Written by on February 19, 2014

A map for the future with Yoh Kawano, UCLA GIS Coordinator

Who knew that Twitter has more uses than just keeping up with your favorite celebrities and updating your followers? At the latest Cal Poly Science Cafe on February 14, offered in partnership with the Data Studio, Yoh Kawano discussed how Twitter can provide information to the public during a natural disaster, and how that information can be used by individuals to make their own decisions instead of relying on other people to decide for them.

In particular, Yoh discussed mapping out radiation levels after the Fukushima disaster in Japan as well as what would happen if the same thing occurred at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. So yes, you heard that correctly: On Valentine’s Day, 2014, we discussed nuclear explosions and natural disasters.

Interactive maps using Twitter

Yoh spoke about his research and experience using GIS to map radiations levels. Using Google Earth, Yoh gave us a unique look at different maps with different data throughout his presentation.

One map in the presentation showed the area around Fukushima with high radiation levels after the explosion. At the suggestion of Cal Poly’s GIS Coordinator Russ White, that same map was placed on top of San Luis Obispo, supposing that Diablo Canyon was the site of an explosion. The map did not look good for SLO.

Each dot on the map represents a tweet sent in by the audience

Each dot on the map represents a tweet sent in by the audience

Yoh also developed an interactive map using Twitter to crowd-source radiation levels in a simulated disaster in our community. Audience members pulled out their phones and tweeted, in a specific format, a radiation reading and a grid number on the map. By tweeting their hypothetical radiation levels in a specific format, a program was able to pull out the tweets and put them on the map.

The audience got to participate using Twitter to map out radiation levels

The audience got to participate using Twitter to map out simulated radiation levels

“Twitter, I thought, is a great way to make data public. Instead of Twitter being a mindless stream of conversation, we can make it useful,” Yoh said.

Watch a video of his TEDxUCLA presentation, Can Twitter Save Lives?

Team from Niigata University

A team of researchers from Niigata University built a vehicle-mounted radiation monitoring system consisting of a real-time GPS receiver, a dosimeter, and a laptop. Yoh brought the radiation monitoring system with him to Cal Poly, via a drive through Avila Beach to Diablo Canyon. He started his talk with a video showing his drive and the radiation monitoring system.

Check out Venturing Inside the Nuclear Evacuation Zone on his blog, The Urban Nomad.

Making information public

With the disaster in Fukushima now almost three years past, local governments in Japan have allowed citizens in certain areas of the evacuation zone to return home. However, questions of safety still remain. How safe is it to live there?

Since different experts have different opinions about the safest radiation levels, Yoh suggests that we provide the data to citizens in order for them to make their own decisions.

Yoh's presentation using Google Earth

Yoh’s presentation using Google Earth

“This is an interesting example of how data can be interpreted in different way,” said Jeanine Scaramozzino, librarian for the College of Science and Mathematics and Data & GIS Services.

Read more about the event on Mustang Daily.

More about Yoh

Yoh’s was first inspired by the devastating 2004 tsunami in Indonesia to combine his knowledge of GIS with experts in other fields to help people in natural disasters.

Yoh Kawano moved to Los Angeles and UCLA in 1995 after living across the globe, in 5 different countries. At UCLA he works at the GIS and Visualization Sandbox for the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE), serving as the Campus GIS Coordinator while holding lecturer positions in the School of Public Affairs and the Center for Digital Humanities. He has supervised projects in urban planning, emergency preparedness, disaster relief, volunteerism, archaeology, and the digital humanities. Current research and projects involve the geo-spatial web, visualization of temporal and spatial data, and creating systems that leverage social media and web services in conjunction with traditional information systems.

Read more about Yoh and this project in UCLAToday and UCLA Magazine.

Check out our Flickr page for more photos of this event.




Read more on Diablo Canyon, gis, radiation, Twitter, and yoh kawano.

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