Monday, September 23, 2019

Erasmus+ EMJMD successfully launched

The new Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD) programme funded under the Erasmus+ scheme has been successfully launched today at the University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS. The programme has been kicked-off with an 'Orientation Project' where students receive in-depth guidance regarding structure of entire curriculum and student life at Copernicus Master in Digital Earth - CDE partner universities. The highly diversified orientation includes scientific presentations, a conference keynote participation, several interactive sessions, as well as socialising in and around Salzburg.

Admission to EM CDE has been offered to twelve outstanding applicants after a qualification based selection process. A GeoData Science – Specialization Track @ University of South Brittany, Département Informatique and a Geovisualisation & Geocommunication – Specialization Track @ Palacky University Olomouc, Faculty of Science, Department of Geoinformatics offer candidates a pathway towards excellence in advanced Earth Obsveration / Geoinformatics addressing the Copernicus and Digital Earth missions and objectives. The first two semesters students study Earth Observation and Geoinformatics at the University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS.

Project and Joint Programme Co-ordinator:
Josef Strobl, University of Salzburg, Z_GIS
Programme Office:
Website: Sentinel-2 Semantic Data Cube Austria

On 9 September 2019, the consortium of the FFG-ASAP project held a user requirements meeting at ZAMG premises in Vienna and presented the first prototype of an operational Sentinel-2 semantic Earth observation (EO) data cube Austria.

During the meeting, the academic partner (University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS) and the university spin-off Spatial Services GmbH presented the newly developed prototype to the project partners AMA (Agrarmarkt Austria) and ZAMG (Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik). In the afternoon session, the meeting was open to a wider audience and other interested users.

The presented prototype is the worldwide first semantic EO data cube for Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission data. It provides new and innovative features, including semantic content-based image retrieval and image analysis of all captured Sentinel-2 data through space and time in user-selected areas of interest (AOI) and user selected time intervals.
A semantic EO data cube was defined as a spatio-temporal data cube containing EO data, where for each observation at least one nominal (i.e., categorical) interpretation is available and can be queried in the same instance (see Augustin et al, 2019).

This approach allows human users to query and analyse EO data on a higher semantic level (i.e. based on at least basic land cover units and encoded ontologies) directly in the data cube. A unique Web-interface allows interactive human-like queries based on spatio-temporal and semantic relationships. The requirements of different target user groups are met by explicitly specifying spatio-temporal models as semantic queries and storing & sharing them in a knowledge base. The semantic queries are translated by an inference engine into data cube queries and executed on-the-fly on the server-side against the data cube, where the new information is inferred. Results depend on the semantic query and include (1) analysis maps for online use or as download option for integration in any GIS, (2) time series curves for aggregated results per AOI, or (3) the selection Sentinel-2 data sets that match user-defined criteria for downloading and further analysis

The semantic EO data cube is generic, meaning it is useful for multiple thematic domains. Its potential is demonstrated in the project by developing different services in a proof-of-concept environment for Austria.

Already implemented services include:
*Semantic content-based image retrieval, e.g. for cloud-free image retrieval based on user-defined AOIs instead of image wide statistics, which is not possible in any other Sentinel-2 image database worldwide. 

*Spatio-temporal analysis through time analysing the semantic categories through time for any user-defined AOI and/or time span.               
In the second half of the project more services are developed. They will allow the generation of cloud-free mosaics for user-specified time intervals and the development of a mobile App for location-based queries through time. The prototype will be scaled up to the entire country of Austria, covering all available Sentinel-2 images since the launch of Sentinel-2A in 2015. The semantic EO data cube is implemented at EODC infrastructure; since July 2019, Z_GIS is also an associated partner of the EODC.

The Web-interface prototype serves as graphical inference engine and allows interactive human-like queries based on spatio-temporal and semantic relationships. Requirements of different user groups can be met by explicitly specifying and sharing spatio-temporal models in a knowledge base (here: analysis of water occurrence through time)

Semantic content-based image retrieval in user defined areas and user defined time intervals covering all available Sentinel-2 data within Austria, here: cloud-free image retrieval for a user selected AOI for July 2018 (image IDs of cloud free images are returned and a statistic of the cloud cover of the AOI for all analysed images).  

Contact:  Dirk Tiede, Martin Sudmanns

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

PhD defense about permafrost phenomena in artic and alpine environments

Helena Bergstedt impressively defended her PhD Thesis “Spatial and temporal patterns of microwave scattering mechanisms across scales in cold terrestrial environments”.

Over the last four years, Helena investigated permafrost phenomena in artic and alpine environments. These landscapes undergo annual thawing and refreezing of the ground surface. These freeze/thaw cycles occur at different time scales from daily variations to seasonal changes in surface state. Helena’s research focused on spatial heterogeneity within grid cells of satellite scatterometer data in highly complex terrain in cold regions. She identified and quantified different microwave scattering mechanisms that negatively influence the accuracy of surface state information derived from satellite based microwave sensors.

Through five major publications, she mainly addressed landscape type specific differences between surface state information, dependencies of frozen and thawed season backscatter variations, possibilities of deriving mean annual ground temperature and permafrost extent from freeze/thaw information and the possibility of deriving a frozen fraction capable of describing gradual freeze-up and thaw processes on a landscape scale.

This research work contributed to the improvement of accurate representation of freeze/thaw processes in complex landscapes within future surface state data sets, especially with respect to permafrost applications. Here you can find more about her research.

We wish Helena all the best on her future road of life!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Z_GIS Initiates Cooperation with University of Yangon!

Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatis - Z_GIS has initiated academic cooperation with University of Yangon (UoY), Myanmar supported through a KA107 project within ERASMUS+ programme of the European Union. The project focusses on 'enhancing GI-competences' through exchange of faculty members and post-graduate students and between the two institutions. Launching the first activity, Dr. Shahnawaz (Director, UNIGIS S/E Asia) conducted a week long workshop on 'Interdisciplinary Applications of GIScience' at the Department of Geography (DGeog) at UoY from August 19th to 24th, 2019. Twenty post-graduate students and young faculty members attended the workshop and took intensive hands-on practical training for processing and analysis of optical satellite images, digital terrain analysis and advanced geospatial modelling. Keeping in mind that Myanmar faces swear floods frequently, a full day was devoted to the processing and analysis of atmospheric and climatic datasets generated through various censors aboard TERRA and AQUA satellite platforms.

(Participants celebrating completion of the workshop)

Expressing his thanks to Z_GIS, Prof. Htun Ko (Head, DGeog) stated that this is the first ever intensive GIScience workshop organised at the department and he would appreciate more such contributions of Z_GIS in future. He also recommended one professor and one PhD scholar for academic stay at Z_GIS during academic year 2019-20.

Prof. Josef Strobl (Head, Z_GIS) welcomed the gesture of Prof. Htun Ko and assured continued support for 'enhancing GI-competences' at UoY.