EO Detective ID B0S-3001-JDM-46655

What do you work on?

I teach post-graduate students about geographic information systems (GIS) at the Centre for Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Nova Scotia. I create example maps that show the locations of pictures tweeted or/ and taken by astronauts and cosmonauts on board the International Space Station – like this one, showing Tim Peake’s tweets. As well as engaging the students, these are of interest to a wider audience because the maps provide a context for the photographs – and make it easier to find pictures of a particular place. Most of the ISS tweet maps have a moving icon depicting the position of the ISS (with a one-minute delay). This is another way to show programming possibilities to students and to provide a real-time connection with the space station.

How did you come to be an EO Detective?

I have always been interested in maps and using information. Key school subjects for me were maths, physics and geography. I have degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering as well as a diploma in scientific computer programming.

What do the images show?

Dave MacLean/ArcGIS

The first picture shows part of a standard base map from a GIS and how it was used for Tim Peake’s tweet map.

Courtesy of COGS

The group that created this map used as their base a picture of a chart that was actually used in space by John Glenn in February 1962. The chart is now in the COGS library, and the map the group created shows pictures of places on earth (taken by various ISS-based astronauts) that lie beneath the three orbits of the Mercury spacecraft and its Friendship 7 capsule.

How is the data you use collected and used?

Most of the images come from tweets by astronauts, although some come from the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth or people who have tweeted ISS-related images. If the astronaut doesn’t say (or doesn’t know!) what the photograph is of, then the tweet may simply be pinned to wherever the ISS was at the time – particularly if it is of a cloudy atmosphere or of a large area. However, a number of people (such as  @CaliaDomenico@gavinmcmorrow@Olivia_Dsouza  and  @PC0101) are very good at matching the photos to geographical features and are a great help in pinning images precisely. Follow them on Twitter!

What’s the best thing about your job?

Having students ask questions and model their map-making projects on so many different topics. It was a great surprise when astronauts planning their trips to the ISS asked me to create maps for them and contribute to their missions. It is also tremendous fun to get e-mails from astronauts aboard the ISS.

Tell us about your favourite image of the Earth from space

Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

After @AstroSamantha tweeted this saying:
From the Delta of the Danube on the Black Sea to Lake Balaton & Venetian laguna. How many countries can you see?
there were many responses similar to this one:
All I see is one beautiful world without borders from your point of view. Thank you for the amazing picture.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like travelling, photography, reading, spending time with my family … and cars.