On November 1, Purdue hosted its annual GIS Day. the event was originally started by ESRI to promote the use of GIS but it has since grown to encompass many other areas of what research is being done in the field of remote sensing and geospatial analysis. I arrived just in time for the keynote speaker to take the stage.
Dr. Picard of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations took the stage. His presentation focused on using GIS for natural resources management and he introduced many new topics including using machine learning to develop more efficient roads for tree harvesting. While he wasn’t the greatest speaker, the research he was doing was impressive and showed great promise for future application.
Next up was a set of four professors presenting on their recent research. The first one to present was Prof. Sorin Adam Matei and he discussed Spatial Humanities, a form of GIS applying GIS to people. His presentation focused on a couple of WWII battles to model where German troops were when making their push to Moscow. The data he presented showed the battle line very clearly and also showed the general path the troops were following.
After discussing it with several others who went to the event, we decided that the 2nd speaker was not effectively using GIS. Her presentation was attempting to apply GIS to the slave trade, but it lacked any meaningful data. Her data consisted of animated images sourced directly from popular news outlets. Afterwards we still don’t know what message she was trying to convey or what work she had done.
The next speaker was Dr. Elizabeth LaRue from the Forestry and Natural Resources department at Purdue. Her discussion was about forest structural diversity and how it could be used as a predictor of the function of an ecosystem. Her presentation was interesting but discussed topics outside my area of expertise, so I am unable to give much more detail.
I have always had an interest in how servers and datacenters work, so when Eric Adams from ITaP Research Computing did a presentation, I was sure to watch and see if there were any new services being offered. One of the main services he discussed was the new Globus client used for transferring files between research laptops and the data depot. I have used this in the past when I was working for Purdue as a drone pilot, so I was already well acquainted with the software. The other part he discussed was a form of remote desktop that allows students and instructors to remotely log in to a server to start processing jobs or use GIS software suites. This has the benefit of moving the computational load to the server so the user can use the software from even the weakest of laptops.
I have been playing with similar technologies recently with my server, so seeing the ITaP implementation in operation was of particular interest to me. Computation is a very important component of remote sensing, especially when generating point clouds. Some recent tests I have been running have shown that I am lacking the memory needed to convert drone imagery into an orthomosaic and DSM, so seeing it actually working on an ITaP server was a highlight of the day.
Over all, I feel I learned some new things form the GIS day just by seeing what is being done with GIS. There’s a difference between making maps in the various software packages and actually utilizing the data to produce meaningful statistics and these presentations bridged that gap for me. The presentations also showed that GIS is definitely a multi-disciplinary tool. This is especially evident in the presentation done by Prof. Matei who is actually from the college of liberal arts. The technology could be applied to many different fields, each of which will also have to consider possible ethical conflicts that may differ between fields.