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Our present methods of entering field notes into the computer are text-based, and while they're quicker than any other methods we know of for such recording, they still leave us in the position that our brother Paul was in in the 1970s: he lived his life in 48 hour segments - one day to experience something, and the next to record it in his journal. We record locations as GPS waypoints, download them into database records, and then transcribe data about identification and circumstances from written notes into the waypoint records.

Digital photography and increased memory capacity in computers have completely changed the mode of conventional natural history documentation. Our database is set up to accommodate images, but we haven't largely depended on them, or had the time to routinely load them into the files.

For the 2010 trip, we will mechanize everything that it's possible to mechanize, so that we don't spend any time doing things that can be done more accurately by appropriately programmed electronic equipment.

Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad - Bishops Mills Natural History Centre

Contact us by phone at (613)258-3107
or e-mail bckcdb@istar.ca

Aspects of the 30-years-later project:

origins of 30-Years-Later
historic field work
journal formats

this month 30 years ago
30-Years-Later publications

planned route for 2010
projects for 2010
teaching revisit methods

planned events
suggest a revisit
sponsors of the 30 Years project

30 Years Later home page

Thirty Years Later: Methods and Equipment for naturalists' field notes from coast to coast to coast.

Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad - Bishops Mills Natural History Centre

For the 2010 trip we will have cutting-edge technology – automatic GPS locating to flip the location and time into a record that can be keyed in on the site, automatic thermometers reporting to the computers, automatic composition of location names, realtime mapping of previous records, and satellite internet. The new field note system will generate database records from geo-referenced, time-stamped digital photos associated with voice-recognized transcriptions from speech recordings.

All historical specimen records and field notes will be databased before attempting revisits. Preliminary 30-yr-later visits will be made around Ontario in the summer of 2009 as practice, and the winter will be spent doing data entry, capturing hand-written field notes with voice recognition software, and arranging revisits with local individuals and institutions.

During the expedition we will upload accounts of each day to a blog, including little videos made about each day's activities. We are looking into having a webcam mounted on the vehicle to show where we're going in real time.

The challenge is to use methods that are as advanced, precise, and quick as possible, without depending on them. If technology fails us, we are always able to fall back onto Grinnell's standard of records written in india ink on non-acid paper. Throughout the expedition we will produce electronically-transmissible records for contemporary use, regularly printing our electronic data on archival-quality paper, which will last 'as long as anything does.'

fws - 20 July 2009