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CDI Monthly Meeting - March 9, 2016

The Community for Data Integration (CDI) meetings are held the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

USGS/DOI Dial In Number: (703) 648-4848 (for USGS and DOI offices)
Toll Free Dial In Number: (855) 547-8255 (for other offices and telecommute locations)
Conference Code: 47919# (same for both numbers)

Webex Recording

Webex recordings are available to CDI Members. Please login to view the recording. If you would like to become a member of CDI, please email

Agenda (in Eastern time)

11:00a Scientist's Challenge - Web API for Search and Processing of USGS remotely sensed data for direct import to iRICRichard McDonald, USGS.

This is the first in a series of Scientist's Challenges to be presented at the CDI Monthly Meeting, more information about the Scientist's Challenge on the forum.

11:05a Welcome - Cheryl Morris - Director of CSAS&L  (PDF)


11:20a  CyberGIS and CEGIS - Mike Finn, Research Cartographer, USGS, Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science and Johnathan Rush, Education, Outreach, and Training CoordinatorUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies

Presentation: Slides are available to CDI Members. Please login to download the slides. If you would like to become a member of CDI, please email


CyberGIS, GIS leveraging advanced cyberinfrasture, is empowering new science and applications by removing previous constraints of data size and computational complexity. Johnathan will introduce the fundamentals of cyberGIS, example applications using digital elevation models, and the new supercomputer dedicated to cyberGIS: ROGER. Mike will discuss the National Geospatial Program’s research evolution into the data-intensive, high-performance computing environment, and will touch on a few projects performed in the recent past.


Roland Viger: It’s interesting to hear where CyberGIS is going. You have a few fairly advanced applications, like TopoLens and TauDem built up, what kind of fundamental GIS functions or operators are available in this environment or is that not actually the way that it works?

Johnathan: It sort of depends on which environment, so the Gateway applications that I was just talking about are a little more limited. Those have to be very purposeful developments. Anything that you might have on a desktop GIS that you have out of the box when you install ArcMap or QGIS, it would take an extra step to make that available in the gateway environment and is driven by the needs of users. You would have to let us know what you want and are developers can work on it. In the future we hope to be able to have more of a plug and play, and wouldn’t require developer support. On the command line, we have a lot more available.

Q: In the Topo Lens what data are there as your base?

Johnathan: Right now it’s the NED 10-meter.

Q: How often is that refreshed. I know the NED under 3DEP is being updated quite rapidly.

Mike Finn: NED was scraped a while back when we were experimenting with writing scripts using GridFTP. The scripts are there that we can do this as often as we want. We are thinking from the research side where once we scrape the data there is enough data to experiment with, whereas you are probably thinking about it from an operational side.

Tracy: Is this just CONUS?

Mike: Yes.

Q: Hopefully, Alaska will be complete in a few years. Yes, I am thinking more operational.

Mike: That is where we want to evolve to and is part of our collaboration with UIUC. TopoLens is just in the Alpha stage. It didn’t even exist a few months ago.

Roland: Last couple of slides you talked about parallelizing algorithms. Seems unique to your group to parallelize GIS algorithms, what you have may be more generalizable and could be transferred to Jeff Falgout’s cluster systems.

Mike: To go back to a previous question you had, if you go through cyberGIS gateway you will see a cyberGIS toolbox. This is an evolution of a tool you would use in a ArcGIS system, into something up, parallelized, and ready for a user to use. So CyberGIS is about 5% of the tools that you have in ArcGIS, this is a research project.

Roland: For raster processing, you probably have a larger proportion of the tools than people need to crunch big data. And how to organize and handle file sets for big data sets - these things could be of very general interest.


11:50a  The Digital Grain Size Web Application - Daniel Buscombe, USGS

Presentation: Slides are available to CDI Members. Please login to download the slides. If you would like to become a member of CDI, please email


Daniel Buscombe will describe and demo a new web-application for estimating particle size from digital images of sediment. The application allows users to upload and analyze their digital sediment imagery, and download particle size statistics. The program, which is an implementation of the algorithm suggested by Buscombe (2013, Sedimentology 60: 1709–1732), is fast and fully automated. The app is built around the AWS cloud computing stack (SQS, EC2, S3, DynamoDB), and leverages Heroku and Google Analytics technologies. The program is written in python, cython and node-js. The goal is to allow scientists to carry out particle size analysis, easily and quickly, just by taking pictures of the ground! 


Leslie Hsu: What is the best way to provide feedback on the app?

Dan: Contact me directly. If there is feedback on the code itself, it is available on GitHub. Use the issues tab.

Rich Signell: You had CDI funding to get this going. Are you planning on keeping it going with project funding?

Dan: Right now it is costing less than a dollar a day to keep it running. If a lot of people start using it it will cost more. Actual computing time and cost is small. Stograge cost sould be a lot. Have funds to keep it going on project funds for now. In the long run I would like to see this deployed somewhere else.

Leslie: Could you comment on the biggest challenges in taking an algorithm that you made yourself and making it accessible to a larger group on a web app?

Dan: The algorithm itself is very simple. A major challenge has been making it secure. A lot is done behind scenes by NorthArrow with respect to Google authorization. The next challenge is making this a massively scalable tool. It is designed to be massively scalable, but there may be issues of deploying on a national and international level without web server getting bogged down.

Rex Sanders: Are you using any information embedded in the photos?

Dan: Yes, I have given it some thought. I’d like to secure additional funding to develop the app more, along the lines of using geo referenced tags in the XIF file.

Sophia: Have you thought about extending the features. Have you thought about having a hackathon or leveraging volunteers?

Dan: The application is quite niche, so I’m not sure how many people would be interested in doing this. It would be hard to find people who are interested, sedimentologists, and coders as well. If you have any experience with that, I would appreciate it.


12:20p  Working Group Reports

  • Citizen Science - Sophia Liu and Dave Govoni 
    • The working group hasn't been meeting regularly but we are planning to start some activities again. We are working on gathering all USGS citizen science projects for the OSTP call, and are bringing together a subcommittee to work on these types of challenges. There are opportunities to leverage new platforms, and we will have a presence at the USGS/ESIP Software and Data Carpentry Workshops and Hackathon in April.
  • Communications - JC Nelson and Marcia McNiff
    • A wiki page is being populated for this new working group, and we hope to have our first call in April. Contact JC Nelson or if interested in getting involved here.
  • Data Management - Heather Henkel and Viv Hutchison
    • There is a meeting next Monday. The USGS public access plan came out recently and Bill Werkheiser sent an email about it to all USGS yesterday. We'll be discussing that, the recent meeting in Reston on Science Publishing, and trying to make data publication an easier process for scientists. Please join us!
  • Earth-Science Themes - Roland Viger 
    • We are having activity on the topics of soils, tile drainage, riparian zone mapping, and hydrology. Please check out our wiki space. Also, maybe we should have a conversation about the model and simulation archiving requirements at USGS - perhaps we could suggest some solutions to management about how to meet these policy requirements.
  • Semantic Web  - Fran Lightsom (Peter Schweitzer)
    • We have two general themes in our work now - experimenting with GeoSPARQL and developing work on vocabulary services. We meet the 2nd Thursday of the month at 12:00 MT / 2:00 ET.
  • Tech Stack  - Rich Signell
    • We have recently had interesting talks on web processing services, and will soon have presentations on python mapping tools. Jerry Johnston will talk about
  • Connected Devices - Tim Kern and Lance Everette
    • We have had recent meetings on iOS mobile app release, on Android app release, and on a demo of the ScienceCache mobile app. There is also a lot of work on the mobile release workflow. We invite a broader audience to attend our meetings, anyone dealing with software in general. We are also looking for speakers, email if you are interested in giving short demos of your apps. Look at our wiki space for past activity, notes, slides, and recordings. 

12:30p  Adjourn

Presentation Q/A


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