Winter Work

Hi Uncle Mervyn,

Dad had mentioned you were curious about what I was doing as a forest tech here in BC, especially with the winter work. I was away last week for work outside of Clearwater, several hours north of Kamloops where we are living at the moment.

The image below was grabbed off my phone with my work site location shown in blue:


I’m doing field work exclusively at the moment, with a range of tasks including forest measurements, ecosystem classification, timber reconnaissance, road planning and layout, and cut block planning and layout.

I took a quick video on my phone in the bush to give you a sense of where I work and how I get to work every day in the winter. Unfortunately I held my phone upright instead of sideways so the framing is awkward. I’m also coming off a bit serious, mostly because I’m alone in the woods, awkwardly talking to an electronic device, haha :

Our trucks are pretty good in the snow and we can drive any forest service road that is currently being plowed. A lot of roads are left unplowed over the winter though so our only option is to head in by snowmobile.

This is a shot my coworker took after we had driven up to our work site the other morning. Most days we double up, with one of us driving and the other sitting behind them. You can just make out our snowshoes tied on the back with blue and orange ribbon.


We either load the sleds on a sled deck mounted on the back of the truck, or onto a trailer that we pull behind. Last week we were using a truck without a sled deck so we pulled the sleds in a trailer. That’s one of my coworkers posing nicely for you after loading up a sled at the end of the day.


Only the entry to this road had been plowed so we left our truck just off the highway at the bottom of the East Mad FSR (Forest Service Road).


Next week we are working in a new area north of Kamloops. Since we haven’t been there yet, we don’t know which roads are currently drive-able. We’ll just have to drive as far as we can by truck and then drop the sleds and find our way by map from there.

Counting the weeks ’till spring!!!

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Fracking in the Peace


Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the injection of high-pressure fluid into wells in order to crack rock and release natural gas. This process can trigger seismic events but most are not felt above ground. In August of 2015 the BC Oil and Gas Commission confirmed that a 2014 4.4 magnitude earthquake in North East BC was in fact the direct result of hydraulic fracturing activity in the area, making it one of the largest seismic events to ever be attributed directly to fracking. While fracking has been around since the 1950s, a recent interest in liquefied natural gas has led to a major increase in fracking in North East BC since around 2008. The aim of this project is to explore the incidents and magnitude of earthquakes in the region over time as well as their spatial relationship to active fracking sites.

Earthquake data for all of British Columbia was obtained from Natural Resources Canada and mapped for the entire province in five year increments starting form 1990 and symbolized by magnitude in order to establish historical patterns. Earthquakes were then mapped together with active fracking sites in the Peace River and Northern Rockies regional districts along with heat maps showing the point density of both data sets annually for 2010 – 2015.  A count of earthquakes for each year was graphed and box plots were generated to visualize magnitude data.

The province-wide maps show a clear trend of increasing seismic activity in North East BC between 1990 and 2015 while elsewhere in the province the spatial distribution of earthquakes has remained fairly consistent.Click the images below to enlarge:

Within the Peace River and Northern Rockies regional districts the number of earthquakes has increased dramatically since 2010 while the average magnitude has decreased significantly showing a strong increase in low magnitude tremors, particularly in the last three years. The range of magnitudes has also increased with increasing outliers at the higher end of the spectrum. There has also been one earthquake greater than magnitude four every year since 2012.

When the spatial concentration of earthquakes is compared to that of injection sites, seismic activity is consistently concentrated 100 kms or more to the west of highly concentrated fracking sites. In the images below, individual earthquake locations are indicated with yellow circles while the underlying heatma indicates point density (i.e. area of greatest concentration). Injection sites are marked with brown triangles with point density hot spots overlayed in red.


There are a couple of caveats to consider here. First, while there is an increasing trend of low magnitude earthquakes in the region, we see a similar pattern on the coast. Are we seeing an actual increase in low magnitude quakes, or is the apparent increase simply due to an increase in earthquake monitoring or an improvement in the sensitivity of the instruments used to detect quakes? Also, the methods used in this data exploration assume the concentration of injection sites to be the driving force in human-caused seismic events, which may not necessarily be the case. The BC Oil and Gas Commission attributed the 2014 earthquake referenced above directly to the activities of a single company. The practices at a given well may be a greater factor than the geographic concentration of wells. A Kriging interpolation analysis showing the likelihood of an earthquake over a certain magnitude for any given point in the region would help us to see if the higher magnitude quakes appear to be associated with certain well sites and would be an interesting next step for any further study.

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Experimenting with Graphic and 3D Design Software

In our New Media class, we spent some time exploring different software that could be used for fine-tuning our mapping outputs outside of a GIS. Using software like Photoshop or Illustrator (or their open source equivalents, GIMP or Inkscape) has its pros and cons (loss of geo-referencing, possible reduction in spatial fidelity, etc counterbalanced by an increased control over the aesthetics of the final output), but it certainly seems like a skill set worth cultivating. Barry Mclane of Kootenay Cartographics in Rossland, BC has made something of a specialty out of leveraging these kinds of software to create beautiful maps. You can check out his work at

The left image below is a map of the Selkirk College campus generated in Arcmap and then brought into Illustrator where various textures were added. I have to say, the final product is pretty ugly and highlights well that I would need to spend some time in the future getting to know illustrator to really be able to make full use of the software. The image on the right is from a shapefile of British Columbia that was brought into Photoshop in order to add some of that Aulde World texture.

Sketchup provides a quick and easy way to generate 3D structures for mapping projects. While AutoCAD would probably be preferred when dimensional accuracy is important, in cases where you just need a reasonably accurate, nice-looking model of a real-world object generated quickly and painlessly, Sketchup will certainly do the trick.

The following model of the Selkirk College SGRC building was built from the ground up using dimensions taken from old floor plans.


For the main campus, an existing shapefile of the campus buildings that had been previously created through heads-up digitization of aerial imagery was converted using FME to a file type readable by Sketchup. The z-dimension was simply added for each building section by clicking and dragging to the appropriate heights.  The process was quick and easy although actually adding textures to all of those buildings would certainly take a little longer. The model was then laid over Google imagery of the campus.


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Land Cover Change Detection in the North West Territories


With the advent of satellite imagery, the use of remote has become an important and well established tool for understanding our changing environment. Resource development and wildfire have significant impacts on vegetation cover and consequently on other biodiversity values in Canada. This study was commissioned by Canadian research and development corporation C-Core with the aim to detect disturbances and track vegetation changes around oil exploration sites in Dodo Canyon, Northwest Territories. Landsat imagery was used in conjunction with software analysis and GIS applications to map trends and over-all impacts of human caused and natural disturbance in the region.


The study focused on the area between Dodo Canyon and the town of Norman Wells in the North West Territories where oil exploration activities began between the summers of 2013 and 2014. Landsat 8 imagery was downloaded from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Explorer web site. Path 56, Row 14 was selected for study as a best-fit for the provided reference coordinates. Two regions of interest were selected for closer examination and classified by land cover type using maximum likelihood as this method was found to generate the most reliable results. The image classes were then merged into basic land cover categories and were compared using band math. Final images were mapped using ArcGIS for Desktop.


Region of Interest 1 represents the only linear features that could be found in the downloaded Landsat 8 images between the Mackenzie river and Dodo Canyon. A series of roads and presumably oil extraction infrastructure was already in place in 2013 and only a small change was detected along one of these roads (indicated in red on the change detection image). No other signs of oil exploration such as new roads or seismic lines was detected within the image area.

The most obvious land cover change in the Landsat images is evident just to the south of Region of Interest 1 in Region of Interest 2. A large disturbance is clearly visible in the August 2014 image. Generating a pair of NDVI images confirms that the apparent loss of vegetation cover. The lack of adjacent infrastructure coupled with the characteristic “fingered” shape of the edge would seem to indicate wildfire. The disturbed area in the 2014 image composes nearly 27% of the total image and is comprised of 82 467 pixels which translates to 7 422 Ha on the ground.


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Rossland Range in Black and White

The aim of this project was to generate a map that would act as a template that could potentially be used to create a laser etching on a piece of wood. I decided to draw the map all in black in order to create a final product that did not rely on colour to differentiate the various map elements. It was my first time mapping in a single colour and I found I really enjoyed the challenge and was happy to create something visually unlike any map I had made up until now.


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AutoCAD to ArcGIS

AutoCAD is a proprietary Computer Aided Design (CAD) software used in engineering and drafting. It intersects with the life of a mapper in areas like cities and regional districts or in transportation ministries where the work of engineers needs to be mapped onto a spatially accurate representation of the real world. Mapping within a CAD program and moving CAD data to a GIS both present a range of challenges.

For this project we needed to take a fairly messy collection of data in CAD format representing a combination of existing infrastructure in Rossland, BC, and plans for a new development just south of town, and make them all shiny and full of awesome. The data needed to be cleaned up significantly before final mapping of the new development could be completed in both AutoCAD and ArcGIS for Desktop. In fact, the cleaning up of the data was far and away the most time consuming (not to mention profoundly tedious) part of the entire project, highlighting just how important it is to keep our data management tight and consistent. Conversion of the dwg files to Ersi geodatabase was accomplished using FME, a desktop software capable of converting between over 300 data types.

Here we have the cleaned up data for the Redstone subdivision as it appeared in the AutoCAD model window:


Here is the same data after being transformed into Esri geodatabase format and used to create a final map output in Arcmap:


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