Ian Lockwood

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GIS Developments at OSC in 2017

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GIS as a tool for teaching and learning in the DP Geography program (the field, Survey Department and in a final Geography EE map).

November 15th marked GIS Day, a time set aside to recognize the important role of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in our lives. With a theme of GIS as the “science of where” it seems like a good time to look at ways in which we are using GIS as a tool for teaching and learning at OSC. Ten years ago, I put in the first proposals to adopt a GIS program at OSC as a part of our MYP and DP Geography courses. Since then the school’s small program has grown steadily while there have also been enormous leaps in the technology. This post reviews the newer applications and data sources that I am using as a tool for geospatial teaching and learning in the OSC environment.

Curricular Links in the International Baccalaureate DP

As far as I know, there are no explicit requirements that GIS skills be taught in any IB course. There are references made to GIS in the revised DP Geography, First Examinations May 2019 syllabus though they are not required (unfortunately, from my perspective). On page 19 it says “it is recognized that the ability to use GIS as a tool is a valuable geographic skill that goes beyond many of those listed below. Where GIS is accessible and practical, its use is encouraged.” Of course, there are many geographic skills listed in the guide that can be taught using a GIS platform. The Environmental Systems & Societies, First Examinations 2017 syllabus in the Investigating Ecosystems (2.5) section mentions GIS as a tool to use when tracking land use change (see p. 38).

At OSC I take time to teach several basic GIS lessons in DP Geography that allows students to use it as a told for case studies and then work on the internal assessment. In the past, I have worked with MYP students to introduce them to skills and methods for using our ArcGIS software. This year we are once again introducing GIS skills for MY 5 so that they can map spatial patterns from their Galle socio-economic survey work.

Survey Pan

Mobile Data Collection & Tracking

The advent of wide spread use of smartphones and improved 4G cellphone networks has opened up opportunities to use mobile data gathering apps on phones. There are a variety of options including open source apps (Open Data Kit, etc.). I am using ESRI’s Survey123 which comes with our ArcGIS site license. For the first time this year we recorded all of the DP Geography Sinharaja field surveys on Survey123. The class set up a common survey with questions about gender, housing, water access, land use and other variables. Before we went to the field we trialed a simpler version in Colombo. In the field, every student had a phone but we also backed it up with paper copies. At times, there was no cell phone access. We were able to upload the data later when we had cell phone connectivity (this worked quite well although photographs attached to the survey slowed down the uploads considerably). It was a much better way to tabulate the data (there were more than 70 individual respondents in total) and the class could map the data points since each had a spatial reference.

At the same time, I have been experimenting with using phone apps to track and record hikes and trails that we walk on CAS experiences. Strava, a fitness oriented app, offers an excellent way to record tracks. I am exporting GPX trails and then putting them onto Google my maps and sharing them with participants. I’ve taught students how to use them as a way to record key paths on their CAS blogs (see Maha’s Off the Grid post or my Mannar account for an example of this). We are currently using Google My Maps for this and layering the GPX trails onto a map that we make public. I would like to use an Openstreetmap for the base layer but this requires a WordPress plugin and $$$.

Hardware & Online Software

In terms of hardware we are operating a basic system with a server/desktop and then four lab desktops (each with decent specs-16 GB RAM, fast processors, graphics cards, large (2tb) drives and wide HD monitors. Geography students have access to ArcGIS Online on their laptops (both OSC and Windows platforms). When it comes to working with imagery I find it easier to use the desktops where I have spatial data stored for specific class assignments.

There are a variety of software options for using GIS as an educational tool. The most widely used open source GIS software package must surely be QGIS. It has an OSX version and the interface is quite similar to ArcGIS. At the school we continue to use the industry-standard, proprietary ArcGIS group of applications and have maintained an advanced license for over the last eight years through GIS Solutions here in Colombo. I am able to get technical advice from IWMI’s GIS lab when there are new operations or application that we want to put to test. I have also developed relationships with other major GIS users who are working on environmental issues in Sri Lanka.

Openstreet Map Contributions

In the last two years we have been using Openstreet Maps and have made minor contributions in our neighborhood and areas of interest. I value the idea of an open platform wiki space where users can contribute spatial knowledge. It is also an excellent source for downloading shapefiles of houses, building, roads, and other features in our Sri Lankan study areas. This data is often more update to shapefiles that are commercially available. We have had students download OSM data and then use the shape files to design studies of land use in the Colombo CBD (see attached image).

Recent OSC Student GIS work

Support from Local Contacts

OSC’s GIS initiatives continue to enjoy support for several key Colombo-based players. The International Water Management Institute’s (IWMI) GIS lab has been our main resource. They provide us with technical guidance and share public data that can be used for student learning. Their Water Data Portal is an important source of publically available spatial data.

Dr. Ajith Gunawadena at the Central Environment Authority’s Research and Development (GIS) unit  has become a good friend. He has helped me understand the ways in which the CEA and other government agencies are using GIS to tackle a range of national challenges. He helped guide the production of district level spatial databases (resource profiles).

I have developed good relations at the Sri Lankan Forest Department. Their GIS unit is working on updating the forestry map of Sri Lanka (last completed in 2010) and I have had a chance to see how they are using remoted sensed imagery to inventory different types of forest cover. The best way to access their basic forest data is on the FAO-sponsored REDD+ National Forest Monitory System portal. At the invitation of Anura Sathurasinghe, several of our DP2 students and I participated in the recently held 27th Asia Pacific Forestry Commission meetings here in Colombo.

Colombo is now growing rapidly and this has given students an opportunity to study process of urbanization and urban environments first hand. The port city project, still controversial but speeding ahead, is moving at a rapid pace. While the Urban Development Authority used to be the key agency for getting urban data, the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project  now seems to be the main agency with data and information about Colombo’s urban projects. Master plans are available on their website for download.

SL Survey Department Developments

The Sri Lankan Survey Department continues to be a remarkable government agency that supports geographic teaching and learning in the country. I have always appreciated their open view to public access to maps and spatial data. At the GIS Day 2017 event several of their team members spoke about developments at the SLSD. Sarath Jayatilaka and N. Wijeyanayake, traced the historical development of mapping at the department. Mr. Sivanantharajah bought the audience up to date with new developments in remote sensing including the use of lidar to generate highly accurate elevation models. The Survey Department is at work on a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) platform but this is expected to be another six months or a year before it is unveiled to the public. Meanwhile some of their maps and data can be viewed on an interactive portal and their land information system. What would be nice is if Sri Lanka’s larger neighbors would be willing to learn from the island nation’s open approach to making spatial data and maps available to the public to improve overall geographic knowledge and understanding!

Accessing Population, Development, Environmental, Energy & Poverty Data

When addressing core concepts of the Geography and ES&S syllabi there are now an amazing variety of map-based data portals to access up-to-date statistical data.

  • I have been using the Washington DC-based Population Reference Bureau data tables to study and analyze population patterns for nearly 20 years in my teaching and they now are accompanied by interactive map portal.
  • World Resources is sponsoring a useful Data portal on deforestation called the Global Forest Watch. Their data is built on a Google Earth Engine
  • World Bank data, a leading source of data on economic development and poverty, can be found on their data portal. DP1 students made an important discovery when they accessed the Interactive Bangladesh Map. We were able to download the GIS-ready data and then view and manipulate it in an ArcGIS environment. I understand that they will be doing similar sites for country and global data.
  • For data on the Himalayan region ICMOD maintains the Mountain Geoportal.
  • The Sri Lanka Census & Statistics department has always been a good source of data. They now have an interactive geoportal to access some of this data. It is layered on an Openstreet base map.

PAST GIS BLOG POSTS

REFERENCES FOR GIS TEACHING & LEARNING (2017 Update)

Bolstad, Paul. GIS Fundamentals: A First Text on Geographic Information Systems, Fifth Edition. Acton, MA,Xanedu, 2016. Print. Web Resource Link, (GIS lessons).

Brown, Clint and Christian Harder Eds. The ArcGIS Imagery Book: New View. New Vision. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press. 2016. Print (Web version).

ESRI. Advancing STEM Education with GIS. Redlands, CA. 2012.   Web.

ESRI. K-12 Education portal. Web.

Harder, Christian and Clint Brown, Eds. The ArcGIS Book, 2nd Edition. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press. 2017. WebPDF.

Jensen, John R. Introductory Digital Image Processing: A Remote Sensing Perspective, 4th Edition. Glenview, IL: Pearson GIS, 2016. Print.

Keranen, Kathyrn & Lyn Malone. Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press, 2016. Print (Web version).

Kimerling, A. Jon. et al. Map Use, Eighth Edition. Redlands, ESRI Press, 2016. Print. Web Link. Review by Daniel G. Cole.

O’ Connor, Peter. GIS for A-level geography. Geographical Association/ESRI, 2008. Print.

Written by ianlockwood

2017-12-01 at 11:39 pm

A Season of Birds in Sri Lanka- Mannar

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Flight of Greater flamingos (P roseus) at Vankalai Sanctuary near Mannar.

Flight of Greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) at Vankalai Sanctuary near Mannar.

Greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus rosesus) and visitors. The larger numbers- in the thousands-were behind me in the glare of sunlight.

Greater flamingos and visitors. The larger numbers- in the thousands-were behind me in the glare of sunlight.

For a relatively small island Sri Lanka has a number of different landscapes, each of them hosting diverse assemblages of life and rich cultural traditions. The island of Mannar on the north west coast is a place that is quite different from the wet forest of the Central Highlands and southern ranges that feature prominently in this blog. The land is low, barely a few meters above sea level, the climate is exceedingly dry and the area is sparsely populated (with humans). Other then the rich layers of Mannar’s history, now mostly lost in sand and surf, or the quirky feral donkeys that wander the streets, it is the non-human migrants that draw visitors up to this isolated corner of Sri Lanka.

I first heard stories of Mannar from my father who used to cross with his family to Rameshwaram from the pier at Talimannar. Prior to flight availability in the 1950s (initially in war-surplus DC-3s) and later the protracted conflict in Sri Lanka (1983-2009), the ferry service offered one of the easiest ways to get between Sri Lanka and India. It is a short journey across to Rameshwaram (there were unverified stories of people swimming over to watch a film and return the same day!). These were the sort of romantic stories, as well as those of shipwrecks, pirates and pearl divers that I grew up with. In 1984 my father Merrick, brother Brian, school friend Kevin and I had tried to explore the coral-fringed islands near Rameshwaram, but by then the political situation had deteriorated and we made little progress in exploring beyond the famous temple town.

Of course, the history goes far, far back to mythological times when Hanuman’s monkey army helped build a sea bridge (Ram Situ) from Rameshwaram across to Lanka to battle Ravana and rescue Sita. Those shoals in the Palk Straits, Adam’s Bridge, are still there as the maps below illustrate. There have occasionally been disputes about their origins and satellite imagery has been used to prove supporting and counter claims. At the moment the ferry is history and the sand banks and tiny islands of Adam’s Bridge are quiet. It is difficult to get out to Adam’s Bridge because of the international boundary and contemporary fishing controversies between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Mannar island, however, is a destination that has few restrictions. There is a crumbling Dutch-era fort, scattered Baobab trees, long quiet beaches and little else to see unless you are into birds…

Birds are what took my kids and me up to Mannar on our first visit in 2016. The shallow mud flats and saline lakes between the mainland and Mannar attract large numbers of wintering birds. In fact, Mannar and in particular Vankalai sanctuary, must be one of the best places in Sri Lanka to observe waders, water fowl and -if you are lucky- some of the thousands of flamingos that fly in to spend several months in the area. In 2016 the kids and I had a wonderful introductory trip along with the Duncan family. We got a sense of the area’s geography and enjoyed seeing many different birds. I’m still a bit of novice when it comes to identifying water birds and I was happy to have Will Duncan’s expert guidance identifying the myriad birds that we were seeing. In early 2016 there were no flamingos that made it south of the Jaffna lagoons. But by the end of year they had arrived in the thousands, prompting the necessity of a visit.

I returned with Lenny to photograph the flamingos that had returned en masse this year. I had been alerted by Sadeepa Gunawardana, a very talented Colombo-based wildlife photographer, of the opportunities to see the flamingos in Mannar. A poya three day weekend earlier this month provided the window that we needed to do the six hour drive up. In Vankalai we spent time with the Department of Wildlife Conservation guide Irfan to get a sense of the location and where best to go for early morning photography. Several other groups of Sri Lankan birders and photographers were also staying at Four Trees. The owner, Laurence is an outstanding and knowledgeable local resource who was clued into all the places to see birds. The food (Sri Lankan prawn curries etc.) was delicious and clearly this was the place to be to swap stories and share advice. Lenny and I had two days of good birding and photography. We started early (4:45 am), waded through lagoon sand and mud and waited in a hide for the light to illuminate the masses of pink and white. It was an amazing experience though I learned that it is quite tricky to get close to flamingos without them being disturbed. All in all it was a fulfilling trip and my next task is to plan a field study around some of the ecological and human interaction issues in Mannar.

 

GIS-generated map of the Mannar area.

GIS-generated map of the Mannar area. Double (or triple) click for larger A3 version.

Landa nd surface cover study of Mannar island based on a Landsat image from January 2016. Double click on image for larger A3 version.

Land and surface cover study of Mannar island based on a Landsat image from January 2016. Double click on image for larger A3 version.

Sunrise at Vankalai Bird Sanctuary (January 2016)

Crimson sun at Vankalai Bird Sanctuary (January 2016)

FURTHER READING & REFERENCES

Birdlife International Asia. Web.

Birds Guide for Vankalai. Vankalai Bird Society. ND. Pamphlet.

de Livera, Lankika. “Haven for birds in war-ravaged Mannar: Vankalai declared a sanctuary.” The Sunday Times. 24 January 2009. Web.

Hettiarachchi, Kumudini. “ A cry from the wilds of Mannar.” The Sunday Times. 26 June 2016. Web.

Kotagama , Sarath and Gamini Ratnavira. An Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. Colombo: FOGSL, 2010. Print.

Pethiyagoda, Rohan. “An Electric End to Vankalai Sanctuary?” Daily Mirror. 6 June 2016. Web.

Vankalai to be a Sanctuary. The Sunday Island. 21 January 2009. Web.

Warakagoda, Deepal et al. Birds of Sri Lanka. London: Christopher Helm, 2012. Print.

Written by ianlockwood

2017-02-28 at 9:55 pm

Panchromatic to Multispectral: Personal Explorations of the Western Ghats/Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot

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For the last three years Nature in Focus has been an important gathering for people interested in photography and conservation. While hosted in the south Indian metro of Bangalore it has a global outlook and many of the speakers and participants are experienced with photographic and conservation projects in the broader global context. The two day workshops held in early July are the brainchild of Kalyan Varma, one of India’s leading photographers/ cinematographers working in conservation. This year I have been privileged to be invited to share some of my experiences using photography as a tool for conservation. Accompanied by our daughter Amy I will be sharing images and insights from my experiences documenting landscapes and ecology in the Western Ghats/ Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. The talk will consider the black & white aesthetic in the South Asian context as well as the changes with process as the traditional darkroom has evolved with the advent of digital tools. I also wanted to share some of my personal personal experiments with using geospatial and multispectral opportunities to better understand changing landscapes in the hotspot. I’m looking forward to the  opportunity to meet old friends, make new acquaintances and participate in the exchange of ideas for the benefit of biodiversity conservation.

Portions of the southern Western Ghats emphasizing Landsat thermal bands above 380 meters.

New work with GIS: Map showing selected portions of the southern Western Ghats emphasizing Landsat thermal bands above 380 meters.

Anai_Mudi_Moonscape_(1993)(72)

Anai Mudi Moonscape, Eravikulam National Park (March 1993). Fujica 6×9 (80 mm) fixed lens. Konica Infrared 120 film.

Kukaal_Fires(2002)(72)

Farmer burning agricultural waste, Kukkal, Palani Hills (May 2002). Mamiya 6 with 80 mm lens, Kodak T-Max 100 120 film.

Leaves_in_Anaimalais(1998)(72)

New growth, Anamalais Tiger Reserve, (June 1998). Mamiya 6 with 80 mm lens,  Kodak T-Max 100 120 film.

Sabaraimalai_Pilgrim_Portrait(2002)(72)

Sabaraimalai Piligrims, Periyar Tiger Reserve (January 2002). Mamiya 6 with 80 mm lens, Kodak T-Max 100 120 film.

Seen_God_Portrai_(2011)(72)

Seen God Portrait, A( July 2012). Hasselblad with 80 mm lens. Kodak T-Max 100 120 film

First light on Twin Peaks, Palani Hills (June 2012). Digital composite image using a Nikon D-300 with 24-70mm lens.

First light on Twin Peaks with the South West Monsoon over Kerala, Palani Hills (June 2012). Digital composite image using a Nikon D-300 with 24-70mm lens.

Written by ianlockwood

2016-06-30 at 1:07 pm

GIS Developments at OSC in 2015

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Screen shots of a Storymap utilizing base layers from National Geographic with layers of spatial data from Sri Lankan sources. The bottom map utilizes the Stamen Water color tint and is also layered with a n urban areas layer sourced from IWMI.

Screen shots of a Storymap utilizing base layers from National Geographic, simple annotations and layers of vector data from Sri Lankan sources. The bottom map utilizes the Stamen Water color tint and is layered with an urban areas layer sourced from IWMI ( see the links to actual story in the text).

The GIS program at the Overseas School of Colombo continued to evolve and adapt to broader technological changes in the school and world in 2015. The most significant development has been the school’s move away from campus-based servers to cloud-based applications and online data.

For the past seven years we have been running a small, but robust, GIS introduction program for students using desktop applications on computers in common spaces such as the library. Instruction has been based on using ESRI’s ArcMap desktop applications that are bundled with extensions as part of an annually renewed license. This represents a significant investment of the school in the software, provided locally by GIS Solutions Pvt. Ltd. I have also explored using QGIS and regularly utilize Google Earth, MyMaps and other freely available software. At the moment I am the only teacher providing the skills so it has been difficult to get all classes on board but I have been evangelizing colleagues to get them to weave GIS into their science and humanities units. In the 2015-16 school year students had to have their own laptops as a part of a 1:1 tech program and most of the desktop computers were phased out. One clear benefit of this is that all students can access ArcGIS Online regardless of their platform (ArcMap desktop was never available for Macs). Loading the desktop software on multiple machines is cumbersome and so the online options save time and hassle. Necessity being the mother of invention, I have been adjusting many of the DP Geography exercises that I had developed on ArcMap desktop to ArcGIS Online. Bandwidth and Internet speed is still an issue and for my own mapping and remote sensing work I prefer to use ArcGIS desktop. In the last two years I have refined my cartography with maps on Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands, the southern Western Ghats and Landsat imagery over the Pune Sahyadris.

Screen shot of Maptia story on Kukkal (created in 2014).

Screen shot of Maptia story on Kukkal (created by the author in 2014). This is not a spatial platform but Maptia offers a dynamic way to share digital stories that emphasize fine photography.

New Opportunities in Digital Storytelling

One of the dynamic tools that has been introduced by ESRI alongside ArcGIS Online is StoryMaps. This online software allows users to create visual story lines that incorporate narratives, images, videos and maps. There are a variety of templates to set your Storymap up and you can utilize a treasure trove of online maps to illustrate your story. You can also load up your own spatial data and overlay this raster and vector data on the base maps to help tell a compelling story. Storymaps has excellent potential for teaching and learning and I have deployed it in the DP Geography classes to give students an alternative way to create case studies that are a key part of their course preparation ahead of the IB exams. To model this potential I have built a story around OSC’s Experiential Education program.

StoryMap table of contents showing layers and projects.

StoryMap table of contents showing layers and projects.

While story maps is ideal for sharing narratives that have spatial aspects there are other options for sharing visual narratives. Maptia is one free service that I have experimented with to tell a visual story. It offers impressive visual opportunities to share high quality images and a meaningful story. The numerous examples emphasize epic adventures and fine photography but could also serve as a vehicle for students to share learning from school trips and learning experiences. I used a story that I had written up about hiking in the Palanis for my first project entitled “Kukkal: Beyond the Last Ridge.” Maptia would be an ideal platform for students to share learning from experiential education – something I am trying to promote with colleagues at OSC.

ASB Unplugged Workshop

In February 2016 I will be giving a workshop at ASB Unplugged in Mumbai entitled “Geospatial Teaching & Learning: Opportunities, Applications, and Ideas.” The aim of this workshop is to help educators understand some of the developments and opportunities for geospatial learning in middle and high school programs. There will be some direct sharing of my experiences but will have hands-on opportunities to try out some of the free web-based applications. Here’s what I have written up in the workshop description:

In the last decade huge advances have been made with making remotely sensed (RS) images of the earth available to the public. Google Earth helped popularize and introduce Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to the wider public as a free web-based application. While GIS software once had a reputation for being both expensive and cumbersome to use, developments in commercial software (ESRI’s ArcGIS platform) and freeware such as Q-GIS now make it accessible to anyone interested. The cost of remotely sense imagery is now within reach of organizations and much of this is in the public realm. At the same time growing concerns about changes on the planet associated with rapid economic development have provided a real need for better analytical tools. GIS and remote sensing helps us to better understand and address these changes.

 International Schools are beginning to use GIS in their secondary school curricula following on the heels of North American schools that have geography standards that incorporate GIS (see AAG links below). Given the rapid change in software and hardware options it can be a daunting program to add on to a school’s already packed curriculum. GIS and RS offer ideal opportunities for inquiry-based, interdisciplinary learning in international schools settings.

 The workshop will highlight examples from the IB Middle Years and Diploma Programs. A unique part of the presentation will share details on developments in South Asia and ways that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is sharing data through its Bhuvan platform.

 

PAST GIS AT OSC Posts

 

REFERENCES FOR GIS TEACHING & LEARNING (2015 Update)

Clarke, Keith. Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems, 5th Edition. Upper Saddle River, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. Print. Companion website (password required)

Fox, Lawrence. Essential Earth Imaging for GIS. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press: 2015. Print.

Heywood, Ian, Sarah Cornelius and Steve Carver. An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, 4th Edition. Essex,Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. Print. Companion website. Instructor’s Resources.

Harder, Christian. The ArcGIS Book: 10 Big Ideas About Applying Geography to Your World. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press: 2015. Print & Web.

Horning, Ned et al. Remote Sensing for Ecology & Conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

GIS Geography. Web.

Jensen, John R. Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective. Upper Saddle River, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

Kimerling, A. Jon. et al. Map Use, Seventh Edition. Redlands, ESRI Press, 2011. Print. Review of book.

Keranen, Kathryn and Robert Kolvoord. Using GIS and Remote Sensing: A Workbook. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press Academic, 2014. Print. Web link.

O’Connor, Peter. GIS for A-Level Geography. United Kingdom: ESRI UK & Geographical Association, 2008. Print.

Palmer, Anita et al. Mapping Our World Using GIS: Our World GIS Education. Redlands, ESRI Press, 2009. Print & Online Resources.

Written by ianlockwood

2016-01-12 at 10:54 pm

Southern Western Ghats Elevation With 30 meter SRTM

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Draft#1 SRTM derived elevation of India's southern Western Ghats.

Draft#1 SRTM derived elevation of India’s southern Western Ghats. The red lines highlight the 1,500 meter contour- roughly where shola/grasslands mosaic ecosystems start. This is a map in progress and it de-emphasizes political boundaries and settlements. Click on image for a larger 150 dpi A3 version.

Since my first geography lessons I have been interested in cartography and the art & science of depicting the earth’s surface. It was my Grade 4 teacher Kris Riber –also a KIS graduate- who got me interested in maps. We each had to do a study of an Indian state (mine was Meghalaya) and part of the task was to make a large, gridded map of our state. Since then I have enjoyed making sketch maps and have searched for the best printed maps of my areas of interest. In India is not easy and it continues to be a great challenge to acquire maps of some places, given restrictions and general bureaucratic barriers that make getting maps challenging. I persevered and now have most of the 1:50,000 and some 1:25,000 scale Survey of India topo sheets for the significant ranges of the Western Ghats. Some of these came from my grandfather Edson Lockwood and are early 20th Century editions where the cartography is at a highly refined level. In the 1990s I was exposed to Tactical Pilotage Charts of the Western Ghats and North East India (see the University of Texas Library site for free downloads). These are at a scale of 1:500,000 but depict the relief and elevation very accurately (see sample below). The advent of modern Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and web-based tools have allowed me to dabble in mapping the areas that are the subject of my photo-documentation and writing.

Last year USGS released a new 30-meter SRTM dataset for the world that allows mapmakers using GIS to more accurately depict relief and elevation. I was very interested in depicting the relief of the Palanis and other ranges more accurately. Over the last few months I have downloaded the tiles for Sri Lanka and southern India and am starting to use them to more accurately depict elevation in my areas of interest. I used a mosaic of about nine SRTM 30-meter tiles to create this year’s WWW Sri Lanka map. The map above was made to help my friends working on shola/grasslands landscapes in the southern Western Ghats (see post on “Forest Plantations”).  The goal was to depict the spatial relationship of the “sky islands” (above 1,500 meters) of the Western Ghats where this vegetation type was once dominant.

There are several places to download SRTM tiles. I used Earthexplorer to download the Sri Lanka and southern India tiles. ESRI’s ArcGIS online will shortly have 30-meter DEM tiles available to use as background imagery. Because we have dedicated licensed software I tend not to use the online versions. At the moment ESRI offers this data for all the continues except Australia and Asia.

Tactical Pilotage Chart (TPC) of southern India featuring sheets TPC- K8C and TPC-K8d.

Tactical Pilotage Chart (TPC) of southern India featuring sheets TPC- K8C and TPC-K8d. Published by the US National Mapping & Imagery Agency with revisions in June 2000. Sourced from the Univeristy of Texas Library.

SELECTED REFERENCES & PAST BLOG POSTS WITH MAPS

Lockwood, Ian. “Hypsometric tinting of the Southern Western Ghats Landscapes.” Ian Lockwood blog. August 2013. Web.

Written by ianlockwood

2015-04-30 at 11:54 pm

GIS Developments at OSC in 2014

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Colombo Area Landsat map.

Colombo Area Landsat map.

The teaching of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills is in the midst of completing its 5th year as a part of the secondary school curriculum at the Overseas School of Colombo (OSC). The program was launched in 2009 when the school (then under the leadership of OSC Head Laurie McClellan and Secondary Principal Oli Tooher Hancock) made an investment in licensed software from ESRI. Since then DP and MYP Geography classes have been exposed to basic skills and used GIS to support field work and studies at a variety of scales. Today students are exposed to GIS skills at an early stage through their Individuals and Societies (formerly Humanities) classes. We start in MYP 1 (Grade 6), have a unit in MYP 5 (Grade 10) and then use the skills in the DP Geography. Eventually I would like to see a full vertical scope and sequence of GIS skills throughout the whole MYP. The goal of these efforts is to support the MYP and DP curriculums and give the students additional skills that are transferable in a wide variety of disciplines and university study programs. GIS is a great tool for conceptual learning in the humanities and sciences – something that several examples in OSC’s MYP and DP programs highlight.

Using Google Earth Pro in the IB Diploma

Area and perimeter exercise using Google Earth Pro.

Area and perimeter exercise using Google Earth Pro.

For the past three years OSC has applied for and received the Google Education grant that has enabled us to access several licenses of Google Earth Pro. This has allowed us to perform several more advanced spatial processing jobs and to download higher resolution imagery of some of our study areas. A short exercise that we recently used Google Earth Pro for was to make an accurate calculation of the OSC campus perimeter and area on behalf of the MYP1 (Grade 6) Math and I&S classes. You can draw polygons in Google Earth but you need the ‘Pro” version to get an accurate measurement of the area and perimeter.

To make a comparison of the Google Earth Imagery and ArcMap’s free online “World Imagery” base layer I ran a comparison of the two methods. I imported the Google Earth polygon as a KMZ file into ArcGIS and overlaid it on the Global Imagery layer. This free web-based imagery is not nearly as detailed or up-to-date as the Google Earth imagery as the two contrasting maps show here (2nd image coming soon). There are slight differences in the estimated area and perimeter, presumably a result of differences in the Datum used in each of the maps.

ArcMap view of OSC

ArcMap view of OSC

MYP 1 and DP1 Collaborative Work

Creating a basic Sri Lanka map with GIS. Screen shots from a tutorial made in house for the MYP 1 class.

Creating a basic Sri Lanka map with GIS. Screen shots from a tutorial made in house for the MYP 1 class.

The MYP1 class is working on an introductory mapping Sri Lanka tutorial that I created with my wife Raina two years ago. The map that they create is built on SL Survey Department data and highlights a chosen Sri Lankan spatial theme (tourism, tea & spices, wildlife, heritage, beach locations etc.). This year it is a truly interdisciplinary project with a strong research component worked in and inputs from the IT department. Raina who teaches both of OSC’s Grade 6 Humanities (I&S) batches, has led the class though a research project cycle that has them investigating spatial themes in Sri Lanka. Initially they worked with the math department to better understand concepts of scale and area in maps (see above). Maria Jose, OSC’s tech integrator, is helping with guiding the students on how to use Adobe InDesign to create an illustrated booklet. I normally spend a block or two with each of the classes to help them learn the basic GIS skills that they will need to create a map focusing on the theme of their project.  This year my DP1 Geography students, fresh from their own GIS work on demographic patterns, helped to teach these classes. They used a short in-house booklet that takes them step-by-step through the project. We had the first collaborative sessions today and the results have been positive and gratifying. The older students demonstrated that they are caring and knowledgeable GIS instructors.

OSC's DP1 Geography students assisting and guiding MYP1 students with their first GIS assignment.

OSC’s DP1 Geography students Kai, Charlie and Arnold assisting and guiding MYP1 students with their first GIS assignment. Photo courtesy Raina Lockwood

 

DP Environmental Systems (ES&S) & GIS

Screen shots of reflectance booklet for OSC ES&S students.

Screen shots of reflectance booklet for OSC ES&S students.

The DP Environmental Systems students are using the ALTA II Spectrometer to look at the spectral signatures of a variety of surfaces. Spectrometry is a topic that has fascinated me since my father Merrick helped me build a spectroscope for a project in Hal Strom’s Grade 9 science class at AIS/D. At OSC students first used the ALTA II in a Group IV project in 2013. I have updated this as a full internal assessment practical related to ES&S 2.2 (investigating abiotic factors of an ecosystems). Part of the fun of this exercise has been creating a small tutorial/booklet on reflectance and how we can use remotely sensed data to study and analyze land cover patterns in space and time. The student work coincides my own investigations of spectral signatures and land cover data that can be derived from Landsat imagery. The opening image in this post is now in the midst of being taken apart and analyzed to detect patterns of reflectance that will help me understand, quantify and delineate land cover. I hope to transfer learning from the Colombo exercises to conservation sites such as Peak Wilderness, Sinharaja and locations in the Western Ghats. I am using Kathryn Keranen and Robert Kolvoord’s Using GIS and Remote Sensing workbook to guide me through the process.

OSC’s DP students choosing to do a Geography (or subject area) extended essay (EE) continue to use ArcGIS to create original maps to support their studies. Some of these are straightforward locational maps while others map health and demographic variables at a district levels (we can do it a district, or GN level if needed). There is untapped potential for OSC students to investigate GIS/RS options for future EEs and MYP Personal Projects.

Increasingly GIS is moving into cloud-based solutions. At the moment we don’t seem to have the bandwidth to use these options reliably. Instead OSC continues to rely on a server we have built up using data from a wide variety of sources. OSC enjoys a unique advantage in that several Colombo-based organizations where OSC parents work have dynamic GIS programs. Our school program has been able to benefit from professional guidance from these organizations and they have shared public spatial data for our students to use. At OSC we look forward to studying and helping students to address a variety of local and global issues using sate-of-the art geo-spatial tools. The software and data hat we are privileged to have access to has widespread application in a number of diverse fields. GIS and RS skills can be technically challenging to learn at first but OSC’s students have shown the ability to learn and apply the skills to analyze and address an array of global issues.

PAST GIS AT OSC Posts

REFERENCES FOR GIS TEACHING & LEARNING

Clarke, Keith. Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems, 5th Edition. Upper Saddle River, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.Companion website (password required)

Heywood, Ian, Sarah Cornelius and Steve Carver. An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, 4th Edition. Essex,Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. Print. Companion website. Instructor’s Resources.

Horning, Ned et al. Remote Sensing for Ecology & Conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Jensen, John R. Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective. Upper Saddle River, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

Kimerling, A. Jon. et al. Map Use, Sixth Edition. Redlands, ESRI Press, 2009. Print. Review of book.

Keranen, Kathryn and Robert Kolvoord. Using GIS and Remote Sensing: A Workbook. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press Academic, 2014. Print. Web link.

O’Connor, Peter. GIS for A-Level Geography. United Kingdom: ESRI UK & Geographical Association, 2008. Print.

Palmer, Anita et al. Mapping Our World Using GIS: Our World GIS Education. Redlands, ESRI Press, 2009. Print.

Written by ianlockwood

2014-11-26 at 5:04 pm

Landforms of India

with 2 comments

Cover from Landforms of India book (published in July 2014). The image on the left is the view of the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills.

Cover from Landforms of India book (published in July 2014). The image on the left is the view of the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills.

Over the last few months I have been collaborating and contributing to several book projects that have given me a sense for the complexities of the design, layout, editing and printing of large coffee table books. It has been a healthy experience and moved me a few steps closer to getting my own projects on the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka off the ground. A handsome atlas that is hot off the press from Pragati Offset printers in Hyderabad is Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images. I was privileged to be able to contribute photographs as well as the text used in the introductory jacket flap of the book.

Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images is authored by Dr. R. Vaidyanadhan and Dr. K.V. Subbarao and is published by the Geological Society of India. It was supported by several key Indian agencies including the National Remote Sensing Centre, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Geological Survey of India. It was by happy coincidence that the authors, both of who are eminent personalities in the world of geology and remote sensing, approached me to use some of my Western Ghats and NE India landscape work in their book. With the focus on education and helping students in schools and universities to better understand their country’s diverse physical geography, I was happy to get involved.

The Atlas is structured around 60 different sets of topographical maps (sourced from the Survey of India) that are aligned with remotely sensed images of the area and often include terrestrial photos of the same scene/or of similar features. They include a broad selection of examples of different features from all over the country (Jog falls in the Western Ghats, the Satpura Range, Himalaya, Khashi Hills, Brahmaputra etc.). There is a clear introduction to broad themes (remote sensing, topographical maps, terrestrial photographs etc.) and nomenclature. At the end of the book a helpful glossary highlights key terms. Several large, two-page spreads highlight some of the key physical features of Indian’s diverse landscape.

Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images was officially launched by the Geological Society of India on 25th July 2014 at the Sate Gallery of Fine Arts Hyderabad (I was unfortunately in transit back to Colombo from Madurai at the time). The atlas was released by Dr. Swarna Subba Rao, Surveyor General, SOI while the chief guest was Dr. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary to the Ministry of Earth Science.

Over the last years my interest in India’s landscapes, and specifically those of the Western Ghats, has used remotely-sensed images (especially NASA/USGS Landsat) to better understand features (including land cover) as well as change. Combining these satellite images with detailed ground truthing and analysis has now become a key aspect of my interest in the Western Ghats (and Sri Lankan) landscapes. Though the Landforms Atlas doesn’t use the Landsat images or my studies it has a wealth of ISRO-collected imagery (usually stressing the thermal or infrared bands) combined with difficult-to-access SOI maps. Much of this remotely sense imagery of India is now freely available through the Bhuvan web portal.

Introductory pages from Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Introductory pages from Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Screen shot of pages and examples of Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Screen shot of pages and examples of Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

This is not a small book and Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images is printed on a large (27 mm x 40 mm) scale, high quality paper. It is not priced cheaply but ,given what you get, the atlas is a worthy investment for individuals, institutions and libraries. If you have the remotest interest in India’s diverse physical Geography it is a must have resource. In sum “the union of different ways of viewing the earth’s features presented in this volume create a more holistic view of India’s geological and human landscape.”

At the moment the best way to get a copy of the book is to order it using the following form. It should be available in major bookstores in India in the coming months.

Landforms_of_India_from_Topomaps_&_Images (Order Form)

 

Written by ianlockwood

2014-08-04 at 4:38 pm