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California State University, Long Beach
CSULB Geospatial Research and Mapping (GRAM) Field Program
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Daily Blog for Howard Oh

Day 17

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Howard Oh

We were back out on the field today, but now everyone was moving solo. Everyone was now concerned about their own research so the first area of competition was through the trimble units. We only have about 4 of these that can add GPS points with a data dictionary and they were all taken early in the morning. Many of us ended up with hand held GPS units that I got only about 3 meter accuracy and collecting a lot of field notes instead of inputting information to a clean data dictionary. I guess its mostly my fault for not fully preparing last night and thinking that I could get my work done in the morning.

Another change to our usual process is that we all went our separate ways once getting dropped off at Atlantis. After we split off I actually didn’t see anyone else the entire day (except for the tour groups passing by) and it made me realize very quickly that I am on my own and if I fail, I fail alone this time. I focused on getting points of where Hala (Hawaiian Screwpine) was located at the back of the valley. This was my first time attempting to hike the back of the valley all the way up to the ridge line. I found out that there is a significant amount of Hala back here compared to areas closer to the mouth of the valley that are overrun with invasive species. I’m pretty sure this is because cattle have a difficult time getting to these areas with native plants. I also learned that these places are difficult for humans to access as well because I got a workout bushwhacking plants and other shrubs just trying to get a point close to the Hala and Ohia. The view at the top was amazing and had my late lunch up there and then proceeded to collect more points of Hala on the way down. At this point I was running out of camera battery so after about 30 points I decided to head back to base. I lost track of time and saw the TA’s Paul, Briton and Michelle coming in a van to come pick me up. I was the last one out on the field and learned for the first time that we were supposed to meet back at base by 3pm. Oops. However, because of my mistake I was able to help out the hydrology group that went to go kayak near the shore collecting conductivity samples and also go to see Dr. Becker’s place which was right next to the Ka’a’awa Valley like everyone described. I just didn’t know people meant that it was sharing a border with the Kualoa Ranch. I remember taking a point near his backyard to collect a point near the palm trees! haha


Day 16

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Howard Oh

We didn’t go to the field today and just focused on data management. We started off by cleaning up our common products and adding metadata to Kerry’s master geodatabase collection when each group had the time to get on the computer. This day also marked the shift to our individual research questions and made a lot of people on edge. The pressure was on and everyone worked on hammering out the details to their questions and proposed field methods. This was when everyone had to put their teamwork down and think on their own and made the whole day/night really stressful, including me. Tonight was also my night to help cook dinner and thankfully it was only heating up some lasagna and salad. Many people seemed to enjoy it so that was a relief. For most of the night everyone was focused on writing up their research question. I was somewhat lost at first and didn’t know how to frame my question. I really had interest in helping the efforts towards improving Hawaii’s biodiversity, especially the native plant species. I remember reading about the nation GAP analysis program and thought what they were doing was neat. However, it was only tonight where I really connected to dots between the GAP program and my research question. My curiosity in trying to map native vs. non-native plants came full circle and I decided that the GAP research methods were best suited for my analysis, even though my research won’t be as comprehensive as the GAP analysis.

Day 15

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Howard Oh

We finally had a breakthrough with vegetation today. Dr. Drake, a botanist from University of Hawaii, came out this afternoon and helped us identify all of the plants we had questions about in the valley. I felt very fortunate to have an expert come all the way to Kualoa Ranch merely to help out some undergraduates like us name some plants. We got more than just some names of plants because a graduate student named Chris gave us a brief overview about the ecology in this area. So with the combination of knowledge from Dr. Drake and Chris, we got a pretty good idea of what is happening and not happening in this valley. I found out that most of the vegetation in the valley is non-native and primarily filled with invasive species. A large part of this is due to the previous/current land uses. My theory about recent plant species changes in the valley is that after Pearl Harbor, when the government fortified a lot of the land, many native plant species were cleared away and gave invasive plants a chance to compete with the environment. And before WWII, human activity like the cattle grazing and sugar cane farming must have had a large part in the shifting the valley’s biodiversity.


Day 14

Posted on June 17, 2013 by Howard Oh

The presentations of the common products today were really impressive. It was a great seeing all of the different projects come together at the end where specific products actually were intertwined with all of the others. The first presentation of Geology by Thomas and Jeanette was amazing. I think everyone in the group felt kind of intimidated to go up and try to beat that. It seemed very well prepared and with lots of good content and discussion afterwards. As it turned out, everyone in the group had some awesome presentations and common products. The ones that stood out to me were the topography/georeferencing group with their detail oriented and very thorough methodology and data dictionary for collecting points and the UAV group with all of the imagery in a well cataloged system. On top of the breakthrough of matching time stamps to the hundreds of photos from each flights, that the UAV group also made documents ( or what I interpreted as tutorials) for everyone in the group to be able to do exactly what they did. As Dr. Wechsler pointed out, the UAV group definitely saved this whole group a lot of time and energy.

After the presentations we started to shift into thinking about our individual projects more. I’m glad I had to talk to Dr. Lee a bit more and further my idea of classifying particular invasive species in the valley that are problematic to the ranch and hopefully be able to find patterns for the best areas/conditions for these invasive species to grow in order to take more preemptive actions against the invasive(s) in the future. We also had some awesome dessert made by Ted himself.

Day 13

Posted on June 16, 2013 by Howard Oh

In the morning I tried another ERDAS supervised classification before leaving for North Shore. We had fun kayaking along a river and got to see some sea turtles and ended up having some food and drinks and then relaxing on the beach to watch the sunset and headed back home to finish up our common product and map. I’m disappointed that I was only able to get around 75% accuracy on the classification with 4 classes but hopefully it will be a lot better working with UAV multispectral imagery.

Day 12

Posted on June 15, 2013 by Howard Oh

We started our half field day by visiting the Kualoa Ranch “Judd Theater” to see a quick video about the history of the ranch and its previous land uses in sugar cane production, WWII military uses and cattle production. The highlight of the field day was seeing a laser scanner out in the field collecting data. The scanner is really impressive because the scanner is taking points every quarter of an inch which isn’t even its highest quality scan and also putting a color HDR image on top of that at the end. It was entertaining to be out there because when you’re out there with a laser scanner you cannot be in its line of sight when it rotates, so our group stood in a line behind the scanner and we moved around in circles behind it when it rotated. It looked kinda goofy but it was also pretty neat to watch the laser scanner at work. It was too bright to see the LCD screen with the final product so I guess I’ll have to wait until we have it on a computer and hopefully get to post up a screenshot of the data for my blog.

The rest of the day was just being inside the barn and trying to get a good classification out of the worldview2 imagery and cleaning up our data.


Day 11

Posted on June 14, 2013 by Howard Oh

Today was our make-up field day to recover the points we lost yesterday. This time we had 2 timbles loaded with our data dictionary so we were able to split into 2 teams. Peter and Audrey got the points in the south valley and Adriana and I headed for the far North East side of the valley. Adriana and had the challenge of going into the swampy areas to find the boundary to the Kualoa Ranch property. We went through the nursery, cattle field and the swamp ponds. After going through some gates and holes in the fences we found out that much of the North East valley is blocked off private property. This didn’t matter much since the vegetation seemed to be the same mixed pattern we saw at our base and deep into the valley.



After some exploring we headed back to base for lunch. We saw some guys from Willam’s Aerospace out with their gear doing some test flights. It was pretty cool looking at more of the military side of the UAV with a more ISR mission focus. There was a lot of money flying out there in the valley today and I definitely sensed some tension in the group, especially during take off and landing times. The delta wing shaped UAV was the coolest looking one. It is mostly made out of fiberglass and it seemed to be the most agile and quiet UAV I’ve seen out in the field yet.

When we got back home our vegetation group was stuck trying to clean up our data/attribute table while everyone was having fun and playing apples to apples. Hopefully our work all pays off!

Day 10

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Howard Oh

Before heading out to the field, Kerry helped organize our mess by setting up our Lunch Prep Area. It has made our morning run a lot smoother!

Today we had another full field day and we managed to collect points for about 90% of the valley. Adriana and Kerry joined us today and they helped out by taking geotagged photos and logging other ancillary data for our points. Initially the plan was to split up into a 3 and 2 group but since the data dictionary had trouble transferring onto the other trimble we were a strong team of 5 the whole day. Everything went great and we also got to see another UAV (X-8 I believe) and another Military version UAV being tested out and all of that gear was pretty cool to see. It was definitely a rare opportunity to be out on the field with them and for us to even gain access to their data.

Now the worst part of our day was when we came back our trimble unit was not being detected and transferring out data points back into the computer. Paul even spent a significant amount of time trying to fix it but we ended up losing our data for the day and will end up having to retrace our steps and go over the points again. We were all pretty bummed but we managed to make a new and more robust data dictionary that will log all the important information we need. This had us working until late tonight at around 11pm or so.


Day 9

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Howard Oh

This morning we were greeted by the horses as we were leaving for the Ka’a’awa Valley. It looked like they were trying to get into the cars with us.   We had a full and free field day to collect any data we wanted. Yesterday we found out that our data dictionary was not best suited for the vegetation we identified in our study area but this is because we did not have a chance to modify it. We were also reluctant to modify our dictionary because that meant that we had to create our points again. Therefore we continued to log the plants we couldn’t identify in our books and marked them as unknown plants and logged them into Peter’s notebook and took corresponding pictures. We had a good routine going for most of the day but our stamina dropped significantly after trying to get to a high elevation to identify plants there. We found out that the vegetation up in the higher elevations could be classified with the wet forest class like many of the plants near the shore and lowland of the valley. The view was great so we had a early lunch while we looking out towards the ocean.

We went further into the valley today and saw some interesting plants that I’ve never seen before. I would share more photos but they are taking a long time to upload so perhaps another time. We were able to collect points on approximately half of the Valley on the North Side and plan on finishing up the other half tomorrow.

Day 8

Posted on June 10, 2013 by Howard Oh

After a long discussion with Peter and Audrey last night, we finally compiled a data dictionary for vegetation. Our first issue was on what scale we were going to plot points. The ideal common product would have been at the taxa level, but since our level of research did not require that level of detail, focusing on the broader plant communities would suffice. Since our group did not have much experience in plants, we were very limited on the amount of fields to add into our data dictionary. Luckily Dr. Lee helped us out with some reading material as well as a book with local Hawaiian plants.  So with some help from Dr. Lee, Briton and Paul, we got our vegetation data dictionary up and running on a Trimble GPS unit. We started out with broad categories like coastal plants and dry forest and then made more detailed subcategories for things like trees or native plants. We also included some other options like canopy height (small, medium or large), stand (individual, mixed or pure) and stress level (low, neutral or high) with another text field option for additional comments. The additional comments text field proved to be very useful because we encountered unique areas that we wanted to identify and locate for other groups to use later on as well.

We went out to the field site today not with the tour bus but in our own cars. After adjusting some settings on the trimbles, the groups split up and went our own separate ways. The only problem was that 2 groups ended up having to share one unit (our vegetation group and the geology group) and ended up just planning to meet up later on and trade off since our areas of interests were so different from each other. Our vegetation group got it first and with Dr. Lee’s guidance we first headed to a point that had a good view of the study area. We mainly focused on trying to identify where the coastal plant communities stopped growing. Even though we had a book with plant pictures in them some of the plants were hard to distinguish/access and made our process really slow. We need a botanist to come help us ASAP to quickly help us identify key plants and characteristics of these plant communities so that we can start logging more meaningful data. Although we were limited in some ways we still had a very productive day out in the field to investigate and make sure that the areas that looked homogeneous to certain plant types were indeed pure and if they were not pure, to identify those plants. Along the way we found some areas that would be of interest to the hydrology team. It was a line of phreatophyte trees next to a swampy area closer to the shore line.


Finishing off the day by eating some Poke.


About Howard Oh

Senior at Cal State Long Beach studying Political Science and Geography/GIS