Beach Shingle, Singapore

Gigapan: Eya P

GigaBlitz June 2011

We, three biodiversity scientists (and editors of this issue), have been the privileged recipients of support through the Fine Outreach for Science (FOFS) program to encourage the use of Gigapans and gigapixel imagery in science, education and art. Linked as "Fine Fellows" and as alumni and faculty of the University of Guelph, Ontario Canada, the three of us (Alex Smith, Ken Tamminga, and Dennis vanEngelsdorp) converged on Pittsburgh last fall for the inaugural Fine International Conference on GigaPixel Imaging for Science (November 11-13, 2010). Over coffee(s) we began talking about the synergy and thoughtful-ness that emerges when disciplines and researchers can cross-pollinate. Biologists, landscape architects, anthropologists, citizens, teachers, farmers - all gathered to share and learn how this tool for gixapixel imagery was being used.

In those conversations we soon focused on how Gigapan scientists, artists and citizens might capture, document and annotate their local landscapes - the nearby and not necessarily the exotic. The challenge was to use empowering high-resolution Gigapan imaging to connect people to the nearby biodiversity in their own living space. Not a far flung field site, or an iconic but distant National Park - but your local woodlot at work, or backyard or nearby running trail. We imagined using these widely separated, but nearby, panoramas as a way of collecting biodiversity data - similar to the Christmas bird count - where citizen scientists surveyed their world, then distributed and shared that data with the world through public Gigapans. The plus of the Gigapan approach was that the sharing was bi-directional - not merely "this is what I saw", but also hearing someone say, "this is what I found".

Coordinating the first Nearby Nature GigaBlitz was very rewarding and we all learned from each stage of the process. In the end, we were delighted in the geographic breadth represented in the submitters. It was challenging to reduce all the entries to the eight Gigapans featured here. They were chosen from a wide array of panoramas that captured a great amount of the nearby nature of a global community.

This project would not be possible without support from the Fine Outreach for Science and the Fine Foundation, Illah Nourbakhsh and the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, GigaPan and the Nearby Nature June 2011 Jurors:

• Theresa Crimmins, Partnerships & Outreach Coordinator, USA National Phenology Network
• Chris Fastie, Visiting Scholar, Middlebury College
• Mary Jo Daines, CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University
• Molly Gail Mehling, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Sustainability, Chatham University
• Illah Nourbakhsh, Carnegie Mellon University
• Alex Smith, Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology, University of Guelph & The Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
• Molly Steinwald, Associate Director of Science Education, Phipps Conservatory
• Ken Tamminga, Professor of Landscape Architecture, Penn State University
• Christopher Tracey, Conservation Planning Coordinator, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
• Dennis van Engelsdorp, Sr. Extension Associate, Department of Entomology at Penn State University

Here are some of their comments on the images featured in this issue:

Jury's Top Selection

Freeway over Nature, Vienna, Austria by Franz Svoboda

Under a crazy motorway junction exists a rest for nature

Juror comments:
"my favorite shot" · "completely consistent with the premise of Nearby Nature" · "captures the still persistent and diverse nature humming away under the busy motorists" · "I love exploring this one in Google Earth for 'nearby' landscape context" · "reminiscent of cathedral ceilings enclosing the 'super'natural - lots to see and the promise of much more if you only take the time to look and contemplate" · "beautifully choreographed image" · "palpable tension between infrastructure and interstitial life · both in terms of form and process"


Plantação de Agrião - Mogi das Cruzes by Eduardo Frick

A crop of watercress cared for by a friendly family of farmers

Juror comments:
"the apparent cooperation between humans and environment is striking" · "shows nearby and further away biodiversity in the context of a working plantation"

Tropical Asia - Beach Shingle, Singapore by Eya P

Taking a walk along a sandy beach, one might assume that what one is stepping on is mineral, until one examines the shingle underfoot

Juror comments:
"what a testament to diversity! one can only imagine the ecosystem that can make beaches from its dead - and all so close to one of the world's most densely populated places!" · "species are identifiable and the site is species rich", "I appreciate the unconventional Gigapanning method" · "intriguing annotation adds to the exploratory experience"

La olla de las Crasulaceas by Eduardo Ponce Guevera

A festival of Mexican biodiversity

Juror comments:
"another landscape heavily designed to achieve biodiversity" · "I love the foreground/background detail; flowers are exquisite, and the leaf litter can be explored"

Bike Path near West Glacier, Montana by Lisa McKeon

A bike path winds through old-growth forest

Juror comments:
"the bike path carefully navigates old growth that's high in ecological integrity and biodiversity, so this image deserves further exploration" · "an amazing ecosystem so close to the town of West Glacier"

Leatherleaf Levee, Molly Bog, Vermont by Chris Fastie

Molly Pond - not actually a pond, but a large opening in a floating peat mat

Juror comments:
"a great deal of biodiversity" · "extremely well annotated" · "I love this aquatic system (but am) unsure of the 'nearby' context"

Pond in forest near Hausen am Albis by Markus Leutwyler

The famous "Seleger Moor" in Switzerland years after the moss was taken out as fuel

Juror comments:
"a beautiful example because of how it concentrates and shows frogs" · "good, biodiverse, near-human site" · "love the detail; one of my favorites"

Anglesola. Vegetable garden in summer by Josep Giribet

An organic vegetable garden surrounded by 100-year-old buildings in a small medieval village

Juror comments:
"takes the question of biodiversity all the way to the local, backyard personal garden" · "brings home our ancient and often vexed relationship with nature" · "the intimate and long-term relationship between this family and the landscape (built and growing) drives home the Nearby Nature concept"

Guest Editors

Alex Smith is a professor of molecular ecology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. His interests include biodiversity, cryptic species and working in both field and laboratory to integrate field and molecular biology into questions of ecological and evolutionary importance to conservation.

Ken Tamminga is professor of landscape architecture and on the ecology faculty at Penn State University. His interests include ecological design and restoration, riparian urbanism, and regeneration of degraded social-ecological places. His work in inner-city Pittsburgh, Ghana, and the low Himalayas seeks to promote community/landscape co-resilience in the face of climate change and other stressors.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp is a Sr. Extension Associate at Penn State University. His research interests include honey bee epidemiology and pollinator health. He is the director of the partnership, and will join the entomology department at the University of Maryland in January 2012.

This project was produced by Mary Jo Daines. Since 2008, Mary Jo has worked in the CREATE Lab helping scientists around the world use Gigapan to document and communicate their research with their peers and the public.

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