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LINKS TO MORE REFERENCE INFORMATION

5. About Software Tools & Data

Image Search
Want to find more pictures of Adromischus, or other plants? Try the "Images Tab" provided by the excellent Google Internet search site. It claims to be the most comprehensive with "billions of images" indexed. More... Google Image Search logo

SANBI Images
This POSA Flora web site contains 6,600 images of 2,500 SA plants from SANBI's slide and art collections (mainly from the Pretoria herbarium in the summer rainfall area - only one Adromischus).

Digital Book Search A few libraries are sharing rare books via the Internet, but there is no single index or catalogue. The Digital Book Index provides the most useful list that I could find for botanical subjects, but excludes "foreign language" Latin books! D.F. Sutton provides a list of 13,000+ Latin-titled ebooks, including interesting early botanical sources e.g. Linneus's writings.

Here is an example, from the Missouri Botanical Garden Library. This picture is the only Adromischus in A.P. de Candolle first major publication, Plantarum historia succulentarum, (1799 -1802), vol. II plate 74, beautifully illustrated by P.J. Redouté.

On-line Gazetteer Geonames - The Geographic Names Database from the US National Geographic Intelligence Agency, is good for looking up co-ordinates for obscure places in South Africa, if you have good maps.
Aerial Photographs
Google Earth logo The Google Earth program is easy to install on your local PC, but for best results, needs a fast Internet connection to download Google's vast map data. One joy is that images can be rotated in 3D to give an excellent feel for the landscape below.

For South Africa, GE is becoming increasingly useful with detailed aerial photographs for coastal areas . These are much better than the older, fuzzy, Zulu satellite photos still provided for inland regions. Select the "roads" layer to see minor dirt roads and street names in towns.

Geographic Information System DIVA-GIS is free Geographic Information System (GIS) software to plot distribution maps of species from spreadsheet data e.g. GPS readings. It can then analyse them against downloaded datasets (biomes, climate, geology, topography, etc.), e.g. from Atlas of Namibia, or from the SA BGIS Conservation Planning Unit, National Spatial Information Framework or Dept. Environmental Affairs & Tourism. It is time-consuming to learn, but I use this to plot Adromischus localities e.g.: Section 3.
Topographical Digital Maps Free digitised maps of South Africa are distributed by MadMappers, thanks to the South African government's generous policy of easy access to spatial data. Visit "Raster Maps" in the top left and drill down to find free downloads, but you need special software on your PC to view the MrSid format files. ExpressView (a free Internet browser plug-in from LizardTech) lets you easily explore one map at a time, or DIVA-GIS (above) can tile many maps seamlessly together.

The 1:250,000 digital maps need 590Mb of free hard disk space and probably give enough detail for most people. However, enthusiasts will be pleased to access the very detailed 1:50,000 maps that need about 2.5Gb for half of the maps - this takes a lot of downloading!

GPS Maps On field trips, a colour mapping, hand-held GPS unit is well worthwhile to record your route and ensure you can find your way back. The most detailed GPS contour maps of South Africa (1:50,000 scale) are available on a $50 CD from MadMappers. A vehicle cigarette-lighter power-cable is advisable, since GPS units drain batteries quickly. I find paper maps are still needed for wide-area route planning.
Plotting GPS Data Tools are available to upload waypoints and routes from hand-held GPS units, so long as you have a connecting cable. These can convert the data into compatible formats for overlaying onto digital maps or Google Earth. I use this free program DNR-Garmin (that only works with a Garmin GPS unit).
Maps of African Off-road Tracks
The Tracks4Africa community are responsible African travellers using GPS receivers to track 4x4 routes and off-road trails throughout Africa. Members send track data to a central repository, where it is validated and then redistributed back into the community. Accurate GPS maps (for map-capable Garmin GPS receivers, PDA's or Pocket PC's) are also available to the public for a nominal fee.

In addition, the T4A data is freely distributed as a "Featured Layer" overlay in Google Earth's Gallery.

Tracks for Africa logo
Identification Key Construction Lucid is a knowledge management tool sold to help build interactive identification keys with supporting digital images.
Field Communication Not software, I know, but keeping in voice contact on field-trips is a problem. These days, one can hire pay-as-you-go mobile cell phones at airports with vehicles, but these don't work in mountainous areas of southern Africa. I recommend small Personal Mobile Radios (Wikipedia: PMR 446). These walkie-talkies are cheap, but powerful with a 3 km range and no licence is required. Useful for two or more people to share discoveries in the veld (and not get separated!).

Last Updated: Dec 2007
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© 2007 Derek Tribble, London, UK