Mapping Alaska, Mapping Change – Transcription

We’re going get started in here. So if everyone wants to take a seat. Or back off into the exhibit hall. I’m talking to you in the back. Okay? Thank you very much. First up we have Vanessa Raymond who is going to be talking about mapping Alaska, mapping change. Welcome, Vanessa. Hi, everybody. It’s a tough act to follow there, #astronaut. I’m Vanessa Raymond I work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. We call it GINA. We didn’t want to talk about the mapathons we are doing, because they look like mapathons you have run and attended. I will talk about why we need to do mapathons in Alaska and how we’re incubating a mapping community there because of a variety of needs. Let’s see. Okay. So first off, a little bit about my organization. We process and distribute satellite imagery. So basically a satellite flies over, we grab it through direct readout and then distribute it to our partners at NOAA and the weather service, fire service, a lot of operational users. But also, we serve it to our university and researchers there do a myriad different things with it. There’s our dish. That mask is our station mask. We get everything in that area. We get a lot of the polls. And we do a lot of business. We deliver I think over 1200 products a day to our operational users. And doesn’t include other maps and images we distribute. So we’re doing a lot of work. Well, our technologies and our softwares are doing a lot of work. And besides that, we get to capture some really pretty pictures. So this is at aurora from space. And it’s using a combination called the day/night band. Picks up low light. I don’t know if you guys can see it, but sort of the green dots are our centers of population. So we’ve got Anchorage in the south, Fairbanks, where I live, in the middle. And hidden under the aurora is Prudhoe Bay where they extract a lot of oil. So, yeah, aurora from space. In Alaska we faced a lot of interesting challenges that I think people when thing about mapping the United States they don’t think about these types of challenges. So I wanted to take a minute to talk about them with you guys. But those people still matter. We still need to be able to get goods to them and provide health care and education and all these things. So they don’t have roads to all of our communities, a lot of people fly in and out. So some of the communities that they map ready flyin communities. We have the tyranny of distance. That’s exactly what we call it. It’s an extremely vast terrain. We have communities that don’t have the cash economy. They live a subsistence lifestyle and eating what they hunt and using animal skins. That’s changing, but there’s a historical relationship to the land and not to these sort of the cash economy. And we are experiencing climate change at twice the rate of the rest of the world. So we’ve got extremely vulnerable populations experiencing coastal erosion, extreme weather events in Alaska, which is already an extreme weather event in and of itself. And then we have people, again, living off the land. So not only are they, like, hey, wow, everything is different. But I also need to get caribou to eat, I need to get a whale for my community to eat. There are a lot of complexity and nuance to how we operate in Alaska that I think aren’t obvious if you’re an outsider. So these are two products that we create for researchers and community members. One, is radar. And it’s looking at land fast sea ice. That’s sea ice that’s attached to the land for most of the year. But at a certain point, you know, in the spring, it’s warming, it breaks off. And people use that ice to go out and hunt. But then they also need to know when is it going to break off because we don’t want to be on the ice at that point. So we use radar to help people predict not only when it’s going to break off, but where that ice is going. And we have a hunters on the ice during a breakoff event and they use this product to find where they went. Because that part you see that’s white, kind of scattered. Okay, we can see dark dots on that one going that way. And they got the hunters. Another product that we create is sea ice extent. So Alaska is cloudy, icy and snowy. Those are all white things. And if you’re using remote sensing, you can’t discriminate. So we created this band combination where pink is clouds and blue is ice and snow. And that’s really helpful for forecasters and emergency responders. We do some other we do a lot. But just briefly, we monitor volcano ash and smoke and we have a lot of forest fires. And as I mentioned, people are flying in out and of communities. You can’t fly when there’s a lot of smoke and ash. These are protecting life and property. Ways that we use remote sensing in Alaska. And my organization and community is committed to technology that supports the public good for Alaska and the U.S. Arctic. And we also are interested in making geospatial data available to people who need it in the time they need it in the format they need it. We are very interested in open source communities, interoperable endpoints and that sort of stuff. This is another sort of rescue mission. This is NOAA, the weather service, used our day/night band to find a fishing boat lost in the sea ice. You can see the lights. You can see the crab fleet and they can see the ice edge. They can see Anchorage. And they saw one little dot in the sea. And they said, hey, guys, go the other way. You’re going into the ice as opposed to away from it. And that was another rescue operation that we were a small part of. And then as I was coming down here, it was Alaska Day. Alaska became a territory 150 years ago. And I’m not paid by Matthew Felling, but he did have some very pithy Tweets on the 18th. So, okay, if you were to fly from Atlanta to San Diego, you would still be in Alaska. Alaska’s coastline, the state, is longer than all of the other coastlines in the United States. And we’ve got 29 volcanos. We’ve got if you cut us in half, we would still be twice as big. We would still be state one and two in terms of size. And then you’d have Texas. So Texas sorry Texans, we’re coming for you. And another thing, a shoutout to Ian and Owen on the OSM Slack. They’re talking about sort of native territories. And there’s a cool map that someone made I think they’re Canadian. But it reminded me that in Alaska we have indigenous people in a very high percentage in our state. That complicates our land claim, our land use, historical, like, movements of people. And so this is a map of the languages that are in our state. The Alaska native languages. And that’s another thing that people don’t often think of when they’re not from Alaska. That we have sort of layers of complexity to our land management. So to the topic at hand. We do all of this remote sensing, but wanted to bring it to the community level. And so we started running mapathons with OpenStreetMaps. And we have a lot of partners that I have to mention. NSF, Explore Alaska, American Red Cross Alaska, Arctic corporation, Federal Division, and the city of Fairbanks. Okay. So the first one we did was in Delta Junction. Part of the unorganized borough. You can see in red. It is about the size of Texas, and it’s called Unorganized. So you can imagine that mapping is something that’s needed here. delta these are screen grabs from our projects is in orange. And Fairbanks is up there, right, left in the left. And I live in Fairbanks. That’s a hundred miles away. Their dispatch is in Fairbanks. So if they have an issue, they have to call us and we have to send someone. But they are not mapped, and our dispatch people don’t know, like, Aunt Sally’s house by the road house. They might because we all go to that roadhouse. There’s a reason why we needed to map this. And so the emergency managers of our city, Red Cross and our group, who specializes in mapping, got together and mapped Delta Junction. And this is one of the men who was a part of this. He’s the GIS manager at our borough, Bill Witty. He used to be a fire fighter. I have seen this happen where we have an address that doesn’t make any sense. That the road to the place doesn’t exist. And people die. You know what I mean? There are minutes matter in situations like this. And I grabbed a screen grab from dispatch text from this summer, and thankfully not thankfully but there was a rollover and it was on the highway. And people know, oh, mile 231. You go to that mile. But if it hadn’t been on the highway. If had somewhere in, let’s say, this area, there wouldn’t have been an easy way to get there. And then those people need to be driven back to Fairbanks where we have hospitals. So minutes can really add up. This is an example of well, you probably can’t see it right now. An area that’s been mapped and hasn’t been mapped in Delta Junction, and you can see that the roads don’t really match. There’s a lot of new development. There’s a lot of sort of ad hoc development that we experience in Alaska, because one thing you should know is Alaskans don’t like rules. And they don’t like the Federal Government. They’re like, I’m going to do what I want. This is my land. And that is difficult when you’re trying to be of service. So another mapathon we did was in the north slope. That’s the red part at the top. They are literally the top of the world. And the communities are Aqueduc, Point Lay, Barrow, it was a short time barrow, and then Wainwright. We work with students in the north slope and we thought they would bring a lot of their own understanding of the community to the mapping process. And second of all, we wanted to do mapping . These are communities experiencing climate change at twice the rate of the rest of the world because they’re in the arctic. On the coast, coastal erosion, ad hoc development and a boom/bust economy because we are based in sort of oil extraction. Everyone is like, let’s build everything, we’re going to drill. Then, no, there’s no more money, everybody leave. And that really creates havoc for the mapping for the people who stay behind and for emergency response. So I wanted to show some pictures because I was guessing that very few of you have been to these communities. Correct me if I’m wrong and I can skip over the pictures. But this is Point Lay. And this is a fisher working on the coast. This is a screen grab from our mapathon. One of the areas we were mapping. Point Lay. And so you can see that the ice is right at the edge of this community. And this community is in the middle of nowhere and I mean, that’s true. It literally is in the middle of nowhere. So if a crazy storm comes, if this ice kind of is bunching up against the coastline erodes it and these buildings starts to fall into the sea, et cetera, they don’t have maps. They also have emergency dispatch that isn’t anywhere near where they are. These communities don’t have roads into them. They don’t have police officers, they don’t have hospitals. So these are the reasons why we wanted to map them. Okay. This may be a difficult image for some of you. But this is Kaktovik and this is whale hunt from last year. This whale will feed everyone in the picture and everyone they know. This is a huge thing. A bag of chips in this community could cost, sorry, like $12. Milk can cost like $30. So this is sustainable, this is traditional, and this is, like, cost effective food for people. It’s really helping. So this is Kaktovik. And you can see there’s a little bit of desolation the community is a little bit farther off the image. I wanted to show the coastline. It’s close, it’s desolate. And you can see there’s industrial development and then it’s gone. The oil companies come when it’s advantageous to them. But the people remain and have to make it work. And this is a picture of the community of Katovich. And you can see this is temporary housing. It is these are not mansions. And if these people need to move, they may not have the personal resources to do that easily. And also getting anything to these communities is expensive in and of itself. So you can’t just order more wood. That’s a huge cost. So these are some of the reasons why we have been doing mapathons. There’s also a permafrost. Permafrost is frozen ground, for simplicity’s sake. And it’s thawing. Things that have been historically solid and frozen are wonky and squishy and wet. That doesn’t make for good roads or sewage or water lines. And we have a lot of fire events. So fire trucks have to come in from outside of town. And that complicates things. This is Utgiavik, or Barrow, it’s the biggest community, 4,000 people live there. This is a screen grab from our mapathon event. And you can see, even though it’s larger and more organized, it’s surrounded by, you know, the ocean on one side covered in ice and then ice lagoons. It’s precarious. And these are some kids in Utgiavik watching a rowing competition. Even the ice is less stable, so nothing is as it was in these communities, and that makes them more vulnerable. These are pictures of our mapathon. We are a supersmall group. I see other’s mapathons, there are hundreds. We are in our decision theater north, the seven screens. This is this immersive environment. And this is sort of a picture of all of our finished maps from the north slope mapathon. We have remote participants. I only have pictures of them looking really bored, but I realized when you’re mapping, like you don’t have the most engaged face on. So I guess I probably couldn’t have unless I forced a picture. So anyways, some outcomes that we are looking for and seeing is that we’re engaging the community in mapping. We’re bringing our skills to our community. We are helping to bridge data gaps or a data bridge, I don’t know if that’s a term that people use. But that’s why I wrote here. Between the university and emergency responders and community members which to us is like a total win. And introducing people to our immersive space. And then incubating this sort of burgeoning network. And people are like, I couldn’t come to the last mapathon, but here I am. That’s inspiring. We were able to help with the OSM Puerto Rico mapping and that was cool that people knew now what the idea is. We’re at a baby step level and getting people comfortable asking questions. What is it? How do I do it? Yeah. This is from the newspaper and I had the journalist like map a building and she was pretty stoked about that. In terms of future plans, we are going to map ice cellars. They are natural freezers in the permafrost. And because the permafrost is thawing, they’re not working anymore. And that whale goes in an ice cellar. And if you imagine putting that in a freezer, how many freezers would you need and how much would that cost in a community that doesn’t have a lot of cash? So the ice cellars are important and map which ones are failing and talk to the permafrost researchers and do some kind of integration there. We want to streamline and formalize the process for getting data out of OpenStreetMap so that our emergency people can use it. And then we to want continue to kind of grow this community. And that’s us. Thank you to this sort of mosh pit of logos. And that’s all I got for you guys. [ Applause ] Thank you, Vanessa, are there any questions? AUDIENCE: Hi. In the capital, there is no highway into the capital there is no way Yeah. We can’t drive to our capital, Juneau, it’s an island. But we also can’t drive to a lot of communities. AUDIENCE: Okay. If you’re paying to build better highways, better roads, you have Yeah, I don’t know if they’re planning on building new highways to the north. They have one highway that goes there and it’s pretty good so far. It’s holding up. They are building some highways in the southeast of Alaska. But they’re tricky. They’re very steep by the water. And so I guess building roads on steep places is hard. Sounds hard to me. But I don’t work for D.O.T. But it would be difficult to build a freeway. Yep. So the permafrost and permafrost fall makes it very complicated to build roads and infrastructure of any kind. In fact, even in my town, which is the second my city the secondbiggest city in Alaska, not everyone has running water. In fact, most people don’t have running water. So yeah. AUDIENCE: Okay. Thank you. Howdy. The story goes, I was up in southeast Alaska in the summer, it was superhad great. And the story goes as well, I was in some communities that didn’t have a zip code and didn’t have kind of the USPS way to get mail to them. And I’m wondering, like, if you if a lot of these communities do have or don’t have zip codes, and if they do, does that help you out? Like if they get a zip code from the USPS, does the USPS now have to map the area for you or is that something that you would still have to do? That’s a good question. I’m not entirely sure. But mail is also very complicated as well as emergency dispatch and running water. Not everyone gets mail. Most people have to go to the post office or send cargo over planes, et cetera. But that’s a really good idea. I’m actually going to look into that. Thank you. I’m just going where the mic is, sorry. AUDIENCE: Hey, you mentioned that a lot of these communities are boom or bust. So I’m guessing there’s a lot of, like, constant change. Have you seen an increase in engagement since you have done these mapathons? Like continuous editing or has it really like improved that kind of continuous change detection, I guess? I haven’t seen people going back over the same areas and adding them in, but I have seen people starting to be, like, okay, we can map this. This can be useful to us. We’re at that stage, not the stage you’re talking about. But I would love to be at that stage soon. Because there is a lot of dynamic change. Hi. A lot of GIS analysts find themselves working with cultures that they don’t understand and are coming in as outsiders. I was wondering if you had any parting advice for dealing with those challenging day today nuances? Yeah. It is a complex working environment. In Alaska a lot of people are overresearched and they don’t want to give information to outsiders because it hasn’t historically benefited their communities. So I think going in with an understanding that this hasn’t always worked out for the people that you’re mapping. And that level of empathy goes a long way. And I think also asking people, like, what do you want? What do you want to call this? Where do you consider your boundaries of your community are or your hunting ground? And that will sort of get people to want to work with you. Of course, like BLM may come back and be like, hey, Vanessa, what are you doing here? That’s not their town. But you kind of have to pick and choose your battles basically is what I’m saying. All right. We don’t have any more time for questions. Maybe you can see Vanessa afterwards. Thank you very much, everybody. [ Applause ]