A short article in this month’s National Geographic magazine gives me a chance to tell a funny kid’s joke about zebras. “There were two chickens standing at crosswalk. One says to the other: Should we cross the road? The other one says: No Way! Look what happened to the zebra!” According to the National Geographic article,”Scanning Zebras“, zebra stripes are like a fortuitous blend of fingerprints and bar codes. This means that each black and white stripe pattern is unique to that zebra and is patterned in a way that makes it possible to be scanned like a bar code. McDermott reports that scientists and citizen scientists can use an app called Stripe Spotter created by the University of Illinois at Chicago and Princeton University to upload the zebra’s identity into a database. Researchers involved in the project have recently written a paper, ” Biometric Animal Databases From Field Photographs: Identification of Individual Zebra in the Wild“. They think that in the future it could be used to identify other animals with strong patters such as tigers, giraffe, and kudu. This is another great example of how ingenuity in geospatial technologies can make it easier for citizen scientists to get involved in research, lessen the workload on scientists in the field, and improve the scientific process.
I have subscribed to the wonderfully informative eNature website and email list for years because of the kid in me loves that it is a grown up Ranger Rick. They provide Zip Guides that map animals and plants in your area by zip code. I like when they post information on native bird species because even though I’m not a birder, I participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count every February. This month eNature has a Bird Call Challenge,which would be a great activity for a geography or science classroom or fun home activity.
Halloween is a holiday that has often been associated with maps… treasure maps, spooky house plans, escape routes, and trick-or-treat routes. I think it is also the holiday with the most spatial app maps. Useful Halloween maps include the No Trick Treats interactive map to identify houses handing out treats for kids with dietary restrictions, The Patch sites such as RosevillePatch created a map of the best neighborhood Halloween decorations in Roseville, CA and Benicia to let visitors add to the map. I tried to make my own tree map using Many Eyes from IBM to determine Halloween candy with the most bang for my buck. Looking at it though, it is more of a surefire way to get our house toilet papered —- handing out one Hershey’s Kiss per Trick or Treater. … but more candy for me after Halloween .
You have probably already heard about the U.S. Center For Disease Control’s unique outreach effort to educate the public about being prepared for a large scale emergency. They used the public’s interest in zombie movies like Zombieland and books like World War Z to create a zombie comic based on actual preparedness training. The Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic comic was unveiled at last weeks NYC Comicon and is free for download according to the ComicsAlliance who provide a link to the site. CDC scientists in the comic are shown using many geospatial and GIS tools to handle the zombie threat to public health.
The CDC is not the only institution using comics to get across their message. The Smithsonian recently create several Women in Science comics available on their Women in Science Working Wonders Website (Try to say that three times fast). They have a quiz to discover what type of scientific superheroine you are that includes many scientists who use geospatial technologies in their line of research. Maybe the American Association of Geographers (AAG) should create a similar comic book series with a quiz about what type of geographer are you?
Sketch Up has announced their first annual Halloween Challenge. You can pick three categories: 1:Jack 0’Lantern, 2: Haunted House, 3: Both together. You need to fill out a challenge submission form and upload your model to 3D Warehouse in publicly downloadable format. The SketchUp team will judge the entries on October 28th. Here is a link to Googlemeister’s Amazing Haunted House Walk Through Collection from last year in 3D Modeler.
National Public Radio (NPR) has been closely following the story of Happy Feet, the penguin who got off course and ended up in New Zealand. They recently posted a heart warming story about the NZEmperor website created by SIRTRACK, the makers of the Sirtrack KiwiSat 202 Satellite Transmitter donated to keep tabs and map Happy Feet’s location. Dr Gareth Morgan, a scientist raising New Zealanders’ awareness of the importance of the area between Stewart Island and the South Pole, is sponsoring the satellite costs. He has a Happy Feet tracking page on his Our Far South website. Everyone interested in the story is waiting with baited breath to see if Happy Feet’s tracking system starts working or why it might have stopped. No matter what happens this was a great news story that might get many citizen scientists involved in learning more about the issues and technology involved in a part of the world they might not normally think about. Dr. Gareth Morgan’s website also discusses his upcoming trip to raise awareness of the region and features a very diverse crew of researchers, conservationists, and others, who are going to be on the trip as well.
I get to make a cheesy statement here about how Garmin-Cervelo race team has found their way to the top in August with Garmin, but I think the picture on their home page explains it better. You can follow the official Garmin Team on Garmin Connect or sign up to support them via Facebook or Twitter. They have some really cool team apparel including some national champion bike jerseys. Jean-François Phillips has a blog called Tour de France or Bust where he is going to us a Garmin GPS to track the route of the 2011 Tour de France on a day-by-day basis starting August 27, 2011. He is doing it to raise money for the charity Help for Heroes. You can also visit the official Le Tour de France site to find out more about the route or its famous history.
EarthScope is an NSF program that, “that deploys thousands of seismic, GPS, and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes the cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It involves collaboration between scientists, educators, policy makers, and the public to learn about and utilize exciting scientific discoveries as they are being made”. In other words, it is very, very, cool with lots of interactive data! The EarthScope data portal provides GPS,seismic, lidar, and other layers for students and researchers. As of July 1, EarthScope National Office is being hosted at Arizona State University School of Earth & Space Exploration, prior to that it had been hosted at Oregon State Department of Geosciences.
The Wall Street Journal has an article on GroupMe, an Android application that allows multiple users to text together at the same time as a group. According to the article, “The secret behind GroupMe is that it assigns one phone number to a group, so the most basic cellphones will be able to send text messages to this number, like it’s one person’s phone when it really represents several users. People can also call this single number to initiate a conference call.” While the article naturally focuses on the business benefits of the application, I was more interested in the geospatial and family benefits. Many times my family members from ages 10 – 90+ like to use conference calling to keep in touch as if we were at the kitchen table together. I can imagine using group texting in situations such as coordinating efforts at huge places like the ESRI User’s Conference or Disney World.