NEMAC’s staff members have expertise in visualization, geographic information systems (GIS), programming, multimedia, marketing, community engagement, outreach, meeting facilitation, and environmental science.
NEMAC is wholly funded through grants and contracts from local, state, and the federal government and the private sector.
NEMAC has led research into cutting-edge creative avenues for scientific data visualization, which is a key connection in of our business process. We have pioneered many interdisciplinary techniques that intersect GIS, animation, and information design. This includes:
- Creating techniques in partnership with the Elumenati to integrate geographic data into the Unity3D video game engine. This emerging technology will enable fully interactive scenario planning.
- Generation of flat images and video animations that serve as supporting data communication for our other areas of expertise. We specifically use accurate data baselines to communicate key environmental concepts that may otherwise be abstracted.
- Provide support data visualization support for community partnerships with digital artists. A key culmination of this partnership can be seen in the Water in WNC video series.
Education and Outreach
Our partners specializing in scientific research rely on us to deliver their science to the public. We make their data relevant to you with visualizations, easy-to-use tools, and readable text in booklets, posters, and user-friendly websites. Some of our current Education and Outreach includes:
- The Western North Carolina Report Card on Forest Sustainability is a 200-page book and accompanying website. Long and short presentations will soon be available.
- The Forest Threat Summary Viewer allows scientists to update information on threats in a database. Users can search for any forest threat and see up to date information including common names, the scientific name, a picture, the range of the threat, fact sheets from around the web and contact information for experts on that threat.
- KMz files for use with Google Earth can be downloaded from forestthreats.org. These files allow users to see forest service data in a commonly used format Google Earth.
- The Swannanoa Flood Tour book and associated tour combines elevational data, flood and current photos for educating the local community and decision makers concerning flooding in a mountain watershed.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
GIS is the common denominator in many of NEMAC's projects and research. It provides the ability to give vast databases of information a spatial context, thus allowing for complex and integrated analytical capabilities to help solve and interpret much of the research we do. At NEMAC , we utilize the latest in GIS and Geospatial software and technology. When platform GIS solutions will not help us meet our goals, we turn to Open Source, and even create our own, solutions. Our staff utilize GIS and Geospatial software and technology for a range of tasks, including:
- Designing effective cartographic maps
- Desktop editing and analysis
- Running complex spatial models
- Developing web-based MashUps integrated with Google products
- Managing mutli-tiered databases
- Serving data and applications
- Creating custom tools the combine all of the above
The development of new technologies and science-based tools relies not only on research and products, but also on the transfer of these tools into the hands of the people who want to use information. This process of providing users with current, relevant and usable methods to use information is often referred to as technology transfer. At UNC Asheville’s NEMAC, technology transfer is a major component of the work we do- researching to find the best available methods to apply science and engaging with the actual users- to find out what type of information they need and how they want to use it. The end-users of information and the target audience of technology transfer include anyone from city planners and community leaders to natural resource managers, organizational decision makers, and interested citizens.Technology transfer often involves gaining feedback from the end-users to ensure that the technology fits their needs. At UNC Asheville’s NEMAC, technology transfer comes in a variety of forms, but a few examples include:
- Online mapping applications
- Risk assessment techniques
- Science-based multimedia
Web Site Creation, Enhancements, and Tools
The web is used for everything in our society so a website has to grab a users attention immediately or the user will lose interest. All the tools we create are web accessible and the web applications we provide are user-friendly and visual.
- The Comparative Risk Assessment Framework and Tool (www.craft.forestthreats.org). This site introduces the concept of the tool and explains the background and uses.
- Multiple GIS viewers are created rapidly for partners.
- Weather Web Cams.org is a mash-up of privately hosted webcams across the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Easy to locate on a map and see exactly what the weather condition is at that moment.
- The Buncombe County Risk Tool was created for planners and emergency responders to explore risk of wildfire, landslides, and flooding without having training or expertise in expensive GIS software.
Workshop facilitation includes the tasks and skills needed to impartially lead a group through a decision making process. A facilitator typically services a group through encouragement, direction, planning,objectivity, and leadership during a workshop or meeting. These skills and tasks are important to provide to users and decision makers who are making complex environmental decisions that involve multiple stakeholders, viewpoints and objectives. With expert facilitation and a structured process, groups are much more likely to develop solutions, increase productivity, form consensus-based decisions and save time and money.
At NEMAC, several staff are trained to facilitate decision making workshops, including the Comparative Risk Assessment Framework and Tools (CRAFT) process developed by the US Forest Service. They hold certificates from the MGRush FAST Facilitation training (www.mgrush.com) and the National Charrette Institute (NCI) training at Harvard University (www.charretteinstitute.org).