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

When Nature Calls

Posted on June 24, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

We lost internet recently so this is a bit late. Combined with the fact that we got home late and we’re leaving at 4:30 AM tomorrow I’ll have to keep this entry rather brief.

Friday was our first bigtime data collection day. We spent the morning taking GPS points and pictures/metadata about the different land coverage types we saw. The idea here was that by doing so we could then match our data with the images taken from our remote sensing devices and be able to create a classification scheme which would allow us to predict where we could find native species on other places on the island which are harder to reach for botanists. After lunch we climbed a “mountain” to get a better view of our whole study area, then descended to watch the profs attempt to launch the Gatewing UAV. It worked! I think they spent a lot of the day working on it and getting frustrated but we only showed up for the launch so, worked out well for us. Nice to see that it went smoothly (smoothly enough at least). That was the bulk of our work for the day as at that point we returned home to a delicious pasta bar for dinner and some lovely team bonding. Nice to have another group member from my neck of the woods, I do love talking to the point of annoyance about the PNW…

Rise of the Machines

Posted on June 22, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

A very computer based day. Good, helpful and productive but something of a letdown considering we spend a whole day in Hawaii inside a cramped windowless room staring at screens. Maybe something I’d be more ok with if I hadn’t spent a lifetime deprived of sun. Hard life having it so close but inaccessible. Anyways on to more important things.
Today was dedicated to getting a better idea for where we were going with our study and for practicing the computer skills we would need to analyze our incoming data. The main takeaway was the creation of our data dictionary, which we then imported into our Trimble. This dictionary will allow us to keep our field notes consistent, making them easier to interpret once we get to the analysis stage. We also attempted to make orthophotos out of the pictures taken in our first few flights (both kite and plane). Some of these worked better than others. The Heaiu came out well, the large dirt field with no noticeable features did not. No major surprises there. Much of the day was spent fiddling with the WorldView 2 images trying to find ways to manually classify the data. While we didn’t come up with anyone to use in a final project sense it was worthwhile practice using the program.

The Search for Spock

Posted on June 20, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

Getting harder to get inspired for morning workouts, but managed to pull it off again despite our earlier kickoff time. Walked back to the temple once we got to the site but we were much more productive today. Got off several flights with one of the UAVs and took lots of pictures with the kite. Really interesting stuff, can’t wait to see and work with the results. So tired again though so I ended up crashing and napping for a few at lunch. After that we finally got Burney’s cave tour. The man has gotten an amazing amount of information out of that cave. Apparently the mix of cave and lake led to a perfect fossil environment, especially when added to the fact that the area has a perfect Ph level for preservation. In what must be a story directly taken from a nightmare I’ve had before, he talked about one tunnel in the cave only large enough to crawl though which opens up to a room with only 3 species. Two small, blind insects and, terrifyingly, a type of large spider. No thank you. Looked at some spectrometer results, then headed back. Really appreciate the early ending today, so needed after yesterday. Did some yoga and stretching once we got back, made me feel much much better. Plus no lecture tonight so we finally got a little rest and vedge out time! Huzzah.

The Temple of Doom

Posted on June 20, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

Very very long day. 9 to 5 on your feet in the sun, while awesome, takes it out of you. Add on to that a 2 hour lecture on the geology of Kauai in the evening and it made for a very early bedtime. The day was good though despite natures best efforts. We started off using the spectroscope to get a reading for the type of colors reflected by each plant with the idea that we could then match this to our results from the UAVs. This is already a slow process but the random rain showers and on and off cloud cover meant that we got very little done other than getting more of an introduction to the technology. The afternoon was spent on a beautiful cliff top walk to a collapsed old temple where we took GPS readings of several native and invasive species for later use. Most of our work today was meant to assist us in interpreting future data from our upcoming aerial photography.

The day of course concluded with the aforementioned lecture by Chuck Blay where we learned about the hotspot which has spawned Kauai and many many other islands and what other smaller forces worked to shape the island we are studying.

A New Hope

Posted on June 20, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

What better way could there be to wake up than a workout followed by an outdoor shower in the tropics. So awesome. Made some scrambled eggs (also nice to be back to cooking for myself… ). Today was dedicated to not being on schedule. Or maybe to a tour of the gardens, its hard to tell sometimes. The facilities are amazing. Expansive libraries and art collections and an incredible wealth of information. Toured the various areas of the gardens. Its quite a mosaic so its still hard to tell what all there is to see but its quite impressive. Speaking of impressive, Burney has an incredible knowledge base. The man could talk about anything at the drop of a hat. The flip side of that is that once he gets going its impossible to stay on schedule. We didn’t end up getting to lunch until well after 2, by which time people had gotten pretty grouchy and on edge. Made it through though and got introduced the sinkhole, although we didn’t get to go in the cave. After lunch was spent trying to get the kite and UAV to go. The kite didn’t work due to wind conditions but we did manage to fly it briefly. The UAV worked much better and we were able to get that flying with only one short run-in with security. The grad student getting to fly the remote control plain was pretty clearly loving where his studies had taken him, as well he should’ve.


Posted on June 19, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

Finally of to Kauia! Got up early to pack up and head to the airport. Definitely needed the extra time as getting that many people through security with so many bags of so much important stuff. We did make it though. Pretty painless flight, slept mostly so that worked out well. Easy arrival as well as Burney was there to meet  us with vans. Hard to judge if Kauai was what I expected. Definitely lush jungle, but a very different feel than my recent tropical experiences. I think there was a bit of cognitive dissonance seeing American style amenities in a tropical environment as I’m more used to places such as Tanzania. Once we got to the house we were all feeling pretty cooped up from the flight so we went for a hike. Pretty disappointing as I was expected there to be plenty of nature trails. We ended up only being able to walk on the roads which were narrow and rather frightening. Got to see “downtown” though so there’s something of an accomplishment I suppose. Came home to a delicious cookout. Right back into tropical paradise mode, huzzah! Got introduced to the dangers of the island by Burney after dinner and had a brief pep-talk before some hang time. Ended on the best possible note, going to sleep in the warm tropical wind in my tent.

Off day!

Posted on June 17, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

Break! So necessary. John and I helped the profs pack. Its hard to imagine being less useful as I had no idea what was important or where anything should go. We did manage to get it done in pretty good time though. After that we went for lunch at a Thai restaurant. One member of our group had somehow managed to go through 20 years of life without ever trying Thai food. Shocking. Then some thrifting, getting last minutes supplies for Kauai and enjoying the sun. Just an all around pleasant saturday. After dinner we hung out, walked around, then played a round of trivia. Pretty early and tame night seeing as how we had to get up around 5 to leave in the morning…

Day 5

Posted on June 17, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

Starting to get a bit more relaxed. After a few days of wall to wall lectures today we finally decided which groups we would be in for the trip. In the morning we had a lecture from Dr. Lipo about his studies on Easter Island and how they related to what we may be doing on Kauai. After that we were given time to consider our options, then submit our preferences between the three groups (agricultural fields/archaeology, hydrology, or vegetation). After some deliberation we were told our groups. I picked vegetation, as I am less interested in hydrology and archaeology, and I really hope to gain a better understanding of how to use the eCognition software to classify land coverage. Of what we have seen so far that would be the skill that would most appeal to me to look more into. After lunch we met in our smaller groups for a (very) brief intro to what we’d be doing. We were then set loose to do some research. None of us really knew what to do so we ended up not going much besides downloading a few shapefiles and looking for some general readings.
On a personal note, after the days work a friend from my study abroad came down from La Canada so we went out to an 80’s night (after our group pizza party) and had a lovely evening.

Day 4

Posted on June 14, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

A more hands on day today. We started a little late (technically difficulties one would imagine), then rotated through three stations. First off was a GPS tutorial wherein we walked around and got ourselves accustomed to using the trimble by making a smiley face over campus. Next up was the XRF, an X-ray machine which measures the makeup of soil samples. Yet another tool to help us determine as much as we can on the island, although I have yet to see how exactly these tools will come together. The final station was an introduction to the spectrograph, which allows you to measure the amount of light reflected by vegetation. This tool looked rather difficult to use but I don’t think we’ll be using it much anyways (at least not without the guidance of an expert). After that was a powerpoint about the work of Dr. Lipo on Easter Island where he revealed that his research will be published tomorrow as the cover article in National Geographic and will soon appear on a PBS Nova series. We ended the day on a fun note as we tested the blimp camera for the first time. This involved quite a bit of setup, then plenty of people running around trying to make sure we didn’t drop a very very expensive camera on the sidewalk. In the end we managed to avoid disaster, although I’m not sure we got too many great pictures out of it…

Wildly GISticulating

Posted on June 14, 2012 by Jesse Yourish

Well that sped up in a hurry. Quite a day today. Not only did we have quite a few lectures but the tutorials went at light speed. It was all I could do to stay anywhere near caught up. First off, Matt Becker introduced what his hydrogeology work onKauaiwould consist of, this being kayaking around and taking temperature samples of the water in an attempt to map where groundwater was interacting with the ocean water. I think the prospecting of kayaking all day got people pretty excited about his project… We then got a lecture about eCognition, a software which allows you take a remotely sensed image and classify what you see in it to make it into a more usable map. This is probably the tool I am most interested in from this program but I struggled mightily to keep up, so I’ll have to do my homework on that one. Following this, Dr. Wechsler gave an introduction to raster data, including how it works behind the scenes in ArcGis. She wanted to stress that certain aspects of it are programmed by others and their choices affect how our data comes out. Further, how grids appear is highly dependent on factors such as where they are placed. It is important, then, to make sure you look deeper at your results and don’t take them as any sort of objective “truth” as there is inherently subjectivity worked into the methods. Finally we looked how to create composite orthophotos. This was really cool. We were able to take a series of photographs and turn them into a 3D image. Rad. After learning this tool we were sent out to take a bunch of pictures of something and redo the exercise with these images. A few of us, fed up with being cooped up all day while it was so beautiful out decided to head to the beach for our picture taking. While our grand plans failed homework wise (didn’t take enough pictures maybe?) it was good to get outside and active. We (or at least I) ended up coming back to the dorms to take pictures of a simpler object for the assignment. This still didn’t work out perfectly, but hopefully we’ll get some more practice to be able to figure all this out.

About Jesse Yourish

Is from Port Townsend, WA and is currently a rising senior Geography major and Statistics minor at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.