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.
Thanks to Real Genius for the title. Climate scientists are engaged in a little damage control after Britain’s Time Comprehensive Atlas of the World mistakenly claimed Greeland’s glaciers are melting at a breakneck rate. If you compare the ice cover from 1999 and 2011, the Atlas reports a 15% loss in ice coverage. Climate scientists report the real number is closer to one-tenth of 1%. That’s a healthy difference! Scientists have been quick to point out the error and the publishers are attempting to address the issue (although they go through great pains to keep from acknowledging the Atlas is wrong). Nobody’s really sure why the error was made, however one scientist attempted a little ‘cartographic forensics’ and claims someone has confused a thickness for an extent. The publishers deny this happened, but have offered no alternative theory.
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.
Climate models have predicted this for years, but it’s never been observed… until now. Ars Technica discusses the issue in brief. For the non-physical geographers out there (of which I count myself), storm tracks are the mid-latitude storm patterns that bring most of the precipitation to the heavy population centers in the world. As the climate changes, these storm tracks should gravitate to the poles. Scientists have been using data from The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project to attempt to track the movement of storm tracks. They note lots of issues with the data, but repeated sampling and analysis methods have shown a clear trend – the tracks are moving as predicted. On top of that, apparently we’ve lost 2-3% of our total cloud cover worldwide!
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? It seems to me that the issues with the data combined with the need to track this stuff in a more comprehensive and accessible way point to one major conclusion – we need more satellites to get more accurate and timelier data. It really doesn’t matter where you fall on the climate change issue. Better information can only lead to a more informed scientific community and public, which is always a good thing.
Throughout history, cicada and locusts have produced fascination, food, and frustration, among other f words. The Cicada Mania site “Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.” provides TONS of information on cicadas. Other calls for citizen scientists include those of University of Georgia, Dept. of Entomology, asking for pictures and locations of cicadas and shed cicada skins. Their call recommends that parents participate with their young children because their children will not see this amazing event again until they are adults.
Many countries have set up citizen science watches to keep tabs on what is happening this year. According to a Charlotte news report, the 14 state Cicada Watch citizen science project had hundreds of volunteers in Mechlenberg County, NC alone this year. Other watch projects across take place across the globe. The Australian Government of Agriculture,Fisheries, and Forestry has an up to date section for “Current Locust Situation and News“. The Desert Locust Watch is produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for desert regions such as the Sudan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia,
The R2 Fish School Kit that has been featured on TV shows like ABC News and Animal Planet teaches your fish to play basketball, fetch, and more. It was developed by Dr. Dean Pomerleau and his son Kyle. Their goldfish “Albert Einstein” is the current Guinness World Record holder for the pet fish with the most tricks. These aren’t just parlor tricks, researchers like Dr. Pomerleau have been studying fish intelligence, especially spatial intelligence for a long time.
A study by Seraphina Chung, of the Department of Human Biology, University of Toronto examined the use of different type of mazes to better understand the use of spatial learning by fish in their daily life. Other companies, such as FishBio use different spatial technologies like remote sensing, sensors, and 3-D side-scanning sonar to GPS fish habitats and migration routes.
If you are interested in learning more about fish intelligence and considering the amazing spatial ability of migrating fish, spring is a great time to participate in a citizen science fish count. The Town of Plymouth, Maine Environmental Resources and many others have already started participation in fish counts. If it is too late to do it now in your area, you can mark your calendar for next year.
In this week’s podcast we talked to USGS Geographer Dr Nathan Wood. Located at the USGS Western Geographic Science Center, Nate discussed an array of research locations in the interview that revolved around helping communities understand their vulnerability or risk to natural hazards such as volcanoes, tsunamis and other hazards. In the interview he highlighted a recent informational publication titled Understanding Risk and Resilience to Natural Hazards available on the USGS website.
The document talks about the process of working with communities to make them aware of potential natural hazards risks in their area and provides examples from each of the west coast states, Hawai’i, and Florida.
Check it out to get more great information about Nate’s work at the USGS.
When I was reading this month’s issue of Backpacker magazine, I started to fold down pages that contained geospatial apps and other features. After I had folded down most of the pages in this month’s magazine, I decided I would post some of my favorites. On their website, Backpacker has a section for app tools such as Backpacker Destinations which allows users to access trips and trails, save and upload trails, and share information via social media. There is a similar, less extensive type of app for Android called My Tracks which overlays routes onto Google maps. My favorite was the Backpacker Survival School which is like a course in being Bear Grylls. The iPad app teaches you what to do if you get lost or find yourself attacked by a bear. The magazine contained a full page ad for OpenCaching.com and their geocaching Bill of Rights.
It’s amazing how often life immitates blog. For a class on qualitative GIS, I put together a Google Earth narrative history of growing up in north west New Jersey. I started with an up close Google Earth view of the lush green forested mountains and rolling farmland hills that I think of when I think of my home state, but I didn’t actually say where I was from until I zoomed out to show the shape of NJ. If I could have found a heart shaped shape file to use, I would have. It is interesting to geospatially visualize the dramatic growth that has happened in New Jersey in a relatively short period of time.
This is why I enjoyed reading the New York Times article from August 2010 which reviews a report done on “Changing Landscapes in the Garden State” by Rowen and Rutgers Universities. Rowan University hosts an interactive companion site of animated maps from their report to illustrate two decades of urban growth and open space loss in New Jersey from 1986 through 2007. The report and interactive maps are part of an ongoing collaboration between the Geospatial Research Lab at Rowan University and the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University examining New Jersey’s urban growth and land use change.