Semi-regular series, hosted by spatial@ucsb, that aims to promote discussion and interaction within the university’s spatial technology community and also share tools and techniques for mapping and spatial analysis.

Please contact Karen Doehner, or Rui Zhu,, to review and schedule possible discussion topics or presentations that share your disciplinary interest in spatial technologies.

Schedule 2019–2020 (also available on our Google Calendar)

November 17, 2020Bruno Martins
University of Lisbon

Challenges in resolving place names over text.
November, 10, 2020Seile Gonzalez Estrecha
Michigan State University A knowledge representation in WikiBase of people, events and places in the historical slave trade
October 21, 2020Yingjie Hu
University of Buffalo

Advancing spatial and textual analysis with GeoAI
October 20, 2020Ben Adams
University of Canterbury

Contrastive explanations in GeoAI

Past Spatial Tech Talks

The Geography of Cultures: New Methods for Decoding, Analysis, and Synthesis

November 12, 2019

Dr. Baciu and his collaborators used supercomputing to decode natural language on huge troves of cultural data, enriched with geographical and historical information. Furthermore, they combined historical evaluations with data analysis, dimensionality reductions, and classification. Finally, they developed interfaces to interactively visualize distributions and stratification. He describes this work in this talk and discussion. Read more.

Science and Spatial Technology at the California Department of Conservation

November 28, 2018

UCSB Geog Ph.D. alumnus Jeff Onsted and UC Davis alumnus Nathaniel Roth teamed up to discuss the publication of spatial data and the production and use of spatial tools at the California Department of Conservation. Read more.

Integrating heterogeneous, dynamic adaptation behavior in drought risk modeling

May 30, 2018

Visiting PhD student Marthe Wens discussed extending the traditional drought-risk framework to better include the bilateral relationship between human and physical systems. The use of agent-based modeling technique to simulate the co-evolution of future drought hazard, exposure, vulnerability and heterogeneous, individual adaptation decisions, is showcased using a case study in Kitui, rural East Kenya. Read more.

How well can a $750 DIY LiDAR scanner scan?

May 22, 2018

UCSB Geography postdoc Jorge Chen assessed the use of the Scanse 3D panoramic LiDAR scanner, one of the first panoramic scanners designed for consumer use, in his research. Read more.

Experimental VR Research on Spatial Cognition in Chinese Traditional Villages

April 30, 2018

Visiting scholar Sinan Yuan (Tianjin University) presented his work using experimental VR technology to do spatial cognition research in Chinese traditional villages. Read more.

Evaluating vegetation type effects on land surface temperature at the city scale

December 5, 2017

In December, Geography Ph.D. student Erin Wetherley shared how we can better understand the effects of different plant functional types and urban materials on surface temperatures, and how this has significant consequences for climate modeling, water management, and human health in cities. Read more.

Spatio-temporal data integration for an integrated approach in the modelling of the city wide energy chain

November 7, 2017

Alexandru Nichersu joined us from the European Institute for Energy Research (EIFER) to discuss their proposed approach to integrating energy simulations of different complexity levels, including both spatial and temporal variation, with semantical city models. This allows for the quantification of environmental influences by using different spatial algorithms. Read more.

Monitoring Ocean Acidification on Your Mobile Device

October 20, 2017

Aaron Bagnell, student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science and Department of Geography, discussed how ocean acidification can be monitored through a smartphone application. He built this application through the combination of high resolution satellite observations with an artificial neural network, which addresses the scarcity of historical data on ocean acidification. Read more.

Accessing the National Water Model

May 22, 2017

Geography Ph.D. student Mike Johnson gave an introduction to web tools for accessing data from the National Water Model: a joint effort between NOAA, NCAR and the academic community to produce real-time and forecast streamflow predictions for all 2.7 million stream reaches across the continental US. Read more.

Ocean Color in the North Atlantic and Beyond

May 15, 2017

James Allen, graduate student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science and Department of Geography, discussed his fieldwork and efforts to develop a global bio-optical algorithm that characterizes the global particle and phytoplankton size distribution using satellite remote sensing. Read more.

Discovering and Sharing Campus Scholarship Spatially with UCSB Open Data

April 25, 2017

Geography Ph.D. student Sara Lafia gave an overview of the evolving UCSB Open Data website. Read more.

Classifying California plant species throughout the drought using airborne hyperspectral imagery

March 22, 2017

Geography Ph.D. candidate Susan Meerdink explained how she is using hyperspectral imagery to improve how plant species are mapped through different seasons. Read more.

Down the rabbit hole: New methods and tools for visualizing scientific information

May 19, 2016

Beth Anderson of Arkitek Scientific explored how 3D animation can be used to visually illuminate complex science for both scientific communities and laymen alike. Read more.

Navigation in Virtual Environments: Measuring Strategy and Efficiency

March 29, 2016

Ph.D. student Alex Boone explored the connection between measures of navigation strategy and navigation efficiency in virtual environments. Read more.

LiDAR Mapping

February 17, 2016

Paul Alessio, from the Department of Earth Science, discussed how by analyzing terrestrial LiDAR scans, the ongoing 2015–2016 El Niño year was used as a surrogate for future sea-level rise by determining the impact of a 20–30 cm sea-level rise on open beach and coastal cliff ecosystems. Read more.

Semi-automated Detection and Counting of Gray Whales

May 14, 2015

UCSB alumnus Kevin Sullivan of Toyon Research Corporation presented a talk on processing infrared video streams to automatically detect gray whale blows. Mr. Sullivan described some of the techniques and software they developed for this project, which was conducted in partnership with NOAA. Read more.

Geotagged Photos & Urban Areas of Interest

April 27, 2015

Geography PhD candidate Yingjie Hu presented “Extracting and Understanding Urban Areas of Interest Using Geotagged Photos”, a talk and web demonstration. Yingjie is a member of the STKO Lab and has held internships at Esri’s Applications Prototype Lab. His research focuses on the semantics of geographic information.

View abstract [pdf] and slides [pdf] from Yingjie’s talk.

Integrating Esri’s ArcGIS Pro & ArcGIS Online

January 29, 2015

Geography alumni and current Esri Support Analysts Scott Prindle and Thomas Jensen presented “Storytelling with maps, a demonstration of ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online integration”. Read more.

Google’s Geo-Tools for Research & the Classroom

November 13, 2014

Geography PhD student Ian Irmischer gave an overview of practical online tools to collect, host, analyze, visualize, and publish map data using the power of the cloud, focusing on Google Earth Engine and Open Data Kit (ODK) Collect. Read more.

View Google’s Geo-Tools for Research & the Classroom, Ian Irmischer.

Removing Terrorist Group Leaders

October 23, 2014

Yasutaka ‘Tomi’ Tominaga, a visiting scholar from Osaka University, Japan, presented results from his research on the strategy of targeted killing and capturing of group leaders on terrorist activities. Read more.

View Removing terrorist group leaders: Diffusion of impact of targeted killing and capturing, Yasutaka Tominaga.


August 18, 2014

Jon Jablonski, Head of the University Library’s Map & Imagery Lab (MIL), related his experiences with the SoundMap, a joint project between spatial@ucsb and the MIL during the summer of 2014. Read more.

Decision support for environmental planning

May 1, 2014

Stanford Ph.D. candidate Amanda Cravens of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources presented findings from her research on environmental decision making with geospatial decision support tools (DSTs). Read more.

Virtual and physical models in STEM

January 28, 2014

Graduate student Trevor Barrett and project scientist Andrew Stull of the Hegarty Spatial Thinking Lab discussed their research on learning with virtual and physical models in the STEM disciplines. Barrett shared examples from his work that investigate the role of computer interface design and individual spatial ability on learning with models in organic chemistry. Stull introduced a basic framework for the taxonomy of models that considered how visual, haptic, and proprioceptive cues interact in the design of effective models for chemistry education.

Marine geospatial data tools

November 13, 2013

Ben Best, Senior Analyst for the Ocean Health Index Project, presented a smorgasbord of tools for discovering, analyzing, and communicating marine geospatial data. Featured tools included OBIS-SEAMAP, the Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools, the SERDP marine animal mapper, and the Ocean Health Index Tools.

View Tools for marine conservation and spatial planning, Ben Best.

Open source tools & web applications

October 29, 2013

Ph.D. Candidate Grant McKenzie described an ecology of open source geospatial tools and demonstrated a range of web applications that use them. As a founding member of the Seattle based start-up Spatial Development International, Grant’s expertise comes from his work as a geospatial technology consultant as well as his research as part of the Space and Time for Knowledge Organization (STKO) lab.

View From open source geo-tech consultant to Ph.D. Candidate, Grant McKenzie.

Participatory mapping in South Sudan

May 24, 2013

Chris Macdonald reflected on his experiences as the lead GIS consultant for the South Sudan Rural Land Governance Project, funded by the USAID. He described using participatory mapping techniques, mobile data collection, and historical maps to build a spatial decision support system for land and property management in South Sudan, the world’s newest country.

UAVs for mapping

April 29, 2013

Professor Marko Peljhan of the Department of Art and the Media Arts and Technology program led a discussion of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their applications to mapping, orthophotography, and surveying. Peljhan presented work with the C-ASTRAL BRAMOR system, which he and his colleagues developed as part of an art/tactical media initiative. He shared updates from some of his recent projects, including mapping Ultima Esperanza in Patagonia in late March and a longer initiative with unmanned systems in collaboration with local populations in the Arctic.

Esri’s cloud-based GIS

January 25, 2013

Scott Prindle, a Senior Support Analyst on the Server Usage team at Esri, presented on cloud-based GIS and collecting volunteered geographic information (VGI). Scott demonstrated examples of uploading and sharing data via ArcGIS Online and discussed some of the service’s components. Also representing Esri were Josh Jones, who manages hiring processes for Support Services, and Lara McLaughlin, who is part of Esri’s University Program team.

Grassroots aerial imagery & mapping

October 25, 2012

Kevin WenglerSteve Miley, and Kitty Currier shared their enthusiasm for grassroots aerial imagery and mapping, the theme of this lunch. Wengler discussed applications and legal issues surrounding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Miley explained how he built and continues to improve his quadrotor helicopter (or quadcopter), and Currier presented a background on kite and balloon aerial photography for mapping. Also featured were hands-on equipment displays and a post-lunch quadcopter demonstration.

Mobile mapping

November 29, 2012

Mobile mapping technology and its evolution from specialized tool to ubiquitous consumer app was the topic of this lunch. Paul Wilson (General Electric Digital Energy) discussed trends and advances in hardware and software spanning nearly four decades of mobile mapping applications. As a pioneer in geospatial technology since the 1970s, Wilson shared his unique perspective on a field that continues to evolve.

View Mission-Critical Mobile Mapping, Paul Wilson.