Learner-Shaped Technology

May 18, 2008

Costa Rica Day 6 and home

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 4:05 pm

See flickr for all the pics from the trip.

Got up early to go with a crew over to Firestone. They were casting nets to catch leaf litter for another study on the property. I caught up with some email and talked to Susannah briefly before heading back for more GIS instruction. I really learned a lot. Warren is a great teacher and very patient with all of us. We turned data we gathered with the clinometers and compasses into latitude and longitude using start and finish anchor points we took with the portable GPS devices and COMPASS software. Then we imported all the data from the surveys we had done to see the additional trail maps. It was way cool! All of the points help GIS interpolate elevation, slope, and aspect information, so we get a better handle on both the Hacienda Baru and Firestone property.

eric mapping

I took a quick walk by myself on the trail to the playa (beach). We ate a quick lunch, packed, and took a different route back to San Jose. This road was paved, but very curvy, with some drops that were pretty impressive. I was happy for dramamine and decided it wasn’t worth watching all the crazy passing we were doing on hair-pin turns.

Carol on steep cliff

We stopped at a little over 8,000 ft on the way up and climbed a peak for some great views (see flickr). On the way back into the bus, we ran into a young guy from Japan who had biked from Calgary Canada!! He was looking for a place to pitch a tent for the night. He seemed to be in great spirits for such a long uphill ride with crazy traffic all around.

Mike and Jose Luis

We went out for dinner in San Jose, which is hopping in the evening. Jose-Luis and I (picture above) crossed a street and got stuck in the middle of the road. No one let us go and just honked and whizzed past. I later asked Eric to teach me how to curse in Spanish. I have a couple of phrases in my back pocket that might serve me well in the future 😉 I’m on the plane home to Atlanta, then I drive back to Greenville. Can’t wait to be home, but it was a great trip!

Costa Rica Day 4 and 5

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 3:56 pm

It’s Thursday night before dinner. Just catching up on the events of the last couple of days. Wednesday we surveyed most of the day – the main trails of Haciendu Baru in the morning, then up the slopes towards the overnight camp during the afternoon. The afternoon trip was especially beautiful, and we met up with the group that had hiked up to the top of the ridge, then back down, to connect the surveys.


We saw monkeys in both the morning and afternoon. They were especially active during the late afternoon hike back down the ridge. See flickr for snapshots. I didn’t take too many photos since we were so busy. Surveying got easier as we went. The challenge was getting a decent compass reading on some of the steeper slopes. The work was tedious but pretty rewarding when we saw the final survey. Stayed up late talking GIS with Kate, Travis, and Warren.


Thursday morning. Not feeling well at all. We had a choice to stay for detailed GIS instruction or survey in the river or up near the overnight camp towards the Firestone property. I volunteered for the latter if they needed bodies, but they had enough, so I stayed put. Probably a wise choice based on how I was feeling, but it sounds like both groups had great and strenuous hikes. As the groups left, they caught site of a baby sloth in a tree near the trail. We went over to snap some pictures. It was really close, so I got some great shots. Man, they don’t even look real and are definitely low energy – like me on Saturday morning.

Rain moved in just as the groups were returning. The group that went up to the overnight camp ran into an fer-de-lance. Pedro, the guide for this section, lightly stepped on the head of this highly venomous snake and pinned it with a forked branch, while the rest of the group snapped some photos. Keith said he’d send the shots, and I’ll post his pics soon. It looks like the snake was hot on the trail of lunch, a garter snake, and his would-be prey was also caught on film.

A little more GIS work in the afternoon. I opted out of gathering GPS data on the nearby trails and volunteered to pick up the group hiking the 5k road back to Baru in the car as the storms rolled in. They were pretty close by the time I caught up with them. Pretty low energy day, but I learned a lot of GIS details.

Haven’t had access to phone or internet since Tuesday, so I hope Susannah and the kids aren’t too worried. But there’s really no way to contact them. Hopefully I can put in a call on Friday to them from the Firestone station.

We take a trip back to San Jose up the steep side tomorrow, then head out Saturday morning for home. It’s been a great trip so far! Can’t wait to see Susannah and the kids though.

Costa Rica Day 3

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 3:49 pm

It’s Weds. morning before 8 am and already incredibly hot and steamy. Today is going to be a scorcher. The power died this morning, so I’ll have to type quickly on battery power. Yesterday morning (Tuesday) we hiked the Firestone reserve property taking the North trail along the boundary of the property. We hiked along the river to the waterfall (see flickr pics) and then up the trail for a steep 1,000 ft ascent to the ridge where we met up with the team geocoding the numerous petroglyphs on the site. I took a few snapshots of the petroglyphs, and I think the running total for this ancient rock art is now over 50 on the 300 acre property. Bamboo was planted back when the property was pasture, and it’s really taking over up top. Right now contractors are cutting and treating the wood on site for use in local sustainable building initiatives to keep growth in check. We climbed the bamboo ‘tree fort’ and looked at several petroglyphs while on the ridge, then caught a ride down the mountain with the contractor.


The station was abuzz with student researchers, one of whom described her research to study the impact of the clearing effort on the thickness of remaining bamboo growth. She cautioned about the many snakes she’d seen that morning and commented, “Geez, I hate snakes”. Lunch was great. I’m getting hooked on fresh mango and pineapple.

After lunch Warren went over some GIS information, and we learned some surveying techniques using compass bearings and inclination measurements. It really takes a steady hand and some patience to get good readings. After that we surveyed a loop on the property and then ran the data through COMPASS software to determine our loop closure error which was less than 2%. Not too shabby! Travis did a great job with measurements.

Back to the property for dinner, a little more GIS instruction, and a great slideshow from Keith and Don (the bat experts) on some visits to caves in Panama. I was going to run on the beach this morning and opted for an extra hour of sleep instead. Determined to try tomorrow am, my last chance, I think.

Today we stay on the Haciendu Baru to survey in the lowlands, so we can connect to the Firestone surveys. That means hot and buggy and no internet, since we only get that at the Firestone station. I’m anxious to gather real rather than practice data. I had a quick Skype conversation with Susannah before the kids got out of school, and it worked pretty well. I miss her and the kids a lot and am bummed that it will be another day before I can communicate with them in any shape or form.

Man, it’s hot today, and it’s not even 9 am. More tomorrow. More pics from Tuesday added to flickr. Check ’em out.

May 13, 2008

Costa Rica Day 2

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 3:15 pm

We’re now at the Hacienda Baru, after a long, bone-jarring and motion-sickness-inducing ride down the mountain and past palm oil plantations. I posted pictures on my flickr account which includes a shot of one of the oil palm processing plants along the route.

The cabins are nice with loads of fans to take the edge off the damp afternoon heat.

We got in late afternoon but still had time for a quick hike in the property. It’s beautiful. We hiked down to the Pacific ocean as the sun was starting to set and hiked back using flashlights while within the canopy. It was still light enough outside the canopy that we didn’t need artificial light. There were quite a few bats buzzing us on the walk back and apparently this is the trail where they saw a fer-de-lance last year. Nothing this time – phew!. See flickr for photos from the hike.

beach 1

After dinner on the property, we headed back to the cabins. On the way we saw two large frogs. We got so into tracking down the frogs that we failed to realize we were standing on an ant hill (probably the frog’s source of food). Once the biting began, we quickly realized we were covered in ants and started the appropriate swatting and dancing routine until the little buggers were gone. Ouch.

Got up around 5 am and starting composing email and the blog, so that I could make the most of internet time today, if we get it. Off to the Firestone Preserve to check out the property and start GIS training in the afternoon.

Oh, I almost forgot. Check out the crocs we saw at lunch. They’re huge!

May 12, 2008

Arrived in Costa Rica

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 10:26 am

Arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica last night and walked around for a short time this morning. We leave in a few minutes for the coast to start our mapping of the area between the Firestone Preserve and the Hacienda Baru. Off to view some crocodiles. Here are a few quick pics from outside the hotel in San Jose.

san jose 1san jose 2

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