J.D. Mollard and Associates (2010) Limited
It takes an eye for detail and a broad knowledge of natural earth processes and features to interpret modern aerial photography, something the staff at J.D. Mollard and Associates (2010) Limited (JDMA) know very well. The Regina, Saskatchewan, based firm specializes in the art and science of air photo and satellite image interpretation for engineering, environmental and resource development projects. Leading-edge technologies combined with broad-ranging technical expertise, highly-trained staff and a proven tradition are hallmarks of these modern Canadian explorers.
The original J.D. Mollard and Associates Limited was founded in 1956 by Dr. J.D. (Jack) Mollard, an internationally recognized expert in air photo interpretation for geological and engineering applications. Born and raised near Watrous, Saskatchewan, Jack studied air photo interpretation under one of the pioneers in the field, Dr. Donald Belcher. At the time air photo interpretation was used mostly by the military to identify targets, track enemy movements, or to assess the level of damage from artillery or bombing attacks. Belcher recognized that air photos could also be used to map landforms and terrain features and, from that information, infer ground material and surface processes important to engineering projects. After completing a Master’s degree at Purdue and a Ph.D. at Cornell under Belcher, Mollard returned to Canada, where he soon established himself as a leader in air photo interpretation of Canadian landscapes. His knowledge was in demand across Canada and around the world. After a career that included establishing the air photo survey department at the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA), serving as a technical advisor to foreign governments on aerial resource mapping, and advising the Shaw Royal Commission on agriculture in Newfoundland, Jack returned to Saskatchewan to start his own consulting firm.
Over the next six decades Mollard and his company completed nearly five thousand consulting assignments for governments, universities and private industry across Canada and around the world. Whether it was locating a haul road in the Arctic, a pipeline in Siberia, or a water well in small town Saskatchewan, Mollard and his firm were there to provide the expertise. Even scientists at NASA would call on him for specialized interpretation work. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s Mollard consulted to the space agency regarding their on-going studies of Mars, reviewing the latest orbital photography and theorizing on the formation of various Martian landforms. As a result, JDMA was one of the few companies to claim a project on every continent on Earth and another planet.
In 2010 Jack Mollard resigned as President of J.D. Mollard and Associates Limited. He passed on the mantle of leadership to long-time employee Lynden Penner, who took over ownership of the company under a new name, J.D. Mollard and Associates (2010) Limited. All of JDMA’s professional staff continue to work under the new company, plus several new employees, and are dedicated to continuing the standard of excellence in applied multidisciplinary remote sensing set by Mollard and his original firm.
Today, JDMA is involved with civil engineering and geological projects across Canada – east to west and north to south. Typical projects include preliminary route location and assessment studies for linear infrastructure such as roads, pipelines or high-voltage transmission lines, and site location and assessment for a wide range of industrial facilities. Other projects involve mapping present or historical ground conditions to identify geohazards, monitor changes in natural landscapes (such as forests or grassland), or track potentially dangerous earth processes such as slope movement or shoreline erosion. Some of these projects are located in remote areas of northern Canada, where changes in peatland and permafrost conditions can have significant impacts on development projects.
Information gleaned from satellite imagery and aerial photography is often supplemented with data from reconnaissance trips and field studies. Trucks, helicopters, ATVs and boats are used to scout prospective sites or to review a particular route or linear feature. Depending on the field studies required, JDMA field personnel employ a range of exploration tools including electromagnetic (EM) ground conductivity metres, ground penetrating radar (GPR) systems, and LiDAR. Field photos and videos are geotagged for easy integration with other geospatial data.
The professionals at JDMA pride themselves on staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and technology. It’s one of the legacies passed down through the firm since its earliest days. Although Dr. Mollard started out using black-and-white aerial photography for his studies, when the first satellite imagery became commercially available in 1972 Mollard was quick to embrace the new technology. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology was introduced into the company in the late 1990s, and has been an integral part of the firm’s services since then.
The Importance of GIS
A key component in much of JDMA’s consulting work involves the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In its simplest form, a GIS is a computer program that allows the user to overlay geospatial information, query for features and analyze relationships between different earth features. JDMA uses two such GIS systems: ESRI ArcGIS and MicroImages TNTmips. Of the two, TNTmips is the workhorse of the company. It can quickly and seamlessly integrate enormous amounts of satellite imagery, aerial photography, digital mapping products and line data regardless of its original source or file format.
“TNTmips is a very robust set of geospatial analysis tools,” explains Troy Zimmer, a geographer and remote sensing specialist with JDMA. “It [TNTmips] fits well with our company’s philosophy to gather as much information as possible about a study area, in order to provide the most accurate results.”
Both TNTmips and ArcGIS, along with commercial graphics software, are used to create a wide range of mapping products for JDMA’s clients.
“It’s not enough to simply analyze geodata,” Zimmer comments. “You have to present your findings in a way that is easily recognisable and instantly useful to our clients, the end user.” With that in mind, JDMA staff are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to display geospatial data, including simulated fly-throughs, colour anaglyph displays and interactive 3D modelling.
Top Quality Staff
“One of the unique aspects of our firm is the diverse technical and highly-educated staff we employ,” says Lynden Penner, JDMA’s owner and president. “We have engineers, geographers, geologists, earth science specialists and environmentalists. They all work together to cover a wide range of terrain-related disciplines.”
As Penner explains, “we don’t just provide engineering and geotechnical expertise. We can look into environmental sensitivities, aggregates sources, risk factors, and many other facets of infrastructure and resource development.” It’s the unique blend of team members that allows JDMA to provide in-depth service to a wide range of clients.