Category Archives: Visualization

Earth from space

A beautiful video that shows the extent of human activity over the Earth’s surface.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space | Fly Over | Nasa, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Time lapse sequences of photographs taken with a special low-light 4K-camera
by the crew of expedition 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from
August to October, 2011.

HD, refurbished, smoothed, retimed, denoised, deflickered, cut, etc.

Music: Jan Jelinek – Do Dekor (Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records) | ~scape 007 cd |

Editing: Michael König |

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

Shooting locations in order of appearance:

1. Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night
2. Aurora Borealis and eastern United States at Night
3. Aurora Australis from Madagascar to southwest of Australia
4. Aurora Australis south of Australia
5. Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night
6. Aurora Australis from the Southern to the Northern Pacific Ocean
7. Halfway around the World
8. Night Pass over Central Africa and the Middle East
9. Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East
10. Pass over Canada and Central United States at Night
11. Pass over Southern California to Hudson Bay
12. Islands in the Philippine Sea at Night
13. Pass over Eastern Asia to Philippine Sea and Guam
14. Views of the Mideast at Night
15. Night Pass over Mediterranean Sea
16. Aurora Borealis and the United States at Night
17. Aurora Australis over Indian Ocean
18. Eastern Europe to Southeastern Asia at Night

7 Billion

1) Guardian visualizes world population growth estimates from UN. Nice comparison of similar countries, but results for Africa don’t look right 314 million people in Tanzania in 2100? 140 million people in Niger in 2100? A ten fold increase in its current population density?

2) From BBC – how much has the world population grown since your birth? Since mine, its doubled.

3) National Geographic on 7 Billion

4) and from Nature news

Because high fertility is linked with poverty, the big worry globally is the 3.4 billion people who survive on less than US$2 per day, says Joel Cohen, who heads the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University in New York. The average number of children per woman in the least developed countries is 4.5, compared with 1.7 for developed countries, Cohen says, and this means that most of the additions to the global count are born where there is little access to energy and education, further fuelling the population steamroller. This reality underscores the importance of international development efforts: small increases in wealth and education can lower fertility and dramatically ease the burden of population growth decades down the road.

5) And population data from the UN Population Divsion.

Cultivating the spread of resilience thinking

It is great to see resilience thinking spreading.

The cooperative Cultivate Ireland has created a new video on community resilience for its ‘resilience month.’ The film uses surfing change as a metaphor for different aspects of resilience building.

The video fits well with the Transition Town movement, but recognizes that resilience has two faces both persistence and transformation.

The video is promoting a report – Carnegie Trust’s Exploring Community Resilience which can be downloaded (pdf). The report is built on a wide variety of approaches to resilience but recognizes the influential work of Buzz Holling and the Resilience Alliance.

Loss of Old Arctic Sea Ice

Age of Arctic Sea Ice in February 2008. The February 2008 ice pack (right) contained much more young ice than the long-term average (left). In the mid- to late 1980s, over 20 percent of Arctic sea ice was at least six years old; in February 2008, just 6 percent of the ice was six years old or older.

Old sea ice, which had survived several summers, used to dominate the sea ice of the winter Arctic. However, today less than half of the sea ice at winter maximum has survived at least one summer.  NOAA’s climatewatch has a video of the loss of arctic sea ice.

Yukon Delta from Space

Yukon Delta

A great picture of the organic complexity of the Yukon River Delta from NASA EOS.  They write:

The Yukon River originates in British Columbia, Canada, and flows through Yukon Territory before entering Alaska. In southwestern Alaska, the Yukon Delta spreads out in a vast tundra plain, where the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers meander toward the Bering Sea.

The Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus on the Landsat 7 satellite acquired this natural-color image of the Yukon Delta on September 22, 2002. Looking a little like branching and overlapping blood vessels, the rivers and streams flow through circuitous channels toward the sea, passing and feeding a multitude of coastal ponds and lakes.

The Yukon Delta is an important habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds, and most of the protected refuge is less than 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level. Over such low-lying, mostly treeless terrain, the rivers can change course frequently and carve new channels to find the fastest route toward the sea. The pale color of the sea water around the delta testifies to the heavy sediment load carried by the rivers.

More conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems

Following up on my post yesterday on conceptual diagrams of social-ecolgoical systems (SES), below are some more SES conceptual diagrams from the journal Ecology and Society.

I did a google search that found a bunch of nice and not so nice diagrams in Ecology and Societyy, which is the main journal publishing research that uses the term social-ecological system (at least according to ISI’s web of science).  Below is a sampling of images, and below that a few examples.

Continue reading

Conceptualizing Social-Ecological Systems

I’ve recently been teaching about social-ecological systems and because I think it is important to conceptualize systems graphically these discussions caused me to reflect on the conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems

Conceptualizing something as a social-ecological system hides some aspects of reality to focus on others. Social-ecological systems focus on the interactions and
Factors that distinguish social-ecological systems from other approach feedbacks between social and ecological, in particular how social and ecological alter one another and “co-evolve.”

As a systems approach it focuses on structures and processes, but because it comes from a resilience orientation in is particularly interested in how these structures persist and reorganize in response to shocks, gradual changes, or purposeful transformations.

Below are a number of different takes on conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems that I think show some different aspects of social-ecological systems.

There are many other conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems and I’d welcome any comments that point to other papers that have particularly interesting or different conceptual diagrams.

The full citations of the papers are:

  • Berkes, Folke, and Colding editors. 2003. Navigating Social Ecological Systems. Cambridge University Press.
  • Chapin, F.S., Lovecraft, A.L., Zavaleta, E.S., Nelson, J., Robards, M.D., Kofinas, G.P., Trainor, S.F., Peterson, G.D., Huntington, H.P. & Naylor, R.L. (2006) Policy strategies to address sustainability of Alaskan boreal forests in response to a directionally changing climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103, 16637-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0606955103
  • Anderies, J. M., M. A. Janssen, and E. Ostrom. 2004. A framework to analyze the robustness of social-ecological systems from an institutional perspective. Ecology and Society 9(1): 18. [online] URL:
  • Bennett, E.M., Peterson, G.D. & Gordon, L.J. (2009) Understanding relationships among multiple ecosystem services. Ecology Letters, 12, 1394-404. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01387.x

Scanning the Internet for Ecological Early Warnings

If Google Flu Trends can, why can’t we? The possibility to mine large amounts of individual reports and local news posted on the Internet as early warning signs of pending epidemic outbreaks has been a part of global epidemic governance for quite some time. The question is; could we do the same for ecological crises? A couple of years ago, a couple of colleagues and I wrote a conceptual piece in Frontiers entitled “Can webcrawlers revolutionize ecological monitoring?” where we elaborated issue. Until today however, the idea hasn’t moved much from its conceptual phase. Luckily, analysts and GIS-experts at the USDA Forest Service, now have begun to test the concept with real world data. In a new paper entitled “Internet Map Services: New portal for global ecological monitoring, or geodata junkyard?”, Alan Ager and colleagues, present initial results from runs with a geodata webcrawler . They report:
At the USDA Forest Service’s Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC), we are exploring webcrawlers to facilitate wildland threat assessments. The Threat Center was established by Congress in 2005 to facilitate the development of tools and methods for the assessment of multiple interacting threats (wildfire, insects, disease, invasive species, climate change, land use change)
The Threat News Explorer (see image) visualizes some of the results.

However, they also note that
much of the online data is stored in large institutional data warehouses (Natureserve,, etc.) that have their own catalog and searching systems and are not open to webcrawlers like ours.  In fact, most federal land management agencies do not allow services to their data, but allow downloading and in-house viewers (i.e. FHTET 2006). This policy does not simplify the problem of integrated threat assessments for federal land management agencies.
The group is now developing a more powerful webcrawler. You can find and search the database for geospatial data and map here. Still a long way to go it seems, but a very important first step!