Here’s a field update from Kristin Wisneski, a contributor to Observation and Ecology:
Technology aiding the opportunity for unique observations in the field
After graduating all I wanted was some time in the field, to reconnect with the plants, animals and landscapes that I missed after spending so much time in front of my computer writing my thesis. With Brett’s help and past connections to a project in Namibia, I am living 70 km outside of the capital city of Windhoek on a cattle and sheep farm and learning even more about the ways that technology can help us understand the natural world. This project uses GPS/VHF-enabled collars to track carnivores, specifically cats, through the Namibian veld. Every week, we use telemetry to locate the cats and then download their location data from the previous week. Clusters of location points signify points of interest for the cats and we visit each of these clusters to further investigate and determine if it is perhaps a feed site, water or communication post. With a study site that extends over thousands of hectares, these identified clusters bring us closer to understanding the behaviors and unique characteristics of each cat. To take this one step further, we are also testing out CyberTracker software to gather data on our observations of wildlife, their spoor (tracks) and scats. While a field notebook suffices, this software allows us to quickly jot down standardized pieces of information into a data template and then see the digitized location and notes back at the farm. With greater insight into the lives of the cats and the wildlife and livestock living with them, it is hoped that a clearer picture of the Namibian veld will be seen by both farmers and scientists. Life after Stealth Health and smartphone-assisted data collection is turning out to be quite exciting, but once I’m back in the states I can’t wait to jump back in to discovering ways to connect people, young and old, to the natural world via location, mobile and social technologies.
Checkout Kristin and Barron Orr’s contribution to Observation and Ecology here.