Imaging the tropics

I had started writing a post about how I think that ecologists (especially tropical forest folk) ought to try to collaborate with Google Maps to bring in their field research sites to the Google Maps Street View database by hiking with a backpack-cam (I’ve appended what I wrote to the bottom of this post in a gray font).

Halfway through the post, I realized that might already be a way to try to do this! Anyone can fill out this form to borrow the “Trekker” equipment from Google. This is a 42 pound backpack with 15 cameras on it, which capture a photograph every 2.5 seconds. The photos are then stitched together into what we have come to know as the streetview images (information from laptopmag).

Once I begin grad school and figure out where my field site(s) will be, I am definitely going to submit an application. In the mean while, I will stick to taking photographs and hosting them on this blog to do my part in bringing the tropics a little closer to everyone.

Until then, enjoy these tropical locals imaged on Google Street View:

Crater of Sierra Negra Volcano, Isla Isabella

Lago Tumbira, near Manaus, Brazil

Apo Islands, Philippines

Find more amazing “Street” views at this site.
Ecologists travel around the world, to some of the most remote and exotic areas of the world. In my own short career, I’ve been to the forests of Costa Rica and Singapore (admittedly, the latter is neither remote nor exotic), large warehouses full of whale skeletons and Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting trophies at the Smithsonian, and will be deep within China’s forests soon. This begs the question of why Google Maps’ street view does not yet have “street view” from the jungles, mountains and other natural wonders of Costa Rica, Panama, Amazonia, Malaysia, Indonesia, or India. I know that had these images been available to me as a child, I would have spent many hours “exploring” the jungles, trying to spot snakes or identify plants. I am sure that there are budding ecologists around the world who will do the same should they get the chance. Google does have imaging from Manaus, the Galapagos, Colombia, Thailand and Hawaii (see below), but I think that by outsourcing some of the imaging to field ecologists, they could have a lot more. I’d be very happy to devote a few days to the cause and strap on a backpack-cam while in the field. I’m sure this would involve a lot of permitting and paperwork, but given all of that a field-biologist has to go through anyway, I am sure the marginal annoyance wouldn’t be too much.


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