Introducing DaphMap

In the Summer of 2011, Kerry and I set out on an epic road trip throughout rural Canada in search of temporal ponds and Daphnia. Among other things, we walked on a glacier, saw polar bears, beluga whales and dinosaur fossils, and narrowly avoided being arrested by American customs officials. For the majority of the trip we slept in the back of our comfy Kia Soul amidst piles of pond scum-covered gear in sketchy secluded parking lots. A fun, but challenging trip.

What’s so hard about finding Daphnia, you ask? Well it turns out that Daphnia, though ubiquitous throughout the world, have a fairly narrow niche. All of the ponds we found and sampled were teeming with wondrous little creatures. But only about one out of ten of them had Daphnia (and only some of them were our target species). We are not the first researchers to collect Daphnia in the field and we will not be the last. It occurred to me that a large amount of time could be saved if the locations of these ponds were retained and made available to other researchers. One year later I created DaphMap. Click here to check it out.

DaphMap is meant to be a repository of geographical data to aid in directing scientists to the wild populations that they need for their research. It’s nothing more than a Google Map with place marks placed at the sites of ponds, along with specific information on finding it and what exactly we sampled there. Using Daphmap, a researcher can plot an efficient route instead of wandering aimlessly as we did. They can save a huge a amount of time, time that can be better spent exploring the vast, untamed North, or whatever other location you find yourself.  If you study Daphnia, or any other creatures found in small bodies of fresh water, please consider performing the small public service of adding your favorite sampling sites to our map. And the next time you need new sites for your own work, consider browsing our way points. If you’re into some other organisms, feel free to steal my idea and make your own Google Map. It’s really easy and I would love to link it with DaphMap to create a larger scale biological field site database.

On another note, Churchill, Manitoba is a pretty neat destination if your into eco-excursions and rare wildlife encounters. It’s completely inaccessable by car and requires either a train or plane ride to reach. Once there, you can choose between beluga whale kayak tours or snow buggy polar bear tours, depending on the season. Alternatively, you can go the cheaper route  as we did and rent a car, drive it up and down the coast of Hudson Bay until you see a polar bear in the far distance, and triumphantly take some fuzzy pictures with your point and shoot. Not as glamorous as the touristy alternative, but more affordable. Sleeping in the car is doable, but be prepared for swarms of killer mosquitoes that will penetrate you vehicle as easily as the open air.

Nabbing some Daphnia in Churchill.
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