Monday, September 8, 2008

ArcGIS and ethics

Today I worked with Susi on some more GIS data from the harbour porpoise. She was very generous with her time in teaching me how to work with Satellite coordinates (attributes) and to create 'kernal home ranges' from point data. We used an extension called 'hawth's tools' for making these shapes that show the high density areas for the animals. I have a pretty thorough understanding of the data and also the difficulties obtaining accurate data (for example only when the satellite transmitters send a signal to the satellite on the right angle is a reading collected.) We are working with numerical data gathered over 10 years and condensed into monthly maps to show behaviour of a small number of the tagged creatures. The porpoise are not caught specifically for tagging - the scientists wait until the animals are caught accidentally in fisherman's nets - then the fishermen notify NERI and they rush out to apply their transmitters to the animals. The transmitter is attached through the dorsal fin - it is painful but they have documented that they heal quickly and show no obvious distress at their technological prosthesis. I have some natural reservations about the process but the scientists have me pretty convinced that they have no better leverage for protecting marine areas from exploitation than the data documentation of the animal movements. There is no doubt that this research method is intrusive and there are some ethical questions but this tension still makes this research important to examine creatively. There is a strange feeling of responsibility to be working with data that certain animals have involuntarily carried out as research for their species. But this is a very different scenario to say, drug testing research which is carried out on animals simply to solve human problems. I am thinking about this...

Susi thinks my first visualisation (using GIS software) uses a poor choice of colours - I agree but now at least I know how to do it and I can begin working on my own animation.

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