Geoinformatics Interests and Background
NOTE: This page was last updated in September, 2008!
In the last several years I have become more focused on synthesis of diverse, large datasets to address scientific and applied environmental topics; appropriate informatics tools and infrastructure for achieving such data integration; and open collaborations in the development of tools and datasets. My approach and passion are heavily inspired by the open-source software community, and I make extensive use of such software.
I spent five years as a lead GIS Analyst at a County surface water agency in Washington State. Working for a local government organization and its partners was a very educational experience. I learned a lot about GIS and information systems, related technology, targeting IT to real needs with real constrains, and developing fruitful collaborations between government, the private sector, the public, and the non-profit sector. I also had the privilege of working with a terrific and generally very sane team. My work generally centered around the integration of environmental information, coupling GIS, relational databases, web applications, and field data collection systems (GPS, sensors, and manual data entry).
A listing of the main projects I have developed or been heavily involved with over the last 10 years. I've made a few presentations related to these projects.
Projects related to my scientific research
- Global NEWS modeling Environment (GNE). In my current research with Global NEWS, I have led the integration of previously dispersed, spreadsheet-based sub-models (representing individual element forms, such as dissolved inorganic phosphorus and particulate nitrogen) into a common code framework using the open-source Python language. This new framework allows us to run model sets far more efficiently and consistently, will facilitate the use and improvement of Global NEWS by others (without restrictions of license costs or operating system), and will make it easier to embed Global NEWS in Earth System models.
- River biogeochemical and water quality databases. I have had a long-term interest in the compilation, facilitation, and integration of river biogeochemical data collected by mutiple groups. To enable basin-wide synthesis and long-term data access for Amazon studies, I led the development of a relational database compiling extensive river biogeochemical data tightly linked to geospatial information characterizing sampling sites’ drainage areas. This work included the development of automated GIS processing steps and a river-network algorithm and dataset for the Amazon (Mayorga et al. 2005; also see old discussions about this database). In 2006 I participated in a GERM (Geochemical Earth Reference Model) workshop at Columbia University, where river geochemical databases was a focus area. That year I also led the integration of Snohomish County's water quality database into the Pacific Northwest Water Quality Data Exchange Network (PNW WQX), whereby we became the first county level organization to participate in EPA's Exchange Network. Finally, my current work with Global NEWS involves extensive aggregation of global river geochemical data for model development.
- Environmental Modeling Utilities (EMU). During the first half of my graduate studies I was heavily involved in continental-scale terrestrial hydrology and biogeochemistry modeling for the Amazon basin. To facilitate our team's data management and model output analysis requirements, I co-led the development of a framework of common data access and analysis tools written in C. This package in no longer in use, but its old web pages are available for browsing.
Central American collaborative
Working with a volunteer-based, collaborative online group which I co-founded, I led the development of an interactive web mapping application focused on Central America. This application was built on open source software, especially MapServer. It involved extensive regional data compilation and reprocessing, and implementation of remote spatial layers using OGC Web Map Services (WMS); WMS layers included both static and near-real-time remote sensing imagery. Other near-real-time layers involved automated reprocessing of remote fire hot spot data for use in our application.
Projects at Snohomish County (2001-2006)
- Real-time flood warning and road closure web applications. Working closely with our GIS team, the river monitoring group, and the roads group, I developed the technical specifications and implemented a light-weight system to make real-time information available online for warning the public about floods and emergency road closures. This system was built largely with open-source tools and has been running continuously since 2003.
- Water quality information systems. I provided extensive support to the water quality management programs at the County. My involvement included integration of automated GIS processing into internal and online data systems developed by consultants; working closely with agency staff, the County IT department, and consultants to develop needs assessments, technical specifications, and plans for coordinated future technical growth; development of automated field data collection and management workflows (including data processing and loading scripts, and integrated GIS and relational database tools); and automated linkage of the County's database to regional and national data exchange networks (see River biogeochemical and water quality databases above).
- Storm water fee assessment and billing system integration. I led the integration of multi-departmental cadastral, financial, and environmental data to provide user-friendly access for analysts and billing staff to up-to-date relevant information in different forms, including GIS, tabular form, and through a custom graphical user interface. This system supports the assessment and tracking of storm water fees, including the results of impervious area digitization and field inspections, and detailed analysis of fee revenue by categories or regions. I conceived the overall system, developed several of its components (particularly the GIS elements, original database schema, and data integration routines), and managed the contract with a consulting company to develop the final system.
- Watershed habitat restoration and salmon conservation projects information. I worked closely with staff in the County's Aquatic Habitat and Salmon Conservation Programs and its partners to define information needs, overhaul earlier project databases, and lay the groundwork for the development of a multi-stakeholder, web accessible system for recording and managing river restoration project data as well as multi-scale project effectiveness monitoring information. As part of this effort, I was also a member of the technical advisory committee assisting in the definition of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Habitat Work Schedule Database.