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Mappt User Story: Researching primitive termite species in outback Australia

We caught up with Nicholas Hart at our offices in Perth this week. Nicholas was the 2017 winner of the “Takor Group prize for GIS” at the University of Western Australia.

Nicholas continued his studies at UWA in the School of Biological Sciences and recently submitted his thesis focusing on  primitive termite species in Australia.

Termites collected from a fallen tree

Termites collected from a fallen tree

We got the lowdown on the objectives of his thesis and how Mappt helped with the extensive field work involved in his research.

Mappt: G’day Nick. So tell us a bit about what you have been doing this past year….

After completing my degree in 2017, I decided to stay at UWA to pursue an Honours degree. The subject that I chose for my thesis was “Population and Landscape Genetics of a Primitive Termite Species” which was something my tutor had some experience with from research he had done decades ago so there was existing data on a broad and fine scale. The goal of my study was to relate genetic patterns in termite populations to spatial patterns in the landscape. In an ancient land like Australia, the landscape is stable so there is a lot of time for genetic patterns to emerge between populations. Extensive field research in 3 disparate outback locations was required so that was another thing that attracted me to the subject.

What locations did you visit for research? I am picturing wide open barren plains – how do you locate a tiny creature like a termite in such a vast landscape?

I spent time in the Pilbara region in Western Australia as well as areas around Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. So yes – difficult places to find little insects but once you get used to the landscape and know what to look for, it actually becomes surprisingly easy to pick out the termite colonies – even at distance.

A screenshot from Mappt showing geotagged photos from study sites around Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia

A screenshot from Mappt showing geotagged photos from study sites around Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia

Why did you need to use GIS?

GIS was important as each data point has genetic information and it all had to be related to landscape features.

What type of landscape features are we talking about?

I needed to look at termite populations that were genetically distinct and see if there was a landscape feature separating the populations. Examples of landscape features are elevated areas which would have acted as refuges during ancient sea-level rises, big rivers with floodplains or even deep cracking clay soils.

So basically anything that would have separated one termite population from another for varying periods of time?

Correct. I found that the scale of the genetic patterns was related to the scale of the landscape variables that defined them.

Overview of some termite populations (yellow icons) separated by a landscape feature (in red)

Overview of some termite populations (yellow icons) separated by a landscape feature (in red)

Why did you need Mappt?

I needed something to assist with the collection of samples in the offline environment. I wanted something that would be an alternative to pen & paper, and swapping between a hand-held GPS and a digital camera. Mappt facilitated all of this in one device.

We often get asked about hardware so I’d be interested to hear what device were you using.

I used my HTC One Android smartphone.

So a pretty small screen then?

Yes but I found it usable for my purposes.

What Mappt features did you find most useful in the field?

I used the GPS tracking tool for orientation & navigation around the study sites. I created custom forms for collecting attribute data at each study site. I had some reference spatial data for some of the study sites which I loaded in to Mappt. I also captured a lot of spatial data – mostly as points – and took a lot of geotagged photos. Keeping a photographic record of the study site was important for investigating how the disturbance of the habitat affected the population and to relate the fine-level data collection with the broad-scale landscape features and thus identify populations for comparison. All the spatial data was exported to shapefile and I conducted analysis on the data using QGIS and R in the office.

A termite-infested tree in Western Australia

A termite-infested tree in Western Australia

Summing up then – would you recommend Mappt to others?

Yes definitely. For zoological and botanical field work, it is a definite advantage. There is less equipment and “stuff” to carry.  Everything is stored together – spatial points, geotagged photos, attributes, navigation & orientation – so there is less administration whilst at the study site. When it comes to planning, it is a definite time-saver and I also found it was easier to adapt with Mappt to changing conditions when in the field.

A custom data collection form template for the termite population study

A custom data collection form template for the termite population study

That’s great feedback. So what’s next for you?

Well I submitted my thesis this week. Yesterday, in fact. It’s been pretty hectic to get to this point so I am looking forward to a break. But there is plenty of potential for further work in this area so I am considering more academia in the future. But first a break.

Thank you for your time, Nick and all the best in the future.

by Ciaran Doyle

Mappt is a mobile GIS and data collection app for smartphones and tablets. It enables field operators to easily map and capture data offline in remote areas using their GPS-enabled tablet or mobile phone.

Try Mappt today by downloading it from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store

 

Mappt User Story: Measuring Ecological & Economic Effectiveness of Restoration Actions

Judith Fisher is an ecologist in Western Australia and an Elected Member of the IPBES Multidisciplinary Expert Panel Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Judith exemplifies the “think global, act local” belief.

Judith Fisher, an acclaimed ecologist and Mappt power user

Judith Fisher, an acclaimed ecologist and Mappt power user

She has spent countless days over the past 10 months documenting & mapping baseline information on plant communities and invasive species in an urban nature reserve close to her home. Trigg Bushland is an “A Class” reserve located approximately 11km north-west of the Perth CBD in Western Australia and is roughly 170 hectares in size.

Judith has developed a method for measuring the ecological and economic effectiveness of the restoration actions which have taken place within the reserve.

But first she must establish a baseline. After much searching on the market for a suitable mobile data collection app to help her in the field, Judith discovered Mappt. She has configured a custom data collection form in Mappt that allows her to map out the boundaries of individual map communities within the reserve and document the native & invasive species within each community. She uses a Samsung 10″ tablet and a copy of Mappt Professional to record the spatial and non-spatial data. The data is exported at regular intervals off the tablet and analysed using desktop GIS.

Plant communities in the Trigg Busland

Plant communities in the Trigg Busland

The City of Stirling (where Trigg Reserve is located) and City of Mandurah (100km south of Perth) have already adopted Judith’s methodology. But it won’t end there – Judith’s past experience with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and her current work with the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has lead her to believe that this methodology can be applied around the world.

We met up with Judith one VERY windy day in Trigg Bushland Reserve to hear more about her work and experiences using Mappt in the field.

Check out our video interview here – https://youtu.be/m28liqaFt24

(Apologies in advance for the audio quality. Did I mention it was very windy…?)

Connect with Judith on LinkedIn

PS: If you enjoyed the aerial drone shots of Trigg in the video , check out this video for some bonus footage: https://youtu.be/2hL4SfY_VeY

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External GPS sources for Mappt Part 2: Mapping in the Field with RTK GNSS (survey-grade GPS)

In our last post we covered how to configure your tablet or phone to receive an external GPS signal via Bluetooth.  Here we share our experience of linking up Mappt with survey-grade RTK GNSS (Real Time Kinematic Global Navigation Satellite System) to achieve centimetre-level positional accuracy.

 

Utilising RTK GNSS and Mappt for centimetre-level positional accuracy

Utilising RTK GNSS and Mappt for centimetre-level positional accuracy

Achieving Survey-Grade Positional Accuracy with Mappt

Joe user asks, “Hey how can I achieve high positional accuracy with Mappt?

The short answer is, “Bluetooth to an RTK GNSS to achieve centimetre level accuracy“.

What’s GNSS?

GNSS, is the collective term for all satellite positioning systems which includes GPS (USA), BeiDou (China), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (Europe), IRNSS (India), and QZSS (Japan).  Phones, tablets, and survey-grade systems use satellites from multiple positioning systems, thus we’re referring to these systems as GNSS (rather than GPS).

The Benefits of Using Mappt in conjunction with RTK GNSS

Mappt’s flexibility and onboard functionality helps users achieve the full benefits of high accuracy RTK GNSS while in the field.  For example when using Mappt in conjunction with RTK GNSS, users have in-field access to these mapping tools;

  • Locate and save point features with unlimited attributes
  • Thematic Mapping gives users the ability to colour code mapped information while in the field
  • Layering of data types to achieve hierarchal data structure and visualisation
  • Interactive functionality (exclusion & inclusion zone warnings) improving field safety
  • The ability to display web-based aerial/satellite imagery and other GIS information such as WMS, WMTS, & WFS
    • With a data connection, this data is continuously updated as you move to new areas
  • Offline display of high resolution aerial and satellite images (ECW, JP2)
  • Multi-user data capture & updates using MapptAir.

RTK GNSS Gear

In our previous post we detailed how to configure your mobile device to receive location information via Bluetooth.  Thanks to Mangoesmapping and Ascon Surveys both for their technical support and equipment (on loan) used to complete our trial.  We found the Emlid Reach RS RTK GNSS units (available from Mangoesmapping) suitable for this trial.

Our Field Experience

The following data was acquired in less than one hour (including setup and pack down of the RTK base unit and survey pole mounted rover unit).  Data collection in this small urban bushland was on-the-fly as point types were added as deemed necessary.  Points types collected included kerb locations, footpath limits and walking tracks.  Point types were added to our field form as necessary thus the list of point types was added to as new elements were observed.  *To save time, a dropdown list of point ID’s can be created prior to leaving for the site.  In the limited time spent onsite, three point IDs were all that was necessary.  We also utilised the geotracking utility to map in the trails crossing the site as well as to create a geofenced area at the park’s centre.  Lastly we tested Mappt’s geofence alerts feature by entering and exiting our geofenced area.  Have a look at this video showing how it works.

Mappt mobile GIS data gathering using RTK GNSS at Signal Hill, Belmont, WA

Mappt mobile GIS data gathering using RTK GNSS at Signal Hill, Belmont, WA

What we took away from the experience.

It was a simple step to download all data gathered to shape files and import them into QGIS.  We mapped in such features as the back of kerb, footpath limits, and bush tracks.  RTK GNSS units have the ability to validate/qualify positional information with an audible “Fixed” to indicate that positional information is within your specified accuracy.  Likewise when the positional information is below spec an audio warning “Float” will alert users that possibly more time at that location is needed to gain a fixed position or that trees or buildings are hampering satellite reception.  Our recommendation is to have this activated on your RTK GNSS receivers to eliminate collecting data of low positional uncertainty (occurs in areas of high tree cover and when adjacent to tall buildings) .

QGIS map showing GIS data gathered using RTK GNSS and Mappt

QGIS map showing GIS data gathered using RTK GNSS and Mappt

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External GPS sources for Mappt. Part 1: Configuration

gis_manAre you looking to improve your positional accuracy in Mappt?  

Connecting to an external Bluetooth GPS can help!

We’re often asked about improving the positional accuracy information used by Mappt.  As you may know, Mappt uses the onboard GPS from your mobile phone/tablet.  While the on-board GPS accuracy may be sufficient for some types of mapping, others require higher accuracy.  To achieve this Mappt can utilise an external Bluetooth GPS feed.  GPS devices capable of streaming positional information via Bluetooth in the NMEA format are suitable for Mappt.

As phones and tablets are designed to utilise their own integral GPS hardware, Mappt users will need to utilise a third-party application to incorporate an external Bluetooth GPS feed.  These external Bluetooth GPS streams serve to oreplace the internal GPS service to thus provide higher positional accuracy.  Android refers to these apps as Mock Location Providers since app developers often need a GPS feed for coding and testing.  One Bluetooth streaming app compatible with Mappt is Bluetooth GPS (on Google Play).

bluetooth-gps

Bluetooth GPS is available on the Google Play Store

After installing Bluetooth GPS it’s necessary to enable Developer Options, accessed via the Settings on your device.  Developer Options can be enabled by first finding the Build Number (for our device* it’s under Settings-About Tablet-Software Information) and tapping Build Number seven times.  A notification will appear to inform you that Developer Options have been enabled.  Afterwards in Developer Options (Settings-Developer Options-Debugging), users need to select Bluetooth GPS as the Mock Location Provider.

Link to Youtube Video: Settings to Enable Bluetooth

Settings to Enable Bluetooth GPS for Mappt

Then connect to the external device via Bluetooth and start Bluetooth GPS on the tablet.  From the Select Paired GPS device and connect list, choose the device and tap CONNECT.  The screen will be updated with new location parameters.  You’re now receiving location information via Bluetooth! Check out this video showing how to enable an external Bluetooth GPS for Mappt

* The configuration can vary depending on your tablet or phone.

 

 

 

Natural Disaster Prevention in the Netherlands

Mappt gives geospatial technology lecture at University of Twente 

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Mappt 2.1.1.2 has been released

The Mappt team is thrilled to announce the latest and greatest version has just hit the Play Store. It introduces a few new and powerful features and a lot of bug fixes and improvements.

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Geotagged Photos

You asked and we delivered. You can now take photos or load them from the gallery directly onto the map as fully capable Mappt features. Moving the photo around will even re-write the images exif meta data.

Pretty neat huh?  Here are a few happy snaps we took while in the beautiful South West of WA.

Screenshot_2015-04-28-11-24-28

Spot the selfie stick

Drop Downs

You will also notice a new button called ‘Load Attribute File’ in the Attributes tab of the Layer properties dialog.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.48.25 am

It looks innocuous enough, but it’s very powerful as it eliminates the repetition and human error from your field data collection. In short, you pre-define attributes and values from a CSV file.  When it’s time to enter in values for an attribute, you simply select them from a drop down list instead of manually entering them.

The format of the CSV (comma separated values) file is simple enough. The first field is the title of the attribute and each subsequent field is a valid value.  You can create these CSV files from an Excel spreadsheet. Each row represents a single attribute, the first column is the title and each following column is a value. When you’re finished, export it as a CSV, upload it to the tablet, load the file on the desired layer and you are good to go.

Name features by attribute value

While we’re on the topic of attributes, you should check out the new selector on the Edit Layer dialog.  It allows you to rename all features on that list based on the value of an attribute, which is very handy for navigating your datasets from different angles.

Bug fixes and UI Tweaks

As always, we are dedicated to eliminating those pesky bugs and improving the User Interface. This build has over two dozen fixes and tweaks over the entire application, making it the most stable and intuitive Mappt release to date.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 12.14.57 pm

Finally, because it makes me smile, here is a baboon hugging a cat.

Prime-mates

Mappt attends the Locate 15 Conference

New technologies, inspiring speakers and more 3D you can shake your glasses at

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