State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry:

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09/27/2021

Syracuse, NY – Michael Mahoney, graduate student at the SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry (ESF), was awarded by the New York State Geographic Information Systems Association for the development of software that simplifies the process of creating interactive three-dimensional visualizations of landscapes.

Mahoney, doctoral student at ESF Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences, received the association’s Geospatial Application Award, which recognizes the innovative and successful application of geospatial technology. The prize rewards his work on the open source package “terrainr”, which provides access to public domain spatial data and landscape visualization tools.

“Michael’s software is an innovative tool for environmental leaders tackling the most pressing issues of our time, including climate change. We are proud of him for his success,” said ESF President , Joanie Mahoney (no connection to the student).

terrainr is a new R package that focuses on retrieving and visualizing spatial data. Drawing on publicly available images and data from the US Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Map Program, Michael Mahoney’s software provides a way to use the widely used open-source programming language R to interact with and control the Unity video game engine. He developed the software during his first semester as an ESF graduate student.

“Michael’s software immediately caused a stir in the data visualization world,” said Dr. Colin Beier, associate professor in the department of sustainable resource management who co-advises Mahoney with Aidan Ackerman of the landscape architecture department. . Beier said terrainr makes creating interactive 3-D environments much easier than ever, lowering technical barriers for educators, policy makers and the public to use digital tools to engage in solving complex challenges, such as the transition to more climate. -resilient communities.

“I have been delighted with the positive reception the field has received so far,” said Michael Mahoney. “I think this project is a really exciting first step to be able to quickly and easily achieve interactive visualizations of real environments. I hope that terrainr can serve as a cornerstone for future visualization tools so that we can help researchers and environmental professionals visualize all types of landscapes as a means of explaining the patterns and processes that interest them. “

The new software is the subject of several more recent and upcoming workshops, conferences and an article submitted to the journal. Landscape ecology. Michael Mahoney has led workshops on the software for a professional audience, including sessions for the Federation of Earth Sciences Information Partners of NASA and the USGS Community for Data Integration, a dedicated interagency organization advancing the use of data and technology to understand earth systems. Participants included employees from government agencies, universities and industry.

“Being invited to host workshops for leading scientists at key federal agencies immediately after the software’s release highlights the value of what Michael has done,” Beier said. “I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of capabilities.”

The software is available free for the open source R programming language and is available online at https://github.com/ropensci/terrainr.

Michael Mahoney graduated from ESF in 2018 with a BS in Forest Ecosystem Science and returned to College in 2020 to begin his PhD. His graduation work is supported by the Discovery Challenge Net Zero Carbon (NZC) initiative of the ESF and the Climate and Applied Forestry Research Institute (cafri-ny.org), a multidisciplinary team of forestry and energy experts. and climate change solutions based at ESF, which provide policy makers and the public with practical, science-based solutions to tackle climate change.

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About SUNY ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to studying the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy and management environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from associate in applied sciences to doctorate in philosophy. ESF students live, study, and research on the main Syracuse, NY campus, and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.


This press release was produced by SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.


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