Defining Water Data

Circle of Blue intern Varun Mangla summarizes the first two weeks of the summer he plans to spend with us.

I’ve spent two weeks with Circle of Blue as a new data intern for the summer. I just finished my junior year at the University of Michigan in the chemical engineering department, which is where Aubrey Ann Parker — a former Circle of Blue data intern in 2009, now the assistant editor — graduated from, as well. Last fall, Aubrey sent an email to my undergraduate advisor saying she was looking for data interns, so I sent in my resume and was picked for an interview when the Circle of Blue team visited Ann Arbor a few months ago.

Just a few days after my spring finals at the end of April, I made the four-hour trek to Circle of Blue’s Traverse City headquarters for my first week, and I’ll be returning at the end of the month (after I get a few family weddings knocked off my agenda). Until then, I’m diving in with a few projects that I can work on from home.

This is my first taste of working with large datasets, and it’s super fun:

  • I can’t wait to learn Hadoop, even though I probably will not need it for this internship. Hadoop is a computer infrastructure that can bring together large, complex, and different forms of data to run analyses on. For example, Twitter adds 12 terabytes of information every day, and they use Hadoop to store the data and analyze their users.
  • For now, I’ve been working with Google Fusion Tables. It’s incredibly powerful and is only limited by your imagination — but, in order to have to have the type of control that I want, I need Javascript and Google’s API’s. Luckily, Circle of Blue has a great rapport with the FT team, so any questions I have get answered quickly by the experts.

    Click to open up the interactive Google Fusion map and explore Michigan's LUST sites. Land Grab Map
    Map © Jordan Bates & Aubrey Ann Parker/Circle of Blue
    I have a lot of in-house help too: Aubrey’s first project when she was a design intern was with FT, and Circle of Blue’s web producer, Jordan Bates, has used it several times, too. Watch Aubrey’s tutorial above and click through Jordan’s interactive FT map of leaking gas tanks in Michigan above. Also see a rough draft of the map I’m working on.

  • Later this summer, I’ll be working on using live data feeds from various locations to make dynamic maps. I can’t give too many details right now, but check back in for that!

Want to know what it’s like to intern with Circle of Blue? Interested in data or know of data sets that we should be reporting? Feel free to give suggestions by emailing varun@circleofblue.org or commenting below.

–Varun Mangla
Circle of Blue data intern


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