Understanding a Sequence of Sequences: Visual Exploration of Categorical States in Lake Sediment Cores

IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph. 2018 Jan;24(1):66-76. doi: 10.1109/TVCG.2017.2744686. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


This design study focuses on the analysis of a time sequence of categorical sequences. Such data is relevant for the geoscientific research field of landscape and climate development. It results from microscopic analysis of lake sediment cores. The goal is to gain hypotheses about landscape evolution and climate conditions in the past. To this end, geoscientists identify which categorical sequences are similar in the sense that they indicate similar conditions. Categorical sequences are similar if they have similar meaning (semantic similarity) and appear in similar time periods (temporal similarity). For data sets with many different categorical sequences, the task to identify similar sequences becomes a challenge. Our contribution is a tailored visual analysis concept that effectively supports the analytical process. Our visual interface comprises coupled visualizations of semantics and temporal context for the exploration and assessment of the similarity of categorical sequences. Integrated automatic methods reduce the analytical effort substantially. They (1) extract unique sequences in the data and (2) rank sequences by a similarity measure during the search for similar sequences. We evaluated our concept by demonstrations of our prototype to a larger audience and hands-on analysis sessions for two different lakes. According to geoscientists, our approach fills an important methodological gap in the application domain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't