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History of VolGIS

The idea of VolGIS, i.e. a volcano-oriented Geographic Information System, starts in 2010, during my Bachelor thesis data elaboration.

At that time, after georeferencing all the earthquakes of the Etnean area between 1981 to 2001 (before 2000 there were no digital data), I decided  to have a look at that same distribution from a 3D point of view.


Which Software?

In order to do that, I would have needed a suitable software, but which one?
MATLAB? Voxler? ArcGIS?

Outrageous prices for a university student with no job.

I started to search online for a free software useful to my purpose. Alas, it was with no avail.

I couldn’t understand how it was possible. I thought:

“Such a powerful and versatile system has never been applied to volcanology?

Why volcanologists do not use GIS?

There should be a community or something like that!

I couldn’t find anything.

And then I thought: “I’ll make it myself!” 


Starting my transition from ArcGIS to VolGIS

The name came forward with the idea, “VolcanoloGISts“: as to join volcanologists who use GIS.

“Now I got the name”, I thought, “it’s time to start coding“. 

Unfortunately at that time I didn’t have either the time or the computer skills.
Since I had to dedicate myself to my thesis, due to the experience gained in
Computer Science 2 course and the license availability, eventually I decided to use ArcGIS.

I was satisfied enough because the ArcScene extension allowed to obtain a 3D visualisation of those earthquake up to that time seen only in map view.

Ok! That’s done, but now I need to create a volume starting from these points.”
Searching among thousands of forums and publications, I discovered a bitter truth: the ArcScene extension is, actually, a 2.5D environment, or a so-called “almost-3D”.

What does it mean? That it can only help reconstructing surfaces and then assigning them an elevation value. That is to say that it accepts a single elevation value for any surface at any given location.

This limitation made impossible to reconstruct an actual 3D volume.

Finally born VolGIS

My thesis was anyway my priority, so I put my “3D volume” goal on hold and I settled for reconstructing vertical extrusions of the surfaces (you can see the result here).

A couple of years later, in 2014, when I was dealing with my master thesis, (almost) the same problem arose

Almost, because this time I didn’t need to reconstruct a continuous volume.

The depth resolution was only 200m, and with the extrusion process the result would have been decent enough.

(Judge for yourself, you can see the result is in this other video).
Master degree: accomplished! Now I can finally engage in developing this software…”

I got an idea: to submit as a PhD project the development of this software: bad idea.

When I was searching for a PhD scholarship I found out that in Copenhagen, Denmark, there’s a master degree course in geoinformatics!!

In 2015 I discovered the world of geographic information sciences, and I got to know webServices and open-source online GIS.

The idea grows: “this system must be for free and open-source for those who want to use it”. 

The name VolcanoloGISts is too long.

Memories in Latin language came to the rescue: to the people or for the people: vulgus,vulgi… VolGIS.

In that same time I got to know an open-source programming language with visually interesting graphics output: Processing.

I got the name and the goal as well: I started to make some tests, the idea was beginning to take shape

At the end of that year I won a PhD scholarship in Argentina.
In 2016, after only 4 months following my arrival, I received a collaboration proposal from the Graphics Visualisation and Creative Coding Laboratory in San Carlos de Bariloche.

They were interested in my idea and they were already working with Processing.

I got the direction of the project assigned: thus was born the first version of VolGIS