Rough-and-ready geolocation using python and R

The good folks at GeoScience Australia provide a comprehensive set of Australian gazetteer data for free download from their website. Using R and python, I constructed a simple geolocation application to make use of this data. I used the data in the gazetteer to determine the geographic locations of incidents reported by the Country Fire Authority in the rss feed of current incidents provided on their website.

First, I used the sqlite database facilities provided in R, to construct a new sqlite database (gazetteer.db) containing the downloaded gazetteer data. This could just as easily have been done in python, but R served my purposes well:

#R code to read in the gazetteer data and build an sqlite database table for it.
gazdata<-read.csv("Gazetteer2010_txt.csv", header=FALSE)
names(gazdata)<-c("ID_num", "ID_code", "Authority_ID", "State_ID", "Name", "Feature_Code", "Status", "Postcode", "Concise_Gazetteer", "Longitude", "LongDeg", "LongMin", "LongSec", "Latitude", "LatDeg", "LatMin", "LatSec", "Map_100K", "CGDN", "Something")
system('sqlite3 gazetteer.db', wait=FALSE)
connect<-dbConnect(driver, dbname="gazetteer.db")
dbWriteTable(connect, "places", gazdata, overwrite=T, row.names=F, eol="\r\n")

Next, I wrote a python script to download the rss feed, extract the incident locations (both using the feedparser module for python), match the locations with the place names listed in the gazetteer database (using the sqlite3 module of python), and plot a map (in png format) of the incident locations, by calling R from python, using the rpy2 module:

#! /usr/bin/env python
import feedparser
import rpy2.robjects as robjects
from sqlite3 import *
from time import strftime

#download incident feed using feedparser module
NumInc=len(feed.entries) #number of incidents
updatetime=strftime("%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M", feed.updated)  #time feed was updated

#step through incidents and extract location
for i in range(NumInc):
	inc =inc.split(',')[0] #strips out just what is before the comma (usually town/locality)
	incidents[i] =inc.title() #make first letter of each word UC.

#connect to sqlite database of Australian place names

#run query and store lats and longs of incident locations...
lat=[""]*NumInc #storage for latitudes
long=[""]*NumInc #storage for longitudes
misses=0 #counter for incident locations not matched in db.
misslist=list() #list to store locations not found in db
#query location of each incident and find latitude and longitude of best-match location
query='select Latitude,Longitude from places where \
Name LIKE ? AND State_ID="VIC" AND \
(Feature_Code="RSTA" OR Feature_Code="POPL" OR Feature_Code="SUB" OR Feature_Code="URBN" OR Feature_Code="PRSH" OR Feature_Code="BLDG")'
for k in range(NumInc):
	t=('%'+incidents[k]+'%',) #match using "like" with wild cards for prefix/suffix of string
	curs.execute(query, t)
	if get is not None: #check if any rows returned (i.e. no matched to locations), only assign result if exists
		lat[k] = get[0]
	if get is None:
missstring='\n'.join(misslist) #convert list of unmatched locations to a string

#use Rpy2 module and R to plot a nice annotated map of locations to a png file
r = robjects.r
r.png("incident_map.png", width=800, height=600)
r.points(y=lat, x=long, col="red", pch=16)
r.text(y=lat, x=long, labels=incidents, adj=1.1, col="red", cex=0.85)
r.axis(2, at=r.seq(-34, -39),labels=r.seq(34, 39), las=1)
r.title(r.paste(NumInc+1, "CFA incidents @",updatetime))
r.text(x=148.5, y=-33.6, labels=r.paste(misses," unmapped incidents:"))
r.text(x=148.5, y=-34,labels=r.paste(missstring))

The script works nicely, although some incident locations aren’t found in the database due to spelling errors, unusual formatting, or omission of locations from the geoscience australia data. I included some code to list the unmatched locations beside the map, for easy reference.

Here’s a map of tonight’s incidents:

State-space occupancy model using PyMC

I’ve continued my experimentation with PyMC, using it to fit occupancy models to wildlife survey data with imperfect detectability. Chris Fonnesbeck has provided code for a simple, single-survey occupancy model here, which provides a good starting point for experimentation. I wanted to construct my model using the alternative, state-space parameterisation for occupancy models described by Royle and Kéry(2007). Unlike the multi-season, dynamic occupancy model described by Royle and Kéry, I am only fitting a single-season occupancy model, where the site-states (occupied or unoccupied) are assumed to be constant. The model uses a hierarchical approach, where sites are occupied with probability \psi, and the true occupancy states of the sites, z are inferred from repeated surveys at each site based on a probabilistic detection model (in this case a simple Bernoulli model, with conditional probability of detection at each survey p). Fitting this model using MCMC has the advantage that a finite-sample estimate of occupancy rates among the sampled sites can be easily computed by sampling from \sum z.

from pymc import *
from numpy import *

Alternative implementation of single season occupancy estimation for the Salamander data (from MacKenzie et al. 2006), using a 
state-space approach.

Modified from original example code and data provided by Chris Fonnesbeck at

# Occupancy data - rows are sites, with replicate surveys conducted at each site
salamanders = array([[0,0,0,1,1], [0,1,0,0,0], [0,1,0,0,0], [1,1,1,1,0], [0,0,1,0,0], 
                     [0,0,1,0,0], [0,0,1,0,0], [0,0,1,0,0], [0,0,1,0,0], [1,0,0,0,0], 
                     [0,0,1,1,1], [0,0,1,1,1], [1,0,0,1,1], [1,0,1,1,0], [0,0,0,0,0], 
                     [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], 
                     [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], 
                     [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], 
                     [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], [0,0,0,0,0], 
                     [0,0,0,1,0], [0,0,0,1,0], [0,0,0,0,1], [0,0,0,0,1]])

# Number of replicate surveys at each site
k = 5

#number of detections at each site (row sums of the data)

#vector of known/unknown occupancies to provide sensible starting values for latent states, z.
#Equal to 1 if at least 1 detection, otherwise zero.
z_start = y>0

# Prior on probability of detection
p = Beta('p', alpha=1, beta=1, value=0.99)

# Prior on probability of occupancy
psi = Beta('psi', alpha=1, beta=1, value=0.01)

#latent states for occupancy
z = Bernoulli('z', p=psi, value=z_start, plot=False)

#Number of truly occupied sites in the sample (finite-sample occupancy)
def Num_occ(z=z):
   out = sum(z)
   return out

#unconditional probabilities of detection at each site (zero for unoccupied sites, p for occupied sites)
def pdet(z=z, p=p):
    out = z*p
    return out

Y = Binomial('Y', n=k, p=pdet, value=y, observed=True)

Fitting of the model was accomplished by running the following code, which constructs the model, collects some MCMC samples for parameters of interest, and generates plots of the results:

from pylab import *
from pymc import *

import model

#get all the variables from the model file
M = MCMC(model)

#draw samples
M.sample(iter =40000, burn = 20000, thin = 5)

#plot results

Her are some summary plots (traces and histograms) for the MCMC samples of the parameters \psi, p and \sum z

The same model can easily be fitted using OpenBUGS, with comparable results..

psi~dbeta(1, 1)
p~dbeta(1, 1)
for(i in 1:sites){
  for(j in 1:surveys){

Y=structure(.Data = 

PyMC for Bayesian models

BUGS and JAGS have been the main tools I have used for fitting Bayesian statistical models for a long time now. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they are extremely useful tools, and I would anticipate that they will continue to develop their capabilities, and remain important components of my statistical toolbox for some time to come.

Recently, I’ve become aware of an alternative platform for Bayesian modelling, that has similar potential to BUGS and it’s dialects – PyMC. PyMC provides a framework for describing and fitting Bayesian statistical models using the Python programming language. Having read the paper describing the software, and consulted the user guide, I decided to have a try at building a simple linear regression model as a test, despite having very limited experience with python. I found that consulting the examples on the PyMC website, as well as the material presented in Abraham Flaxman’s blog very helpful for getting started, and for solving problems along the way.

I started by simulating some data from a very simple Gaussian linear model using R. I’m sure this could be easily done in Python, but for now R will be quicker and easier for me to code:

x<-round(runif(N, -20, 20))
y<-rnorm(N, 2*x+ 3, 10)
cat(x, sep=", ", fill=T)
cat(y, sep=", ", fill=T)

Running this code resulted in two nicely concatenated vectors of random x and y values generated from the (known) regression model y=\alpha+\beta x + \epsilon. These random values were easily transferred to the PyMC code for the Bayesian model using cut-and-paste – clumsy, but it works for me…..

Here is the python code for the ordinary linear model, with the randomly generated data (called YY and XX) pasted in. Vague normal priors were assumed for the slope and intercept parameters (\alpha and \beta), while the standard deviation of the random errors (\sigma) was assigned a Uniform prior:

## Regression
from pymc import *
from numpy import *

YY = array([-19.23776, 1.559197, 27.90364, -14.94222, -41.34614, 5.857922,  -26.24492, -1.670176, -8.349098, -24.91511, 63.86167, 20.87778, 4.176622, -35.65956, 4.482383, 36.20763, 33.60314, 23.25372, -15.52639, -25.59295, 42.48803, -29.46465, 30.25402, -5.66534, -20.92914, 44.87109, 19.07603, 22.19699, 18.89613, 2.835296, 12.68109, -17.19655, 26.60962, -28.74333, -24.69688,  -19.02279, -31.39471, -17.83819, 15.389, 40.41935, 0.972758, -36.49488,  -2.041068, 23.22597, 1.226252, 11.87125, 36.32597, 29.20536, 16.24043, -0.8978296])

XX = array([-14, -6, 19, -12, -16, 1, -15, -13, 0, -6, 15, 8, 1, -16, -5, 19, 8, 7, -11, -13, 13, -18, 10, -1, -13, 13, 13, 17, 13, 11, 4, -6, 14, -14, 3, -3, -18, -11, 6, 13, -10, -12, -2, 9, -7, -1, 14, 15, 6, -2])

sigma = Uniform('sigma', 0.0, 200.0, value=20)
alpha = Normal('alpha', 0.0, 0.001, value=0)
beta = Normal('beta', 0.0, 0.001, value=0)

def modelled_yy(XX=XX, beta=beta, alpha=alpha):
    return beta*XX + alpha

y = Normal('y', mu=modelled_yy, tau=1.0/sigma**2, value=YY, observed=True)

The python code for the model saved to a file named Generating an MCMC sample from the parameters of model was then just a matter of running the following code within a python shell:

from pylab import *
from pymc import *
import regress
M = MCMC(regress)
M.sample(10000, burn=5000)

The code also generates some summary plots (traces and histograms) for each of the parameters. So far so good – it looks like the inferred values for the parameters fairly closely match those that the random data were generated from:

I’ll move onto some more complex models soon, but so far PyMC looks quite promising as a tool for Bayesian modelling. Perhaps a useful strategy for learning will be to construct a variety models of increasing complexity, with a focus on the types of models I use for my research.

Uncertainty and conservation risk assessments

An article I coauthored with Graeme Gillespie, Dale Roberts, Hal Cogger, Mike Mahony and Keith McDonald has just been published in the journal Biological Conservation.

We examined how uncertainty in biological and ecological information (expressed as variation and uncertainty in expert opinion) influences conservation risk assessments for threatened species, using the entire Australian frog fauna as a case study. We found that for many poorly known species, it was conceivable that current assessments of relative extinction risk are overly conservative, and that these species may in fact warrant much more research and conservation attention. Species with highly uncertain extinction risk also tended to be geographically clustered, meaning that current understanding of the conservation status of the anuran fauna of some regions may be overly optimistic.

Hop harvest soon

This year’s hop crop will be ready to harvest very soon. There should be more than enough hop flowers for a full batch of home-brewed beer.

Checking river pumping restrictions using python

I have a licence from Melbourne Water to pump water from the Yarra River. Water pumped from the river is stored in a large concrete tank (20,000 liters), and used for toilet flushing, watering the garden and as a source of water for fire fighting.

For environmental reasons, pumping from the river is restricted during periods of low flow. Melbourne water publishes flow and pumping restriction data on their website, so I can check if restrictions apply before starting the pump to top up the tank. I hacked together a quick python script to get the information I need, so I can display the information on my computer’s desktop using conky.

The code makes use of the Beautiful Soup html parser for python to extract the data from Melbourne Water’s web page.

#!/usr/bin/env python
#Python script to get current pumping restrictions for Upper Yarra River.
import mechanize
import HTMLParser
from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup
br = mechanize.Browser()
data =
soup = BeautifulSoup(data)
table=soup.find("table",title="Table showing current waterway diversion status")
for row in table.findAll('tr')[1:]:
    col = row.findAll('td')
    restrict = col[1]
    ban = col[2].string
    flow = col[3].string
    avflow = col[4].string
    date = col[5].string
#Function to strip html tags from table cells (allows for episodic coloring/bolding of cell contents when bans apply!)
def stripper(data):
   data = str(data)
   count = data.count('<')
   while count:
       start = data.find('<')
       end = data.find('>')
       rem = data[start:end+1]
       data = data.replace(rem,'',1)
   out = data
   return out
#apply the stripper function to current restriction and ban statuses
restrict = stripper(restrict)
ban = stripper(ban)
print 'Restricted?  %s   Banned? %s' % (restrict, ban) 
print 'Flow: %s ML/d  AvFlow: %s ML/d' % (flow, avflow)