenic in nature, so I was able to see how my work might apply there… but it was a stretch. I also saw and read about numerous wildfires that were burning in community forests and near-by National Parks, but few seemed to think it was an “interesting” issue.
  7. The United States of America is not as cool as it thinks it is… we have no native monkeys for crying out loud! Two words – Rhesus macaque
  8. I loved “having tea” and now see how it facilitates conversation and idea sharing. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that “having tea” doesn’t mean you’ll actually be drinking tea. It could be eating dal, having cookies and coffee, or any variety of thing. Essentially, it’s a break and an excuse to chat.
  9. Apparently, everyone outside of Kathmandu has a water buffalo or two. I don’t think they “own” them.
  10. The widespread use the internet and availability of information at a moment’s notice has changed our lives forever. Not everyone has this luxury. They might have smart phones and access to the internet, but I don’t think everyone uses it to empower and educate themselves quite like the I (we?) do. I hope I’m wrong on this one… My time in Nepal assured me that the people there have the intellectual capacity, but the resource limitations limit how they might achieve success.
  11. Facebook really has made the world smaller. I think my friend list doubled after this trip and I’ve corresponded with several participants over pictures, data, analysis, and all sorts of things.
  12. In a country where more than 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood, Nepal has done a superb job of recognizing the importance of community management and conservation of its forests. Bravo!
  13. Nepal’s flag is the only national flag in the world that is not rectangular in shape and is considered to be the most mathematical flag. Hell yeah! Go Math!
    The Nepali love football, but they LOVE cricket!

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Completion of my assignment in Nepal with F2F

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Myself and the participants in the 2014 workshop in Bharatpur, Chitwan, Nepal – Provided by Winrock Intl. and USAID.

This morning we met with the USAID staff here in Kathmandu, Nepal and debriefed them on my assignment, signaling the end of my work here. Though I only spent six full days with the host institution at AFU, this experience has been a great opportunity. I truly feel that I’ve helped a developing country (a little) to increase their capacity to do agricultural and natural resource research, albeit indirectly through introducing them to R.

During my brief time here, we manage to cover:

  1. Getting started with R (What is R, an overview of R-project.org resources, installing and running R, walkthroughs of using the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN), accessing internal and external help, documentation, an overview of packages and their use, and detailed applications of RStudio)
  2. Data management (reading and writing data, data types and factors including: vectors, matricies, arrays, lists, text and characters, dates and time, and dataframes)
  3. Basic statistics (summarizing a sample, summarizing categorical data, comparison of samples, relationship between variance, association between categorical variables)
  4. Calculations and manipulation (calculations, defining subset of data values, sorting data, forming factors)
    Syntax and data entry (reading data, syntax of commands, logical operations, building and using sequences, handling missing values, testing and coercing classes, and generation and use of random numbers)
  5. Hypothesis Testing (testing difference in variances and means, t-tests, tests of distributions, interpreting output)
  6. Modeling (fitting a line, fittings non-linear curves, multiple regression, regression with grouped data, interpreting output)
  7. Analysis of variance (specifying the treatment, syntax of model formulae, analysis, designs with several error terms, saving information from the analysis, other facilities, advanced designs, summarizing results and interpreting output)
  8. Advanced graphing (scatterplots, boxplots, histograms and bar charts, time series, pie charts, and saving plots in both the base plot and ggplot2) and
  9. Programming  in R (developing custom functions, object structure, and “for”, “while”, and “repeat” loops, ifelse statements)

On a personal note, this was my first trip to Nepal, let alone south Asia and it’s been hugely eye opening. I now clearly see the need for further technology transfer and assistance, so that developing countries can benefit from global advancements and increase their own capacity. Activities such as those I’ve been engaged in here in Nepal are key to empowering local people to solving their specific problems. I firmly believe that the countries of the developed world cannot solve the problems in the developing world by giving physical of fiscal goods to them, but we can lessen the learning curve and empower individuals by providing help understanding technology emerging practices and removing barriers.

We need to promote the sharing of technology and information so that people and communities in developing worlds are aware of the resources that are available to them and thus may become self-empowered.

Next stop, Bangkok and then a short hop back to the States!

 

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On assignment in Nepal with F2F

 mapIn my previous post, I said I was headed to Nepal for a couple of weeks for an USAID assignment for the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program, coordinated though Winrock International. My trip here was largely uneventful, and I am now writing this from my hotel room in the Royal Century Hotel in Bharatpur, Nepal (the blue dot above). So far, I’ve traveled quite a but (US to Kathmandu (the red dot), then to Bharatpur), ridden elephants on a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park, eaten lots of authentic Nepalese food, partaken of many beers (Everest, Tuborg and Carlberg), seen numerous research facilities around the Rampur Campus of AFU, and had many great conversation about the culture, ecology, political and socioeconomic issues facing Nepal. I didn’t really realize how far the country has come in the past decade.
I’ve begun teaching R, and while I know I don’t have enough time to teach them everything, I hope that they learn enough to be able to advance independently once I’m gone. That and I hope the power holds up…

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Farmer-To-Farmer in Nepal

DSCN0477Tomorrow morning, I leave for Nepal for an USAID assignment for the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program, coordinated though Winrock International. The assignment is with the Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) in Rampur, Chitwan (Baratpur Campus, actually) which was founded in 2010.

The details are not all that interesting, but AFU requested USAID (via subcontractor, Winrock) provide statistical expertise to conduct a comprehensive workshop introducing and applying an “easy to run and simple statistical system” that could help “researchers to summarize and analyze information with a computer.” I was told that AFU students and faculty were currently using SAS and Genstat (a UK-based, commercial package) but lacked expertise to teach one another. It may go without saying, but structuring the workshop around R was an easy sale and the rest is history.

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Congratulations Greg Black!

NCUR-logo-WebWe here at quantitativeecology.org are happy to announce that our own Greg Black will be presenting his work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Kentucky in April. Greg’s submission, titled “Stand structure and composition in treatment areas following the 2012 Grand Fire” was chosen from more than 4,000 submissions and we are proud of Greg’s work and contributions to his field of study. Our lab is sincerely pleased that Greg will have the opportunity to present his work to peers, faculty, and staff from around the world!

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2-Day Forest Vegetation Simulator Workshop

Yesterday, I completed a 2-day Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) workshop for (18) faculty and graduate studFVSWorkshopents here at NAU, and I’m beat. It was attended by four faculty, two postdocs, two manager and 10 graduate students.

Basically, I was approached by Kristen Waring, NAU’s Associate Professor of Silviculture, and asked if I’d be interested in conducting a FVS workshop a few weeks ago and saw it as an opportunity to “spread the love” with respect to FVS and ClimateFVS. The objective of the workshop was to introduce concepts of vegetation growth and yield modeling, specifically using FVS and to provide a brief introduction to ClimateFVS and the science behind these applications. The exercises emphasized the vast capabilities of FVS in simulating forest management alternatives and evaluating their potential impacts on forest structure, fire behavior, carbon accounting and under varying climate scenarios. I had intended to touch on openFVS, since the majority of my student use R, but I just ran out of time.

All in all it was fun and I especially enjoyed the questions and discussion. Feedback thus far has been entirely positive and if asked to do this again, I would.

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Advancing Forestry Education by Biting Off More than I Can Chew

DSC_0133It should come as no surprise that there is an ever-increasing demand for competent forestry graduates; especially those who able to address complex economic, ecological, and social issues involving forest resources. However, Forestry is a traditional discipline and often finds itself challenged to educate students using 21st century technology and sciences to solve these new problems.

Last semester, a senior faculty and I proposed providing forestry undergraduate students with a redesigned, senior-level course in Ecosystem Assessment that would maximize the use of mobile technology with the following course objectives: 1) students will have enhanced, forestry-centered learning opportunities in both the field and classroom, 2)these experiences will improve the way students visualize spatial and temporal aspects of a forest resources and landscapes; and 3)ensure NAU’s School of Forestry remains in the forefront of forestry education.

This Fall, in FOR 413 & 414C (Forest Ecosystem Assessment I & II) at NAU, 39 undergraduate students will be let loose carrying 20 Dell Latitude 10 tablets running Windows 8 to collect and analyze forest resource data from a 4-sq. mile area on NAU’s Centennial Forest.  These data will be collected over a five-week period using a FVS-ready Access database for tabular data and ArcPad 10.2 with the tablet’s built-in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) for spatial data.

The students will use this technology to integrate material learned in prior forestry courses while learning and applying new concepts and skills focused on the interpretation of remotely sensed imagery, land records, and ownership limitations; use of geographic information systems (GIS) and field protocols for inventory of biophysical features; and simulation of potential stand development pathways.

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