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


Posted on June 18, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

Today was a bit nebulous, as us students are transitioning into doing our projects. Some already have clear ideas of what their question is and how they will go about answering it. Some people are farther along than others. I have a couple ideas in mind, but I am unsure what the best one might be. It is a little difficult to know what is attainable in the short time we have left. I want to do something with bathymetry data and coral, perhaps relating it to the freshwater seeps. It also might be interesting to try to get imagery of the side of the cliffs/side of the valley and characterize the vegetation. A project that plays around with PhotoScan might be interesting too.

Tomorrow morning we’re having a meeting for everyone to figure out exactly what they are doing. Hopefully I can think of an interesting, but attainable project that I work on ASAP.


Posted on June 17, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

The main goal of today was for all the groups to present their common products. We did that mid-afternoon, so we had the morning to sleep in, relax, and prepare a little if needed. It was great to see what all the other groups did. I had a rough idea of what they had done, but seeing it all at once was really informative and gave me some more ideas of what I might want to do for my single project. I am really interested in the fresh water seeps offshore and the possible interactions with coral health.

I took a nice walk on the beach tonight with some fellow students. Besides the giant spiders, it was great! Time for some zzz’s.


Posted on June 16, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

Today was a half day off. The first half was spent in the barn making sure our common product was completely finished and a power point presentation was made.

The second half was spent relaxing and enjoying Hawaii. Family. BBQ. Snorkeling. Damien Marley. Good times. :)

Posted on June 14, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

The morning was spent in the valley, taking a few last water quality measurements. A few of the grad students tagged along as we went to the back of the valley to a few streams we missed. There was a professional surveyor here today to demonstrate a 3D scanning technique, but I missed it. Hopefully he will be back next week!

We left half past noon to head back to the barn. On our way back we stopped at the Shrimp Shack and got some good eats for lunch. Most of the day was getting our data organized and presentation done for Sunday. Despite our best efforts to have an organized data dictionary, there was some clean up that needed to be done.

Gotta keep the blog short and get the rest of the work done. Adios (til tomorrow)!

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

Today some of the groups switched members to give us experience doing different projects. I spent the first few hours with one of the archaeology groups (they split into two today). We looked at some rock walls running vertically from the cliffs down toward the ocean. I have no idea what purpose the walls would have served. There were a lot of them spaced about two hundred feet away from each other. It was on a steep slope with lots of vegetation, but there were a few cow trails to follow.

After that we returned to our base camp, had lunch, and watched some people from a local aerospace company launch one of their UAVs. Here is a link to a video of one of the  launches:    There was a less successful launch of one of the UAVs later in the afternoon…

Most of the hydrology work is done, except for the processing and organizing. James gathered most of what we had left while I was with the archaeology group, and I found where the water of the main channel resurfaces after the dry area.

After being in the hot humid field most of the group took a trip to get shaved ice. It was delicious. :)

Delicious shaved ice on top of ice cream.

One of the UAVs

Posted on June 12, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

Another productive and fun day of data collecting! James and I were joined by one of the TAs, Emily, on our hydrology mission. She brought along a turbidity meter and a flow meter for us to use. We took a few turbidity measurements in one of the marshy areas and we got very high readings (compared to the streams). The flow meter wasn’t used much. The streams in the valley flow, but barely at all. We still need to compare the turbidity readings to see if there are any patterns.

We tried to walk up the main channel where possible and walked along a road in the north side of the valley to see where stream channels  cross the road. It doesn’t sound like much, but it took a while! We also took a quick visit to an abandoned water mine/well in the side of the north side of the Ka’a’awa Valley.

Now it’s time to import the data we collected today to organize an clean it up.

Hiking and data collection

Posted on June 11, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

We got to Kaʻaʻawa Valley a little before 9AM. James and I made sure our radio worked and then got a ride toward the back of the valley. For today we wanted to create the most accurate representation of the streams in the valley that we could, so we would try to walk one. Most of them are either marshy or overrun with dense vegetation. We went up a small stream that crossed one of the roads. The water flowed for a couple hundred feet but became mostly-dry afterwards (it rained a little early this morning). There was a slightly overgrown path next to the stream that we followed for a while before it slowly disappeared.  We followed the stream up until it became too steep and overgrown with vegetation and then we walked down the center of the stream back to the road. It was fun to do for one stream, but most of the streams are impassable due to the vegetation.

Most open part of path next to the stream.


For the impassable streams we may just try to find the points where they intersect hiking paths or roads and then see how the points look on a DEM. We started doing this by taking a hiking trail up toward the back of the valley. It ran all the way up to the top of the watershed on the ridge. It was a good opportunity to scope out the valley from above and to take a couple pictures. I took a panorama from the ridge using Microsoft ICE and Photosynth that can be viewed here (you may need to create an account to view it):

Ka'a'awa Valley

After hiking back to the road we tried to find out the extent of one of the large marshy areas in the center of the valley, but we may need to come back later with heavy duty rain boots.

Tired from the hiking we went back to base camp (where all the cars are parked) and found a pond and marsh area (a bit less marshy than the last one) to outline with the Trimble.


We created a map with the data we have to visualize what we have so far. I’ll upload a completed map later this week.

Tonight I’m going to do some brainstorming for what project I want to do in the coming weeks.




Posted on June 10, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

Today was the first day of collection in the field. James and I finished inputting our data dictionary into GPS Pathfinder Office and then loaded it onto the Trimble Unit we used.


Trimble Unit


We wanted to see what streams and stream beds would even be possible to walk and take points from. Most of the streams have very dense vegetation which blocks the GPS receiver from receiving as many satellites. A lot of the vegetation is also nearly impassable (that is, without a machete). We found a trail on the south side of the valley which passed through many of the stream areas. I was surprised that a few were still flowing .


We took points where the streams crossed the trail. Hopefully we can put some points farther up the slope and where they enter the main perennial streams.

Apparently there was a commercial being filmed in the valley today too. There was a helicopter circling close overhead and a car zipping around.

Pretty view


Cool plant life


We made a side trip to Easter Island


Tomorrow: more data collection!



Visiting Kualoa Ranch and Kaʻaʻawa Valley

Posted on June 9, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

The sound of roosters crowing woke me up bright and early. Our host made a nice breakfast for all of us – oatmeal, eggs, fruit cups, and juice. Following breakfast we had a lecture from Dr. Terry Hunt, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii. The lecture condensed an entire semester’s worth of content on the archaeology of Oceania and Hawaii into an hour. It was very interesting and there was a lot of material I did not know before. I definitely want to read more on the subject.

Following the lecture we all made our lunches and then headed to Kualoa Ranch to take a tour of Kaʻaʻawa Valley. One of the owner’s of the ranch gave us a tour in one of the buses, giving us a brief history of the ranch along the way. There are a few remnants from World War II left around the ranch, which was neat to see. The valley is a popular location for movies and TV. Scenes from Lost, Pearl Harbor, George of the Jungle, 50 First Dates, and more were filmed there. They had a gallery of pictures from the movies in a bunker from WW2, as well as the prop of the submarine from Lost.

We took a couple detours off of the bus to view a couple of possibly interesting archaeological sites. Since I’m in the hydrology team for the first week, I tried to take note of any water features. There is one perennial stream in the valley (at least part of it flows year round… it percolates into the ground close to the shore) and lots of ephemeral streams. The challenge will be telling where the ephemeral streams are. Hopefully we will get some rain in the next couple of days. We built a ‘data dictionary’ to put into the Trimble units, which will help us classify the hydrology features.

Pictures of the valley to come!



Hello Hawaii!

Posted on June 9, 2013 by Gordan Buckingham

We flew to O’ahu today!

Music to listen to while you read this blog: The Strokes – Hawaii

The morning started taking four Super Shuttles to LAX, dragging all of the research equipment with us. There was so much baggage to check! I had Yuma from Trimble as my carryon. The TSA officials apparently had never seen a GPS receiver before and took some swabs from it. Once past security I had some Burger King (a delicious bacon Gouda biscuit) before boarding on the Hawaiian Airlines plane. Casual Hawaiian music played throughout the cabin as I sat down. I was one seat away from the window and watched as the plane immediately went from the runway to over the Pacific.

The five hour flight went by quickly. I mostly read (The Trial by Franz Kafka, since it was one of the few e-books I had on my phone) and listened to music. There was also a documentary on passenger-screens about Hawaii.

I was in awe of the beauty of the islands at the first glimpse from the window.



We drove across the island to our temporary new home at Tradewinds Ranch. We settled in, played some large-size jenga, saw all the different animals here, and then had dinner. Following dinner, most of the group walked down to the beach and went for a swim. I have never swum in water so clear. The water was not as cold as I thought it would be. I should have worn my water shoes though. There were more rocks than sand.

Now to go soak in the scenery.

Where are our staying on O'ahu.

Our new temporary home.



About Gordan Buckingham

I am a senior at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. I am studying Geography with a concentration in GIS. I am interested in all things spatial and I am excited for this opportunity to do research on O'ahu.