The Future Naturalist

» Recording Information
» Astronomy
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« Ontario Field Naturalist's Toolchest
I give to you a vision of the gear that a future naturalist might carry.  I see first of all, your gear recording as much data for you as possible.  Second of all I see this data being accessible in a very user friendly program.  User friendly in that you can flip between different ways of seeing your data with just a few steps.  With such a setup, being a naturalist will become much easier and the data collected will be of higher quality and be more useful scientifically.

Recording Information
Recording observation is a drag.  Its work.  However, the more information that is collected, the more you can discover about your natural environment.  

What kinds of information can your gear collect for you?  Here is a list of potential information in approximate order of practically:
  • Time
  • Location
  • Weather
    • Temperature
    • Humidity
    • Wind speed and direction
    • Atmospheric pressure
    • and more
  • Species
  • Size of organism
Time is the easiest thing to collect.  Most digital cameras already embed the time a photograph was taken.  If you are not using a camera than things get tricky.  If you are using binoculars you have three options.  The first is the most primative: simply jot down the time for your wrist watch in your notebook.  Not very convenient.  The second option is to mark the observation into your portable computer.  As you are jotting down the observation, the time is automatically recorded into your observation.  Much better.  The ultimate, the third option, is to have a voice-activated voice recorder on your binoculars.  Call out what you are observing and the voice recorder will submit the observation to your computer time stamped.

Recording location is difficult.  To accurately descibe a location on paper takes minutes.  To mark down a location from a GPS unit is quicker put still takes takes as the coordinates have many digits and is prone to error.  To make it easier a technique called geotagging has been developed.  Currently to do geotagging you need to connect your camera to a geotagging device with the aid of a cable.  

It would be much easier to have a camera with automatic geotagging.  This is currently tricky cause a GPS embedded in a camera is expensive and unless it is done right can consume a lot of battery power.  Currently the most common device with built in geotagging is the iPhone but a few cameras with it are on the market (Cameras with built-in geotagging on the horizon)

Automatic geotagging could also be accomplished with gear other than a camera.  Once you make an observation record it onto your portable computer.  You write, type or speak the name of the species you found and the computer will add the geotag (and the time) to your observation.  Easy.  

However, if you are using binoculars observing birds speed can be important.  So if use a voice-activated voice recorder that is built into your binoculars you can say a species name and perhaps number of individuals.  The voice recorder will then wirelessly send your observation to your computer and add on the geotag.  If you are not sure of the species you are looking at you can quickly speak out all the features you can see on the bird while you have it in your sights and then figure it out later.  One technical issue with a voice-activated voice recorder is separting the observations.  If not done right the voice recorder could file three birds seen right after another as a single observation.  You could fix that manually on the computer or give the voice recorder as separator such as the work "break".