Methods

Go on.  I dare you.  Ask any scientist, historian or handyman how exactly did they do that?
…and I suspect you’ll learn that documenting everything is often neglected over doing something.  That’s why I hate writing “methods” sections as much as anyone else.  But it’s a necessary evil.  So here’s how I made maps and things…

GIS and other software:
What my desktop looks like on a typical day...
What my desktop looks like on a typical day. I like this particular (28 Dec 2015) image because it shows the true nature of Geographic Information Systems (GIS):
Specifically?
Maps are great – but the underlying data are critical – and need to be vetted for accuracy, and assembled in order to tell the tale of a landscape.

Google Earth has its uses (including giving the illusion of elevation), but to analyse data and process satellite imagery I used ArcView 3.2 (yes it can be made to work on a Windows 10 machine).  Arcview is no longer supported, but it could do most of what I wanted to do – and most importantly I already knew how to use it.

Increasingly I rely upon QGis, which is more modern and sophisticated.  It comes with the drawback of a steep learning curve, and the huge advantage of being free.

Being “open-source” software, it contains glitches and bugs…but it also comes supported by a worldwide network of people who believe, as I do, that increased access to information about the state of planet Earth is intrinsically a good thing.

methods: Just another hardware tweak
Just another hardware tweak

A partial list of other tools included data conversion tools such as shape-to-kml, kml-to-shape plugins, ShapeChk, Photoshop Elements, IrfanView, GRASS, notepad, Word, Excel, Systat, and probably a host of others that I’ve forgotten.

My smart phone came in handy, allowing me to plot nests and cutblocks on maps conveniently provided by cyclists.

Data sources:
Wow. A map of Powell Lake from 1923 showing forest tenure...in color!
Wow. A map of Powell Lake from 1923 showing forest tenure…in color!
How cool is that?

In May of 2015 I approached both the City and the Province, asking for GIS shapefiles for things like contours, streams, lakes, roads and legal boundaries, together with satellite imagery.  They could be had, I learned, for a fee.  A several thousand dollar fee.

So I learned to improvise – and geo-reference paper maps – and I spent huge amounts of time re-creating data that could have been made available for the cost of a USB stick.

breakthrough came after learning that Landsat data were free to download from the US Geological Survey.  Enormous joy was quickly tempered by the realization that not all imagery is created equal, and despite having hundreds of gigabytes of information, now I had to make sense of it – and learn how to tell a story with it.