Did You Know? Posts

Did You Know That Apps + Citizen Scientists Are Redefining Our Conceptions Of Bird Populations In The United States?

by Alex Gilliam 122 Comments


Looking at storm water and distributed green infrastructure in NYC is just one aspect of citizen science. You guys are groundbreakers to be sure as nobody is attempting such a complicated citizen scientist program anywhere. That being said, you are not alone. There are many others across the United States who are trying to rethink how non-experts such as yourselves can fundamentally change how we look at and go about conducting research and making our cities/the environment better. One great example is the eBird project that empowers everyday people to help map birds throughout the United States. There are many other programs that attempt to do similar things but eBird is unique in that it tries to get people to record bird sitings year-round. This is notable because most people don’t have the tenacity or interest to continue to record things over a period of time without some sort of deeper incentive. In fact most other programs get people to count birds for just one day a year. The problem is that one day a year only provides a limited data set and already eBird is providing scientists with much deeper insights into migrations patterns and bird species. In this way, eBird and our Citizen Scientist program are similar. You can read a bit more about the eBird program in this recent article in the New York Times.

Did You Know That Artists And Designers Are Using Sculpture To Try To Raise Awareness About Water Quality In NYC?

by Alex Gilliam 4 Comments


Can a massive floating orb made from umbrellas and trash that often find their way into New York water ways raise awareness about water quality in in the City? Alexander Levi and Amanda Schacter think so. Their Harvest Dome 2.0 is made from 450 discarded umbrellas and empty plastic water bottles from around NYC and is currently floating in an inlet near Inwood Hill Park. It’s undoubtedly pretty but do you think it does the job of raising awareness? Does it cause people to at least look at the water in new ways? What do you think? Share your ideas below and check out more images of the dome here.

Did You Know That Technology Can Help Interpret The Tricky Data That Comes Out Of Your GI Site?

by KirbyDossCS No Comments


Advanced technology brings huge amount of knowledge and changes the conventional method of acquiring news. The age that knowledge only comes from eyeball of experiment phenomenon has been passed. Getting into the micro, current improvements in both industry and academic work are most derived from the data observed from the real world. People interpret the hidden insights behind them by analysis or visualization. A standard process of operating data includes 1. ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) 2. Analysis 3. Visualization. In fact, all of these are somehow not easy to do.

ETL is the first step and usually the most tedious work. Your data may come from different places and be collected by different instruments and even be stored in different systems which makes it very complicated to get the complete set of data that is necessary to proceed your work. There exists tens computer operating systems (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_operating_systems); each of them may have multiple versions. Unfortunately, there is no such a type of file format that could be used for all systems to save data and the security setting of those systems will drive you crazy before you figure out the file format issue.

Thankfully, you may get through the first issue and want to go ahead to analyze it.  However, you will find that these data are not quite fit to apply your analysis method which might need the aggregation on one of the parameters confined by other restrictions some of which may dynamically change. There is no choice but try to transform the raw data to be easy analyzed. But question is “how”, because you don’t want to do it manually on one million by one hundred of data. Excel skills and SQL query knowledge are usually very helpful in this stage.

If you are so lucky and skillful enough to move to the analysis process, don’t think you are almost there. The data you received from whatever source it is could be in multiple dimensions and in a so huge amount that your brain is not able to handle. Even it is less than 30 numbers, some simple analysis is needed to deliver the idea it carries. Accordingly, analysis explores and uncovers the knowledge from data which is the core of data operation. This process may be performed in terms of statistical analysis, machine learning and usually expertise in one or more related field. Don’t think about “average”, “summation” or “product”, etc. This is actually a brainstorm that forces your mind to work in a more creative way.

When get the results from analysis, you are one step away — visualization. This is the process that may fail you very easily if you are not good at it. It plays the role to show the knowledge come from analysis. The problem is how to pass complex results via simple plot that could be understood by different level of audience. Sometimes, event you can draw it on paper within 5 min, it may takes you 5 hours or more to plot it on screen. The difficulty is usually related to the complex of your analysis results.

Here is a failed example that I did for analyzing the precipitation events in Philadelphia, PA. The plot give the histogram of all wet spell durations compare to the distribution curves of wet spell durations on the conditions of different precedent wet spell lengths. The plot is too busy for people to follow. Too many curves makes it hard to recognize.

This plot is much better than the last one. It tells the relationship between dry spell duration and annual rainfall depth in Philadelphia, PA. The boxplots show the distribution of spell lengths for each year, the dot plots on the bottom is the average and variance of the distribution respectively. Their trends along the increase of annual rainfall are reflected by the linear regression curves.

My name is Ziwen and I am a graduate student in Civil Engineering at Drexel University.

Did You Know That Your Green Infrastructure Site Is Doing Great Things For The Environment?

by KirbyDossCS 1 Comment


Did you know that green infrastructure like the bioretention area that you are working on not only saves and improves the quality of water in your neighborhood but also helps our urban environment to adapt to climate change, avoid greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, and captures CO2? Before we built the sewers, roads, buildings, bridges, dams, etc. that now make up our cities, nature had built-in mechanisms to deal with erosion, carbon dioxide, storms, etc.. When we build cities, we often get rid of the wetlands, trees, and plant growth that nature created to deal with these negative things. The goal of creating green infrastructure, like the one that you are monitoring, is largely about rebuilding these natural mechanisms trying to mimic the nature as much we can in order to take advantage of natural processes like infiltration and evapotranspiration. In this way we are literally making the nature work to us ( in a good sense) and avoiding emission of billions of tons of GHG that would be released to the atmosphere to build additional concrete infrastructure necessary to capture, conduct, storage and treat the stormwater that  greenstreets can take care of. Also, instead to spend lots of money in energy bills we can just plant trees in our garden or having  green roof in our buildings so the plants through their shading effects and evapotranspiration function, can cool our houses. So, what this can mean for you? Well, besides having your neighborhood more beautiful, healthier, cleaner it is also saving you money!

My name is Raquel Sousa and I am a graduate student in Civil Engineering at Drexel University.

Did You Know That Civil Engineers Are Awesome?

by KirbyDossCS


What are YOU so passionate about that you can’t stop talking about it? That you stay up all hours of the night, working relentlessly to do better? Where you feel like you can make a unique contribution that makes the world a better place?

For me, it’s civil engineering. I am extremely excited to be a Civil Engineer and I will tell you why.  In my high school we had a four-year engineering program I was a part of, during my junior year I took a Civil Engineering/ Architecture class.  I loved everything that I did in that class, from surveying to designing buildings in AutoCAD Revit, and then creating 3-D models of the design.  At first I interpreted this love to mean I should be an Architect.  However, when I was touring architecture programs at colleges I discovered that it was not the fit for me.  I wanted to design building and bridges, but be on the math and engineering side of it.  Thus, I found the field of engineering that fit what I love to do.

Have you ever gotten bored with a project, or wanted to change what you are doing in life? That is another main reason I am excited to be a Civil Engineer.  It is due to the fact that this particular field of engineering is full of possibilities and different disciplines.  There is a never ending list of what you can do with a Civil Engineering degree.  I adore bridges and building, especially older ones, therefore I want to work with those.  Nonetheless, if I get bored there are still so many options for me to change to, such as: public facilities, water and energy systems and even Environmental Engineering.  With all of these disciplines within Civil Engineering you still get the satisfaction of seeing the results of your work at the end of the day.

My name is Dianna Vogel and I am a Civil Engineering student at Drexel University.