Lake visualizations with Google geo-tools

This spring, LakeViz team members and Cal Academy colleagues participated in a day-long workshop to explore Google’s newest geo-tools.  The workshop was led by the enthusiastic John Bailey, Program Manager for GeoEducation from Google Earth’s Outreach team. Through a collaboration with the California Academy of the Sciences, Ryan Wyatt, Director of the Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization, served as our gracious host  for the training.

One of the main challenges the LakeViz3D team has faced has been how to make research-level visualization tools (e.g., Crusta, LIDAR Viewer) — that produce high-fidelity imagery —  usable for educators and non-technical staff to create their own 3D educational visualizations.  The workshop was, in part, intended to explore whether relatively familiar, user-friendly interfaces such as Google’s geo-tools could serve as more accessible entry points for educators to create supplementary visualization tools for their audiences.

Participants learned how to create collaborative maps using Google Maps Engine (GME).  We also explored lakes-related maps published in the GME Maps Gallery, such as a global map of lakes and reservoirs and changes in Lake Erie algal levels over time.

LakeErie_GoogleMap
The new Google Maps Engine allows users to import, stylize and share a wide range of spatial datasets.

Following up from the workshop, LakeViz team member Dr. Sarah Reed,  Science and Technology Educator at LHS, explored TourBuilder, a geospatial storytelling app which combines Google Earth with a presentation platform similar to Powerpoint.  View one of the LakeViz visualizations that TERC’s Education and Outreach Director Heather Segale adapted for the TourBuilder environment at this link.

Google’s Streetview has gone ‘off-road’ and workshop participants enjoyed touring Cal Academy with a 360-degree Ricoh Theta camera while creating photospheres that can be added to the Google Maps library.  In addition, members explored several of the lake-relevant Streetview Treks, such as Moraine Lake and the Colorado River.

LakeViz team members also explored the analytic capabilities of the remote sensing tool Google Earth Engine which allows visualization and analysis of raster datasets.  Using GEE Timelapse, users can, for instance, view the desertification of the Aral Sea.

While the geospatial tools explored at the workshop don’t allow for true 3D visualizations, such as one would expect to see in 3D theater venues, the LakeViz team members are assessing the tools’ capabilities as visualization tools for educator use.  For instance, a school teacher could rapidly create a watershed story for their students, while educators in a science center could use Google tools as an intermediate tool to explore pathways for large datasets during story and visualization development.

LakeViz members with instructor John Bailey at the GeoEducation workshop.  From left to right:  Burak Yikilmaz (UC Davis), Jessica Bean (UC Davis), Frank Kusiak (LHS), Sherry Hsi (LHS), Chris Keller (LHS), Sarah Reed (LHS), John Bailey (Google GeoEducation), Alison Toy (TERC), Heather Segale (TERC).
LakeViz members with instructor John Bailey at the GeoEducation workshop. From left to right: Burak Yikilmaz (UC Davis), Jessica Bean (UC Davis), Frank Kusiak (LHS), Sherry Hsi (LHS), Chris Keller (LHS), Sarah Reed (LHS), John Bailey (Google GeoEducation), Alison Toy (TERC), Heather Segale (TERC).

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