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 lavern@lavernrogersryan.com. Visit our website at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

You can also submit a message using the form below.

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, 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.

GIS, Mapping

Celebrate GIS Day Annually and Don’t Forget the Cake!

Since my introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  some 15 years ago, GIS day is one of those days that I look forward to annually. GIS day is usually on the Wednesday of Geography Awareness Week in November.  It is the one day set aside to show how geographic intelligence touches everyone and provides excellent forum for users, like myself, to showcase unique GIS accomplishments.(See my previous blog –  Counting the population is as easy as 1, 2, 3 with the help of GIS).

This November, (November 14, 2018) hundreds of organizations from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Caribbean will be hosting gatherings that will serve to ignite the imagination of the future geospatial innovators who will move our planet forward using GIS.  All registered users who will be hosting an event for GIS day 2018 is displayed on www.gisday.com. It is indeed a global event.

Users in the Caribbean region are joining in as well.  Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Trinidad have already registered their events.

Montserrat is no exception. Our event is registered too!

In the past, to add to the sweetness of this event we have often added a cake to the celebrations.  Here are a few pictures of the cakes we have had to celebrate GIS day in Montserrat over the years.

Now there is absolutely no reason not to love GIS day! Find an event close to you and use the opportunity to learn more about this exciting technology and its amazing capabilities.