Welcome Dr. Bo Yang! New Post-Doctoral Scholar for Drones and Citizen Science GIS Work

I’d like to introduce our newest Citizen Science GIS team member: Dr. Bo Yang. Bo is joining us from the University of Cincinnati and will serve as a post-doctoral scholar to support Citizen Science GIS and our new $1.3 million collaborative NSF grant for drones and GIS with the Smithsonian. We are excited to have his expertise join our team.

More about Dr. Yang: Bo Yang has an educational and research background in the fields of GIS, remote sensing, drone mapping, geospatial computation, and spatio-temporal modelling. His research involves topics on data fusion and assimilation, machine learning algorithm, high-performance computing, sociological and environmental analysis and modeling.

He earned a B.S. degree in applied mathematics and Master’s degree in computer science in China. He received his Master’s degree in Geographic Information Systems at University of Cincinnati (2013) and obtained his Ph.D. degree in Geography at University of Cincinnati (2018). His dissertation examines the multi-scale spatio-temporal data assimilation method and its application in urban heat island and heat wave studies.

Bo Yang joined University of Central Florida for drone mapping of coastal sea grass with Citizen Science GIS. His responsibilities include co-mentoring undergraduate students; engaging in intensive fieldwork and community building throughout MarineGeo sites along the west coast of North America; creating and implementing an online geospatial platform using ArcGIS Online to share drone imagery and related digital GIS data; analyzing quantitative and qualitative datasets.

1st national community geography workshop funded by NSF

The first ever national workshop in community geography is scheduled for January 25-26, 2019 in Atlanta, GA, bringing together academic researchers and community leaders interested in using geographic research for community development, social justice, and environmental sustainability. We anticipate accepting forty community geography fellows to this workshop. It will focus on sharing work related to community engaged scholarship and action research for social justice, equity, and inclusion, as well as generating ideas for future collaboration.

This NSF funded event is free of charge, and we plan to offer some form of financial support for travel costs to all fellows. We encourage participation by scholars of all backgrounds: university faculty and students as well as community scholars and community leaders. We particularly encourage applications from scholars with a non-traditional educational background and members of groups under-represented in geographic research.

More information on the conference is available at this website: http://communitymappinglab.org/commgeog19. This page has a link to apply for this workshop, or you can access the application directly at https://goo.gl/forms/01n4tUbKewq5bMTh1. Applications are due by October 28 and we anticipate notifying fellows of acceptance by mid to late November.

Dr. Hawthorne is a Co-PI on this NSF award and on the workshop organizing committee. We hope to see you there!

New $1.25 Million NSF Award to Smithsonian Institution and Dr. Hawthorne’s Open Reef Team

Open Reef heads west partnering with Smithsonian Institution on new $1.25 million National Science Foundation grant

August 21, 2018

A new collaborative $1.25 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation will support the Open Reef initiative of Citizen Science GIS at University of Central Florida. The Open Reef team led by Timothy L. Hawthorne, assistant professor of GIS in the Department of Sociology and College of Sciences GIS Cluster at UCF, will collaborate with MarineGeo researchers at the Smithsonian Institution to drone map eelgrass meadow sites along the west coast of North America from Baja Mexico to Canada. The collaborative grant entitled “Collaborative Research: The role of a keystone pathogen in the geographic and local-scale ecology of eelgrass decline in the eastern Pacific” was awarded in July by the NSF Biological Oceanography Program to a team of researchers led by Principal Investigator Dr. Emmett Duffy of the Smithsonian Institution. Hawthorne serves as PI of the UCF portion of the grant work.

Hawthorne and the Open Reef team will provide drone mapping expertise and training for community partners to use consumer-level drones for citizen science in west coast study sites. Hawthorne’s team will also help to create an open and freely accessible mapping portal through Esri’s ArcGIS Online of all drone imagery collected from the project to support greater scientific discovery in the field sites. The drone imagery will be processed with Esri’s Drone2Map software.

“Through this major NSF award, we are genuinely excited to launch a new portion of our Open Reef work along the west coast of North America with the MarineGeo team at the Smithsonian Institution. A collaboration of this magnitude is exciting for us as UCF researchers, but it should be equally exciting for the general public and citizen scientists as the results we aim to generate through the collection of drone imagery and related mapping data could revolutionize the way in which we understand these complex and important marine ecosystems,” said Hawthorne.

The collaborative grant includes faculty and students from a variety of universities and organizations, including MarineGeo at the Smithsonian Institution, Cornell University, University of California-Davis, and University of Central Florida.

Hawthorne and his Open Reef team already had an existing relationship with the Smithsonian Institution as part of their UCF Citizen Science GIS NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site. In the REU Site, Hawthorne’s team works in Belize to drone map Smithsonian MarineGeo sites along the Mesoamerican Reef (pictured below). That first partnership with MarineGeo through the REU Site led to the inclusion of the Citizen Science GIS at UCF team in this new grant.

Carrie Bow Caye Belize, home of the Smithsonian MarineGeo Site.

Hawthorne’s funding from the UCF portion of the new NSF award will allow the Open Reef team to expand research opportunities to the next generation of community-engaged scientists.  Funds will help support a new interdisciplinary post-doctoral scholar along with several undergraduate students. The UCF Office of Research is providing additional matching support for the new post-doc position.

“This major NSF grant is a testament to the fact that dynamic teams of scientists and social scientists can work together to explore some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. We are excited to work with the world’s foremost marine scientists and the next generation of scientists in the use of drone technologies for understanding these ecosystems, while I also exposing science’s next generation to the opportunities of working across disciplines in a project of this magnitude,” said Hawthorne.

To view the NSF public abstract of the collaborative project, please visit: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1829890&HistoricalAwards=false

For more information about Open Reef and Citizen Science GIS: please visit www.citizensciencegis.org. Citizen Science GIS is a 2017 Esri Special Achievement in GIS Award winner. The mission of Citizen Science GIS is to change the way communities and scientists work together across the globe to visualize local knowledge through geographic information systems, maps, apps, and drones.

Proud to Serve as Your Florida Geography Steward with National Geographic

As of April 2018, I am deeply honored, excited, and humbled to be named The Florida Geography Steward with National Geographic. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving my assistant professor role at UCF. This unique opportunity enhances our work at UCF and leverages partnership opportunities to support geographic education and research across Florida and beyond.

What does this new state leadership role entail? I will energetically work with folks across Florida and the southeast region to strengthen geographic education and opportunities for teachers, the general public, and (most importantly) science’s next generation! I am thrilled to be back with National Geographic. Many of you here might remember I served as the Georgia Geographic Alliance Coordinator with National Geographic before I left Georgia and my previous university. The hardest part of that move was losing my connection to National Geographic.

My commitment to Florida and geography education: As a public scholar, a passionate educator, and as a father, I am ecstatic to be back working with National Geographic partners, and am deeply committed to supporting geographic education across Florida through our team’s work at UCF and through all the new partnerships we will develop and learn from as we meet new people committed to geographic education in Florida! Big things can happen when partners work together toward shared goals. Here’s to the beginning of an incredible partnership!! For education friends in Florida, please drop me a note (or leave a comment here) to tell me how we can work together to enhance geographic education across the state! Together, everything is possible. Let’s be creative, passionate, and committed to serving science’s next generation across our great state!

2017 Esri Special Achievement Awardee for Our Citizen Science GIS Team!

Citizen Science GIS is deeply humbled and excited to accept the 2017 Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri, the world’s leading GIS company.  We are one of four higher education initiative worldwide this year to be accept the award!

“For us, receiving the 2017 Special Achievement in GIS Award reflects the importance of connecting science and society in a way that values research being inclusive of and responsive to the needs of communities around the globe. Our core value is that academics have a responsibility to engage with society,” said Dr. Timothy Hawthorne, founding director of Citizen Science GIS and assistant professor of GIS at University of Central Florida.

Read more about the international recognition in the story written by Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala on the UCF Today site.

Our 2017 NSF REU Site in Belize and Orlando is Now Accepting Applications!

cos-banner-wo-obstructionWe are pleased to announce that our 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) #REU Site in Community GIS and Citizen Science in #Orlando and #Belize is now accepting applications from U.S. undergraduate students. The priority application deadline is Friday, February 17, 2017 @ 5 pm EST.  The fully funded research program will run from June 19-August 4, 2017. Get ready for another incredible summer of community-based research in Hopkins, Belize! To learn more about our program and to apply, please visit: http://www.citizensciencegis.org/ucf-reu-site/.

Share on social media with: #citizensciencegis #ucfreu


National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Briefing with The Geospatial STEM Academy

The Geospatial STEM Academy receives national attention!

AcademyLogo_HighResDr. Hawthorne and Geospatial STEM Academy Students were invited, as the only high school STEM program in the country, to brief Director Cardillo and Deputy Director Gordon at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on November 16, 2015.

Check out the NGA media release here: https://www.nga.mil/MediaRoom/News/Pages/NGA-hosts-geospatial-student-pioneers-during-GEOINT-Community-Week.aspx


DSC_8324 Melody Wang, Academy 10th grader, briefs NGA Director Cardillo at NGA HQ.


Destiny Crumbley, Academy 11th grader, briefs NGA Director Cardillo and other geospatial intelligence leadership at NGA HQ.


Mapping Marine Debris with Youth and their Local Knowledge on Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize


Today I had the privilege of returning to work with Form 3 and Form 2 students at the Ocean Academy on Caye Caulker, Belize.  As usual I was energized by the youth, particularly their ideas and their active engagement in the lessons we completed together.  Unlike previous trips with groups of college students in my study abroad course, I went in alone today.  It was somewhat terrifying being that outnumbered, but we had a great, great day.

It began with three simple questions.  Where is marine debris on this island? What do I know about? What can we do with maps to raise awareness about marine debris?

Maptastic selfies are the best way to show the power of collaboration with GIS.

Maptastic selfies are the best way to show the power of collaboration with GIS.


In the form 3 morning science class we first analyzed the data and maps created in last May’s study abroad program where youth and college students collected marine debris data using tablets loaded with ArcGIS Collector.  Today, the students concluded that debris is an island-wide problem, but it is most concentrated in non-business district areas and areas away from the eye of the tourist and boat docks.  They’ve really created a powerful visual that can attract greater attention to this important issue.


Ocean Academy form 3 students mapping and analyzing their marine debris data from last year’s study abroad course.


Then we moved to the form 2 English class and introduced these students to the power of mapping and GIS (and we never even used the technology).  We had them create a map of Belize on the board and identify where they felt cyber bullying was most prominent.  This was one of their lessons in their English class so we wanted to connect our maps discussion to that.  They had some great ideas and without even knowing it created a database and project design that we can use to begin a cyber bullying mapping project in Belize in the coming months.  It’s going to be a challenging and exciting project and we are going to connect it with our People Loving People kindness mapping project as well.  More in early 2016.

Brainstorming a mapping strategy for cyber-bullying in Belize. Students drew a map predicting where they thought the hotspots would be located.

Form 2 students brainstorming a mapping strategy for cyber-bullying in Belize. Students drew a map predicting where they thought the hotspots would be located.


Then after lunch we brought together form 2 and 3 for some collaborative mapping using ArcGIS Online.  The youth focused again on marine debris, this time mapping their perceptions of the problem of marine debris.  Students were asked to map where debris was an issue and to estimate the severity of the problem from their collaborative memory of the spaces on the island.  They then mapped what the felt were the business, residential and environmental reserve districts to overlay their debris perceptions over to visualize spatial patterns.  What did they learn?  The power of the crowd can be harnessed to map things important to youth and can quickly tell a powerful and highly visual story.  About debris specifically?  Again, like they learned in the fieldwork last May, once you get away from the tourist and business districts, debris is not as likely to be cleaned up.  The youth are thinking about using their map results and some follow-up work to present data and solutions to the Caye Caulker Council.  Check out the online map at http://ucfonline.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=f6dc95764912444a85cfba9f069c0a6c

Form 2 and 3 students working together using ArcGIS Online to map their perceptions of marine debris and land use patterns on the island.

Form 2 and 3 students working together using ArcGIS Online to map their perceptions of marine debris and land use patterns on the island.


What a talented group of passionate and knowledgeable youth.

I’m excited for our return to Caye Caulker in early 2016 and continued collaborations with Ocean Academy.  Partnerships like this are what community GIS and citizen science are all about, and we are thrilled to continue this important work in the future.  Youth and geospatial technologies: a winning combination!


Urban Geospatial STEM Academy

The Geospatial STEM Academy: Preparing High School Students for Geospatial Technology Careers is a summer STEM education training program that engages one hundred 9th through 12th grade students from the Atlanta and Orlando regions in community-based geospatial technology educational experiences.  Summer 1 in 2015 occurred in Atlanta, GA at Georgia State University.  With additional funding in Summer 2016, we plan to expand to Orlando, FL and Atlanta, GA!

Check out a short video showing the highlights of our summer geospatial STEM Academy.  Video created by GSU graduate student, Adam Acker.  We offer the most unique high school GIS training program in the country given our focus on community GIS and citizen science!  More information soon about summer 2016.

Academy Mission: The mission of the Academy is to introduce students to applicable and transferrable geospatial technology skillsets for the in-demand, high growth industry of geospatial technologies. The Academy’s mission offers high return on investment as it aligns with a growing nationwide STEM career direction. Geospatial technologies have recently been identified as a high-growth industry by the U.S. Department of Labor. Within geospatial technology fields, the projected employment growth from 2010 to 2020 of geoscientists is 21 percent, environmental engineers is 22 percent, and computer systems analysts is 22 percent (U.S. Department of Labor, 2012). Although these career opportunities are growing at a dramatic rate, U.S. high school students are often unaware of these opportunities until later in their college careers as most U.S. high schools are not adequately preparing students for these careers given that geography, geospatial technology, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) courses are not prominently offered in most of the nation’s high schools.

To learn more about the exciting work we do with youth and GIS, please visit the project site at http://sites.gsu.edu/stemacademy 

Belize 2016 GIS Study Abroad @ UCF

2016 Community Geographic Information Systems Study Abroad in Belize (Summer Session A @ UCF)

I am the program director for the “Geographic Information Systems in Belize: A Focus on Communities, Fieldwork and Service” course.

The 2016 Belize course runs for summer session A  We’ll spend one week on campus pre-trip at UCF, then 12 days in Belize, then one week post-trip on campus at UCF.  The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students of all majors.  No previous GIS experience required.  We are open to students from any college/university, not just Georgia State University.  This course is an extension of a similar program I co-founded at Georgia State University.

Check out this short video created by my graduate student, Adam Acker of Georgia State University, highlighting the 2015 course experience.  We expect to have a similar awesome research and learning experience in Belize in 2016 and beyond!  This international community GIS experience is unlike any other study abroad program in the country.  You’ll never regret it if you choose to join us for this incredible experience.