Our Work

Blue Raster helps you tell your story through interactive
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and user-friendly for both mobile and web platforms.

Environment

Using Drones to Advance Turfgrass Science at Green-Wood Cemetery

Last month, Blue Raster’s drone capabilities took flight. In a new initiative with Green-Wood Cemetery, Cornell University, and a group of turfgrass experts from across the United States, Blue Raster is using drones to help advance the science for confronting climate change in an urban landscape.

The issue at hand is the rapid spread of warm-season invasive grass species that impacts the aesthetics of the cemetery. This results in adaptive preventative maintenance practices and high costs to keep the cemetery looking beautiful. The group is studying alternatives and strategies that put Green-Wood on the cutting edge of urban climate change mitigation. This research is also applicable to any urban parks, public gardens, cemeteries and golf courses.

"Turf Guy" Dr. Frank Rossi of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and Christopher Gabris from Blue Raster looking at high resolution drone imagery captured the day before

“Turf Guy” Dr. Frank Rossi of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University and Christopher Gabris from Blue Raster looking at high resolution drone imagery captured the day before

To study the spread of invasive grass throughout the year, Blue Raster flew a series of drone missions over the sprawling 478 acre cemetery. When additional missions fly for comparison, the data capture will provide high quality imagery that will identify invasive grass for measurement and monitoring throughout the year. Visit our Facebook album for more of the amazing aerial pictures.

Green-wood drone pictures

Using Esri’s Drone2Map and ArcGIS Online Web Scenes, Blue Raster was also able to deliver some 3D products, including the iconic gateway entrance and some large mausoleums.

Drone 3D imagery of iconic entrance

Stay tuned for updates on the project, the analysis, and the results of this very exciting turfgrass study!

Saving Wilderness Areas with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

African elephants

At the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), staff are using the Global Forest Watch MapBuilder platform to show their global impact. WCS works to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 16 priority regions. Their new MapBuilder platform is a powerful mapping tool for analyzing data in priority conservation areas.

WCS’ platform combines the use of remote sensing and GIS to visualize and monitor top priority regions for conservation. Through a combination of interactive mapping, data visualizations, and analytical reports, the platform provides staff with access to information on the current state of WCS protected areas around the world.

WCS' goal is to conserve the world's largest wild places in 16 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the world's biodiversity.

The platform incorporates a breadth of data on priority landscapes and sea- and coastal- scapes (known as “scapes”). In addition, it visualizes key project areas where WCS is working to have a conservation impact on species. By centralizing this data all on one platform, users can visualize overlap and patterns. For example, staff can overlay forest fragmentation, infrastructure development, and conservation areas to quickly see if wildlife movement is blocked between and within protected areas. This is especially important in Africa, where species like elephants, giraffes, and zebras travel long distances between wet and dry seasons to survive.

WCS Mapbuilder Platform

In addition to the data on the platform, the site also contains powerful analytics powered by MapBuilder’s custom functionality. Through a unique workflow built by our two teams, WCS can connect their API with the Global Forest Watch API to return time-series statistics within the application. This enables users to run specialized analyses to answer questions such as:

  • Which protected areas have experienced the greatest forest disturbance in recent years?
  • How have species population trends changed over time?
  • Where are the last unbroken swaths of intact forest?
Visualizing Results

WCS can also visualize their impact. For example, thanks to conservation efforts, Nouabalé Ndoki National Park is free from logging and contains no roads within its borders. The park covers more than 4,000 square kilometers of contiguous rainforest and is a stronghold for iconic species including forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, and chimpanzees.

 

 

WCS’ platform is built with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, ArcGIS Enterprise, the Global Forest Watch API, and Google Earth Engine.

Check out the WCS MapBuilder platform today!

Habitat and biodiversity in the ‘Urban Century’

This month, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) released “Nature in the Urban Century”, a report on the rising threat that urban growth and the proximity of people to wildlife will have on habitat loss. Dubbed the “urban century,” the report details the challenges of managing urban growth. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 2.4 billion more people in cities than today. That is an urban growth rate “equivalent to building a city with the population of London every seven weeks”!

Urbanization is a leading factor in habitat loss, but better planning and focus on sustainable development can allow for more integration of habitats into cities.

With urban growth and the expansion of cities, protected lands are becoming increasingly close to human development. The study estimates that by 2030, forty percent of protected areas will be within 50 kilometers of a city. These protected areas provide critical carbon storage that can help mitigate climate change.

Blue Raster developed two mapping application for the report. The first shows the impact of urban growth on habitat, protected areas and carbon at the country level. The tabs along the map and the country popups show users how many square kilometers of habitat is lost to urban growth, the current percent and 2030 projected percent increase of protected areas that are adjacent to urban areas, and the carbon loss from expanding cities.

Habitat Story Map

Habitat Story Map

The second map looks at the relationship of urban growth trends and specific protected areas of urban-threatened species. The density of urban-caused habitat loss projected out to 2030 is viewed with existing urban areas, and highlights places where managing protected areas and urban biodiversity near cities is most important.

Habitat Story Map

The Nature in the Urban Century report states that while there’s still time to protect critical habitat even as cities grow, it will take concerted planning. Left unchecked, over the next two decades urban growth will threaten more than 290,000 km2 of habitat, an area larger than New Zealand. It’s up to local cities, national governments and international institutions to work together to look at the benefits generated by biodiversity and set specific goals for urban conservation efforts.

Click here to view the full report

Towards Zero Deforestation with GFW Pro

Hundreds of companies around the world have signed on to the United Nations (UC) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15: Life on Land and pledged to work towards zero deforestation by 2020. However, meeting these commitments requires the ability monitor deforestation throughout their supply chains. Global Forest Watch Pro provides each organization a unique, secure environment to monitor and analyze these supply chains, and also helps these organizations demonstrate compliance with commitments and policies.

The application builds on the success of past GFW initiatives and leverages the comprehensive list of authoritative datasets curated by the World Resources institute. Data are served to the application from a variety of locations, such as ArcGIS Server, Amazon S3, and Carto DB. Users can upload lists of over 1,000 custom Areas of Interest (AOIs), which are quickly analyzed for deforestation on sensitive areas and by regional landcover types.  The application’s two diagnostics provide detailed historic deforestation measurements as well as industry specific risk scores. In addition, an alert dashboard provides real time monitoring capabilities and displays the latest GLAD Deforestation and VIIRS Fire alerts.

Supply Chain Analysis for Deforestation

 

GFW Pro leverages AWS Lambda to provide the intensive computational resources needed to quickly analyze these large custom lists while keeping costs as low as possible. Using the latest serverless technology, the application is quickly able to spin up as much compute power as needed to analyze each list, and then shut them down just as quickly. This allows the application to scale horizontally and processes thousands of user uploaded locations a day.

We are excited to see the impact GFW Pro will have on monitoring environmental impacts and global supply chains.

A Summer at Blue Raster: Internship Edition

As a summer intern at Blue Raster, I was given the opportunity to contribute to a multitude of projects. I was able to explore customizations of basemaps and manipulation of satellite data, work hands-on with 3D buildings in ArcGIS Pro, and contribute to a variety of other GIS work.

One such project, in conjunction with MIT Media Lab’s Space Enabled Research Group, aimed to track the growth and spread of aquatic surface vegetation. Focused on the Lake Nokoue region of Benin in West Africa, the goal of the collaborative project was to create a method of identifying the growth of water hyacinth in the lake and its tributary rivers for remediation purposes.

Intern work on GEE Lake Nokoue

I, along with several interns at Space Enabled, used Google Earth Engine (GEE), which provides immense processing power using Google’s server infrastructure, to access and manipulate several satellite data sources such as Landsat8 and Sentinel2. With additional support from the Blue Raster team, we were able to create a script for GEE’s Python API that scanned for changes in reflectance in Landsat8 and Sentinel2 and helps to track growth trends of the water hyacinth for future ground truthing trips by the MIT Media Lab Space Enabled team. We are exploring the use of Esri ArcGIS ImageServer for analysis for future work in this space.

Intern work on GEE classification

Throughout the summer, I also had the opportunity to work extensively with 3D data in ArcGIS Pro. In our work supporting a global Commercial Real Estate firm, we innovated with 3D to deliver a new suite of tools. Using a special data package created by Esri for City/Local Government GIS, I was able to create stacking plans of building floors to be implemented as a 3D layer along with full 3D models of the corresponding buildings in an ArcGIS Online Webscene.

Intern work on Floor stackingIntern work on 3D Buildings

During the summer, I learned a tremendous amount about ArcGIS Pro and 3D data. The opportunity to learn the functionalities and intricacies of ArcGIS Pro, particularly in a real-world setting, is not something offered through my university coursework. Working interactively with Blue Raster to troubleshoot and solve 3D issues in a quick paced environment provided valuable insight.

Overall, my time as an Intern at Blue Raster and the lessons I have taken away have helped to further my understanding of what a possible career in GIS has to offer. I feel that the projects I was able to contribute to will have a genuine impact. Having the opportunity to assist in their creation was an experience that will last a lifetime. I am excited to continue supporting Blue Raster as I return to Penn State.


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