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The map prac: Enhancing ecological understanding with a compass, paper maps and Google Maps

The map prac: Enhancing ecological understanding with a compass, paper maps and Google Maps



By N. Sivasothi. Department of Biological Sciences, NUS. ...

By N. Sivasothi. Department of Biological Sciences, NUS.


Students are quite unfamiliar with the local and regional physical landscape which significantly hampers their understanding of ecology. A rudimentary two-hour laboratory session was conjured up to address this gap in a new second year ecology module in 2009/10, reaching 200 students over two semesters. The session introduced the use of Singapore topographical paper maps, the magnetic compass and Google Maps. NLB’s iRemember.sg provided a critical 1935 Singapore map but otherwise online resources were unavailable. The “map prac” guidelines were written and tweaked on Google Docs during the session in response to student’s reactions and learning speed.

For a take home test, students plotted a variety of named placemarks including all of Singapore’s rivers and islands which they had little if any familiarity with and submitted this as a link via Google Forms which allowed me to collect reactions to the practical. The large scale perspective introduced by the integrated approach was surprisingly informative to students. They realised the interconnectedness of the landscape, thus enhancing their grasp of ecology. With increasing enrolment in this module, an abridged version of the “map prac” is planned for adoption as an independent exercise which will include existing e-tutorials. Students will present their printed map of relevant annotated placemarks to their project group-mates in the first practical and identify their study sites in the process.

This original “map prac” tutorial is available here and can be used, abridged or added to:



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    The map prac: Enhancing ecological understanding with a compass, paper maps and Google Maps The map prac: Enhancing ecological understanding with a compass, paper maps and Google Maps Presentation Transcript

    • The map prac: Enhancing ecology with a compass and map, paper map and Google Maps N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman Department of Biological Sciences National University of Singapore http://blog.sivasothi.com 1
    • The Map Prac 1. Identifying the problem 2. The 2-hour map practical 3. Assignment and submission 4. Applications 5. What next? 2
    • Where are we? 3
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    • 23 Jan 2006 - A Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayensis in Singapore 12
    • 23 Jan 2006 - A Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayensis in Singapore 13
    • 1. Identifying the problem Where am I? 14
    • Chek Jawa, a hidden eden, 2001 15
    • Malaysia Sg Johor Pulau Tekong Singapore Straits of Singapore Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin 16
    • Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin 17
    • Morning Cycle data reported by iPhone app, Runkeeper Thanks Colin Wan! 18
    • Gothere.sg: NUS to Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve 19
    • “...while navigation devices can make it easier to navigate from an origin to a destination, people are less likely to learn environmental layouts and become overly dependent on their devices” Klippel, A., S. Hirtle, Stephen & C. Davies, 2010 - citing Pruch & Wilson, 2004; Parush, Ahuvia & Erev, 2007; Bakdash, Linkenauger & Proffitt, 2008. 20
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    • 2. Spatial Awareness with Google Maps The Map Prac - http://tinyurl.com/lsm2251-mapprac 26
    • 1. Points of a compass 27
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    • 2. Find the bearing, correlate to paper map - why? 29
    • Bukit Timah? 30
    • Group Work Their own home; describe environs to group mates 31
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    • Online resources scarce! 33
    • 1938 River flows to the sea! 34
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    • 3. Assignment and submission with GDocs Practise, practise, practise Google Forms for submissions 38
    • Class of 100 - 200 Submission efficiency with Google Docs 39
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    • Text names blanked out for privacy 41
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    • “It is very interesting to see how much Singapore has canalized many of its rivers as well as the amount of reclaimed land. So much that Jurong Island can be made up of so many islands. Upon comparison to the old 1935 map of Singapore, I also realised how secretive Singapore government is about releasing information of its map as many of the islands were not named and I had to go and google each one by one to find out their names.” 46
    • 4. Applications Species distribution 47
    • Intensity of bat calls in Kent Ridge Ong Say Lin et al., 2009 Ecology Asia 48
    • The hunt for the Red Jungle Fowl Amanda Tan 49
    • Red Jungle Fowl Amanda Tan, 2010, ongoing 50
    • Smooth-coated otters at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, residential population since 1998 Marcus Ng akak Budak 51
    • Smooth-coated otter Meryl Theng, 2010/11, ongoing 52
    • Common palm civet Xu Weiting, 2009/10, ongoing 53
    • “Mr Kinky Tail” 54
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    • 5. What next? Integrating the Map Prac to daily life 56
    • Home Assignment in Groups 57
    • LSM1103 What will you see? 58
    • Manual plot of bicycle ride, the Northern PCN loop, using Bikely 59
    • HCMC 60
    • Montreal 61
    • The Map Prac 1. Unfamiliarity? 1.1.Detection (conversations) 1.2.A problem, how? 2. The 2-hour map prac 2.1.Compass 2.2.Paper map 2.3.Google Map 3. Assignments 3.1.Plot, plot, plot 3.2.Submission + feedback (GForms) 4. Applications 4.1.Assignments, Research 4.2.Life 5. Next? 5.1.Tutorial 5.2.Shift to 1st years (Kent Ridge) 62