Geo-referencing was one of the alien terms introduced to me. Thankfully for Nanthinee, who is going to be a graduate student at NUS this coming semester, I've finally grasped a rough idea on what geo-referencing is all about.
In order to understand geo-referencing, one must know what HerpNET is first. Basically, natural history museums around the world are collating the collection of the study of reptiles and amphibians by bringing together knowledge from world wide museums to generate a database of these herpetological collections. This will facilitate understanding and ultimately conservation as this database has a great wealth of knowledge from all corners of the world. In fact, it being accessible via various portals makes it a great online tool for research too. All that said and more to be found at the above link.
Finding coordinates to the localities that are provided is what geo-referencing is about in just a few words. The larger picture behind it includes a whole lot of map reading techniques that no geography teacher has ever come close to introducing me. I thought it was really nice of Nanthinee to sit down patiently and explain things one by one, if I must say, painstakingly. Well at least now my knowledge of maps extends beyond just scales and contours to triangulation points, datum and projection. One interesting item was projection. Maps being a 2-D depiction of a 3-D Earth never crossed my mind once till she explained; making me realise the many simple things in life that I've taken granted for.
Also, learning how to express coordinates was totally fresh. I never knew they were measured in degrees, minutes and seconds. That level of measurement had always seemed to me like morse codes and now that I've got it right, I thought I could be on my way to geo-referencing. Yet, I could not be more wrong.
Sheets of Excel spreadsheets were opened relentlessly, displaying laborious work done by November, Grace and Nanthinee. The overwhelming number of columns were daunting. Fortunately, once again for Nanthinee, she went through each part and made it easier to see through the bulk and realise the intricate organisation of the data.
Throughout the entire tutorial, I have to say almost 50% made not much sense to me. I have to admit I'm bad at map reading, but Nanthinee made it seem almost like a breeze. She whipped us to the map room which was located along a corridor I used to wander along during term time, and yet still fail to notice it. There, we met Sarkina who will be seeing us and assisting us a lot in getting the relevent maps. Once she pulled out several maps, Nanthinee got down to a simple demonstration on how to read scales and deriving coordinates.
Although I can now give coordinates to a localities given a map and a ruler, it still remains fuzzy about doing the actual geo-referencing. I guess learning skills in life is not enough. To etch it in our brains, the application of the skill is essential. That'd be for another blog entry to come.