Image Title: Remote sensing application for flood risk mapping: merging LiDAR technology, digital elevation models (DEMs), and hydrologic conditioning for the city of Middleton, Nova Scotia
Image Caption: This flood map animation was created using a 1m bare earth DEM derived from a LiDAR point cloud. The data was originally acquired through an aerial survey by the Applied Geomatics Research Group using a topo-bathymetric sensor. As students, our task was to apply hydro-conditioning to the original DEM using ArcGIS PRO and ModelBuilder. In part, this involved creating an automated workflow that would be filling sinks (gaps in the DEM), apply a breach to digital dams (for instance bridges that block the flow of water across the DEM), and enforce hydrologic connectivity between water bodies (culverts). This process resulted in a surface that would mimic the natural flow of water across the watershed (hydro-enforced). Finally, a series of hypothetical flood iterations were generated with levels ranging from 9m to 16m (ASL) using increments of 0.5m.
The GANS “Student Highlight” article series recognizes budding geomatics professionals and allows them the opportunity to showcase their work, their skills and their career aspirations to the greater geospatial community of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. In each quarterly newsletter, we will share the journey of one of our student members, how they became interested in geomatics, and what their professional goals are for the future.
This quarter’s feature is Rafael Del Bello, a postgraduate student of the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing at COGS.
Connect with Rafael on LinkedIn by clicking here.
My education & background:
At the time of this writing, I’m enrolled in the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS). The faculty is located in the heart of the Annapolis Valley in the Village of Lawrencetown, a great rural escape for a city slicker like myself, originally from Montreal.
The diploma can be described as a comprehensive hands-on geomatics program focusing on current industry-standard applications of GIS, remote sensing and geospatial data analytics. What I find most neat about the diploma is how it touches on both the foundational skills – think scripting with Python, SQL querying, database management, report writing, project management, and spatial statistical methods – and of course on skillsets that are geomatics-specific – think GPS data collection and processing, accuracy assessment, quality control, data integration, geoprocessing, and cartographic presentation techniques.
For students that choose the remote sensing path like myself, the coursework is heavily focused on satellite sensors and the end-to-end workflow involved with image acquisition, processing, and interpretation. The type of sensors we are exposed to is quite impressive too! It also includes a range of resolutions and types such as multispectral, hyperspectral, InSar and thermal. Finally, we also touch on two of the most promising technology out there, namely UAVs -- also called remotely piloted aircraft systems, or drones -- and Light Detection and Ranging (or Lidar), which is a surveying method that measures distances using laser pulses. For these topics, we have the chance to touch on flight planning techniques, sensor calibration, quality control and assessments, point classification and feature extraction, just to name a few.
In the end, what you end up with are both industry-specific and transferable skills useful for wherever you end up. Skills that tallow to solve geospatial problems and communicate the problem to key shareholders whether its a client or your boss. A normal school-year will be topped off with a Capstone project which allows the student to dwell deeper into a particular subject. In my case, I was able to work on a project involving a best-practice manual for UAV based photogrammetric acquisition and post-processing techniques, in collaboration with the Applied Geomatics Research Group in Middleton.
What interests me about geomatics:
My biggest revelation coming to COGS is how the knowledge of basic programming is important and how useful it is to have as a skill-set. I first started with minimal knowledge of programming and scripts, except for the odd command line operation when you're trying to troubleshoot operating systems issues. Now, after hours of practice and late nights, I enjoy them and try to use them whenever applicable. A script is simply a list of commands that you write executed by a certain program. Ultimately, it allows to transform monotonous tasks into intelligently sequenced steps, and can be quite useful to make work processes autonomous and more efficient.
In remote sensing and Geomatics in general, you will end up working with a lot of data. This information, whether they are coordinates (XYZ), images(pixels), vectors(shapes), or point clouds, often requires pre-processing before being integrated into other systems. Knowing how to automate these steps will save you a lot of time, and make your boss very happy.
As a bonus, you get a satisfactory feeling when a script you wrote can process hundreds of features seamlessly and exactly the way you programmed it too.
How I decided on a career in geomatics:
Earlier in my educational background, I took a bachelor of science in environmental geography due to general interest in earth-science, but it was my interest in UAV mapping that first got me thinking about going back to school. It was in 2018 when I purchased my first UAV and became compliant with Transport Canada and obtained a Canada wide waver for UAV operations. I then started looking at ways to apply this technology professionally, but soon realized that a drone was simply a tool. What I needed was a more solid scientific and technical foundation that would allow me to produce actionable deliverable for decision making, while also mastering the theory behind what I was providing. After attending a few seminars and career events to get an understanding of the industry trend (thank you GoGeomatics), my mind was set.
My career goals:
Like most students graduating in 2020, my main short term goal will be to break into the geospatial industry and build on my current skillsets. I will be pursuing openings as a remote sensing specialist, GIS analyst, data processing specialist, or UAV technician. I’m someone who enjoys multi-tasking and teamwork, therefore my efforts will be targeted to small and medium-sized companies. In the long-run, I hope to find my niche, equip my toolset with additional skills, and be able to manage my team as a geospatial expert.
My ideal employer:
I want all the good stuff: a place of work that allows for continuing professional growth, a work environment where there is the freedom to explore new workflows and bring news ideas to the table, and most importantly, a company with strong leadership that stays sharp, observes technological trends and methods, and ultimately, stays ahead of the game.
Advice for other students:
The geomatics field is large and encompasses a variety of different fields. Try to connect with professionals from the industry and ask them about what they do. If given the chance, gain some experiences through work terms or volunteering opportunities. All these things will help you find what makes you tick, and most importantly, what doesn't. In the long-run, this can save you a lot of time and help you focus your efforts in the right direction.
How students can benefit from associations like GANS:
As cliche as it sounds, it's not always about what you know but who you know. By planning meetups, conferences or web-hosted seminars, industry organizations are usually entities capable to connect industry experts, business executives, and aspiring workers and students. As far as you know, your next employer could be the person you start chatting up to at an organized event, or it could be a connection to that person! You truly never know. Finally, organizations are also very useful in keeping up to date with technological trends, being informed about the progress in the industry, or simply to know which companies that are making the biggest impact.