Back in May of 2012, I interviewed Dr. Alex Smith, a molecular ecologist from the University of Guelph, about his work in the campus’ Dairy Bush. I used this interview to write an article for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Interviewing Dr. Smith was a great experience for me. He is an incredibly charismatic and articulate man who was kind enough to let me ask him a slew of questions for two hours while he was setting up his equipment in the Dairy Bush.
His Dairy Bush Project is fascinating, both because of the technology employed and its overall goal, which is to democratize biology.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
For three years, people from around the world have been combing high-resolution panoramic images of the University of Guelph’s Dairy Bush, a nine-hectare wooded area located on the campus’s western boundary, to help identify its plants and the animals and insects hidden within the foliage. By accessing M. Alex Smith’s GigaPan profile, visitors with little to no biology expertise can help analyze these images. Smith, a molecular ecologist, has set out to democratize biology and contribute to the comeback of the hobby biologist by providing vast amounts of publicly available data.
To do this, he mounts his camera on a robot called a GigaPan, which he places at the same spot in the bush every week. He programs it to take 640 pictures that he later digitally stitches together to create a high-resolution 360-degree panoramic image of the landscape. The University of Guelph professor then uploads the images onto the Internet so that visitors can zoom in close enough to observe and identify even tiny insects and see the Dairy Bush change over time. “It’s almost like taking people into the landscape,” he says.
Part of the fun of being a science writer is being able to talk to people who are passionate about their work. Dr. Smith is definitely one of those people.
I would like to thank the CFI for enabling me to complete my first professional science writing assignment.