Blog 6/26/16

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Today we woke up early in order to catch a 9:45am ferry to the island of Heimaey.  Fortunately no one got sea sick, granted the ride was only a half an hour in fairly calm waters. Upon arrival we headed to our Airbnb for the night, which is a beautiful house just a few blocks from the harbor. Our hosts were incredibly nice and told us about the local pub and where there are interesting places on the island. Rain and clouds engulfed us all morning so we waited for it to clear up a little. After lunch we geared up and headed to the harbor to start streaming. The clouds hung low over the mountains creating an peaceful atmosphere over the fishing boats. We started streaming a meter above the water and walked from there up the the lava fields. The rocks were covered in moss with lupin stealing space in every crack. We could see where houses use to be before the 1973 eruption of Eldfell. We knew a lot about the eruption from the book Island on Fire which made the hike much more interesting. The hike included some walking along the road and then a steep ascent up the volcano. As we started walking up the wind picked up and blew rain into our faces. The summit was a scree trail which made hiking a bit more difficult. We took altitude, temperature and GPS coordinates at the top and then took our soil samples. We all stuck our hands into the soil on the side of the crater, enjoying the warmth. We took some time on the way down looking at the different rocks. There were red, black, orange, brown and yellow, all of varying textures. We walked back to the harbor to finish streaming and the headed back to our house for the night. We went to the pub our hosts suggested called 900 Grillhús. Here we enjoyed fresh seafood, fish, pizza and burgers which watching some soccer. Our day has finished with some data uploading, tech support and relaxing.

Our Airbnb on Heimaey.
Our Airbnb on Heimaey.
A view of the city.
A view of the city.

Lupin & Heimaey

Charlie and Gail reading our map (with Tara in the background).
Charlie and Gail reading our map (with Tara in the background).
Climbing of the side of Eldfell.
Climbing of the side of Eldfell.
Taking samples at on the rim o.f Eldfell
Taking samples at on the rim of Eldfell.

Taking soil samples on Eldfell.

Almost out the door

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This week was very busy. First of all I pretty much finalized the maps we have here, cutting, taping, folding and laminating them so they are ready for use in the field.

We have field day Friday where we split into two groups and collected data at several points. For this I sketched maps of the area that included all roads but only a few labels in order to do a little navigation practice while collecting data.

‘Stitching’ Photos and Other Adventures

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Charlie and Kristin gave me data from the last trip to Iceland on soil samples and the archaeology site. The data had XY coordinates in it so I was able to bring it into QGIS as a csv and visualize them on the map of skalanes. I did the same with the coordinates for the fox dens that Oli gave us. I was able to check with Oli, fix what needed to be fixed and confirm their locations.

I had a lot of communication with Anna from TREK Iceland this week. I confirmed with her what our needs and we finally have everything straitened out. I just need to hear back from her on prices and on a guide confirmation (I asked for Gummi however said that we are flexible if need be it would just be easier with him).

Next was a lot of work this week on stitching together photos taken by the drone. Nic and I went out quite a few times this week to both practice flying and getting pictures of the area at different heights. We took series of photographs from 10, 30 and 50 meters and I tried to stitch them together. Stitching them together is not very difficult when in reference to just each other because I just georeference points relative to points on other photos. The difficulty is placing them in relation to the world. I tried using google earth images to reference them but I am beginning to thing that taking a GPS point of known features in the area and using those as reference points may be more successful. I want to try this out this week.

This weekend I worked on installing QGIS onto the macbook going to Iceland and I brought over the map I have made so far. The only part we need to be careful about here is that any layer in a map you are using must be sourced to a place that that computer can access (eg. that computer). We can change the source but I had to individual make sure each layer was included separately when moving data over. Again pretty simple but it is good to be aware of and it takes a little bit more time.

Iceland Land Survey and the Glaciers

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Early last week I found the National Land Survey of Iceland’s ArcGIS map viewer. This proved to be a very useful tool. This allowed me to make individual topographic maps of all of the places that we will be going. The tool allows the user to add there own lines which allowed me to create a scale. I highly recommend playing with the tool (link below)! I printed the maps in color on 8X11 paper and they are next to the computer in Hopper. The next step is just to laminate them and make sure we have all the places we need. The following is an example however I did this for the five different glaciers- Sólheimajökull (smaller glacier); Skaftafellsjökull, Kviárjökull, Svínafellsjökull and Fjallsjökull (big glacier). I also did this for Þingvellir, Heimay, Grímsey and Klauster, all of which are areas we will be visiting for either science or studies purposes. Klauster and Þingvellir have two maps of different scales in order to better capture the information we will need.

Land Survey of Iceland Arc Map in English

Land Survey of Iceland topo map of Skalanes with scale.
Land Survey of Iceland topographic map of Skálanes with scale.


I worked on many other small projects this week. One of these was getting in touch with TREK Iceland. This was a group who took the Iceland group on the glacier and to the river bank last time. I have been in tough with them over email and they will be taking us to the glaciers and to the river bank to get soil samples on June 28th and 29th. I have also been in contact with the map store in Iceland that I mentioned in my last post. Another small thing was researching glacier sampling a little more. I created a document in the glacier folder of links to informational papers and website to help us better understand the glaciers and how best to go about sampling them.

Basic Mapping of Iceland

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I had lots of success this week with QGIS. I met with Jose and we figured out some of the georeferencing issues in ArcGIS. From there I just had to figure out what to do in QGIS to georeference jpeg files. It took a little while due to different information from different versions but eventually I was able to use the georeferencer plugin in QGIS to match the images spatial to the rest of the layers we have right now. I also took images from google earth and brought them into QGIS the same way. Right now all of the layers are in WGS1984 because that is the projection the layers were in when we received them from Oli. However the way this projection works makes it so Iceland is very skewed. I then changed the layer projection to ISN2004/Lambert2004 (EPSG:5325). This means that the individual layers are projecting on the fly which is fine for what we are doing now however before analyzing anything I will need to individually convert the layers. I am not entirely sure how necessary this is because spatial analysis should still be accurate event if it is visually skewed (we will see). Comparison below:

WGS 84 (EPSG:4326) projection of Skalanes with a close up (higher definition) Google Earth image and some of the Eider points on top. The Skalanes government coast layer is also on top.
WGS 84 (EPSG:4326) projection of Skalanes with a close up (higher definition) Google Earth image and some of the Eider points on top. The Skalanes government coast layer is also on top.
ISN2004/Lambert (EPSG: 5325 projection of Skalanes ('on the fly') with the Google Earth Image, Eider points and coastline.
ISN2004/Lambert (EPSG: 5325 projection of Skalanes (‘on the fly’) with the Google Earth Image, Eider points and coastline.
This is a pretty simple DEM map of Iceland from the National Land Survey of Iceland with the coastline layer (Skalanes layers are there as well however they are too small to see).
This is a pretty simple DEM map of Iceland from the National Land Survey of Iceland with the coastline layer (Skalanes layers are there as well however they are too small to see).


I have also added Google Earth satellite images of Heimaey. We finally received that maps of the Skalanes peninsula from Omnimaps. They will not have any of the others ready therefore I have looked into other sources and decided that we will stop at a map store in Reykjavik (Ferdakort- Map Shop) called Iðnú Bookstore. I did cut the map that we do have so we can tape the two halves of the peninsula together. I also was able to find a topo map of the Richmond area for use when testing (checked out from the library). Aside from this I have collected some books on sense of place and the value of the outdoors to make a reading collection for our trip (besides Island on Fire).

Brief Update

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Map1EiderSo there are definitely some challenges in terms of the GIS stuff. I decided to bring all the layers into ArcGIS to see if I could do more with fixing projections in a platform I already know. It gave me the same result so then I brought a base map in which showed me that I think it is the JPEG of the Skalanes area that has the projection issues not some of the other layers (some still are nowhere). When I went to create a base map layer of that area it wasn’t really working therefore I set up a meeting with Jose and will hopefully most some more updates after that meeting.

I have also started to look at good articles regarding sense of place and other wilderness related things that would help everyone to better understand that program and in order to work things like that into this program.

Creating a Base layer and Fixing Projections

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After consultation with professors Jose and Wendy who are teacher the GIS class, I have figured out generally what I need to do to really create a base layer. What I need to do is fix the projects for all the layers so that they are all on the same coordinate system (probably GCS World 1984). This should not be too hard, it is just taking more time since QGIS is a different platform from ArcGIS. I am also looking into the images that we have and using them as the basemap.

On another note, omni maps has still not called me back. So, we are unsure of the status of the maps we ordered several  months ago!

Solving some issues…

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The following is from Oli’s response email:
I think the transmission might have been interrupted and there might be some files missing. 
I´d think if you could simply put up a baseline layer with a DEM from where we can possibly look at possible mini dam sites and or potential sites for wind turbines based on historical data from the weather station close by.  
The archaeology layer should have a attribute table somewhere so I we simply meet up and go through my files this summer and attach it to the site layer then I think we are pretty good.
As of for the tern site and eider nesting area it might be if interest for the IR camera work so see if it´s possible to spot recently abandoned nests since both colonies are pretty conservative in nesting site location every year.
The lupin layers are interesting too since the google earth picture of Skalanes is from last year and it could be used to compare plot sizes and preferred growth areas and then project future growth.
This was very helpful in determining a next step of creating that baseline layer of Skalanes and making sure all of the other layers are in the same coordinate system, which is what I am working on now. The other big thing I have been trying to accomplish in the past week is locating the maps that we order a while back from omnimaps ( I have spoken on the phone to someone several times however she has still failed to give me the information she said she would find. I just called her this morning and am now waiting for a call back because she went to check I guess.

A Continuation of GIS

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I did some further investigation into the GIS layers that we now have. I found out some really useful information, however we need some more direction from Oli in order to be more efficient and productive in putting layers together and figuring out what is useful. I did run some conversions from vector to raster however the files were really large so I am going to try to use another tool for this conversion. Here is part of the email I sent to Oli and Rannveig:

  • There are three layer in archaeology that look similar to the map 2007 Rannveig sent. There is not any information however attached in the attribute table or just in the description.
  • Iceland layers- all pretty straightforward and informative.
  • Lupin layers
  • Eider layers
  • Terns- lots of layers with information collection of location?
There is a lot of information here but having some more direction would be helpful in putting layers together and further analyzing. Is there anything specific that you would like accomplished in considering these layers?
Once Oli responds, I will know where to go with the layers we do have. I will also be able to figure out what I will need more information on QGIS about.


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After working on maps and looking into GIS options I finally began working with Iceland and Skalanes data shape files in GIS. Through consultation with colleagues we were able to figure out that for now our best option for using GIS software is to use QGIS which is free and open source. Charlie helped bring all of the GIS files from Oli onto our computer and I was able to take the shape files and open them in QGIS after installing QGIS. Looking through all these files is kind of a complicated process because there are lots of them. There is also lots of different data that has been collected on different things. There are basic shape files of Iceland which are useful, but so far I have not found a vector file of Skalanes specifically. Right now I am just wading through the files, visualizing them and looking at their attribute tables. One issue I have run into is translation in several of the attribute tables. Google translate has not been very helpful or reliable in translating some words so I have tried several other sites but several words are still not recognized. The next step is really to just inventory and ask Oli where we should go with these.

Much of my time has also been spent focusing on Field Studies things such as reading Island on Fire and brainstorming. In the past months we have created calendars of what needs to be done and where while we are in country. I have brainstormed lots of curriculum related things for this program, but we will go more in depth into this in May and while on course. I am excited about all this though! GIS has been really fun and I am very excited about this new program. Island on Fire is a great base point for lots of cultural and natural history related lessons and activities.

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