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Dissertation

Birding Rondeau Provincial Park, April 28-May 7, 2008

While in the field conducting interviews at Rondeau Provincial Park over two weeks in spring 2008, I collected ten consecutive days worth of travels on my trusty GPS. The data consisted of two things: a track (a continuous line where I had travelled) and ‘exact’ points, recorded every 30 seconds, of my location. Now, I’m no GIS master, but I am using this data in my analysis for my dissertation. Here’s one map that I generated today:

Rondeau Tracks—April 28-May 7, 2008

(Update 09/13/10: Download and explore the Google Earth .kmz file I created from this data)

I’ve posted this map to Flickr (the image above is hyperlinked to the original) where I’ve annotated locations to provide some context. Now, on this particular map, the brighter the white line, the more often I visited a particular location: this is my ten days of tracks made more transparent and superimposed over each other. So a brighter white isn’t a measure of duration (or time), just a measure of frequency.

For example, see Rondeau Road, which is the straight-ish north-south bright white line running down the middle of the peninsula (if this is unclear, now would be a good time to go visit the original). I drove into and out of the park along the road each day, so while I didn’t spend much time doing this, it is represented as a bright white due to the frequency over ten days that I travelled that portion of the park.

The next map that I created and uploaded to Flickr consists of the second kind of data that I collected: it is ten-days worth of my location, recorded every 30 seconds while I was outdoors.

Spicebush trail & the Pony Barns, Rondeau Points—April 28-May 7, 2008

This map shows a smaller scale to show the finer-grain data that was collected. The areas with the highest concentration of dots represent where I spent the most amount of time over the ten days. So, in comparison with the map above, Rondeau Road disappears. This is where the points get interesting, though. That big cluster in the upper-right corner of the map is a pond south of an area called the Pony Barns. Here’s why:

Prothonotary

The only (known) male Prothonotary Warbler, pictured above, was visiting (living there, really) the pond during the days that I was collecting data. I went to find birders and to watch the Prothonotary myself. Here is an entry from my field journal from May 3rd:

Over lunch, it has started raining. I drive up the park road past the spicebush trail and over the pony barn. The wind has died down and the waves, that I had heard crashing against the lakeshore in the past days from here were quiet. With the rain, there was an earthy smell that permeated the air. I know that the prothonotary has been seen today and, given my visits over the past couple of days, I’m interested in seeing him again. As I arrive there is a gentleman there who, without asking what I’m there for says “He’s over there.” After which he says, “The prothonotary is there.” We chat for a while and exchange bird sightings.

So what?

I’m using the maps to try and show the kinds of places I (did and did not) visit and the relationship between the places visited and the birds seen. Because the travel wasn’t random. I was at Rondeau to find birders and to find birds: the maps show how some places have more “draw” and, as I’ve suggested with the Prothonotary anecdote above, the draw is often the chance to see certain species of birds.

More poetically, the amalgam of point offers a different kind of way of making sense of my time at Rondeau. It’s a visual representation of temporal and spatial information: at a glance the lines and points show more than just movement though space, they show a kind of detail about tempo and attention that would be difficult to record in other ways.

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