Where in the World? – Integrating GPS Software into the Project

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? – Brøderbund Software

When we originally envisioned going out to the field, we didn’t think we would be using any fancy gadgets to record our movements as we traveled to each trap location. We actually didn’t really think about how we would remember sites other than based just on our memory and perhaps some ribbon tied to nearby trees or some flags. Maybe we’d use a compass and draw a makeshift map on a piece of paper. Maybe we’d set flares. Maybe we’d use Mockingjays. Who knew?

When Dr. Grant encouraged us to go see David Maxwell, program director of the Geographic Information System (GIS) at SUU, we thought he might be able to draw us up a map of our site location. But we vastly underestimated everything else he would be able to assist us with.

We didn’t realize just how much information would be available to us when we traveled to our site until Dave showed us. For starters, he equipped us with these fantastic, Pokedex-looking things. . .

This device, known as a Trimble Juno, was capable of recording data in real-time. Not only was it capable of recording our location based on satellites, but it also gave us the ability to take notes and photographs of the points we chose. These devices, when paired with a program known as TerraSync, could make extremely personalized data dictionaries (forms created by us with a series of questions to be answered at each trap location) that ultimately made data collection at each point a breeze.

The data dictionaries allow us to collect information at certain points. Things like what trap number we’re at, what kind of sample we found, where we found the sample, etc.

They were lightweight, convenient, and weather-proof–everything we needed when we were out on the field. The Junos even came with cool features like a 5-second interval mapping component that created virtual tracks of where we had walked, creating a virtual map we could overlap on the geographic map later on.

Our virtual map tracks us as we go (the pink dots). The black flags are the randomized points. The red X’s are the points we captured.

The possibilities were endless and the applications outside our field were really incredible. Dave created maps for us at every stage, retrofitting each map with geographic information that would be useful to us as well as applying a random sampling technique for the points.

The first map of our location site had random points scattered throughout for the shrew and cat traps. The random points were customized by how many meters apart they were from each other, how many there were, and even slope (elevation). The point was to make the sampling unbiased within a quadrant and hopefully get a broader geographic sample for our target mammals.

Clicking map2c (our first map), you can see two sets of points, green ones and yellow ones. The yellow ones within the square quadrant are the shrew points. The green ones, which are much more spread out, are the cat points. The contour lines are for information on elevation. In the beginning, being the overzealous undergrads we were, we had hoped to have 100 of each trap type: 100 shrew traps and 100 cat traps.

Unfortunately, we didn’t consider how steep some of the drop offs were and how time consuming it would be to have 200 traps that would need to be checked twice a day every week, leading to premature exhaustion on our part. As it were, in the end we decided to cut our trap number in half to only 50.

That meant 50 pitfall and 50 hair snare traps for the shrews and 40 hair snare and 10 hair snare/track station/camera traps for the cats. Unfortunately, this also meant that we would be decreasing the number of hits we would be getting at each station.

This change in trap quantity led to our second map from Dave: NewCatMap. This map was specific to only the cat traps (since the shrew trap coordinates were within the same quadrant as the original map). You’ll notice the area has changed to more accessible elevations and the number of traps has decreased to 50.

We are still in the process of scouting the location and recording the last few points for both traps. When we’ve got that all done, Dave will likely create us a new and final map with all of our points. Until then, we have to take it a day at a time (who knew recording 100 different locations would be so tiring?) as we slowly but surely get closer to having all of our points collected. What a glorious day that will be!

Till then, we’ll see you in the next post!

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