This year’s Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial conference (FOSS4G) took place in Seoul, South Korea. FOSS4G is an annual recurring global event that brings together developers, decision-makers and users from a broad spectrum of organizations and fields of operation to focus on open source geospatial solutions. During a week of workshops, presentations, discussions and code sprints, FOSS4G participants create effective and relevant geospatial products, standards, human networks and business opportunities.

With regards to COBWEB, this year’s conference highlighted a growing interest in crowd data and how to reuse it. COBWEB hosted a ‘Birds of a Feather’ session on the subject of crowdsourcing that was well attended. Discussions centred on the distinction between VGI (volunteered geographic information) and non-VGI data and how these data are treated, as well as how to adapt to the increase in VGI, crowdsourcing and citizen science data. Topics such as quality assurance, data conflation, interoperability and privacy were also touched on.

For more information about the conference, please visit the website:


Monday, September 14, 2015 – 09:00 to Saturday, September 19, 2015 – 18:00
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Progress of COBWEB co-design activities

Two of COBWEB’s major aims are to;

  1. make citizen science data available for anybody to use,
  2. make the data reliable and trustworthy.

In order to achieve those aims, COBWEB has been working with local organisations and communities who lead or contribute to citizen science projects. By getting our ‘design professionals’ to talk to the intended ‘users’ of COBWEB, the development of COBWEB becomes a joint process whereby the final product(s) will be more appropriate and acceptable to the user. This combined effort is known as ‘co-design’.

As a result, over the summer, volunteers and communities have been leading citizen science activities and events that collect environmental data from around the Dyfi Biosphere. These projects have allowed the COBWEB team to see first-hand how citizen science data are collected and therefore, how COBWEB should be developed to improve and support this process. The data collected have also been used to test the ability of COBWEB to manage, process and validate citizen science data making them available to be used by others such as local governments and researchers.

However, the benefit of these co-design projects is not limited to the COBWEB project. As a direct result of the funding provided by COBWEB in support of these projects;

  • hundreds of citizens have been encouraged to participate in a citizen science project for the first time,
  • people are given an opportunity to feel part of the community and have a sense of place and belonging,
  • participants often feel a sense of self-importance; they are recognised as valuable contributors to a larger goal or scientific effort,
  • citizens are able to see that they can engage in science without having advanced degrees, without special tools, and outside of a laboratory,
  • the data that they have gathered supports local topics and issues relevant to them.

Take a look at our co-design projects in action in our two new videos ‘COBWEB & RSPB’ and ‘COBWEB & Ysgol Bro Hyddgen’.



Thursday, August 27, 2015 – 14:30
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EuroMAB 2015

COBWEB recently participated in the EuroMAB 2015 conference. EuroMAB is the largest and oldest of the Man And Biosphere (MAB) Regional Networks. It includes 52 countries and 289 biosphere reserves from across Europe and North America. The conference was held from 19 to 23 May in Haapsalu, Estonia.

COBWEB had previously attended EuroMAB 2014 to raise the question of how citizen science can help managers and residents of Biosphere Reserves fulfil their mission of developing and strengthening models of sustainable development through participatory means. This year, COBWEB ran a workshop about citizen science, and worked hard to engage delegates from its prominent stand. A number of delegates were also recruited to test COBWEB during a field trip to the island of Hiiumaa, which is part of the host Biosphere Reserve, the West Estonian Archipeligo.

COBWEB representatives also took the opportunity to renew contact with managers of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve in the Basque Country, northern Spain. This area has many similarities to the Dyfi Biosphere in Wales and the Basque Government is interested in exploring collaboration.

Participation at this event succeeded in raising awareness of COBWEB within a section of UNESCO that has a focus on citizen participation in sustainable development, and is expected to lead to practical extensions and collaborations that will enrich COBWEB’s work.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015 – 10:00 to Saturday, May 23, 2015 – 16:00
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Launch of UK-wide land-cover dataset

COBWEB recently attended the launch of the UK’s latest land-cover product; The 2012 UK ‘Coordination of Information on the Environment’ (CORINE) Land Cover map. The event focused on the findings from this new data product, and was also an opportunity for the Earth observation community to convene and discuss other development in the field.

The CORINE land cover map has been derived from satellite images from 2012, which have been classified based upon a standardised classification system of 44 land cover and land use classes that shows how much of the UK is made up of artificial surfaces, agricultural areas, forest and semi-natural areas, wetlands and water bodies. This map has then been compared with a 2006 version to identify significant changes in the environment.

Some of the key findings include:

  • An area of 225,200 hectares (over 2,250 km2) of the UK showed a change in land cover / use from 2006 to 2012
  • Over 100,000 hectares of coniferous forest lost to clear-cutting, represents dominant change
  • Over 7,000 hectares were converted from forest to artificial surfaces, and over 14,000 hectares changed from agricultural areas to artificial surfaces

More information about the data and the results can be found here:

Other presentations on the day included an overview of Europe’s State of the Environment reporting by EEA’s Ronan Uhel which highlighted the importance of coordinated land management and an ecosystem or holistic approach to natural resource management in general. Jo Muse, a Principal Policy Officer from SEPA (Scotland Environment Protection Agency), presented Scotland’s Environment Web (see: a gateway for environmental data in Scotland that allows users to view, interact with and download the data.

Discussions surrounding citizen science were very positive and focused on its potential and importance. From the discussion, it is evident that COBWEB is addressing the questions and concerns that surround the use of citizen science in the field of Earth observation.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015 – 10:00
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Validating land cover using COBWEB

Earth Observation (EO) has long been used to collect information about our environment. One common application has been the production of land cover maps using multispectral imagery. Although a picture can tell a thousand words, context is vital for interpretation. Therefore, in order to enhance the success of EO, it is fundamental to validate its derived products. Check out the latest COBWEB video on YouTube which discusses how our infrastructure can be used to collect valuable environmental data relating to land cover. These data can subsequently be used to validate EO derived land cover products.

Citizens are able to record descriptive information about various parts of the environment using their mobile devices. This could include for example, when looking at woodland, whether it is deciduous or coniferous or if there is an understory/shrub layer. Such information may not be easily visible from EO data. Citizens are able to record all this information using the COBWEB app and act as source of roaming sensors.

On their own, the data are insightful snippets of information. However, collectively, the data can be used to validate products derived from EO enhancing our understanding of our environment. This can be shared with policy and decision makers in the future. The data can be made available to all through GEOSS.


Monday, July 6, 2015 – 13:00
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9th GEO European Projects Workshop

COBWEB recently presented at the 9th GEO European Projects Workshop which took place in Copenhagen on the 15th and 16th of June 2015.

The purpose of the Workshop was to bring together European stakeholders interested in and actively contributing to the Global Earth Observations System of Systems (GEOSS). The event was a forum to exchange ideas and inform participants about work and initiatives undertaken in the context of GEOSS.

There were a variety of interesting presentations and discussions surrounding topics such as biodiversity and ecosystems, architecture and data management as well as opportunities to showcase posters. COBWEB presented in a session on ‘Citizens Contributions to GEOSS’ focusing on the co-design activity that has been taking place in the Dyfi Biosphere. This included a section on the security requirements highlighted by the co-design participants.  The session evoked stimulating discussion about different aspects of Citizen Observatories and their future in terms of GEOSS.

The event was a great opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other citizen science projects and build networks with complimentary organisations and researchers.  



Monday, June 15, 2015 – 09:00 to Tuesday, June 16, 2015 – 17:00
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COBWEB at the INSPIRE & Geospatial World Forum Conference, Lisbon, May 2015

COBWEB recently attended the joint INSPIRE 2015 and Geospatial World Forum conference, one of the biggest geospatial events in Europe. Representatives from the COBWEB consortium, including OGC, GeoCat, the University of Nottingham and EDINA, travelled to Lisbon in Portugal for the event in May. Some 1,500 participants listened to over 300 speakers around geospatial developments like 3D, open data, earth observation, crowdsourcing, marine, open source, environment, interoperability, business models etc. Results of COBWEB were presented in the Open Source track and at a workshop around the FP7 citizen observatories projects.

At the Open Source Track, Paul van Genuchten from GeoCat presented some of GeoCat’s work on COBWEB related to the recent release of GeoNetwork 3.0, which is the main component in the COBWEB portal. Other components of the Open Source ‘Citizen Science Stack’ were also mentioned.

A dedicated citizen science workshop introduced by Jose-Miguel Rubio-Iglesias from the European Commission, brought together representatives from four citizen observatory projects, Citi-Sense, We-Sense-It, CitClops and COBWEB. The workshop started with a summary on the goals of the citizen observatories program. Next, the apps and sensors developed as part of the projects were demonstrated. Following this, the apps and sensors were taken outdoors to test them around the venue. In a closing session the results from the session were presented on the portals developed for each of the projects and discussion started on the alignment of the capture protocols used in the various projects.

Each of the projects have focussed on a certain aspect of a citizen observatory. Bringing the results of each of these projects together in a citizen science bundle could lead to a best practice for citizen science.


Monday, May 25, 2015 – 09:00 to Friday, May 29, 2015 – 17:00
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simpleSAMLphp hackathon, The Netherlands

COBWEB recently attended the simpleSAMLphp hackathon held in Utrecht, The Netherlands. simpleSAMLphp is an open source product commonly used to implement the SAML protocol (this allows a user to log on once for affiliated but separate websites). COBWEB makes use of simpleSAMLphp software in order to allow citizens to access the COBWEB Portal.

Attendees from seven different organisations came together mainly to prepare for a new release of simpleSAMLphp software. Building on the success of COBWEBs AIP6 achievements in enabling single sign on access across the COBWEB access management federation, Alex Stuart (EDINA) represented COBWEB and was able to broaden the consortiums understanding of simpleSAMLphp. The event presented opportunities to meet, learn from and exchange ideas with individuals and organisations, and to discuss complementary activities.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015 – 16:30 to Saturday, June 27, 2015 – 16:30
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COBWEB Biological Records Working Group Meets Welsh Local Record Centre Managers in Aberystwyth

The 26th of February 2015 saw the COBWEB Biological Records Working Group (BROWG) bring together representatives from the 4 Welsh Local Records Centres, Natural Resources Wales, Welsh Government and technical experts representing the  commercial and academic sectors from within the COBWEB consortium.


The objective of this lively and challenging workshop was to try and understand how the findings and developments from the COBWEB project ‘fit’ in the world of biological recording and where COBWEB’s innovative technologies and approaches could support or improve the way biological records are collected, managed, validated and exchanged.


The managers from the Welsh Local Record Centres shared their undeniable breadth of experience and expertise in the field of biological record collection and management and painted a clear picture of the importance of biological records in supporting and informing a range of commercial and public sector interests such as planning, land-use and research. They also underlined the importance of effective relationships with recorders to secure continued participation in the voluntary networks that form the basis of biological recording in Wales. This discussion is particularly interesting to COBWEB where the importance of motivating volunteers is considered key to maintaining levels of participation and quality in data collection especially in fast paced, ever changing digital world in which COBWEB sits.


There was a fascinating discussion on the importance of the reputation and credibility of the recorder as a measure of the quality of a biological record. This is especially true in the case of certain plant or invertebrate species that are hard to identify correctly. Jamie Williams from Environment Systems gave a eye opening synopsis of the COBWEB work investigating privacy issues associated with sharing data that can be associated with individuals, such as their locations and activities, and the importance of managing this potentially sensitive information appropriately and securely. Also of relevance was a discussion on the use of innovative COBWEB quality assurance and data validation methods that could be used to build confidence and trust in a biological record and also in its recorder.


The workshop was both informative and valuable to all participants and will be the first of series of engagements between COBWEB and biological record organisations.


Thursday, February 26, 2015 – 12:00 to 15:00
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Citizens use COBWEB to help combat the spread of invasive species

Welsh Government has commissioned an Earth observation (EO) classification map to support the identification of the invasive Japanese Knotweed Fallopia japonica (JKW) within Snowdonia National Park. The project will be leveraging citizens and COBWEB technologies to validate this JKW EO map, leading to greater accuracy, and therefore a more targeted response when combating the spread of invasive species.

JKW is a plant originating from the far east of Asia and was introduced to the UK as an ornamental plant. Due to its vigorous growth from even small parts of rhizomes (stems/roots) it has spread widely, both by natural, e.g. the transport of rhizomes through rivers, and by anthropogenic means, e.g. the transport of soil containing rhizomes between construction sites.

The control of JKW remains an important issue for local authorities, as the dense stands negatively impact local biodiversity by outcompeting native plants and, particularly around rivers, increasing the risk of soil erosion by preventing the growth of grass species.

Environment Systems (who is producing the EO map) is conducting an object-based image analysis of aerial photographs to spatially assess the likelihood of JKW being present in sites throughout Snowdonia National Park. Citizens will then visit these areas and, using the COBWEB app, will conduct a visual assessment to verify if JKW is present. The data collected, including geo-located photographs, will then be validated using the developing COBWEB Quality Assurance technologies.

It is hoped the science of remote sensing will complement the traditionally costly and slow data collection on the ground by targeting specific areas. This will simultaneously ensure that other areas, such as delicate habitats, are not disturbed.  Furthermore, this approach can be used in other land cover maps, where the data collected on the ground can be used to validate the remote sensing approach. Recording what the citizen sees enables calibration of the remotely sensed data and aids in the interpretation and analysis of what is being sensed. Ultimately, citizens will improve the ways in which JKW is identified from the Earth Observation datasets (aerial photography etc.).


Friday, May 1, 2015 – 16:30
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