Geotagging brings new meaning to Location in scientific observations

May 8, 2013

As a science teacher, you know that the exact location an organism is discovered helps to gain a true sense of the role and importance that an organism plays within its specific ecosystem. As such, you teach your students to make observations in their journals about what they see at the sample location.

However, instead of noting five dragon flies were observed flying at the edge of a pond, what if you could have a photograph of the dragon flies at the East corner of the pond, with longitude and latitude cited? Precise location of specific subjects, like our dragon fly example, can be easily documented automatically, allowing expanded studies, for example, to explore the relationship of the dragon fly population within the local ecosystem and beyond.

Welcome to Geotagging.

Geotagging Media, an instructional publication by Thomas R. Baker and Roger T. Palmer, can help you understand and apply geotagging principles and best practices in your class activities. This book provides great ideas for connecting your photographically-collected data to the “big picture” of your observations and experiences with a highly accurate sense of place.

Geotagging opens the door for further studies that can be correlated to other similar species that may be found near those same coordinates, or further out in the ecosystem. For example, what if this experiment and documentation steps are repeated for every known aquatic source within five miles of your starting point? Suddenly, you have possibilities for comparing data and making environmental connections. It’s easy to see the correlated sciences of mapping, cartography, topography, and orienteering are just a small step away.

Geotagging 101

Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification data to various media, like photographs, videos, or data feeds from websites and would then be a form of geospatial data. This data usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinates, though it can also include altitude, bearing, distance, accuracy data, and place names.

Geotagging Photographs

There are two main options for geotagging photos: attaching location information to photos in the field, or attaching location information to the photos on the computer. In order to capture GPS data at the time the photograph is captured, you must have a digital camera with built-in GPS, or a standalone GPS that can send or receive data to the camera. Modern smart phones, like the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, can automatically tag photos by activating the Location Services privacy setting. It should be noted, however, that consideration should be given when students use their own smart phones, since this data may be accessible to the public. A GPS-enabled digital camera with geotagging capabilities may be the better choice in the event of privacy concerns.

Geotagging Media:Connecting Your Classroom, Club and Personal Photos to the Map

Geotagging Media is the perfect complement to your fieldwork, school trip or outdoor curriculum.Learn the ins and outs of geotagging! Geotagging Media includes methods, software, tools, best practices and ways to integrate geotagging into learning environments. Written by Thomas R. Baker and Roger T. Palmer. Carte Diem Press, 2012. Softcover. 65 Pages.

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.