Citizens on Patrol

We’re currently working on a Citizen Science scoping project, with the aim of transcribing the data from historical tide gauge ledgers we had scanned last year. A couple of weeks ago I decided to make a trip down south to visit the Met Office and the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), where I could discuss Citizen Science and sea level data archaeology.

At the Met Office, I met with some of the team behind the Old Weather project and also the Met Office Weather Observation Website. I received some really helpful advice about starting up a Citizen Science project, some of which can be found in The Citizen Science guide available from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). They also recommended someone from the team attend the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London at the end of February.

The view from the train between Exeter and Taunton

The view from the train between Exeter and Taunton

After the visit to the Met Office in Exeter, I went to Taunton to meet the Tides group at the UKHO to discuss what data in their impressive archives might be recoverable. Among other wonderful historical data I saw tide gauge charts from Valetta, Malta, dating back to the 1870s and tide gauge measurements made at Kerguelen by James Clark Ross in the 1840s. The UKHO archives are open to the public, by appointment, but we hope to scan some of the tide gauge records to make them freely available.

The meetings gave me lots of things to think about and also uncovered lots of data. It was great to meet with people that were so enthusiastic about the work they do and very keen to be helpful and share their knowledge.

Glad Tide-ings

The 2013 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences was held at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 46th Annual Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California in December 2013.

San Francisco

San Francisco (picture by Adam Leadbetter)

Organised by Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA) and Elsevier Research Data Services, the award was created to help improve preservation of and access to research data, particularly dark data (information that organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities but don’t use for other purposes). Participating organisations were encouraged to discuss the varied ways that these data are being processed, stored and used.

Among the submissions is BODC’s, titled “Rescue of historical UK sea level charts and ledgers“, based on the work done on the project and discussed in this blog. The prize winner was the NASA-funded Nimbus Data Rescue Project. It is intended that there will be a special journal issue and BODC plan to submit a paper.

Radio Waves

This week saw the highest equinoctial spring tides of the year around the UK. Professor Philip Woodworth of the National Oceanography Centre appeared on Radio Lancashire and Radio Merseyside to explain what causes tides and also talk a little bit about why predicting future tides and calculating historical sea levels is important. For instance, tides played an large role in Julius Caesar’s decision to attempt a landing in Kent in 54BC and also the timing of the battle of Hastings.

A very large equinoctial spring tide will occur in September 2015, which should make for a powerful tidal bore in the Mersey Estuary.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

You can hear Prof Woodworth using the listen again feature at the BBC Radio Lancashire website (02:41:00) and the BBC Radio Merseyside page (02:50:39).

Finalising OERs

As mentioned in an earlier post (“Students at work”), we have created Open Educational Resources (OERs) based on the digitised historical sea level data, our aim being to publicise the recovered data. We each created an OER based on a specific area of interest; these were

  • Sea level data and its uses (focusing on the principles, perception and mathematical uses of the data)
  • Extreme events (focusing on principles of storm surges and how to use historical data to identify them)
  • Tidal formation (focusing on the physical principles and using the data to identify tide trends)

Graph showing sea level readings

These OERs have been made accessible to everyone so that anyone interested in sea level, history, etc, can learn the basic principles, which they can then build upon if they choose to. Creating OERs has been interesting and we have learnt a lot through doing this. It has been enjoyable to have free reign over the subjects chosen within this area. Each OER is very different from the next even though they tie together.

Being students ourselves we have first-hand experience and current knowledge of how students like to study. We know there are a variety of ways to learn and have tried to incorporate these into the OERs. We are grateful for being involved in this project with the British Oceanographic Data Centre and hope that what we have created will be helpful to the public in enhancing their interests.

The Sea Level Necklace

Inspired by the waveform jewellery mentioned in this post and also by other pieces I’d seen on the internet, I decided to have a go at making my own, based on some of our historical tide gauge data. I decided to make a necklace and use high and low water values, as I thought the measurements would make a visible contrast and also still show some variation in a small piece.

 Scan of sea level readings from Georges Pier 1891

I took the high and low water values from George’s Pier for 23-31 July 1891 and converted them from feet to inches, and then to metres. To do this, I multiplied the number in the ‘Ft.’ column by 12, then added to it the number in the ‘Ins.’ column. I then converted the values to metres by multiplying by 0.0254.

This would’ve made a rather large piece if I’d left it in metres, so I decided to scale it down by treating the metres as centimetres. I then used a drawing programme to draw circles with diameters in centimetres that matched the height in metres.

Sea level necklace in progress

I printed out the circles on to paper. I then took some shrink plastic (available from craft stores and internet retailers – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrinky_Dinks) and traced the circles using a blue alcohol ink pen (I frosted the plastic on one side first using fine grade sandpaper to give it a key).

Sea level necklace in progress

When I drew the circles I’d made a mark in the centre of each, so I knew where to make a hole, and I just copied this mark on to the shrink plastic. I then cut each of the circles out. I punched a hole in the centre of each using a hole punch.

Sea level necklace in progress

Now here’s the fun bit. When heated, shrink plastic shrinks by about 60%, and also gets thicker. You can do this in the oven, but I used a crafting heat tool.

Sea level necklace in progress

Sea level necklace in progress

After I’d shrunk each circle (taking care to keep them in the correct order!) I then threaded each one onto some nylon beading thread.

Sea level necklace in progress

Even though that looked quite nice, and you could see the change in disc size easily (especially if you look at the smaller circles that represent low waters, they get teeny towards the end) I thought it didn’t really work as a piece of jewellery. I took the discs off the thread again, and then put them back on, but this time with some small plastic silver coloured beads between each disc.

I then put a crimp bead at either end of the necklace, after the last disc and silver bead, and squished it to clamp the thread in place, and prevent the beads from moving. I took a spring ring closure and tied the nylon thread through the loop on it. I secured the thread with another crimp bead. The other side of the nylon thread I tied onto the hoop piece of the spring ring closure and secured the thread with a crimp bead.

And here’s the final necklace! George’s Pier high and low water values, July 1891.

Sea level necklace in progress

Sea level necklace in progress

Shoot first, ask questions later

Recently we began filming our end of project case study video. We decided to start by interviewing the students who worked on the Open Educational Resources about their experiences. We also spoke to their supervisor, Senior Lecturer Dr Harry Leach from the University of Liverpool. We asked him to tell us why he thought saving historic sea level data was important.

Interview room

We put our newly developed filming skills to use – we used two cameras, a video camera and a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR), to capture the interviews from two different angles.

Our colleagues at the National Oceanography Centre had filmed in a room in our building recently and created a diagram for others to use, showing where to put the camera, lights, interviewer and interviewee in order to make the best use of the natural light. This made it quick and easy for us to set up. We had to deviate from their instructions slightly as they’d designed a setup for filming one person, while one of our interviews was with three people.

Layout of equipment for filming the interviews

We’d planned our interview questions beforehand and managed to film about 15 minutes of footage, which should give us plenty to edit down into a five minute video. The only problem we had was some very noisy seagulls outside, but I think they’ll lend a suitably maritime atmosphere to the piece!

Conference Call

We would like to announce a forthcoming workshop on Major Research Topics in Sea Level Science. It’s being held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) and will take place at the University of Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum on the 28th and 29th of October. The workshop is open to all, but free registration is required by the 16th of September.
Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) LogoThe workshop will focus on aspects of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group I), but there will also be a session on Data Archaeology, including talks and a poster session, where we will highlight the work we carried out for this JISC project.

Victoria Gallery, Liverpool

Victoria Gallery, Liverpool (photo credit: Ian-S, flickr)

This workshop precedes the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) Group of Experts (GE) meeting, where we will present a progress report on techniques for the digitisation of archived mareograms (tide level recordings).