What’s New In GIS And Biological Research: 30 March 2015

30 Mar

In  this week’s picks of software releases, blog posts and articles from the last seven days (or so), you’ll find a number of interesting things for those who use GIS for biological research.

Firstly, if you’re interested in doing GIS on a computer running a Unix operating system, then you should check out Haojie Zhu’s GIS On Unix blog. It’s not been up and running for long, but it already has some good tips for those who wish to do GIS in this way.

Secondly, there’s a new release of the Time Manager plug in for QGIS. This allows you to add time controls to the functionality of QGIS, and is likely to be of particular interest to those who work with tracking data or animal movements. If this sounds like something you’d find useful, you can find out more about it on Anita Graser’s Free and Open Source GIS Ramblings blog .

In terms of actually doing GIS, there’s a rather useful post on the ProximityOne blog about how to create and use shapefiles of address locations. This is something which can be particularly useful to be able to do if you are dealing with data collected by members of the public as part of Citizen  Science projects. Unfortunately, this article only covers US addresses, but there are likely to be similar resources for other countries.

Another useful ‘how to’ post from the last week comes from James’ GIS Blog, and provides advice on how to merge more than 3 layers in ArcGIS, without needing a costly Advanced licence. The approach suggested, based around using Modelbuilder to run repeated tasks, will also work in other circumstances, and is a trick which it is always worth remembering if you get stuck in ArcGIS because of licence issues.

For those interested in using GIS to create a land suitability model (LSM), there’s a nice ‘how to’ post by Michele Goe on their blog. As biologists, you might at first struggle to work out how this might be relevant to you research, but LSMs are just another way of saying habitat suitability analysis, or even species distribution modelling.

Another post which might, at first, seem to be rather irrelevant to ecologists is Shredding with Satellites: Creating A DEM from GPS Collection Points. However, it’s a nice informal introduction into how you can collect elevation data and use it to create a land elevation raster data layer. This is just the type of thing you might need to do if you wanted to conduct a habitat suitability analysis (or even a land suitability model!).

On a more ecological note, there’s an interesting article on rewilding and the re-introduction of the Eurasian lynx into the UK. This has been a topic which seems to be becoming more and more talked about recently. However, much of the groundwork behind exploring whether such a re-introduction would even be feasible was done by using GIS to identify suitable habitat patches for Lynx (another biological version of the geographer’s land suitability analysis) and then look at the connectivity between these patches to see if they could support viable populations (which they can in Scotland). If you want to find out more about how this was done, you can download PDF of a paper which I co-authored on this subject a few years ago here.

Finally for this week, check out this post about movements of Africa White-backed vultures. The accompanying image of the tracks of tagged vultures is a nice example of how Google Earth can be used to share spatial data and the results of GIS-based analyses to non-spatial specialists, members of the public and other potential stakeholders. This is something I have long been passionate about, and it is something I feel we should all do more often.

So these are the GIS-related things that have caught my eye this week, but I’m sure there’s a lot of other good stuff out there as well.

Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology


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