Humans have been surveying places for a long time. The ancient Egyptians are said to have been the first to do so , dividing land into plots for taxation. Fast forward to the present day and we can see that surveys are used for everything from road building to mineral exploration and assessing the health of an ecosystem among other things.
The survey of the KWLS that I am currently undertaking is happening in fairly wild and remote places. More often than not there are no roads/paths or trails and human contact can be very minimal, thus our ability to go into and exit the jungle safely is of paramount importance.
As mentioned in earlier posts, we follow S-shaped transects[paths] 8km in length for every grid cell. When walking these transects it is very easy to become hopelessly lost and disoriented if not for our navigational aids. In the old days these would have been maps and a compass, but today the Global positioning system [GPS] is the one stop shop for all things navigational.
On this project, I’m using the Garmin Etrex 20, a small but rugged device that thrives in the difficult conditions a survey can throw your way. It works by receiving signals directly from multiple satellites allowing me to more accurately pinpoint my location and it works well on clear days and on more open ground. It, however, is somewhat less accurate on cloudy days and under thick forest cover. This is when a compass really comes to the rescue and is an invaluable part of one’s navigation arsenal
The GPS allows me to mark Waypoints [or specific locations with their lat-long coordinates] whenever I see any signs of animal activity [dung, tracks and direct sightings] . It also records the exact path or Track that I take . This allows me to return the way I came, if no other route is possible [ a feature that has probably saved our lives on multiple occasions].
The waypoints I mark on the GPS are also recorded on my data sheets which are designed to log the Waypoints in an organised way . This will make the job of data analysis
[making sense of the findings] easier.
Now with maps and navigation in check we have to just get one last thing in order. Stay tuned for more …
1. Dhruv Athreye in February 2018 began a survey of mammals in the Palani Hills and is publishing notes of his field work.