GIS maps out ecological ills

GIS maps out ecological ills

Maui computing center uses data, resources to preserve endangered geese

By Florence Olsen
GCN Staff

The powerful computing resources of the Maui High Performance Computing Center might not be sufficient to save the Hawaiian nene, the world's most endangered goose.

''But determined government scientists who use the center think the goose and other native species could be preserved if policy-makers will pay attention to what geographic information systems are telling them.'

GIS is a decision-support tool, and the fun part is that we get to make maps,' said Scott L. Splean, a senior scientific and engineering applications analyst at the Maui center in Hawaii.

''GIS' most important function, Splean said, is to integrate map information and clarify how to attack problems. The Haleakala National Park, a 30,000-acre biosphere reserve managed by the National Park Service, has few self-defenses against invasive plant and animal species.

''But with the aid of remote sensing and other GIS data, Splean and other members of the Haleakala National Park GIS Development Cooperative hope to reverse what appears to be a losing battle against Argentine ants, feral pigs and weedy miconia plants.

''The cooperative includes MHPCC, the National Park Service and the Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division. It will use MHPCC computing resources to design a GIS technical plan for the park, Splean said.

''The center's 27,000 square feet of office and secure computing space houses 603 IBM Corp. RS/6000 Scalable Parallel nodes, the processing equivalent of 256 billion floating-point operations per second.''

''As a member of the Defense Department's High-Performance Computing Modernization Program, the Maui center has one of the world's largest installations of IBM PowerParallel, Power2 Super Chip and eight-way symmetric multiprocessor nodes.

''The GIS-based Resource Management Decision Support System for managing spatially referenced data runs on a single SP node, Splean said.

''The GIS, based on ArcInfo and ArcView from Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. of Redlands, Calif., stores spatial information'points, lines, polygons and grids'in thematic layers linked by geography. 'It's considered an interactive map,' Splean said.''

''As GIS technology evolves, MHPCC is moving to object-oriented data models. 'Instead of data being points, lines and polygons, everything will be objects,' he said.''

''Researchers and resource managers use GIS to explore relationships between attributes of the different thematic layers. They have a common base of information and tools to compare management strategies in a precise and reproducible manner, Splean said.

Math majors

''The Haleakala GIS cooperative relies on MHPCC computing teams for new algorithms and processes to guide map and database development.

''Saving the native Hawaiian habitat is an ambitious GIS project that requires many resources to get the information out to decision-makers, Splean said.

''Federal, state and private sources have budgeted more than $100 million a year for Hawaii's ecological problems.

''To support the effort, Splean said, the Haleakala cooperative resource management system is evolving into a statewide aid for ecosystem management.


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