Toolbox update 7: How to use Peninsular Malaysia’s first online map of limestone hills

For many years, scientists in Project Limestone have been frustrated by the lack of GIS information on limestone hills in Malaysia.  Till now, information on localities, shapes and sizes could only be obtained from books and journals, but not anymore…

Thanks to Liew and the team, Rimba has created Peninsular Malaysia’s first online map containing 445 hills.  This GIS map can easily be accessed by anyone who has Google Earth. This map is not a final product, but can be constantly improved by anyone who wants to add spatial or biological information on limestone hills. All the methods and data are available for anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.

With this map, we were finally able to conduct a simple conservation prioritisation exercise for limestone hills based on their size and the degree to which they are isolated and disturbed.

You can find our paper published here in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. Meanwhile, here are videos that explain the methodology, and how to update and use this map!

 

Toolbox update 6: Methods for studying pollen

Team Pteropus would like to share a few helpful tips and protocols on how to collect and study pollen. This isn’t just useful for budding botanists, plant ecologists or beekepers! It’s also relevant for wildlife ecologists who want to study the diet of animals that feed on flowers. It’s a good way to identify plant species in animal diet, as different types of plants have different, distinctive pollen shapes and sizes. In order to do this, you’ll need to start by collecting pollen samples directly from the flowers themselves, to build up your very own pollen reference library.

The pollen grains of the passion flower (Passiflora sp.) have a very distinctive 'tennis ball' shape
The pollen grains of the passion flower (Passiflora sp.) have a very distinctive ‘tennis ball’ shape

This latest Biologist’s Toolbox post comes to you all the way from San Jose courtesy of Esteban, who shares with us the pollen extraction protocol he was trained to use by his university. Although it’s also possible (and preferable) to use a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for pollen studies, this can be complicated and expensive. This protocol provides you with a simple and easy-to-adapt method to be used with a normal light microscope, and which you can easily execute yourself.

According to Esteban: Continue reading

Toolbox update 5: Camera trapping database

We have a treat for all you camera trappers out there, especially those with tons of photos lying in the depths of your hard drives gathering virtual dust and cobwebs. Shariff Mohamad, who is a field biologist with WWF-Malaysia, has developed a database for camera trapping data. He is delighted to share his software to make the lives of disorganized camera trappers much easier when it comes to processing camera trap photos for statistical analyses. By the way, Shariff was also one of the authors of the very useful guide to camera trapping in the previous Toolbox update #4. So take it away Shariff!

Happy new year everyone!  The reason I am sharing this is so that camera trappers have an alternative database solution apart from the popular software Camera Base. Unfortunately, there are hardly any camera-trap databases available for public use, so I thought it would be useful to offer an alternative to people out there. I initially considered using Camera Base while looking for data solutions, but in the end decided to create my own using the same platform (MS Access), as at the time I couldn’t figure out how to customize Camera Base according to my specific needs. I want to clarify that I don’t consider my database superior to Camera Base in any way, but am merely providing an alternative data solution for those with similar needs.

So here are the files you need to download: Continue reading

Toolbox update 4: Camera-trapping large tropical mammals

Like the fantastic wildlife photos we’ve been capturing through our camera-trapping work?? Well, using a camera-trap can seem daunting at first, but it’s easily learned, and constant practice will help you hone your skills in no time. We at Rimba owe our camera-trapping experience to our dedicated and hardworking wildlife biologist friends over at WWF-Malaysia. Having carried out biodiversity monitoring work in Peninsular Malaysia since 2005, these tireless field scientists have scoured miles and miles of inhospitable terrain and camped out in dense jungle for weeks at a stretch, all in search of that perfect camera-trap location to obtain valuable evidence of elusive wildlife. They’re now one of the most experienced and knowledgeable researchers when it comes to camera-trapping large mammals in tropical rainforests.

These guys have had plenty of opportunity to develop their skills, and their hard work paid off when one of their camera-trap photos won the BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Camera-trap Photo of the Year in 2010. Happily for the rest of us, they’ve decided to use their vast experience to help out fellow researchers.  Continue reading

Toolbox update 3: Extracting data from MakerNote

This one is for all you biologists using cameras or camera traps out here! Certain cameras and camera traps, such as those from Reconyx, now store much of the image data in binary format in MakerNote. Apart from the Date and Time, which are the most important information we need for data analyses, Reconyx camera trap pictures have additional information such as Temperature and Moon Phases (see below).

Reconyx camera trap photo of a Malayan Sunbear using a viaduct in the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor. © Rimba

Unfortunately,  the data in MakerNote is not readily extracted Continue reading

Toolbox update 2: Creating bias grids for MaxEnt modelling

Let’s say you’ve been travelling across Peninsular Malaysia looking for a particular animal or plant over the years and you’ve marked the GPS coordinates of its presence through an indirect sign (e.g., tracks or vocalizations) or an actual sighting. And one day, you decide to make a map of its distribution, but of course, you do not have the time and effort to look in every nook and cranny of the peninsula to make an accurate map. So wouldn’t you like to know potential places where your species might be found? Over the years, scientists have developed a range of species distribution models (SDMs) to help you do just that. SDMs try to establish a relationship between your species records and the environmental or spatial characteristics (e.g., rainfall, temperature, forest cover, land use types, distance to water sources) of your sampling area (Franklin 2009). In other words, SDMs help to predict where you might find other suitable habitats for your species – you don’t always have to depend on luck to go find them! One of the more popular types of SDMs is Maximum Entropy Modelling Continue reading

Toolbox update 1: Uploading custom maps to Garmin GPS

Have you been frustrated trying to find out how to upload a custom map (e.g. with grid cells and topo maps) to your Garmin GPS? We have. There are always conflicting instructions on the internet and there’s no one website which explains the steps clearly. We’ve decided enough is enough!

Continue reading