On St Patrick’s day 2011, at the end of a four-day field trip to Bilbao in the Basque Country, eleven NUIM Geography 2nd Year students were asked to go in three groups and collect data at 58 points in the downtown area of the city. The weather was harsh but they conducted the exercise with a fantasic spirit. They used GPS (global positioning system) units to record the coordindates of their points, nifty little digital anemometers which recorded wind speeds and temperatures, noise level monitors, digital cameras to take photographs of what they saw at each point, and good old notepads to write down a few notes about what they felt defined each place.
Below, we present some of their results. First, in the embedded Google Map below (which you can also view by clicking here), you can see the location of the 58 points and if you click on any point you should be able to see the photograph they took and the notes they wrote down.
Note that the textual notes don’t always correspond with the photo — but what you should also bear in mind here is that trying to capture what a place is like with one photo is by no means easy!
The other data students collected – on wind speed, temperature, and noise levels – yielded further insight. For example, the students put together their data on temperature and used GIS (geographical information systems) software to interpolate a surface across the study area, thereby highlighting where temperatures were high and low:
This map shows that temperatures were highest in the centre of the city, possibly due to a heat island effect — although, of course, we wouldn’t want to say anything with too much certainty based on this small sample. Still, you can get some idea for what a more rigorous study of temperatures could yield (if, for example, temperatures were recorded more than once during a day).
With some more advanced GIS applications, it’s possible to do some more with the data. Take the data on wind speed, for example. Interpolating the data into a 3D surface yields the following image:
The following image does the same for noise levels and temperature:
We can even use the data to go one step further and make a short animation based on the data. Take the noise data, for example. We can drape the 3D interpolation over the map of Bilbao and take a tour of sorts around the data:
In summary, the students collected some great data that open up numerous opportunities to learn more skills about GIS, spatial data, and of course all of the various Web 2.0 technologies that have been used to make this sort of blog post.
Did the students enjoy their field trip? The image below suggests they did:
Alistair Fraser & Stephen McCarron (oh, with thanks to Ronan Foley and Bettina Steffani)
ps. You can access the data here, using Google Fusion Tables (GFT). GFT makes it posible to work with and edit the data in some really cool ways, but for some reason embedding the results in this blog post has not been possible.