GPS: simple yet complicated

Taking the GPS coordinate of a study plot is actually one of the easiest measurements an ecologist can do. However it is an often over-looked or underused tool because the typical ecologist fears incorporating a spatial component to their analysis. Although spatial statistics can be extremely challenging, it shouldn’t be a limiting step to taking this measurement. ArcGIS can easily determine some forgotten measurements between plots post-hoc from the comforts of your home rather than field level. Moreover, if you are the person to shy away from spatial stats, a fellow collaborator can add reanalyze your data or incorporate it in their own for a larger scale project. Over time, these study plots may be reused or avoided depending on the measurements and treatments applied. For these reasons, it is important to not only take the GPS of your site, but of each study plot (i.e. replicate).

To do this in a manageable way there needs to be a coordinated naming structure. Ideally GPS points should be listed in both CVS or GPX files but either is sufficient. Each file could contain a single batch of coordinates, for example from an entire experiment, or a collection of different experiments. What is particularly important though is that the name for each point should be broken down by: Location – Experiment – Plot ID. For instance, an experiment adding water to shrubs at Panoche Hills might have the codes:

PAN_Water_S01

PAN_Water_S02

PAN_Water_S03

Etc.

There are huge potentials by “GPSing” a study plot!

08 shrubs