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"SPIN" doctors tell all

25 May 2005

"SPIN" doctors tell all

Specialists in databases, maps and satellite imagery are jumping on the information superhighway, to showcase the range of their expertise. SPINFO 2005 (Spatial Information 2005) is a one-day seminar and workshop, to be held in Rotorua on Friday. It will cover the suite of services offered by Landcare Research's Spatial Information Programme. Landcare Research holds nationally significant databases on soil, vegetation and changes in land use over many decades.

It also has access to remote sensing data, including the most sophisticated satellite images available to civilians. Staff have developed an array of products to interpret these data and turn them into easily useable information. These are often in the form of visually beautiful maps and models, with 'layers' of information * for example, on slope, erosion, andvegetation cover. The SPINFO day will cover what information is available, how to get it, what to use it for, and the quality and scale of it.

Six scientists will give presentations, answer questions, and seek feedback on what kind of information people want in future. Landcare Research scientist Stella Belliss says about 60 people have confirmed their attendance so far, including representatives from local authorities, other CRIs, businesses, consultants and iwi groups. "Our work is used by a large range of people, from farmers to the military to universities, to help in decision-making and research.

"Our maps and models reveal factors such as changing land uses over the years, and environmental risks such as forest fires and flooding. "For example, we have arranged to have the United States' QuickBird satellite aimed to take images out of flood-stricken areas of the Bay of Plenty.

This will provide farmers and local authorities with a snapshot inventory of damage such as slips and sedimentation. Similar information proved very helpful after the Manawatu floods in February last year.

"Also, Landcare Research provides daily satellite views of New Zealand freely on its website. These views show our weather." Among other uses for the spatial information technology include identifying likely habitats, which is often used to help plan possum control. It can show the state of wetlands, and where they are, and were.

Also, it is increasingly being used in urban planning, showing, for example, the percentage of impervious surfaces such as concrete in cities, which has implications for stormwater management. The Spatial Information Programme leader, Dr Allan Hewitt, says Landcare Research is offering an increasing range of products, to make data ever more useful. "Our national databases have been there for many years and hold priceless data, but data do not mean much until they are structured into forms people can use.

"Some of our products are world leading, such as ECOSAT, which removes the effects of light and shadow from satellite images. This makes it much quicker and easier for computers to interpret features for environmental monitoring."SPINFO 2005 follows the inaugural SPINFO in Christchurch last year. A range of future SPINFOs are planned, alternating between the North and South islands. SPINFO 2005Friday, 27 May Lake Plaza Hotel 1000 Eruera StRotorua 9.30am * 3.30pm (Programme attached)

ENDS

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