outdoor

Episode 13 with John Norman

Episode 13 with John Norman 900 450 Nowhere Podcast

Our guest in this episode is John Norman, Director of Strategic Research and Development at Teren, in Lakewood, Colorado. Today, we’ll be talking about wildfire reclamation and the role of geospatial technology in this work.

The 2022 Hermits Peak fire in New Mexico was the biggest in the state’s history, and 60% of its coverage was on private land. Private land owners in this area vary greatly, from those who live off the land by cutting firewood, to those who have a secondary home there. These socioeconomic conditions make this fire one of the most unusual that John has worked on.

Because of the history and private ownership of the affected areas in Hermits Peak, there were thousands of individuals that needed to be contacted so the federal government could start the reclamation process. This was especially difficult because many people in the area do not use technology or are very skeptical of the government.

While also using publicly available terrain and satellite imagery, John and his team were rapidly flying LiDAR and 4-band imagery over the burned area. This process impressively only took about a week, despite covering around 600,000 acres. They were even able to analyze individual trees with the data they acquired.

These fires are occurring more often, so John believes that task forces will be established to immediately come in with technology to quantify exactly what areas are the most at risk. He also hopes to see geospatial technology used to mitigate risks in areas that are prone to fires before they even happen.

Episode 12 with Emily Craven

Episode 12 with Emily Craven 900 450 Nowhere Podcast

Emily Craven, Founder and CEO of Story City, joins us for this episode. Today’s discussion revolves around locative content and the power of location to connect people to places via stories, as well as how Story City ties it all together.

Locative content is content in the form of stories, media, film, and audio which can only be experienced in a specific physical location. This kind of content is important because it’s the roots that make people feel as though they belong.

Story City was inspired by the idea of wanting to create stories, but also allowing others to be a part of those stories. People can interact with the characters in particular adventures by allowing them to be in the same exact setting.

Users are then prompted to choose how their story goes. They are given maps to allow them to dictate where they go and how their story continues, giving each user a different experience based on where exactly they are.

This also serves as an educational tool by giving information on things such as the history of the location. It allows for a unique social and recreational experience that brings people together.

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Episode 11 – Fossil Hunting

Episode 11 – Fossil Hunting 900 450 Nowhere Podcast

We’ve got three guests in today’s episode: Dr. Caleb Brown, Curator of Dinosaur Systematics & Evolution at the Royal Tyrrell Museum; Dr. Derek Peddle, Professor of Geography at The University of Lethbridge; and Sean Herridge-Berry, a master’s student at the University of Lethbridge, join us to discuss how modern technology is being used to explore ancient fossil beds.

Alberta is known for being a hotbed for fossils, but why? Alberta’s rocks are the right age to preserve fossils, but these rocks have eroded at a quick rate in the badlands of Alberta. These abundant fossils are being uncovered at a high rate, which means this landscape provides a lot of information about fossils.

The standard method of prospecting to find new fossils is pretty low tech: put your boots on, get outside, and keep your eyes on the ground. Generally, fossils look like any other bone. The hardest part is figuring out which fossils are most important.

An interesting fact about fossils is that they are a breeding ground for lichen, a composite organism. There is a bright orange lichen which grows on the fossils, and this orange glow can be used to identify fossils. Furthermore, fossilized material and lichen reflect the sunlight in a certain way, and Sean is currently studying how to use that to identify them in a remotely sensed image.

This technology opens the door to discovering new, yet to be discovered bone beds (layers of rock with concentrated fossils). Watching million-year-old fossils collide with new technology is really interesting and will lead to even more exciting dinosaur bone finds down the road.

Episode 09 with James Floyer

Episode 09 with James Floyer 900 450 Nowhere Podcast

James Floyer, the Program Director and Senior Avalanche Forecaster of Avalanche Canada, joins us for this episode. Avalanche Canada is a non-government non-profit that focuses on avalanche safety for individuals in the backcountry.

Avalanches can happen anywhere there is steep terrain and significant snowfall. There are also a few different types, with loose snow and slab avalanches being the most dangerous. Because there is a lack of infrastructure, those most at risk to avalanches are people in the backcountry.

The MIN, or Mountain Information Network, is an observation system used by Avalanche Canada to assess risk. Individual users can submit information to this network, as it was created in response to recognition of an untapped resource for safety: the public.

Avalanche Canada puts out the call for public user support early in the season, and generally the response is quite strong. People feel called to step up to the plate and submit data, and looking at this data is where avalanche analysis and safety really begins.

Avalanche Canada also has six field teams, five of which are located in Western Canada. They go out about four times a week into data-sparse areas to gather information about snowpacks and make observations of conditions to feed back into the forecast center. They also demonstrate best-practices to the public to help keep everyone in the backcountry safe.

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Episode 06 with Joshua Johnston

Episode 06 with Joshua Johnston 900 450 Nowhere Podcast

Joining us in this episode is Dr. Josh Johnston. He is the Principal Investigator for the WildFireSat mission, and a career wildland firefighter. Why is managing fire important? The truth is that fire isn’t always a bad thing. The fire is a natural means of keeping the forest healthy and actually plays a large role in stimulating new growth.

That said, getting too close to the fire or having too much of it can be dangerous. Sometimes fire management is about suppression, sometimes fires need to be started, and sometimes they simply need to be left alone. In instances where people are around, the objective is to put them out as fast as possible.

The WildFireSat is the world’s first purpose-built fire monitoring mission via satellite. Prior to this, the science revolved around general purpose missions. This one is specifically for fire management, and it’s a uniquely Canadian endeavor. This allows for effective tracking of fires, which will play an even more important role as the world experiences climate change.

While imagery is nice to have, analysis and a breakdown of what a fire is doing—and what it is likely to do next—is more important than the visual asset. These analytics will be embedded in forthcoming products. This technology collects information regarding the landscape and classifies the threat of the fire. Decision makers who have to make a choice based upon this data will benefit the most from interpreting this data.

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Episode 02 with Maggie Cawley

Episode 02 with Maggie Cawley 900 450 Nowhere Podcast

Maggie Cawley joins as a guest in this episode. Maggie is the Executive Director for OpenStreetMap, a nonprofit collaborative project to create an editable geographic database of the world. Anyone with an email address can edit this map. The goal is to try and build the best, most comprehensive map of the world.

OpenStreetMap has become a resource for people all over the world for analysis, to inform decision making, and allowing local participants to show the important features of where they live. Over 20,000 companies like Craigslist, Amazon, and Uber use OpenStreetMap.

About a year before recording this podcast episode, Maggie was contacted by park rangers concerned about the use and overuse of specific paths that were being perceived as trails based on information provided by OpenStreetMap. She used this opportunity to start a wider discussion on bringing awareness to this issue.

Maggie now has a working group with land managers, mappers, outdoor enthusiasts, and soil experts who are volunteering their time to work together and find a solution. This situation has highlighted the emphasis for adding the necessary metadata—for example, not just that there is a trail, but the features of the trail. As they work towards a solution, Maggie hopes educational resources will be available moving forward.

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