The time is fast approaching for me to leave New Brunswick and take up my new position as Research Coordinator at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This is likely my last post on this website, which I will maintain as an archive of my experiences in the Maritimes over the last 7 years. A heartfelt thank you to everyone I met along the way. I've had so many rewarding experiences here I feel as if I've lived a lifetime already. Hope to see you on the west coast!
I'm a little late in getting to this post. The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as we prepare to move across the country to our new home on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. More on that a little later…
Grand Manan Island is one of our favourite spots in New Brunswick; Hana and I have visited it together every year and we wanted to make sure we made one last trip before we left the province. It's a rugged, beautiful, and moody place with wonderful light—a photographer's dream. Lots of fine trails to explore, too.
Red Point Trail is a short hike through part of Anchorage Provincial Park near Seal Cove. Views across the bay toward Wood Island can be seen early on the trail as it winds through low alder bushes. Continuing through mixed woods, one can catch occasional glimpses of the island's two main geological formations—red sedimentary rock and younger, gray volcanic rock—before dropping down to Long Pond Beach.
Our second day on the island saw us tackle something a little longer—a hike out towards Eel Lake, thought to be the crater of an old volcano. Our 20-year-old hiking guide described the trail as an "old woods road", but we soon discovered a lot of more recent logging activity in the mixed woods. Parts of the trail are quite overgrown with many offshoots, making the use of a compass necessary. Negotiating ruts and slippery snowmelt mud, we finally stumbled on a cabin at the end of the trail, where we paused for lunch.
Our final day took us by ferry to White Head Island, named for its white quartz headland. We followed the Battle Beach trail towards the lighthouse and beach at Sandy Cove, stopping along the way to explore the edge of a bog and "sunken forest" ecosystem, and trying—unsuccessfully—to locate a local geocache, although we found lots of other treasure, as you can see from the shots.
Yesterday saw us at Hays Falls, near Meductic, New Brunswick. It's been a year-and-a-half since we last visited, and yesterday was our first winter trip.
Still lots of snowpack in the forest—more than knee deep in places—but well compacted on the main trail to make for an easy hike, with eyes peeled in the more open areas for icy sections.
The trail to the falls is an obscure fork off the main Indian Trail, an old Maliseet portage and national historic site. It's a short hike—about an hour, return—and very rewarding. The trail ascends a beautiful hardwood ridge, then gifts you with the creek and falls at the end. Spectacular, even more so in winter.
After dabbling with EveryTrail.com yesterday, I decided to check out a few alternative websites that also offered display of geotagged photos: Panoramio, Picasa (both operated by Google), Flickr, and Locr.
Of the four, Picasa, Flickr, and Locr read the geo-metadata of the images and displayed them without a hitch, whereas Panoramio failed to display my images at all. I liked the minimalist displays offered by Picasa and Flickr but, for me, Flickr had the aesthetic edge; the photo thumbnails on the Picasa map are a nice touch, but result in a cluttered view at standard zoom levels. Locr is capable of generating a slideshow display, complete with auto-generated location-specific facts at the top of the page. Very nice!
Each of these sites has an upload limit (monthly, total, or both), but each also offers additional hosting space and relaxed uploading limits if upgrading to a paid account. As far as I could tell, none of these services offered embedding of generated maps into a webpage, at least not directly. Also, each focuses solely on photos, compared with EveryTrail — admittedly, designed for a different audience — which is capable of displaying photos, video, and GPS track, waypoint, and altitude info in an embedded map.
Depending on your needs, and where you already host your photos, any of these sites are quite capable of displaying your geotagged shots (I'll revisit Panaramio — I suspect user error!).
For me, EveryTrail comes out on top. The site is well designed and intuitive, with an active user base, and the ability to host and map both photos and video is a treat. What really sets it apart from the other sites is its inclusion of GPS data on the map. Track and waypoint information provide much more context to geotagged images than simple location information as images can be associated with a particular trip and browsed in sequence. Move your cursor over an embedded map and you're presented with the option to display trip statistics: speed and altitude changes over time during the trip. Best of all, the site is free, has great support (that metadata problem I had yesterday? — fixed, thanks to the forums), and Chris McCarty wrote to say that they have no upload limits. Excellent! And if you own an iPhone, there's even more to love.
Armed with a camera and GPS, we spent an hour walking around the neighbourhood this afternoon. I'm enjoying photography more and more of late, and I wanted an easy way to geotag my shots and display them on a map. There are a few options out there; I thought I'd give EveryTrail a try first.
EveryTrail is very intuitive to set up and use, and produces very nice Flash maps (above). However, it seemed to have problems reading the GPS metadata correctly in my photos, requiring me to manually locate each shot on the map — not a deal-breaker with 8 pictures, but this would prove tedious with a longer trip. If you have used EveryTrail yourself and have any tips, please do share them.
I hope to try some of the alternatives over the next few days; I'll post my experiences here when I do.
Do you geotag your photos? What online services do you use to display your trips?
On Tuesday, New Brunswick Environment Minister Rick Miles was in the village of Cambridge-Narrows to present Robena Weatherley and the Canaan-Washademoak Watershed Association (CWWA) with Environmental Leadership Awards.
Robena's Lifetime Achievement award reflects both her work as a founding member of CWWA as well as her commitment to environmental advocacy throughout her life. As a member of CWWA, Robena has been instrumental in contributing to environmental education in the watershed and beyond through print and audio-visual publications, volunteering with schools, and other community activities.
CWWA received recognition in the Communities, Groups and Organizations category for their continuing work in monitoring water quality, fish populations, forest diversity, and stream ecology in the watershed.
Award recipients were presented with a framed pewter medal and a certificate for a tree to be planted to commemorate their achievements.
Back in Fredericton, two of our summer projects reached significant milestones.
At Devon Middle School, the interpretive sign for the outdoor classroom has been installed at the constructed wetland. Educators from both the school and the Fredericton Chapter of Ducks Unlimited have been teaching students with the wetland resource throughout the fall, and vegetables from the organic garden were recently harvested and enjoyed throughout the school. It's immensely satisfying to see these resources being used, and we hope that they will continue to develop and provide benefit to the school and local community for years to come.
Finally, Thursday saw the official opening of the nature trail at Garden Creek School. Attended by representatives from the School District and funding agencies, trail volunteers, educators, parents, and school staff and students, the day's events were an opportunity thank all those involved in the project and to celebrate what we had achieved together.
The next step in the trail project will be to develop cross-curricular lessons and activities that utilize the trail and the habitats through which it passes (forest, creek, grassland, and wetland) to teach a number of New Brunswick Elementary School outcomes. This we hope to complete in early 2010.
Jane Hart maintains a Top Ten Tools List contributed to by learning professionals from all over the world. These are my essential utilities:
1. Twitter: While I much prefer the functionality of the open source Identica, Twitter remains a vital point of contact for me with those in the science and education communities. Given Twitter's 140 character limit, I often make use of a tool such as LinkBunch to enable sharing of a number of related links in one short URL. [Online, free]
2. Google Reader: I recently made the shift from NetNewsWire to Google Reader as my RSS feed reader of choice and am very impressed with its stability and options for connectivity with other Google applications and users. Active script communities help contribute further functionality to Google Reader's web interface. [Online, free]
3. Socialite (née EventBox): There is so much to be learned from our social networks and RSS feeds that I need an effective tool to filter and categorize all of this information while also enabling me to contribute easily to it. I use Socialite for this purpose, combined with OmniGrowl for on-screen notifications of replies and new posts featuring keywords of interest. [Socialite: Mac, commercial; OmniGrowl: Mac, commercial]
4. Keynote: For presentations that look great and are a joy to design. Al Gore uses it. [Mac, commercial]
5. Tags: While I still maintain a folder structure on my laptop, Tags enables me to add an additional layer of information to files, folders, and, wonderfully, email messages. I think of it as an off-line Delicious (see below) for all the data on my hard drive. [Mac, commercial]
6. Weebly: The free website builder that I use to create and maintain this site. Easy to use, stable, downloadable archives, and excellent support and development. The Weebly team has just announced support for educators and classrooms. [Online, free/commercial]
7. Delicious: The venerable online bookmark sharing service. Browsing the network is a wonderful experience of serendipitous learning and can become quite addictive. [Online, free]
8. Adium: An instant messaging client that supports a multitude of services, including Twitter and Facebook chat. Stable and infinitely customizable, with an active developer community. [Mac, free]
9. iGTD (discontinued but still available for download): Essential for keeping track of all my projects and related activities, iGTD applies David Allen's (not Daevid Allen's) Getting Things Done approach to task management and connects with my PDA and calendar and email software. Bartek Bargiel, the software's creator, has since moved on to work on Things, a similar GTD application. [iGTD: Mac, donation; Things: Mac, commercial]
10. iTunes: My tool of choice for subscribing to podcasts and for maintaining daily sanity. [Mac/Windows, free]
The use of analogies in language can often act as scaffolding to a better understanding of other new ideas. Biological analogies, in particular, have often proven useful to convey ideas in other disciplines. For example: Lokta-Volterra equations of predator-prey and population dynamics applied to economic growth; Alan AtKisson's "amoeba of culture" model of social change; and the "state as living organism" in Plato's "Republic".
Recently, my attention was drawn to an article by Stan Stalnaker in the Harvard Business Review. In it, Stalnaker outlines a model for sustainable economies using cells as a biological analogy. It's a wonderful and inspiring piece that calls for a much-needed shift in our economic thinking, akin to a reframing of Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful".
As a wake-up call and economic model, I applaud it: we desperately need more thinking (and application of such thinking) like this. However, from an environmental science perspective, the analogy doesn't quite work for me, which is unfortunate as it, arguably, undermines somewhat the scaffolding Stalnaker has constructed on which to hang his ideas, while presenting a strained application of biological principles — something I assume the author of an environmental economic model would wish to avoid.
For example, do the "cells" represent individual businesses and the "body" the larger economy, or is the body a business and each cell a surrogate for one of the various desirable qualities pursued by a business — "sustainable" growth, skills development, product or service diversity? The terminology here is unclear to me.
The analogy falls apart when cycles and waste reduction are brought into the picture.
At the ecosystem or community scale, this is fine — wastes get recycled by decomposer organisms into the building blocks for a new generation of plants and animals. But Stalnaker's cellular analogy is at the wrong scale: the operation of cells and organisms is essentially linear: food in, waste out. The materials loop is not closed until one considers the larger scale of the biological community or ecosystem — these are the scales at which sustainability starts to become possible, and why the cellular analogy is such an awkward one. An ecosystem analogy for economics is more appropriate in this instance and has already proven both popular and useful.
So, are analogical flaws a concern? Seung Sahn would go as far as to say, "Open mouth, already big mistake!" Certainly the message is what is ultimately important — agreed; but, from an education perspective, how we get there — the process of constructing understanding, the language we use — is vitally important, too.
If we are to communicate, we should do so in a way in which understanding is furthered, but not at the expense of understanding elsewhere.
At a time when biological imagery and principles are (mis)appropriated to sell any number of goods and services, when poor scientific understanding leads to the perpetuation of dangerous myths, and when levels of ecological literacy are considered inadequate, then yes, how we deliver messages is important.
Analogies are useful tools, but we have to make sure they are sound. To not do so undermines their usefulness and risks unnecessary misunderstanding. They may get stretched a little to make a point, but their author should be aware of their limits. In Stalnaker's model, a change of scale is all that is needed: the same welcome economic blueprint he presents is left intact, the biological analogy is not distorted, and a teachable moment on the principles of ecology — and sound business — is provided: the purpose of the insightful model all along.
Our signs arrived this week for our projects at Devon Middle and Garden Creek schools. The team at Jack Rabbit Signs did a great job! We plan to install these at the schools over the coming weeks.
Click on each sign to see a high-resolution version: