2015 VisREU Project Summaries

June 1, 2015 - July 24, 2015

3D visualization of soil data for seismic hazards analysis in Charleston, South Carolina

Desirable skill/knowledge (but not required): some familiarity with MatLab

Research Mentors: Qiushi Chen and Ronald Andrus
Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, Clemson University

Seismic hazards such as earthquake-induced liquefaction of soils often cause significant damage to infrastructures and poses tremendous adverse social and economical impacts. Evaluation of seismic hazards requires extensive amount of soil data over large regions. In this project, soil profile for a selected seismic active region at Charleston, South Carolina will be generated through available field data and novel numerical methods such as random field models.

The figure shows the Charleston area satellite map with USGS field-testing locations, as well as a zoom-in view of a pilot area that will be used for this project. Also shown in the figure is a sample 2D visualization of soil data, which will be expanded into 3D in this project. Undergraduate REU student, graduate student and research mentors will work together to develop and utilize a three-dimension visualization tool to visualize and analyze those soil data, which provides crucial information and will be used to evaluate seismic hazards at selected regions.





Data Visualization for Sustainability and Environmentalism: Moving Beyond Pie Charts and Bar Charts

Desirable skill/knowledge (but not required): familarity with Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint or Keynote, Adobe Indesign and Illustrator, an interest in sustainability, social and behavioral sciences

Research Mentors: Katie Giacalone and Catherine Mobley
Clemson University Center for Watershed Excellence and Department of Sociology and Anthropology, respectively, Clemson University

In recent years, drought conditions in the Southeast, severe storm events, and water rights disputes with neighboring states and industries, have resulted in increased concern about water quality and quantity. Carolina Clear, a program offered through the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, recently collected data to assess the environmental attitudes, behaviors and awareness of residents in five areas of South Carolina:

  • the Charleston area
  • Myrtle Beach
  • the Midlands region
  • Anderson area, and
  • the Pee Dee region of the state

The goals of the research effort are as follows:

  1. Establish a baseline to gauge impact on watershed and stormwater awareness
  2. Evaluate regional understandings of watershed principles
  3. Evaluate progress in water resource education
  4. Evaluate visibility within a region

The information obtained from the survey will allow educators of the Carolina Clear program to evaluate educational impacts, assess behavior changes that may have resulted from outreach campaigns and develop additional instruction to involve residents of the state in protecting water resources. The information collected about the various subgroups (and reported in the cross-tabulation analyses of the full report) can assist Agents and Coordinators in targeting educational efforts by sociodemographic characteristics.

Carolina Clear operates amongst regional partnerships with multiple cities and counties to strategically implement outreach and education that addresses a region’s water quality issues and nonpoint sources of pollution. With an interest in education through involvement and demonstration, Carolina Clear seeks to understand the barriers to environmentally responsible behavior adoptions and identify motivating messages and means to assist target audiences in long-term behavior changes that benefit water resources. An example of this type of outreach includes the development of information materials, training videos and prompts for restaurant employees to keep used grease and cooking oils out of storm drains and waterways.

The 2009 survey results helped the program to craft these motivating messages, provided insights into level of knowledge and awareness, and highlighted concerns based on responses to behavior-related questions. Based on the 2009 data collection effort, Carolina Clear was able to prioritize behaviors requiring greater focus in regional outreach programs. Nonpoint source pollution is a broad category of distributed pollutants, in essence “people pollution,” moved by rainfall and excess irrigation from the landscape to waterways over impervious surfaces and through stormwater infrastructure and ditches. Stormwater runoff can consist of litter and auto fluids, brake dust (heavy metal compounds), lawn chemicals, animal waste, sediment, illegally discharged chemicals, soap and other cleaning products, and much more. Not all of these parameters are monitored in waterways; therefore, identifying what issues to target through education requires knowledge of the region, industries, land use and personal behaviors.

In addition, the 2009 survey results identified residents’ level of concern for local waterways and the level of importance that clean water has on their quality of life within their region. These data can be utilized in message development to engage town and county planners in watershed management and land use policies.

Given the mission of Carolina Clear to provide outreach and instruction that motivates an individual to adopt sustainable, environmentally responsible behaviors that protect water quality, this program seeks to be increasingly concise and visual in our educational approach.Agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have effectively developed infographics that attract and inform.  Carolina Clear would similarly like to create educational materials that visually display survey data in a non-traditional format that link research and water resource conditions in South Carolina to public perception, knowledge and behavior data.The developed graphics should demonstrate the significance that clean water has on the state’s economy, culture and quality of life; emphasize the role of the individual in protecting water resources and preventing pollution; challenge a region to be better stewards of water resources, given the clusters of surveyed areas; and serve to attract readers from all walks of life and not necessarily those who are already involved in environmental protection efforts.  The program would like to work with a student who can capitalize on visualization theory and methods in a way that moves traditional methods for displaying survey data (e.g., pie charts and bar charts).

Resources available to develop these data and graphics will be made available to the student. There are eight Extension Agents that provide outreach and instruction across the state that can be called upon for review and edits, as well as a daily program coordinator and program director. Research on stormwater pollution in South Carolina is readily available, and reports such as the “Green Report” from SC Department of Natural Resources, published in 2009, quantified jobs and economic benefit of the state’s natural resources.

The REU student will have the opportunity to learn about federal mandates to protect water quality, as regulated by the Clean Water Act and Nonpoint Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program, social sciences and message marketing, outreach methods, and natural resource economics. This project also presents the possibility to work with a driven and inspiring team of experts, with data being provided back to dozens of environmental outreach and agency partners.

More information on Carolina Clear is available at www.clemson.edu/carolinaclear, which is the outreach arm of the Clemson University Center for Watershed Excellence (www.clemson.edu/watershed), one of ten such designated centers in the southeast by the US Environmental Protection Agency.



Visualizing Literary Correspondence

Desirable skill/knowledge: willingness to learn and use open database tools, learning Gephi and other social network visualization tools

Research Mentor: Gabriel Hankins
Department of English, Clemson University

Students will have a unique opportunity to contribute to digital humanities visualization. This project involves visualizing large collections of letters and their interconnections. Dr. Hankins is leading an international research group interested in new uses for data about literary letters: digitizing, visualizing, and exploring correspondence across the century (http://www.modmaps.net/tcllp/). Specifically, Dr. Hankins is interested in visualizing collections of metadata, collected in CSV and table formats. The Republic of Letters project (http://republicofletters.stanford.edu/) is one example of visualization in digital humanities.

Students successfully participated in this project last summer, digitizing some hundreds of letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and other major literary figures of the early twentieth century. This summer we would focus on writers connected to the Harlem Renaissance such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston, working to visualize their networks of connection to each other and to American literary magazines and editors. Work on this project involves entering data on network correspondences, visualizing the resulting networks, and keeping records on letters of interest. Resulting data may be used for presentations at regional and national research venues.

2014 REU Project: Modernists’ Letters: A Journey into the Modernist Mind



Cultivating The Public’s Perceptions of Wildfire Hazard and Risk through 3-D Visualization

Desirable skill/knowledge (but not required): an interest in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Ecology

Research Mentor: Bo Song
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Wildfire risk is widespread across the South with more than 5 million acres at high risk of wildfire, based on the likelihood of each acre burning. There are 118,083 communities at risk of wildfire damage in the South and of those, 43 percent, or more than 50,000 communities, are at high to very high risk. Wildfire occurrence across the South is high; there are an average of 68,000 wildfires that burn a total of approximately 938,000 acres per year. The wildfire risk assessment classifies more than 100 million acres in the South as having moderate to extreme fire occurrence per year based on historical wildfire ignition data. In the South, more than 88 million acres are classified as wildland-urban interface (WUI), areas where communities and homes are next to or within fire-prone natural areas.

The purposes in this study is to enrich the residents’ wildfire knowledge and to cultivate their perceptions of wildfire hazards and risk through 3-D visualization.

Establishing trust and achieving activities that mitigate risk are highly correlated to concepts of “personal efficacy” and “response efficacy”. Personal efficacy simply refers to the idea an individual believes he can accomplish a task, while response efficacy refers to the idea that when a task is accomplished it will lower risk. Positive attitudes of personal efficacy are often strengthened through acquiring knowledge and personal success at challenging tasks.

Civilian death in a wildfire disaster is a low probability event that has the potential to destroy trust. Most civilian deaths are caused by and underestimation of wildfire spread rate, intensity, and limitations on escape. When residents living in a dangerous area are notified to evacuate before a wildfire, some “leave early” and move to a safe zone, but many do not comply. Some decide to stay to protect their property or livestock, “stay and fight”. Others choose to “wait and see”, resulting in those residents being “trapped” by conditions of the fire. Results of studies of the 1983 Australian wildfires found most death occurred when people fled too late and died in their cars.

3-D visualization of fire spreading has been identified as an effective learning tool with great motivational appeal and represents an interesting development in the field of education. 3-D visualization can have the following educational purposes: Invoke an intensity of engagement in learners. Visual images (i.e., pictures) can convey more meaningful and memorable information than the written word, figures, or other types of media. The visual representation of the real world as well as related management alternatives is essential for landscape designers and planners to express and communicate their thoughts, especially on the aesthetic and ecological effects of management strategies. Over the past 30 years, advances in computer hardware and software have enabled managers and researchers to visualize the complex phenomena and dynamics of natural systems using a more perceptible and comprehensive computer-aided medium. 3-D landscape visualization is one of the most outstanding outcomes from these innovations. It can be used to visualize different management alternatives without temporal and spatial limitations. Our group has been working with various 3D visualization of forest landscapes under different disturbances, which include urban development, fire, southern pine beetle, and forest management.

The power of visualization can also be used in education on wildfire risk perception. Fire risk and hazards can be modeled from information contained in LANDFIRE national geographic databases. Such evaluations can be used as the scientific basis for gaming that is text or graphical based. Data from these databases are also relevant for use with standard fire spread model like BEHAVE or FARSITE. Computer visualization methods have been developed to utilize this data as 3-d landscape visuals either as computer animations or as an interactive firefighter-training tool as Vfire.

Given the benefits of using 3-D visualization to increase understanding and changing peoples’ attitude or perceptions, in this project, we propose to cultivate the public’s perception of wildfire hazard and risk utilizing simulation and visualization. We will simulation and visualization of wildfire that is developed to simulate scenarios of wildfire specific to a specific set locations identified by the users.



Visualization and Interaction of Multiple Layers of High Dimensional Biological Data

Desirable skill/knowledge: Python

Research Mentor(s): Alex Feltus and Melissa Smith
Dept. Genetics & Biochemistry, Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering, respectively, Clemson University

Gene interaction graphs are a key data structure in systems biology (e.g. http://sysbio.genome.clemson.edu). While a handful of open source graph visualization tools exist (e.g. Cytoscape), they do not scale to millions of nodes, thousands of graphs, nor do they efficiently incorporate biological metadata for data mining in a biological context. The computational intensity of this Big Data problem forces interdisciplinary collaboration that blends biological and computer technology in new and exciting ways. At Clemson, the Feltus (Genetics & Biochemistry) and Smith (Electrical & Computer Engineering) labs have joined forces to improve the construction, alignment, and visualization of gene interaction graphs (e.g. G3NA alignment software: http://network.genome.clemson.edu) . In this VIZ-REU project, a student will be tasked to A) improve upon an existing GPU-enabled graph visualization tool via coding or feature design; or B) integrate human–computer interaction devices (motion-capture/voice) into the existing software tool.



Visualization of Solar and Jovian Spectrograph Data from October 2012 to May 2015

Desirable skill/knowledge: Familiarity with Matlab and Excel
Required: hightly self-motivated, interest in learning new skillsets applicable to visualizing project related data

Research Mentor: Andrew Mount
Biological Sciences, Clemson University

The goal of this project is to assemble and produce beautiful high resolution images and movies that can be shared with the general public from a digital data archive spanning two years. An example is this beautiful image above. This is a spectrographic tracing of a solar radio storm that was collected with an FSX-3 spectrograph attached to a dual dipole antenna. Time is along the x axis (UTC) and frequency is along the y axis (18-32 Mhz). The color of the tracing indicates the intensity of the storm (least-blue, intermediate-yellow-green, and highest-red). The student researcher will be responsible for producing images and movies from the archive such as the one above.



Visualization of Marine Organisms from a Molecular and Cellular Biology Perspective

Desirable skill/knowledge: Familiarity with Matlab and Excel
Required: hightly self-motivated, interest in learning new skillsets applicable to visualizing project related data

Research Mentor: Andrew Mount
Biological Sciences, Clemson University

The goal of this project is to assemble and produce beautiful high resolution images that can be shared with the general public from our digital data archive spanning over 14 years. The three images below are from two recently published manuscripts on (left to right) cellular assembly of oyster shell and the other two are showing larval barnacle (cyprid) adhesion mechanisms and glands. The student researcher will be responsible for producing images and movies from the archive such as the images above.



Visualization of concurrent sensory channel data

Desirable skill/knowledge: Matlab and Excel
Required: hightly self-motivated, interest in learning new skillsets applicable to visualizing project related data

Research Mentor: Sara Riggs
Department of Industrial Engineering, Clemson University

Data overload, especially in the visual channel, and associated breakdowns in monitoring already represent a major challenge in data-rich environments like those found in aviation, military command and control, driving, and healthcare. One promising means of overcoming data overload is through the introduction of multimodal displays, i.e., displays which distribute information across various sensory channels (including vision, audition, and touch). This approach has been shown to be effective in offloading the overburdened visual channel and thus reduce data overload. However, visualizing the results from multiple sensory channels, especially non-visual channels can be a challenge. Work on this project will be tasked with visualizing, integrating, and interpreting various dimensions of data including, and not limited to: sensory channel, time, and human performance measures. The REU student will have also have an opportunity to learn about human factors and ergonomics principles, i.e. design with the user/person in mind, work with other students, and possibly help run studies with participants.



Developing Integrated Web-Based Environmental Data Visualization Dashboards

Desirable skill/knowledge (but not required): R/Shiny, CSS, Javascript
Required: hightly self-motivated, interest in learning new skillsets applicable to visualizing project related data

Research Mentor: David White
The Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Clemson University

Data mining and analytics are increasingly a critical component across a broad spectrum of academics and industry. Presenting space and time data in an integrated visualization framework, using large environmental databases can improve data mining and access to data in real-time. The goals of this project are to continue the development and expand efforts of an integrated mapping and analysis dashboard developed for the web. Our initial efforts started with the Vanishing Firefly project (http://firefly.clemson.edu). This is a citizen science program where users submit data (firefly counts) via mobile devices and we report mapped data in real-time. One aspect of this project will focus on the development of flexible web software that will enable a real-time dynamic dashboard, supporting maps and other visualization products.







Sports Stats Presentations

Desirable skill/knowledge: Database management, web design

Research Mentors: Jonathan Gantt, Director of New Media
Jeff Kallin, Associate Director of Athletic Communications
Clemson Athletics

Project Goals: The goal of this project is create a way to visually display player, team and program stats online in real-time.

Students will have the unique opportunity to visualize large amounts of sports data. Player stats (football, basketball, baseball, etc.) are stored on a local system. The student researcher will be responsible for taking raw data (player stats) and creating a way to use xml files to keep stats up-to-date online. Similar to the stats tab on this site: http://www.hokiesports.com/wbasketball/players/panousis_vanessa.html

A second (more advanced) goal for this project is to create more visually appealing ways of highlighting player performances. The NBA has a great (and very advanced) model for displaying their stat leaders, etc. that helps them compare players across eras. (http://stats.nba.com/). Innovation and creativity required.



The Clemson Experience

Desirable skill/knowledge: Oculus Rift Programming, Photography, videography

Research Mentors: Jonathan Gantt, Director of New Media
Jeff Kallin, Associate Director of Athletic Communications
Clemson Athletics

Project Goals: The goal of this project will be to develop a one-of-a-kind first-person experience of an athletic venue or event using virtual reality.

We are interested in developing an "Experience" (Oculus Rift, 4K TV, etc.) that is immersive and something that we can use in the recruiting process to better illustrate a gameday experience. This might be running down the hill, flying over campus, hitting the game-winning shot/game-winning touchdown, or a tour through history of a sport; The NBA has shot a game in 360 degrees, and is offering it for viewing in the very near future. One of the project goals will be to create such an experience ( http://gizmodo.com/you-can-watch-nba-all-star-games-in-360-video-with-a-sa-1685641884)

In terms of visualization, the student researcher will be responsible for capturing images or videos with necessary equipment and building the gameday experience.



Athletics Gaming App

Desirable skill/knowledge:Familiarity with Adobe, Coding, Database Management, App-building

Research Mentors: Jonathan Gantt, Director of New Media
Jeff Kallin, Associate Director of Athletic Communications
Clemson Athletics

Project Goals: The goal of the project will be to develop a trivia-based app, using data, pictures, and information to create a way for fans to interact more deeply with our historical data.

Turning our data and trivia into a rich mobile game to plug in with an app made in Adobe, which could be up-to-minute or allow for feedback. We envision something that can read xml data and interpret and come up with trivia, based on the game that's going on.

In terms of visualization the student researcher will be responsible for assisting in coming up with building the user interface and interactivity of the game, with the ability to be used on any mobile device.



REU Funded by NSF ACI Award 1359223