Drone, GIS, Imagery, Mapping

Getting Comfy in the Drone Zone

I remember the first day I ever held a drone! I remember it vividly because it was the first day I went back out to work, after giving birth to my second child, some 7 years ago. This day was filled with so much promise and excitement. I still feel like a kid in a candy store, every time I see or touch a drone!

In a previous blog, I spoke about Drones: Four reasons to use them in GIS and Mapping. These past months, I have been very busy in using drones to conduct mapping activities. As part of the team tasked with updating imagery for the island of Montserrat the Delair UX11 – a fixed wing drone is being used to capture large areas quickly. Mr. Sardar Ali was very instrumental in ensuring that we had an excellent grasp of this drone’s operation, albeit virtually, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was definitely a steep learning curve.

Then I was introduced to quadcopters – the DJI Mini 3 and the DJI Mavic Air 2s by Dr. Kim Baldwin. It was so refreshing to meet another female in the drone industry. She was an absolute boss and I had to ensure that Dr. Kim would be back to Montserrat so I took her to Runaway Ghaut. As the legend goes “If you drink from this burn, to Montserrat you will return”. Yup, she will be back soon!

Below is one of the techniques I learnt from Kim. This definitely helps to preserve the life of the drone, as there may be areas that are not suitable to land on. Come check this:

Now I am super excited to use the DJI Phantom 4 RTK to provide accurate centimeter-level positioning and data. Here is a video my first daughter created to show the unveiling of our new baby!

The output includes digital elevation models and orthomosaic imagery which can then in turn be used by any GIS software for further analysis.

If you like the view from above, like me, you would definitely enjoy these photos, taken with the 20 mega-pixel camera of the Phantom 4 RTK.

Olveston, Montserrat

Please complete the drone flight request form https://forms.gle/465VjXi49Yex9zh89 so that we can understand your needs and be better able to assist you. Contact LRR Geospatial Consultancy via email at [email protected] Visit our website at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specializing in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Ecosystem Accounting, GIS, Mapping

Attending the 1st Ecosystem Accounting Conference in the Caribbean

My journey with Ecosystem Accounting began in 2018, when a National Ecosystem Assessment was done for Montserrat. It highlighted the need for accurate spatial data in order to understand the total economic value of the Montserrat environment. The work that was done by Environment Systems focused on Earth Observation (EO) based Mapping and Interpretation, which developed a detailed map of terrestrial habitats on Montserrat. This, combined with the marine data which was collected by the Waitt Institute through the Blue Halo Project provided a good base to report on the extent and condition of the ecosystems in Montserrat.

Montserrat Terrestrial and Benthic Habitat Map Combined

My colleague and I, are pictured below with the awesome team in 2018 at Environment Systems in Aberystwyth, Wales. We spent two days together, learning and sharing about ecosystem services, spatial metrics, rasterization and Sentinel data.

At Environment Systems in Aberystwyth, Wales

Now, four (4) years later, Montserrat along with four other British Overseas Territories have been able to complete their 2020 Ecosystem accounts with guidance from eftec, funded by a Darwin Plus Project and in collaboration with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

The 1st Ecosystem Accounting Conference for the British Overseas Territories was held March 1-3, 2022 in Anguilla. This brought together practitioners from Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. Persons who specialize in natural resources and statistics from each of the various islands were present.

By reporting on the contributions of ecosystems to a society’s well being in monetary terms, helps us all to compare the value of ecosystems more easily against other goods and services that we are more familiar with. In other words, the accounts provide a framework for the collection and presentation of environmental and economic data, so that the value nature provides can be better understood. This provides an evidence base to support environmentally and economically sustainable decision making, 

Montserrat’s Chief Statistician, Ms. Siobhan Tuitt shared a thorough report of how the 2020 ecosystems accounts were compiled and any challenges that were faced in sourcing the data.

During a breakout session, I had the most exciting opportunity to share where we get our mapping data from and how this data fits into our ecosystem account.

Presenting about mapping data during a break out session

Anguilla was ideally suited to hosting the conference, as this location provided many opportunities to visualize the value of ecosystems. Here are a few of the pictures that I captured. These pictures are worth a lot more than a thousand words!

It was indeed a pleasure to attend the 1st Caribbean Ecosystem Accounting Overseas Territories Conference. We are now focused on the ways in which these ecosystems can be best managed to ensure continued services and benefits to the people who use them.

Pictured Left to Right – Ian Dickie, Natalya Kharadi, Lavern Ryan, Siobhan Tuitt

GIS, Imagery, Mapping

Training Workshop: A Basic Introduction to QGIS, GPS and Drone Mapping

In collaboration with the Montserrat National Trust and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), LRR Geospatial Consultancy provided a 2-day basic introductory course on QGIS, GPS and Drone Mapping to 19 participants from diverse backgrounds to include persons working in the field of agriculture, biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and land surveying.

On Day 1, the participants were given a brief overview of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and its components. They learnt about the visualization and data consolidation capabilities that a GIS provides and the major differences between a map and a GIS.

Delving into the opensource software, QGIS, participants were given a step by step guide on:

  1. The user interface of QGIS
  2. Loading Vector Layers
  3. Navigating the Map Canvas
  4. Symbolization and Labelling
  5. Digitizing an existing feature
  6. Creating New Vector Data
Training Material Provided

Day 2 focused on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and drone mapping covering the following topics:

  1. Introduction to GPS and Terrasync Software
  2. Field Data Collection
  3. Loading GPS Points into QGIS
  4. Layout and Exporting Maps
  5. An Introduction to Drone Mapping

Participants learnt that GPS, developed by the United States Department of Defense is only one of four Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). GLONASS which was developed by Russia, Galileo which was developed by the EU and BeiDou which was developed by China make up the other three Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

After being introduced to the software, and given tips for optimal data collection, participants were then challenged to collect a list of spatial data (points, lines and polygons), from the beautiful botanical gardens of the Montserrat National Trust using the Garmin etrex 30x and the Trimble Geo7x.

Map of the Botanical Gardens
Montserrat National Trust Botanical Gardens

Participants also learnt about the four major types of drones and were further engaged with videos and explanations about the Delair UX11, a fixed wing drone and how it is used for spatial data collection.

Holding the Delair UX11 Fixed Wing Drone

Participants are now better positioned to create, collect and share spatial data.

Participants on the course

If you are interested in learning more about this course or how GIS can help you in your work, contact LRR Geospatial Consultancy via email at [email protected] Visit our website at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

You can also submit a message using the form below.

Disaster Response, GIS, Mapping, Volcano, Volunteering

Responding to the Volcanic Eruption in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by Volunteering for Remote Deployment.

“Alert Check: Volcanic Eruption St Vincent and the Grenadines, please sign up your availability”. Those were the words which greeted me as I checked my MapAction email. Simple words, but so profound for me. Those words really hit hard, and hit home! I could not ignore that call for action. I signed up for remote deployment. It turned out to be my first official response deployment as a MapActioner!

Like many persons within the region, I have been observing the volcanic dome growth in St. Vincent and the Grenadines since late 2020. As the dome grew magma continued to fill the space around the old 1979 dome as depicted in the images below.

Source: Scientific Resource Centre
Photo Credit: NEMO, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Photo Credit: NEMO, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

A period of elevated volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes which began on 23rd March 2021 gave an indication to scientists that the situation at La Soufriere deteriorated. An evacuation order was issued on April 8, 2021 by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Evacuation Order Issued

The very next day, on April 9, 2021, La Soufrière Volcano erupted! The eruption was very visible to persons around the world due to the prominence of posts on social media. It was easy to see live feeds and video posts as the action unfolded. Images of the massive mushroom plume created from the eruption, brought back so many memories for me. It was beautifully dangerous!

Having experienced the eruption of our very own Soufrière Hills Volcano in Montserrat and having lived with an active volcano for the past two decades, I empathized with the residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Being displaced from one’s home to live in a shelter is no easy feat. Furthermore, having to leave behind, the beloved island you call home, is even more challenging. I knew the road ahead for many persons would be a long, difficult process, hence my conviction to provide support in the best way I knew how: – by providing geospatial support.

It was great news to discover that Mike was also selected as a member of this remote deployment team for the St. Vincent Response. Mike and I were recruited at the same time in 2019 to form part of the Caribbean Section of MapAction. The picture below is a throw-back to June 2019 in Trinidad. We had several days of intense conversion training sessions. In retrospect, those days have really set the foundation for our ability to deliver during this response.

Our team was led by Matt who resides in New Zealand. He is very knowledgeable and has significant experience in deployments. We also received additional support from another volunteer Pip, who is located in the United Kingdom (UK). We supported the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) for a period of 3 weeks. Subsequently, another two volunteers, Ant and Jorge, were deployed to support the environmental work with the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) response. We represented different time zones and locations from across the globe.

This unique team selection, worked out very well, as it offered 24 hour coverage for the St. Vincent response. Mike and I, being located in the Caribbean region, were uniquely placed to attend briefing meetings in our local time zone and follow up with any new developments; while Matt provided another level of support from New Zealand as his day began when ours was coming to an end. No sleep lost – I guess! Our daily briefing meetings allowed us to report our findings during that day and allowed us to strategize in the allocation and completion of tasks.

MapAction has mastered the ability to use different tools to share and work together in a remote working environment. In my opinion, the COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened this area. The image below highlights some of the main tools we used to ensure smooth deployment coordination.

One of the major needs of any emergency response is geospatial data. “Data scramble” as the term is coined, involves the researching, collating and organizing of all the spatial data available for a particular location and ensuring that it is fit for purpose. The data collected was prepared by transforming it into the correct projected coordinate system to allow for overlay and integration between different datasets. Datasets included administrative boundaries, such as parishes, census districts, shelter locations, elevation data, transportation networks, buildings, land use, hazard zones, and health centres just to name a few. These were placed in appropriately, themed-folder locations so that it would be easy for deployed members to find them during a response.

Coordinating with CDEMA, MapAction provided mapping support to to aid in visualization of the situation on the ground. The maps produced are available on Map Action’s website.

One of the first maps prepared is a reference map of the area. I consider this to be one of the most important maps to be prepared, as it gives context to the area of interest. Everything else is built upon this.

The basemap shown on the left below is detailed with settlement locations, roads, parishes, village names, rivers and elevation data. The baseline map sown on the right, highlights the population figures of St.Vincent derived from the most recent 2012 census survey. This allowed us to understand how the population is distributed throughout the affected areas.

To provide further understanding, situational maps were prepared. Data being shared through situation reports from the Emergency Management Agency, allowed us to transform the data into visual representations of what is happening in the ground. The maps on the left, shows movement of displaced persons from affected communities in the red, orange and yellow zones. The map on the right, shows the location and status of the shelters.

Additionally a 3D webmap was created. You can explore it here. It shows the key volcanic events and hazards of the La Soufrière volcano. This dynamic map allows you to explore the data which was used to create the maps above and offers a better understanding of the risk posed by the volcanic eruption in St. Vincent.

3D Webmap showing hazards

Working so closely with the data from St. Vincent during this period of time, allowed me to become very familiar with areas and village locations in St. Vincent. Seeing feeds on social media allowed me to identify quickly with where things were happening. Names such as as Chateaubelair, Troumaca, Byera, Owia and Fancy stood out to me!

During my remote deployment, some acronyms were mentioned frequently during our briefing meetings. I eventually got the hang of them! These all form part of the response mechanism which helps the crisis on the ground to be addressed. Each of these teams highlighted below, played a very important function in being able to get supplies into St. Vincent, assessing the needs of the population and understanding the impact of the disaster on the island.

CDRUCARICOM Disaster Relief Unit
COSTCARICOM Operations Support Team
DARTDisaster Assessment Response Team
RCCRegional Coordination Centre
RNAT Rapid Needs Assessment Team
SRCSeismic Research Centre
UNDACUnited Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination
Useful Acronymns

A number of other international organizations responded to the crisis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, by activating their disaster response mechanisms and programs. The links below provide additional insight into their response activities.

  1. Copernicus Emergency Management Service
  2. The International Charter Space and Major Disasters
  3. Maxar: Open Data Program
  4. Nasa Disaster Program

Satellite images like the ones below, were captured as time progressed and further mapping and analysis was carried out. Derived information proved useful to responders on the ground.

MapAction is known to respond in-person during an emergency response deployment. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited this, my experience through this remote response deployment has shown that MapAction’s involvement is still significant in providing geospatial information to support the humanitarian needs of persons in crisis. I do look forward to future deployments with MapAction!

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Disaster Response, Disaster Risk Reduction, GIS, Imagery, Mapping, Volunteering

Assessing and Responding to the Beirut Blast through the Use of Imagery and Mapping Techniques

My colleague turned his phone to me and said, “Have you seen this?” Thinking that it was just another funny video created by one of the many internet users who are currently in lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I braced myself. This time however, it was no joke!

On August 4th, 2020, a warehouse at the Port in Beirut, Lebanon, storing approximately 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, exploded, destroying nearby buildings and causing damage miles away.

Compare the images below by moving the slider. They show images pre-event on June 9, 2020 and post-event on August 5, 2020. In the image the port warehouses, and the grain silos can be seen. The destruction of the 120,000-ton capacity structure of the grain silo and disabling of the port, the main entry point for food imports, exacerbates concerns about food supplies for Lebanon.

Satellite images shows pre and post blast event in Beirut, Lebanon

Coincidentally, during my university days in Edinburgh, Scotland, I shared a flat with two amazing ladies who I grew very close to during my year abroad. Thankfully, I still maintain close contact with them, although it has been more than 16 years since we first met. One of them is from Lebanon and the other from Cyprus. Instinctively, upon realizing the severity of the situation that I witnessed in that video, I reached out to them both. My friend from Lebanon, now resides elsewhere. She indicated however, that many of her family members suffered damage to their homes. My Cypriot friend mentioned that they heard the explosion all the way in Cyprus and that it even felt like an earthquake!

Pictured below is a map showing the proximity of Cyprus to Lebanon, an approximate 265 km distance. I couldn’t help but think of the safety of my friends and their families.

Proximity of Cyprus to Lebanon

As a member of the humanitarian mapping charity – MapAction, I was thankful to learn that a 3 member group was being deployed to help! Even with the rising challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, this organization, as well as many others are ready to offer support in crisis.

Responding to the Beirut explosion

After being given the opportunity to attend an International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) Earthquake Response Exercise (ERE) in December 2019 in Thailand, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the need of collaboration and communication between the teams that are on the ground responding to a disastrous situation. MapAction supports this effort by providing maps to help with co-ordination. The map below shows that in Lebanon, there are several teams on the ground, to include Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the Red Cross. It is quite helpful when co-ordination locations are known by all the teams on the ground.

This is another map that has been provided by MapAction. It shows the area being divided up into more manageable sectors. The locations where bio hazards exist, have been identified and highlighted on the map.

During the past few days, many satellite imagery companies have offered their support to Beirut. This offering is welcomed, as it helps teams on the ground to conduct further damage assessment and provide service delivery to those in need.

The Disasters Charter has also been activated to respond to the Beirut blast. Though clouds obscure parts of this image taken via a Pleides satellite sensor, the map shows emergency shelters being set up, and highlights the location of hospitals in the area.

It is my hope and prayer that Lebanon receives the much needed support and humanitarian relief it requires in the aftermath of this disaster. #prayforlebanon

In my previous blogs I have indicated the importance of up-to-date imagery in responding to a disaster and also what led me to becoming a MapAction Volunteer. You can read them below:

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Disaster Risk Reduction, GIS, Imagery, Mapping, Volcano

My career in GIS was subconsciously influenced 25 years ago by the eruption of Soufriere Hills Volcano

July 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano on Montserrat and presents an opportune moment for reflection.

I was only 13 years old at the time, but I do remember the chaos surrounding these events. It was a very uncertain time for those of us living in Montserrat. At the time I attended the Seventh-day Adventist School in Delvins. I remember exiting the classroom and looking up towards the heavens, like many of my peers. The sky was very dark that day, no one seemed to know what was happening. The picture below is symbolic of what has been etched in my memory.

Emission of ash from Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat

I remember the hustle and bustle of parents coming to collect their children. Unfortunately, some of us never had the opportunity to attend school in Montserrat ever again and our childhood friendships and dreams of experiencing life together on Montserrat were dismantled. My mother thought it best to send myself and my brother to live in Antigua with my Aunt because of the uncertainty with schooling and living in Montserrat. Now being a mother myself, I understand her decision.

Just as we began settling into the new norm of life in Antigua, Hurricane Luis, a powerful category 4 hurricane, hit Antigua on September 5th, 1995. This hurricane disseminated the country of Antigua causing damage and destruction to 45% of the residences on Antigua as it passed near 30 miles (48 km) to the north of the island. A recount of Hurricane Luis by Mr. Dale Destin can be found https://268weather.wordpress.com/tag/hurricane-luis/. This storm basically flattened many homes in Antigua, and my Aunt’s home was no exception. Thankfully, to meaningful friendships, my Aunt was able to find accommodation for us and her family elsewhere. So many additional complexities came about from these developments. For example, I remember having to attend school on a shift basis (interestingly, similar to my daughter’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic now) and spending many nights studying by flashlight and candle light in order to fulfill the requirements for the next day of school.

Although, I was out of Montserrat physically, Montserrat was constantly on my mind. We were always tuned in to ZJB radio to keep abreast of any updates and mostly because my mother was still on island. As a matter of fact, she never migrated!

My brother graduated from secondary school in Antigua in June 1997, and it was around this time that our capital, Plymouth was buried under pyroclastic flows (pictured below). There was no way, that my Mom was going to allow him to go back home. I believe that she was scared even for her own safety! I started thinking about whether or not I will ever be able to identify areas in Plymouth again. Such a tragedy!

Plymouth buried under pyroclastic flows, 1997
Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2013/05/soufriere-hills-volcano/100509/

After I graduated secondary school in Antigua in a year later, there was still uncertainty in Montserrat. My Mom admonished that it was not the ideal time to return and encouraged me to use the opportunity to continue on to tertiary education. So I ventured even further away from home to pursue a 4 year Computer Science degree in Trinidad. Based on the ongoing situation in Montserrat, I opted to take summer courses which resulted in me completing my degree earlier. Foremost in my mind was how I could make a meaningful contribution to my island home.

I returned home after University graduation in 2002. I was pleased that so many new homes had been built in the north of the island and although businesses were scattered throughout the northern area, things were returning to some sense of normalcy.

New homes built in Lookout, Montserrat (Picture taken in May 2002)

I remember having the opportunity to discuss GIS with a consultant who was visiting Montserrat to conduct training. He explained that it was a relatively new field of technology, but it can be used for disaster management along with many other things. He encouraged me to research, applying my knowledge of my recently earned degree to this emerging science.

I delved in, and the rest is history! I completed a Master’s degree in GIS within 3 years of being introduced to the topic. My research topic centered around the “Integration of Remote Sensing Techniques and GIS to Detect and Update Changes in Land Cover as a Result of Intra-island Migration on Montserrat.” Being able to apply my knowledge of GIS to the redevelopment of Montserrat and further assist in disaster management on island, has been my motivation. In retrospect, I can truly say that the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano 25 years ago, has influenced my career in GIS to date.

Post Script:

I want to say a hearty thank you to my Mom, who sacrificed everything and ensured that I had a Montserrat to come back home to! I love you Mommy!

Mommy and I.

Learn more about GIS in my previous blog posts below:

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Hydrographic Surveying, Mapping

Hydrographic Surveying: Mapping the Ocean Floor

This week’s focus has been on the World’s Oceans. World Oceans Day is held every year on 8th June to raise awareness of the vital importance of our oceans and the role they play in sustaining a healthy planet.

With that in mind, in order to understand what lies beneath our oceans, hydrographic surveying is usually conducted. Hydrographic surveying involves measuring, describing and mapping physical features that can be found underwater in our oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers .

I have been enlightened on the processes and the detailed tasks involved in conducting hydrographic surveying with some training in QPS Qinsy and CARIS (HIPS and SIPS) software programs. In a nutshell, these software programs are used to help with line planning (this helps the surveyor to collect data coherently and also helps with the navigation of the vessel), implementation of the surveys and the post-processing of collected data.

In fact, the technology for collecting underwater data has come a long way, from leadline to sonar (sound navigation and ranging) technology as depicted in the pictures below.

A nostalgic 1985 sketch of hydrographic surveying using leadline
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrographic_survey#/media/File:Cgs01221_-_Flickr_-_NOAA_Photo_Library.jpg
Multibeam sonar used nowadays to map the ocean floor
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multibeam_echosounder#/media/File:Fis01334_(27555144884).jpg

The experience I gained in hydrographic surveying involved the use of multi-beam sonar technology which was mounted to the front of the vessel. It was really engaging to be able to adjust the swath angles as information is being received from the sensor and to see first hand images of the surface below the water. Some features did amaze and startle me!

Sonar works by transmitting a wide, fan-shaped pulse from a transducer and calculating how long it takes for the echo of that sound wave to be read by the receiver on the vessel. Given that the speed of sound in water is known, using basic trigonometry, the echo can be measured to determine the depth of the area being surveyed.

Video showing the importance of line planning.

This video was captured while the hydrographic survey was being carried out. It highlights the importance of line planning.

The visual provided a clear navigation aid for the captain and also allowed for data to be collected coherently avoiding gaps in the data’s sounding grid.

To ensure that errors were minimized while scanning the ocean floor, the speed of the vessel was reduced when scanning ‘a line”. In addition, when the captain had to make a turn to get on a “new line”, the data collection process was stopped altogether and then restarted after the turn was made. The post-processing of the hydrographic data included, applying tide and sound velocity corrections and removing unwanted data called “outliers”, which can occur from incorrect sea floor detection.

Although hydrographic surveying can be seen as a very time consuming process, there is an amazing project underway, Seabed 2030, which plans to get a full comprehensive map of the entire world’s oceans by 2030 using innovative crowd sourcing methods. Learn more about it below:

Seabed 2030 film 
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNF9NSDKo7c

The resulting data from the post processing is called bathymetric data. Bathymetric data is used most commonly to:

  • Update nautical charts. These charts guide mariners and ensures safety of lives at sea.
  • Inform on the effects of climate change, such as beach erosion and sea-level rise.
  • Determine areas for marine protection. The depth and characteristics of the seabed define the habitat for benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms. It can help to determine where fish and other sea life will feed, live, and breed.

One of the latest capital projects for the Island of Montserrat required hydrographic surveys to be conducted, allowing the island to benefit from subsea fibre optic cable. More information can be found at this link: https://discovermni.com/2020/01/08/marine-survey-for-montserrats-subsea-fibre-optic-cable-project-begins/.

Knowledge and understanding of our ocean floors will help us all to benefit from our blue economy.

Below I share some images showing some special views that I encountered while conducting hydrographic surveying on the west coast of Montserrat. Happy World Oceans Day 2020 to all!

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

COVID-19, GIS, Mapping

Feeling the COVID-19 travel blues? Dispel it by mapping your favorite locations around the world.

My youngest daughter, who insists that she is no longer a baby, made up her very own song about COVID-19. It is shared below for your listening pleasure. Even the youngest among us are aware of COVID-19. That to me signifies the impact that has had on life as we knew it.

The Covid-19 Song

For the past few months all that we have been hearing about is the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions it has placed on us all. Now with many borders being closed, and travel restricted to many destinations, I find myself thinking about the places I have been around the world. My most memorable places turns out to be where I have been, in relation to my learning about geospatial technologies. Listed below are my 7 most memorable places and an indication of the “GISsy” things I learnt when I visited.

  1. Dehradun, India – Remote Sensing and Digital Image Processing
  2. A Coruna, Spain – QGIS software training
  3. Chaing Mai, Thailand – Emergency Response
  4. Stanley, Falkland Islands – Spatial Data Management
  5. Merida, Mexico – Marine Spatial Planning
  6. Valetta, Malta – Coastal Resource Management
  7. Belmopan, Belize – Census Mapping

This trip down memory lane convinced me to create a simple map to document these memorable places. Shown below is the dynamic map I created. You can explore this map by zooming, panning and clicking on my location markers. I added images of each location that remains been etched in my mind from my visit.

Would you like to create your own COVID-19 travel blues map? Here’s how you can in 10 easy steps:

  1. Log in to your Google account
  2. Go to Google My Maps: https://www.google.com/mymaps
  3. In the welcome pop-up, select Create a new map
  4. Click the text Untitled map to edit the map title and description.
  5. Type your favorite location in the search box. The map will be panned to that location
  6. Click “+ add to map
  7. You then have the options to style, edit or add an image to tat marker if you so desire using the tools in the pop-up.
  8. You have the option of changing your base image. Try satellite.
  9. You can share your completed map with others by clicking the Share button in the map menu
  10. Under “Add people” at the bottom of the menu, type in the e-mail addresses of the people you’d like to share your map with directly, or choose from your contacts. You can select whether the people you invite can edit the map or just view it.

Congratulations on creating and sharing your very own map!

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Disaster Risk Reduction, GIS, Mapping

COVID-19: Using Geospatial Resources to Understand the Potential Impact on Our Communities.

On Tuesday March 17, 2020 with a cancelled celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, Montserrat received the dreaded news of its first confirmed case of novel coronavirus COVID-19. For many of us that is when the gravity of this situation hit home, literally!

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), in their press release (http://www.gov.ms/first-case-of-new-coronavirus-covid-19-confirmed-in-montserrat/), reminded members of the public to adhere to the following risk mitigation measures:

  1. Refrain from public gatherings
  2. Maintain social distance and
  3. Wash hands regularly with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer.
  4. Limit non-essential travel

In addition, to the guidelines provided above, the utilization of geospatial services and resources can help prepare, manage and deliver an effective response to COVID-19.

President of Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), Jack Dangermond in a letter addressed to its users, highlighted some steps that can be followed in order to understand the potential impact that COVID-19 can have on our community. Five are outlined below:

  1. Map the Cases – map confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries in order to identify where COVID-19 infections exist and have occurred.
  2. Map the Spread – Time enabled maps can reveal how infections spread over time and where interventions can be targeted.
  3. Map Vulnerable Populations – Mapping factors such as social vulnerability and age can help monitor risk groups
  4. Map Capacity to Respond – Map health facilities, medical resources and employees to understand and respond to potential impacts of COVID-19.
  5. Communicate with Maps – Use interactive webmaps, dashboard apps and story maps to help communicate the situation.

Communication with maps have already been used worldwide to map COVID-19. Webmaps, dashboards and story maps help to visualize the evolving situation.

The dashboard app below, powered by GeoTechVision (https://www.geotechvision.com/) shows the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide. It highlights infections, fatalities and most importantly recoveries.

In an effort to amalgamate information related to COVID-19 in one location, the Government of Montserrat created the Montserrat Coronavirus Response Data Hub: https://montserrat-covid-19-response-data-hub-montserratgis.hub.arcgis.com/. Within the site there is also a dashboard which gives relevant data on the current covid-19 statistics for the island.

The story map below details the origins of COVID-19 and gives an account of its geographic spread in an easy to read interactive dialogue.

Communication through map-based dashboards and story maps such as these offers accessible information to people in our communities and around the world eager to protect themselves. These tools improves data transparency and helps authorities disseminate information quickly and effectively.

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

Electric Vehicles, GIS, Mapping, Spatial Analytics

How GIS is being used to help alleviate “range anxiety” in the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs)


The first fully electric car was unveiled in Montserrat on August 16, 2019.  A truly historical moment which has been captured and shared on this youtube link by Montserrat's Government Information Unit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjENIlHGWBI&feature=share.

At the unveiling ceremony, a number of discussions surrounded the length of time that a fully charged battery would last and whether or not the electric vehicle (EV) would be able to traverse the winding, steep roads of Montserrat (case in point, Forgarthy Hill) on a full charge.

I have recently come to the understanding that this mindset is referred to as “range anxiety”.

The Oxford Online Dictionary defines range anxiety as “worry on the part of a person driving an electric car that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached”. It has been further noted that this is one of the major hindrances to large scale adoption of all-electric vehicles (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/range_anxiety).

Four major strategies have been implemented to alleviate range anxiety among electric car drivers:

  1. The development of higher battery capacity at a cost effective price
  2. Battery swapping technology
  3. The use of range extenders
  4. Accurate navigation and range prediction

The utilization of Geographic Information Systems  (GIS) however, and its capability to employ multi-criteria location analytics, provides a solution which would help to alleviate range anxieties for electric car users. Moreover, these tools can assist decision makers in developing a strategic plan for the establishment of a well distributed electric vehicle charging station infrastructure.

In identifying optimal geographic locations for new electric vehicle charging stations, a number of factors should be considered.

  1. Location of likely users of electric vehicles. This can be determined by utilizing census data which contains information on age groups and socio-economic information.
  2. Locations which are high attraction venues to the public. This includes identifying the location of places where persons tend to spend a great deal of time such as, airports, ferry ports, government offices, health care facilities, libraries, places of worship, schools, supermarkets and rum shops.
  3. Availability of GIS data based on appropriate themes - Information contained in datasets such as digital elevation models, land use maps, road networks are pertinent in conducting this type of location analysis.

The output would be a map which displays varying degrees of suitability for the most appropriate locations to install charging stations.

Overall, Electric vehicles (EVs) are both economic and ecological vehicles, since they get their power from rechargeable batteries inside the car. They are advertised as zero emission vehicles, less noisy and more cost effective in the long run.

With the utilization of GIS and location analytics, the main disadvantage of recharge related problems will be curtailed, as vehicle charging stations would be carefully located to maximize electric vehicle usage. The end result would be the reduction in range anxiety of its users.

To put the icing on the cake, it would be absolutely amazing if these charging stations can be fully powered by a source of renewable energy, such as, solar, wind, hydro or geothermal. Then we would be truly making strides to saving our planet!

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.