Mapping Great Gull Island with an Unmanned Aircraft
Assistant Extension Educator Joel Stocker spends a lot of his work and personal time documenting changes to the shoreline. In 2010 he contacted Helen Hays, asking if he could capture photographs over Great Gull Island with his homemade drone. She agreed. While on the island, Helen told him about the problem with invasive plants, and he connected her with Juliana Barrett.
Recognizing high-resolution aerials could be used to monitor vegetation management Juliana included experiments with aerial drone flights as part of a Connecticut Sea Grant proposal. In April 2013 the official Extension/Sea Grant flights took place, fully sanctioned by the FAA. Over 370 photographs were captured from a small four prop multirotor quadcopter, later processed using two different software systems, AgiSoft Photoscan and Pix4Dmapper. The result is a full high-resolution orthomosaic image of the entire island – a detailed tool for the habitat management plan. In addition the Pix4D software produced a full 3D topographic map, great potential for measuring erosion and the before and after effects of natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.
UConn Extension has a Hex Coptor that we are using in agriculture and land use research. Here is a photo from a flight in early June, looking over some agriculture fields. The Hex was flying at 100 feet, on an FAA approved flight.
Last week at the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research‘s Emily Wilson and Chet Arnold received the First Place Award in the Science/Technology/Education category of the Esri Storytelling with Maps Contest. There were over 400 submissions to the contest and only 5 first place winners. Over 16,000 GIS professionals from around the world attended the conference. As a result of the award, Emily was asked to present in two sessions with audiences of about 500 and 300 people, respectively.
A story map is a simple yet powerful way to engage an audience that combines interactive maps, data, text, graphics and images. Story Maps have become a major focus of Esri, the industry leader in GIS technology. Our story map, called Connecticut’s Changing Landscape, highlights information from the 25 year land cover series produced at CLEAR. See the winning story map at the link: http://s.uconn.edu/ctstory
CLEAR’s Land Use Academy has won the 2014 Education Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association. The Academy, created in 2007, provides basic training for municipal land use commissioners on roles and responsibilities, legal requirements and site plan reading, as well as advanced training on emerging topics. As we all know, land use in the Nutmeg State is determined almost exclusively at the municipal level, by volunteer commissioners who are not necessarily up to speed on what they’re really supposed to be doing, or how. The LUA is the principal organization in the state addressing this critical need for education. The Academy is founded on a strong partnership between UConn, the Connecticut Bar Association, the state’s Regional Planning Organizations, and the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (CT OPM).
The lion’s share of the kudos go to CLEAR Land Use Planning Educator Bruce Hyde, who oversees the Academy and does everything from agenda planning to lecturing to ordering the lunch and taking registration. Bruce is a veteran of over 30 years of professional planning work in both Vermont and Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean that the LUA is “old school.” Most Academy lectures, for instance, include audience response interludes using “clickers,” allowing Bruce and our incredible stable of Bar Association lecturers to get the pulse of the audience on certain topics and/or quiz them on various points.
The CCAPA award letter states: “The Chapter has benefited from this program for years on end and we are delighted to recognize its efforts.” From our enormously self-serving but nonetheless observant perspective, we agree that the Land Use Academy serves an important role in helping Connecticut towns approach their land use decision-making in a defensible, thorough and conscientious manner. And with very modest resources, the LUA has had a broad reach: since 2007 the Academy has trained over 1300 people from commissions in 156 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. So, CONGRATS to Bruce to and to our barrister co-conspirators, most especially Rich Roberts, Ken Slater, and Mark Branse.
The Natural Resource Conservation Academy (NRCA) is an innovative program in conservation and land use planning for a select group of Connecticut high school students. The Academy starts with a week-long field course at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Throughout the week, students interact with UConn faculty and learn about mapping and geospatial information, water, forestry, wildlife, soils and more. However, to pass muster at the Academy the work/fun doesn’t end there! In the months to come, students complete a natural resource project in their communities, using the skills and knowledge that they gained over the summer.
Quite a few CLEAR faculty participate in the summer field course. Because of its obvious superiority to all the other disciplines, Day One of the Academy is dedicated to mapping and geospatial information. Thus, Cary and I had the opportunity to work with this bright group of students and expose them to all sorts of fun mapping topics.
Every 5.5 years or so (don’t ask!) CLEAR issues a Progress Report in an attempt to summarize and characterize highlights of our work. Our second such report is now out!
CLEAR is smaller than it once was—there are about 8 full-time faculty and staff working on Center projects on a daily basis—but our small size has not prevented us from engaging in a long list of projects with an even longer list of partners. Nor have we slacked off on producing websites, web tools, publications, and now smartphone apps.
The body of the Report is given to short descriptions of key impacts made by our research, geospatial training and tools, and outreach education programs. Highlighted examples include the widespread use of our Changing Landscape land cover information, the use of the CT ECO web mapping site during Tropical Storm Irene, CT NEMO’s work on a national precedent setting water quality project on campus, and the statewide impact of the Land Use Academy, which has trained over 900 people from 149 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
UConn Extension’s Center for Land Use Education And Research (CLEAR) provides information, education and assistance to Connecticut’s land use decision makers, community organizations and citizens on how to better protect natural resources while accommodating economic growth.
Read Michael Dietz’s blog post about road salt at the CLEAR website.
As a local land use commissioner you are faced with making decisions about how your community will grow, reviewing and approving applications for a variety of projects and balancing growth with natural resource protection. Sometimes court decisions change the rules, you receive conflicting advice, the information you have to work with is incomplete or you have to decide on a neighbor’s application. It can be a complex and confusing job. That’s where the Land Use Academy can help.
The Land Use Academy provides practical education for local land use decision makers in Connecticut. Our program offers both basic and advanced training and focuses on the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to serve effectively on a local land use commission. New land use commissioners and those considering becoming commissioners will find our courses especially useful, as will current commissioners seeking to update or refresh their understanding of fundamental land use topics.
Our principal program consists of a core curriculum of three courses offered as a day-long training, usually held on Saturdays. Members of the Planning and Zoning section of the Connecticut Bar Association provide instruction on such topics as Legal Responsibilities for Connecticut Land Use Commissioners, Conflicts Bias and Pre-determination, Running the Meeting and Making the Decision, and Conditions and Modifications.
The Academy collaborates with other CLEAR programs on various projects in an effort to create the most useful tools and resources for municipal officials. We are constantly updating the course curriculum to reflect recent court decisions and new developments at the state level. For instance, the Academy and NEMO have teamed up to develop a site plan review workshop that focuses on stormwater systems.