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:
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.
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.
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.
And I learned that the entire historical Landsat record is available 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 at my fingertips, now I had to make sense of it – and learn how to tell a story with it.