Darrel Hess Community College Geography Scholarship (Due Dec 31, 2014)

from www.aag.com

The AAG is pleased to announce a national scholarship program for community college students. Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to students from community colleges, junior colleges, city colleges, or similar two-year educational institutions who will be transferring as geography majors to four year colleges and universities. These scholarships are funded by Darrel Hess, coauthor of the textbook Physical Geography: A Landscape Appreciation by McKnight and Hess, published by Prentice Hall

The award consists of a scholarship to be used for any educational expenses in the amount of $1,000 and a formal certificate of merit. The formal announcement of the award will take place at the annual meeting of the AAG.

Eligibility: You are eligible to apply if you are a student currently enrolled at a US community college, junior college, city college, or similar two-year educational institution at the time you submit your application. You must also have completed at least two transfer courses in geography and plan to transfer to a four-year institution as a geography major during the coming academic year.

Criteria: Selection will be based on the overall quality of the application, scholastic excellence and academic promise. Financial need will also be considered. The selection committee will observe the purposes and preferences noted above when evaluating proposals. Two to four awards of $1,000 each will be made annually. Awards may not be made in years when funds are insufficient or proposals are not suitable.


Applications consist of a an online application form, unofficial transcripts and two letters of reference.
Unofficial transcripts will be uploaded to the online application form.

Applicants should arrange for the submission of two Letters of Recommendation from college instructors sent as an email attachment from the instructor’s own email address to grantsawards [at] aag [dot] org . If sent as a hard copy, they must be submitted in sealed envelopes with the instructor’s signature across the flap, and mailed to AAG Hess Scholarship, Association of American Geographers, 1710 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20009.

Notification: Acknowledgement of receipt of application materials will be returned within a maximum of 2-3 business days. All applicants will be notified of the status of their submission within 6 months after the deadline. To receive their scholarships, awardees will be asked to submit official documentation of their admission to a 4-year institution along with verification of majoring in geography, such as an official transcript that lists major, or as a letter from the department chair.

Awardees are encouraged, but not required to attend the AAG Annual Meeting following their award to receive a certificate of recognition at the AAG Awards Luncheon.  Click for the entire article.

The Future of HealthTech – Ambulance Drones

Robert J. Szczerba in www.forbes.com  14 Dec 2014

In December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos caused quite a stir with the announcement of his company’s plans to offer 30-minute product deliveries via unmanned aerial vehicles (more commonly referred to as “drones”).  Drones have been deployed by the U.S. military since the 1970s, for purposes ranging from providing bird’s eye surveillance of troop movements and weapons facilities to launching attacks on terrorist organizations.

However, the same technology can also be used to help save lives.   Thankfully, a growing number of commercial, non-profit, and government scientists and laboratories are working towards that goal.

This past October the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology announced that graduate student Alec Momont had developed a prototype drone that delivers a defibrillator to a heart attack victim.  To address the reality that the victim’s chance of survival decreases dramatically with each passing minute, this “ambulance drone” is guided by GPS to a mobile phone location within 4.6 square miles in under a minute.  Once there, the drone uses live streaming audio and video to allow emergency personnel to provide instructions on how to use the defibrillator correctly, and transmit the patient’s vital signs.  Widespread adoption of this kind of technology would be welcome news here in the U.S., where heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women (about 1 in 4), claiming an estimated 600,000 lives each year.  Click here to read more.

Landsat-8 imagery tools (FREE!)


News Release:
Rapidly Making Colorful Landsat-8 Imagery Composite with Free Advanced Image Stretching
and Pan-sharpening Software from GeoSage
Sydney, Australia – 17 June 2013:
Latest high-quality Landsat-8 satellite imagery freely available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
provides enormous potential for innovation and applications. There is a great demand for new software
tools that can analyze the imagery in a straightforward way.
Currently, while there are many image processing software tools on the market, very few can quickly
make beautiful, detail-rich imagery composites with adaptive image stretching and advanced image pansharpening.
One may spend hours to produce something that ought to be handy in the first place. For
many GIS users, it is often hard to find right capable tools (i.e. band combination, image stretching and
pan-sharpening) in GIS packages. And for casual users and the general public, dedicated tools to process
the vast Landsat imagery archive are lacking.
GeoSage is pleased to release Spectral Transformer tool sets for Landsat-8 imagery to fill in this gap.
The standalone tools are powerful and easy to use, and perform three steps of analyses:
 Step 1: Simple band combination to make three-band imagery composite
 Step 2: Adaptive linear and non-linear image stretching to make colorful imagery composite
 Step 3: Advanced and fast image pan-sharpening to make spatially sharper and colorful
The tools specifically target Landsat-8 imagery in GeoTIFF format directly downloaded from the USGS
Landsat-8 distribution portals, e.g. GloVis. The processed (stretched and pan-sharpened) imagery at
30m- and 15-mresolution in GeoTIFF format can be readily used in all GIS and mapping platforms (e.g.
ArcGIS, MapInfo and Google Earth)

Landsat-8 captures about 400 scenes per day. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)  distributes Landsat-8 data in three very accessible ways:

The USGS Landsat portal also provides comprehensive FAQs in relation to the new Landsat-8 imagery and its comparison with the previous Landsat series. It is important to read these before conducting proper image processing. Landsat-8 products are delivered as 16-bit images with the panchromatic band at 15m resolution and multispectral bands at 30m resolution, and band combinations are unique (e.g. bands 4/3/2 refer to red/green/blue, respectively).

An overview of some common band combinations for better discriminating various ground features is provided here, there.

New analysis tools

While the imagery source is magnificent, more work needs to be progressed on how to use the imagery in a straightforward way.

  • There are many remote sensing and image processing software tools on the market, but it is fair to say that very few can efficiently make beautiful, detail-rich imagery composites with adaptive image histogram stretching and advanced image pan-sharpening. One may spend hours to produce something that is of high quality.
  • For many GIS users, it is often hard to find right capable tools (i.e. band combination, image stretching and image pan-sharpening) in GIS software packages.
  • And for casual users and the general public, dedicated tools to process the vast Landsat imagery archive are lacking.

Spectral Transformer tools for Landsat-8 imagery fill in this gap.

Standalone tool set performs three steps of analyses:

    • Step 1 – Band combination (to make three-band imagery composite)
    • Step 2 – Image histogram stretching (to make colourful composite)
    • Step 3 – Image pan-sharpening (to make spatially sharper and colourful composite)

We believe these tools are very useful for a wide range of users who are interested in analysing the Landsat-8 imagery.

– See more at: http://www.geosage.com/highview/features_landsat8.html#sthash.kdWHEbQs.dpuf

MapQuest Professors Host “Hour of Code” Academy

www10.giscafe.com  DENVER — (BUSINESS WIRE) — December 8, 2014

MapQuest, Inc., today launched a weeklong program dedicated to providing Denver Public School students with an “Hour of Code” instruction. Over the course of Computer Science Week (Dec. 8-14), each MapQuest employee in its headquarter office will lead an “Hour of Code” session providing code curriculum, an introduction to real careers that STEM education can lead to, mentoring, a completion certificate and homework to continue the learning. The experience is meant to provide actual tactical knowledge, as well as reduce the barriers to STEM higher education and careers for students everywhere of every age.

MapQuest’s participation in the global “Hour of Code” underscores its belief in investing in STEM education for all and creating more opportunities for girls to choose a STEM field. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies are essential to day operations at MapQuest affecting every department, every project, and every product and service offered to consumers.

“Hour of Code” is an initiative by CSEdWeek and code.org to introduce computer programming to 10 million students and encourage them to learn programming. Curriculum and instruction tips were provided by code.org and several other accredited organizations, and technologists across the country were encouraged to offer time, instruction and mentoring to students in their communities.

MapQuest and AOL volunteers in Denver, Dulles, San Francisco and New York will be instructing one-hour classes around code that is pre-accredited, engaging and a baseline for future computer science study and development.

“While I’m happy these students will walk away with a general understanding of how code works, I’m happier the kids have a mentor and a friend to help them understand how and why code is cool,” said Brian McMahon, general manager, MapQuest. “Obstacles and intimidation prevent so many from learning the basics of code, and this immersion will help lay the foundation that computer science is fun, interesting and the future of nearly every industry.”

Representatives from the Department of Children’s Affairs, City of Denver; Colorado Technology Association; Denver Public Schools, and University Preparatory charter school students attended a pep rally at MapQuest before kicking off the inaugural hour of code in Denver.

Learning sessions will continue throughout the week with on- and offline lessons taught by the MapQuest Professor teams. Host to numerous student groups throughout the year, MapQuest hopes to create an easy architecture and network of Colorado technology businesses that can support STEM activities within the community going forward.  Full link here.

Watch highlight footage here: https://vimeo.com/113956485

The secret of Google Maps’ accuracy revealed

Greg Miller in www.wired.co.uk  9 Dec 2014 (TOH GISCafe)

The maps we use to navigate have come a long way in a short time. Since the ’90s we’ve gone from glove boxes stuffed with paper maps to floorboards littered with Mapquest printouts to mindlessly obeying Siri or her nameless Google counterpart.

The maps behind those voices are packed with far more data than most people realize. On a recent visit to Mountain View, I got a peek at how the Google Maps team assembles their maps and refines them with a combination of algorithms and meticulous manual labor — an effort they call Ground Truth. The project launched in 2008, but it was mostly kept under wraps until just a couple years ago. It continues to grow, now covering 51 countries, and algorithms are playing a bigger role in extracting information from satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery.
A few of the features that can be extracted algorithmically from Google Street View dataGoogle Maps
Street View, which launched in 2007, was conceived as a way to improve the user experience by letting people see what the area around their destination looked like, says Brian McClendon, Google Maps VP. “But we soon realized that one of the best ways to make maps is to have a photographic record of the streets of the world and refer back to those whenever there’s a correction,” McClendon said.

And as the data collected by Street View grew, the team saw that it was good for more than just spot-checking their data, says Manik Gupta, group product manager for Google Maps. Street View cars have now driven more than 7 million miles, including 99 percent of the public roads in the U.S. “It’s actually allowing us to algorithmically build up new data layers from information we’ve extracted,” Gupta said.
Invisible to ordinary users, information about turn restrictions are built into Google mapsGoogle Maps
Those algorithms borrow methods from computer vision and machine learning to extract features like street numbers painted on curbs, the names of businesses and other points of interest, speed limits and other traffic signs. “Stop signs are trivial, they’re made to stick out,” McClendon said. Turn restrictions — which directions you can turn at a given intersection — are a big deal for navigation, but they’re trickier to capture with algorithms. Sometimes the arrows that tell you which turns are legal are painted on the road, sometimes they’re overhead. They can be different colours and sizes. “Lane markers are harder because they’re not consistent, but we’re getting much smarter about that,” McClendon said.

Street signs are a big deal too. Drivers can follow the app’s verbal directions more easily if what they hear matches what they see. but sometimes the spelling or abbreviation used on street signs varies. “Matching what’s written on the signs is actually a hard and important problem,” McClendon said.

Other algorithms extract building footprints and heights from satellite and aerial imagery. The majority of buildings in the U.S. are now on Google Maps. For landmarks like Seattle’s Space Needle, computer vision techniques extract detailed 3D models (see below). Google has said that its recent acquisition of Skybox, the high-resolution satellite imagery company, at least initially, is to improve the accuracy of its maps.
Google uses computer vision techniques to extract 3D models of landmark buildings from satellite and aerial imageryGoogle Maps
Yet satellites and algorithms only get you so far. Google employs a small army of human operators (they won’t say exactly how many) to manually check and correct the maps using an in-house program called Atlas. Few people outside the company have seen it in use, but one of the most prolific operators on the map team, Nick Volmar, demonstrated the program during my visit. (There’s also a fascinating demo in this video from Google’s 2013 developers conference).  Click here to continue reading.

FAA’s Treatment Of Amazon Proves Congress Must Act Or Companies Will Take Drone Research Abroad

Gregory S. Neal 12/10/2014 @654PM in www.forbes.com

Amazon wants the FAA to allow them to fly their drones. The company believes that by 2015, their PrimeAir drones will be ready to deliver products to customers within 30 minutes.
Amazon wants the FAA to allow them to fly their drones. The company believes that by 2015, their PrimeAir drones will be ready to deliver products to customers within 30 minutes.

Amazon.com Inc, has begun utilizing outdoor testing facilities outside the United States and has told the FAA that America’s current regulatory environment will force the company to move more research and development abroad unless substantial progress is quickly made on efforts to integrate drones into the national airspace.

Amazon’s statement came in a letter from Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President for Global Public Policy.  The letter, which Forbes obtained a copy of, is a stunning example of a company begging for a way to keep jobs in the United States, pitted in a fight with a federal agency that has opposed them at every turn.  Sadly, the lesson one learns from reading the letter is that taking drone research abroad is a smarter business move than fighting with an agency that does not want to accommodate innovation.  Unfortunately, not every company can afford to fight the FAA or take their jobs abroad — that’s why the only way to fix the problems at the FAA is for Congress to act.  Click here to continue reading.

Google throws its weight behind cheap Cardboard virtual reality

How long until we take virtual reality + geospatial beyond Yelp?  – MK


Stacked up against high-cost and high-tech virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus, Google Cardboard — the company’s low-cost VR viewer, made out of actual cardboard — sounds a bit like a joke. But today Google has shownthat it’s serious about Cardboard, launching a new page that collects some of the best apps for download, and releasing new SDKs for Android and Unity so developers can more easily make apps for Android smartphones that work with the DIY headset.

Google’s Cardboard app, also updated today, now highlights Google’s favorite Cardboard-compatible Android apps. These selections include “Volvo Reality,” the Swedish car manufacturer’s attempt to show people the inside of its latest SUVs by strapping a smartphone to their face, and a Paul McCartney concert as seen from the stage. Google hopes to make the creation of these apps easier in the future by releasing new SDKs for developers that the company says simplifies VR-specific issues like lens distortion correction, head tracking, and side-by-side rendering. Cardboard already had a limited Android SDK — the updated version offers more tools — but the Unity SDK is brand new, and could allow developers to create good-looking 3D worlds with relative ease.


The headset, originally developed in the weeks leading up to Google’s I/O conference, is available to buy for around $20, but Google also allows people to build their own versions. The company today published new building specifications for those who want to make their own Cardboard viewers, with guidelines for those cutting shapes with lasers, machines, or blades.

All Cardboards, bought or home-built, still require a compatible Android smartphone to function, and the headset might never allow experiences as impressive as the Oculus Rift — but with Google’s renewed support, and a price of entry that borders on free, it’s a cheap window into interesting new virtual worlds.

Can America’s Desert Cities Adapt Before They Dry Out And Die?

from:  www.factcoexist.com

Los Angeles traffic is worse than usual as hordes of parched citizens evacuate a concrete tomb that once supported millions of lives. Savvy entrepreneurs are selling bottled water from wheeled coolers for $40 a piece. Windshields are caked with desert dust and cars are overheating. The city is nearly engulfed by wildfires. People swarm slowly moving cars after they abandon their own on the road, because the gas stations have gone dry from overuse. Children eat canned food; it’s all they have left.

America is unlikely to let a city slip into that sort of dystopic future. But some of our Western cities are on a dangerous path to losing access to water. And the results could be devastating to the future of those communities if they don’t fundamentally alter how they manage their resources.  Click to continue reading.

Warming Seas Drive Rapid Acceleration of Melting Antarctic Ice

www.news.nationalgeographic.com  By Warren Cornwall  4 Dec 2014

A satellite image from November 2013 shows an iceberg called B3, about 21 miles (34 kilometers) across, breaking off Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier and drifting into the Amundsen Sea.
A satellite image from November 2013 shows an iceberg called B3, about 21 miles (34 kilometers) across, breaking off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier and drifting into the Amundsen Sea.

Melting Antarctic glaciers that are large enough to raise worldwide sea level by more than a meter are dropping a Mount Everest’s worth of ice into the sea every two years, according to a study released this week.

A second study, published Thursday in the journalScience, helps explain the accelerating ice melt: Warm ocean water is melting the floating ice shelves that hold back the glaciers.

The two new pieces of research come as officials of the World Meteorological Organization announcedWednesday that 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

Scientists have long worried that the West Antarctic ice sheet is a place where climate change might tip toward catastrophe. The ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea level by 16 feet (5 meters). The region along the Amundsen Sea is the sheet’s soft underbelly, where the ice is most vulnerable. (See “Rising Seas” in National Geographic magazine.)

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported that the glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea—notably the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers—were already doomed to collapse, and at the current rate of melting would be gone in 200 years. A study released Tuesday by members of the same team, published in Geophysical Research Letters, confirms those troubling measurements with ones made by other researchers using a total of four different techniques.

The study shows that ice loss from the Amundsen Sea glaciers has accelerated sharply over the past two decades. Between 2003 and 2011 it averaged an eye-popping 102 billion metric tons every year. Mount Everest—rocks, ice, and all—weighs approximately 161 billion metric tons. (See also West Antarctica Glaciers Collapsing, Adding to Sea-Level Rise.)

The decline is driven less by melting on the surface or changes in snowfall, and more by a speeding up of the glaciers’ journey to the ocean, the scientists concluded. In some cases, glaciers reached speeds of more than a third of a mile in a year as they approached the Amundsen Sea, where they either merge into a floating ice shelf, or fall into the water and become icebergs.

The momentum behind this moving ice means the glacier loss is unlikely to stop any time soon, said University of California, Irvine geophysicist Isabella Velicogna, one of the authors of the new study. Velicogna likened the process to a ball at the top of a hill. “Once you give the first push, the ball just keeps rolling,” she said.  Click here to read more.