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Tim Boucher  







2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami; GIS  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
28 Jan 2005

  • Sri Lanka
    Southern Province
  • Yala National Park
  • 6.372778   81.516944
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Equipment Note
  • Decoded MS Stereo

Show: Sri Lanka
Log of DAT # 10
Engineer: Michael Schweppe
Date: January 28, 2005

San = Sanjayan Muthulingam
Ravi = Ravi Corea
PF = Prithiviraj "Pruthu" Fernando
TB = Tim Boucher
EA = Elizabeth Arnold
MS = Michael Schweppe

0:02 MS (Michael Schweppe): This is tape 10, and it's um, MS for the moment.
0:14 TM (Tim): So I'm gonna attempt to log in.
0:17 EA (Elizabeth Arnold): Is this the one that?
0:19 MS: Yeah, oh ok.
0:24 EA: Does it sound like night to you?
0:25 MS: Yeah
0:26 EA: No, it could be day. If you didn't really know anything.
0:34 MS: If you didn't really know, no. It's just a little more, it's a little more urgent than day.
0:37 TM: Seemed to have success.
0:40 EA: Oh look at that. What is that?
0:41 MS: It's gonna go on either way.
0:43 TM: That's a Baja pigmy owl that I, we had another trip down to the southern tip of Baja and then hiked up, it's found in high elevations in the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. And we hiked up one day and whistled its call and it came in.
1:06 EA: Is it really small?
1:07 TM: It's, yeah, it's almost about that¿
1:10 EA: Yeah, they're really tiny aren't they.
1:11 TM: And uh, took this photo through my binoculars.
1:16 EA: Can you do that?
1:17 MS: Yeah.
1:18 EA: Oh, through yours maybe. I saw a little pigmy owl in Montana that was like, I mean it was like this¿
1:21 TM: It's probably very similar. It's probably the cousin of this one, the northern pigmy owl. So, let me just bring up the presentation because I think that's easier.
1:40 EA: Hello? Oh look at this that's a stealth bomber coming in on the oh¿laughing
1:50 TM: So this is our helicopter ride today. And as you can see we've, we've tried to use the helicopter and follow the damage instead of just trying to guess where it is we're trying to use, we had thought of using a range finder but realized that wouldn't work. So we used a helicopter, and asked the helicopter um pilot to actually follow the damage creating contours of damage for us so to speak. And at each damage point I took a GPS reading as well so we could synchronize our photographs that Sanjayan was taking.
2:36 EA: So you can overlay this on a map, or is that¿
2:40 TM: Well this is, yeah this is, since all of this is geo-referenced, it's been placed on the planet, I can, using the computer software, overlay many different layers of roads, coastline, you could even scan the topo sheets and lay them over. And the other layers we could use for instance as we were talking earlier, we could use pithimatry (?), which is undersea um topography so to speak. So, um, which might have influenced the general direction of the Tsunami. And then what's interesting to me is that the subtle variations of the coastline. And so we could use what's called a digital elevation model and so you'd take the contours of a topographic sheet and you'd digitize them. Or the radar, you'd fly radar which is then backscatter, and you can work out elevation through that and so that's been done with a shuttle radar mission a few years ago.
3:50 EA: So, so you could basically, you could, you could see what corresponded, you could see if you had data about what's going on under the water here, and data up here, you could¿
4:04 TM: Well you could, first of all, we know where the tsunami started from so we know the direction of the wave. Going from east to west in this case. And so by knowing that if we had sufficiently detailed data of the underfloor, of the undersea floor, we'd be able to model where the wave is going first of all, you know it might, for some geologic fluke, it might have missed Sri Lanka but it didn't. And then as it hits the coastline, you could then model using a digital elevation model where on the coastline it would hit. For instance, if there's point such as over here, you know it just would smash into the point. With the dunes, it would get absorbed by the dunes as we saw when we hiked the dunes the other day. But if, for instance, there's an inlet or an outlet of a river that's pointing in the right direction that has no dunes, no protection at all, then it just floods into the natural area.
5:11 EA: What's this right here? Is that the direction of the wave or is that something else?
5:14 TM: That's actually the direction of the helicopter. This was just a screen capture.
5:19 EA: Oh, I see.
5:21 TM: So, I actually have the program that I used on the¿
5:32 EA: That's alright it will go in a minute.
5:33 TM: Give us a chance to load this up.
5:34 EA: Sure. So you took a reading at the, at each, before you, before the helicopter's sort of swooping in a finding them. Whenever he said number one, this is number two, something like that.
5:45 TM: Right. I took a reading but the GPS was constantly taking, like dropping little bread crumbs as we were going.
5:56 EA: How did it do that? So it was following it all along.
5:58 TM: Right it, the GPS was doing two things. It was, it was when I gave it a command, it took a reading which we can then associate with the photographs that Sinjan was taking, sort of point fifteen for instance, which might be, you know¿
6:13 EA: So you could do like a visual reference.
6:14 TM: Right. But then the GPS itself is also dropping those little bread crumbs, so it's collecting tiny little points. And you get set those at every ten meters, every fifteen meters¿
6:29 EA: Oh so you preset that?
6:30 TM: Or every one second, right. And so¿oops¿I saved over it, let me just load it.
6:41 EA: I didn't know that. So it was following everything we were¿
6:45 TM: So that's what I was doing. So these, this is the, well there's two tracks, our outward bound track and our backward¿
6:53 EA: Loop back in.
6:54 TM: Our loop back in. so what you can actually do, which is very nice, you can actually¿you can look at the track and then you can actually replay our entire flight¿and so the little blue dots, woops¿
7:17 EA: Oh my gosh
7:18 TM: I think I hit, I think I hit, let me just take that¿
7:24 EA: I can't believe we're sitting here in Sri Lanka doing this.
7:25 TM: Right. So¿where are you now?
7:30 bugs, birds, clicking
7:38 TM: Looks like we have small technical problems.
7:45 EA: That's alright. I'm amazed we can even do this. Oh look at, that's the whole¿
7:51 TM: Right, let me just¿
7:54 birds, bugs, clicking
8:11 TM: Oh there we go, spotted the error. So, as you can see we took off¿
8:18 EA: Oh look at that. There we go.
8:19 TM: ¿and circled around and let's speed it up a bit¿and¿what we also have here is the actual speed of the helicopter at the time. So we were doing 160 miles an hour, um, kilometers an hour sorry. Our elevation which is there, about 120 to about 80 meters, depending on sometimes when we swoop down to take the curve of the of the damaged area.
8:52 EA: So it's done our whole flight.
8:53 TM: Right. There's our bearing and then our total flight distance. And so actually you can see how we're hugging the coast, found an inlet that had some disturbance or damage, circled around it getting the contour of the damage, and then flew on. So let me speed it up a bit¿so there was another area. And so what we're looking at here is a satellite image that was taken a few years ago.
9:26 EA: Oh, ok. And then this is laid on top of that.
9:33 TM: Right, the GPS is reading on top of that.
9:34 EA: So it's probably different.
9:35 TM: Well now it is and so hopefully in the next month or two we'll be able to get some new satellite imagery, but it's difficult in tropical areas because it's cloudy and we, and the satellite is in polar orbit so we only get a, we only get one day out, we only get a chance every fourteen days to take it.
10:00 EA: Oh right because of¿
10:01 TM: Because it's orbited. Some satellites can point the, can point the sensor so we can get a chance more often, but it's still difficult in the tropics. And now we're zooming back. We decided¿we're only seeing 200 kilometers right now we're zooming back on.
10:15 EA: Now is it too soon to figure, to glean anything. I mean do we need to lay all the data and really, is it too early just to tell anything looking at the topography and all that. Oh, sorry sorry sorry.
10:33 MS: Hang on, just hold that thought.
10:34 EA: This must be the discovery channel film crew, they're gonna be here in a second with cameras on¿laughing
10:43 car engine, chatting about diesel engine
11:17 TM: So unfortunately the satellite image comes in seven bands and we're, we are only using three of the possible seven. We also, remote sensing folks, we rely a lot of infra red bands because this can tell us a lot about structure or vegetation, moisture in the vegetation and um, a number of other things. So what we're seeing here you can see the depth. You can see a bit of contour but this is also sediment coming out into the ocean.
11:55 EA: Oh, that's not what's under water, that could be just uh¿
11:58 TM: Right, so there we've got big blocks of vegetation, we've got some empty sand areas, you can see the beach and so forth. So, what's curious about this is we've done, there's really three scales of, of um investigation into the tsunami here. We've got what Pruthu is doing, he's doing a very intensive on the ground, very localized area and so he's gathering data about things such as regeneration, effects on individual trees almost and doing transects. We then at the beginning of our study also looked at things, we tried to do it by car, did it by boat, tried to do it by foot, fought it by an elephant¿
12:53 laughing
12:54 TM: And so we have you know the last scale that we're doing it at is looking at it from space basically. I mean we've looked at it from the helicopter, so we've actually got even a fourth level, we've got the sort of helicopter level which is round about 300 feet. And then we're looking at it at 750 kilometers high. So we've got many different layers. So um, I think we've actually learned a lot.
13:21 EA: Wait, wait til this guy goes.
13:24 car, birds, talking about guy driving, elephants loving fruit
15:30 MS: Pausing¿
15:34 EA: Cars are hot. But you know let's start where you were, so you've got¿
15:43 TM: So you've got, we've got three or four scales of investigation right from Pritar who's done the on the foot walking, so he would have actually walked these individual, walked the perimeter of the devastation or damage or alteration, however you wanna classify it. We did sort of drive-bys or float bys at one stage in the boat, then we've done a helicopter and taken digital photographs and made notes on paper maps and now we've also looked at it via satellite imagery. So we've done four levels, four different scales, and each of the scales has would fit sort of like an inverted pyramid into each other. So Pritar would be the point of the inverted pyramid, very detailed. Would be able to tell us exactly where you know in one of these devastated areas. Whereas we would be able to say this is how many damaged areas there are in this entire coastal length. And give a reasonable, a reasonably good estimate of the area which I can do because I have the perimeter of the affected areas. And that I can go back and do later.
17:07 EA: And then, and because we're adding the fourth element which is space too.
17:15 TM: And so the fifth element might eventually come in a month or two when new imagery is captured and released and we might be able to actually see the damage via satellite. But that could cost a lot of money depending if the private firms who have very detailed senses, depending on how charitable they're feeling at that time.
17:40 EA: Can we tell anything yet really?
17:42 TM: I think we can tell a lot. We can certainly say, starting from space we can say that some inlets¿oops¿.some inlets were affected and some were not depending on their orientation. Or they were affected because they had dunes protecting. And the dunes as we all saw were very important. So that's, we can also say where these areas have occurred. Also what's really interesting to me is that the extent of damage is not as much as I expected. Especially in the natural areas. A lot of just seems to have been absorbed by trees and grass and natural elements that have slowed it down. Versus when you looked at the human areas you know, they were just smashed. Um, we've, from the very detailed studies it also seems that instead of having a succession of vegetation¿
18:56 EA: Stop, I'm sorry. I think he's gonna pull out.
19:01 chatting about car
19:15 EA: So while we're doing this, and it's not really for the tape, what does successional really mean?
19:16 TM: Successional describes different um, let me think about this, different forms of vegetation that occur from anything really.
19:40 car, chatting
20:00 EA: Well I mean I hear the term all the time and I'm just trying to figure out what the heck it means.
20:15 TM: So typically if you get a fire going through an area you would start off with some kind of plant that¿
20:23 EA: Mushrooms
20:24 TM: Mushrooms, for instance, or maybe a plant that needs fire, might only grow or blossom or bloom once every ten years when the fire goes through. So you get these, what they call pioneer vegetation types coming through.
20:37 EA: K, that makes sense.
20:38 TM: And those are would end up at successional forest types. And eventually your primary growth forest types will grow and push up and displace the secondary forest types, or the secondary growth will turn into primary.
21:00 EA: But that first layer, the first okay that's successional, okay.
21:05 TM: And so we were thinking well, the salt water would chill off a lot of the vegetation, and you'd not only get the wave action killing stuff, knocking over trees, but you've also got the salt water, which all of these plants are not used to. So, they've died and we can see that pretty easily. But what's interesting is that a lot of it is just growing back. There's not actually, there's no successional, we're not seeing different species sprouting. We're seeing the same species just re-growing. And a lot of the trees are falling over, but they're sprouting already.
21:35 EA: Oh, so that's what it means.
21:36 TM: And the grasses the grasses are just growing through the sand.
21:40 EA: The same stuff that was there is coming back?
21:41 TM: Right, right.
21:48 whispering, talking about location
22:08 EA: So if you walk around and you see a tree that's been knocked over¿what?
22:14 talking about truck, birds
23:02 EA: Alright, what do you think?
23:03 MS: I hear but, I don't know, it's not horrible. I still hear it, here you wanna listen?
23:08 birds, figuring out how bad background sound is
23:29 EA: Um, so when we were walking around and there was a big tree that had been knocked over, looked like it was dead, but there was little¿
23:37 TM: little green sprouts coming out
23:41 EA: Right, that's a good sign.
23:42 TM: That's a very good sign.
23:43 EA: As opposed to new things coming up.
23:44 TM: Right, and usually the new things are invasive species. Such as the cactus we saw. Those are invasive species that are, a lot of the time they'll fill disturbed areas. They will be the first ones into the disturbed areas. Because they are the, they're so, you know, there's nothing to stop them. Nothing's eating them, etcetera.
24:12 MS: Hello
24:13 ??: Good evening sir, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I think it is highly dangerous for you to eat outside here.
24:38 talking with man, he says dangerous to be outside because of the elephants, should go to veranda
24:58 EA: The southern cross?
24:59 TM: Yeah
24:05 EA: I wanna see that!
25:06 TM: Oops I pressed the enter key
25:06 shuffling, setting up
25:36 EA: Is successional damage, not damage, is successional growth generally when a place has really been hit harder?
25:50 TM: No, you can, you can get successional growth just from tree falls in the forest. So a lot of times for instance in the Amazon when you've got one large tree falling it creates a nice big gap in the sky. And you get a whole lot of smaller trees growing in this bright gap full of sun, beating down and you'll find it full of bushes looking nothing like the surrounding area which is usually you can walk quite easily through. And so that's the successional growth. Those are the pioneer plants that come in quickly, fill that gap, and they might only have a chance every few years to do it. And slowly over time one of the surrounding trees or one of the what you might call old growth type trees will fill that gap, grow very large, you'll get typical canopy in different levels. So successional growth is usually temporary.
26:54 EA: But we didn't really see, in all of the different ways we've looked at.
26:59 TM: No, it might still be a little early to tell because we haven't even had a season of growth yet. But what my worry is that we've got a lot of invasives here. The cactus we saw and so that might take the opportunity to invade those areas if we're not careful. And once they get a toe-hold things out there get very difficult to eradicate.
27:26 EA: So that's a lesson right there I mean that's something we can do something, or they can do something about.
27:33 TM: Right, they really should. Regardless of the tsunami, being doing something about the invasive cactus species that the, can't remember what the common name is right now.
27:44 EA: Prickly pear?
27:45 TM: Prickly pear. And then there's the debris in the ocean surrounding the coral reefs that needs to be removed and all sorts of other human debris. Planks and boats and stuff like that. But actually further in the park there's almost none of that. There wasn't even, there weren't even boast washed up or anything. The area was pretty clean. So probably you could just leave it alone.
28:11 EA: Were you pretty surprised today when you were looking? I mean I was, I mean I didn't know what to expect.
28:18 TM: I was, I had expected more. And so in one way I was pleasantly surprised that here wasn't as much. And so the damage didn't go very far. Perhaps half a kilometer at most. And so that was actually it was very nice to see. On the other hand some might view this as a chance to get more money, and so the less damage you have the less money because you're gonna get less attention.
28:50 EA: Well it would be nice to be able to say something like there was lots of damage in you know the places you know if it was really black and white.
28:57 TM: Right, right. But I think the there are certain priorities that are going to come out of this and one of them, probably one of the top ones is the corals. And how sort of, regardless of the tsunami how terrible shape the corals, the marine area is in.
29:19 EA: And were probably prior to the tsunami but the tsunami's brought attention to it.
29:24 TM :Right, right. So by throwing a few nets on it and stuff like that we've know got a chance to do something about the corals. Whereas I think in the park itself, other than just a cleanup of loose shoes and stuff like that, we should probably just leave it alone.
29:40 EA: I certainly learned the important of um, sand dunes.
29:44 TM: Yeah I think the sand dunes were quite amazing, how they protected. I think the damage without the sand dunes would have been far more extensive, perhaps not in terms of depth, but certainly along the coast we would have had a lot of damage as the waves wasn't stopped by the sand dune. And even, it was interesting when we walked the sand dune in Bundula how the, even the, the dry grassland, arid grasses found on the sand dune, they seemed to be doing alright too. Which makes sense since they're near the sand dunes, they're probably, you know they probably have at times during the year lots of sand thrown on them, maybe a big storm comes through and they get washed up. You know seasalt splashed on them, so they're probably used to that kind of environment, versus the stuff behind which has you know probably never known salt water in its life. So.
30:47 EA: I mean I just, I was pretty surprised, you know I've flown forest fires before and stuff looks, I mean you couldn't really tell unless you really, I mean you could tell in some of the inlets where there's a stark brown and white. But I mean it could have been a high tide. I don't know. And I guess that makes me wonder, is there any sort of ecological lesson in all of this or that it's just, it's a cycle.
31:16 TM: It, well it's probably a once in a hundred or two hundred years cycle. So, it's a very long term cycle. The lessons probably from this are look after your sand dunes. I think, don't build, I mean if you want to take tsunami effects into consideration when you build, stay a little bit away from the coast and don't wipe out your sand dunes because they might save your life.
31:47 phone rings
31:48 MS: It's a phone
31:50 chatting about phone
32:28 EA: Um, we didn't do much with mangroves.
32:30 TM: No, we just seem to have, either we've missed mangroves, or there are very few mangroves along this coast. And I, I think it's the latter, I think as we go up the mangrove, I mean go up the coastline, I didn't see very much chance for mangroves since you need extensive inlets of fresh water. Well it's not really fresh water it's esturine (?). And I didn't see much of that at all.
33:05 EA: Yeah
33:06 TM: Just because we're in a dry area. And you know once, it just be that the topography or certain conditions don't allow mangroves. Now apparently there were mangroves that were completely destroyed near the saltines, the salt works. But seems to be a very small amount. And the mangroves that I visited when you arrived on your first day had no damage at all.
33:27 EA: Hm, that's interesting.
33:28 TM: Right. So the water, actually the wave just went into the mangrove area throwing a whole lot of boats and everything and then just seemed to get absorbed by the mangroves and then just receded and I could see no damage at all other than perhaps a boat hitting some roots or something like that. But certainly nothing, no uprooted mangroves but maybe that was just one, you know a fluke of topography where it was pointing the wrong direction or the right direction. And so.
34:05 EA: What's the importance of doing this like right away and not just you know hey you know take two months to plan it, take three months to you know map every inch as best you can. What's the importance of just getting in here and taking a snapshot?
34:20 TM: I, the longer we wait the more areas will recover and so you're going to see less and less of actual damage.
34:32 EA: Let's go back to that camp
34:33 car, talking about car noise, stars
35:54 MS: Alright I'm pausing
35:56 walking, shuffing
36:05 door opens
36:07 shuffling
36:40 door opens
36:42 walking, shuffling
36:50 chatting about stars, bugs
37:20 MS: Alright it's pretty quiet.
37:23 TM: Alright, so the barrier of doing¿
37:25 shuffling
37:34 TM: If we'd waited a few months, I think a lot of the damage certainly we'd see al lot of, we'd be missing a lot of the change that's occurred.
37:50 EA: Because stuff would be coming back.
37:51 TM :Right. I mean we have, we are entering the dry season right now so the change would be a bit slower. Want me to stop?
38:03 phone ringing
38:05 talking about phone
38:25 door opens
38:33 talking
38:42 TM: So typically that's what ecologists will try to do. They'll try and get there as soon as possible and then what you can try and do is you can monitor it very easily over time, it's not a simple task but you've got a good baseline, you know as soon as possibly you know what the extent of the damage, how far it extends. And so if you came back, if you waited a year you'd already have a lot of growth, you'd have a wet season, you wouldn't be able to do any of the, take any of the inventories you need. You might not also be able to see it any more on the satellite imagery. The changes might be too subtle for us to see anymore. And so you'd lose you lose a lot of those opportunities. It would have been nice to have three or four weeks, but you spend more money and so you can shorten the time you need instead of spending a lot of time.
39:50 EA: And so you can set up some good long term projects here.
39:51 TM: Oh, without a doubt and I think um I would hope the work that Prita is doing is to set up some long terming monitoring. Take one or two of the lesser impacted areas and one or two of the highly impacted areas. and maybe look at a grassland area. And look at all, look at a cross section of impacted areas and study them over time and see just how long does it take for things to recover. I mean we saw some pretty, I mean animals don't seem to care much. They seem to be all around us. Saw another little Indian putar in the damaged area. And so they seem to have a lot of birds in the damage areas, they don't seem to have moved out. So they're still¿
40:40 EA: I mean we drove that coast and we saw so much devastation you know I mean it was really, then you come out here, the contrast is just startling.
40:50 TM: Right, the human devastation. And no doubt the wave effect was larger here.
40:58 EA: Now why do you say that?
40:59 TM: Because we're more of a direct line. And so people had built all over the dunes or bulldozed the dunes flat, we would probably see even more damage, my guess. I mean you've got the shape of the island, so as you go further up the island towards Columbo, the wave action progressively got less and less so the one little town that we droves past the other night was completely flattened.
41:28 EA: Gone
41:29 TM: I mean can you imagine if the rest of this coastline was this fully developed, it would have been really big.
41:36 EA: It's pretty amazing that they even have this protected area. I mean considering there's 21 million people on this tiny island.
41:43 TM: Yeah, it is incredible that, and what's also incredible is that the people in this island seem to respect nature, they don't eat everything. Which, you know, if you ever go to China everybody eats everything. Laughing
42:00 EA: What's um, what been surprising, get your China thing in there, what's, what's been a surprise to you, anything? Or are you, were you pretty just well, I don't know what I'm gonna find or did you have some¿
42:11 TM: I've been pleasantly surprised. I mean obviously we've all been aghast at the devastation in urban or the rural areas where they've but, coming to this park has been a very pleasant surprise to see the resilience of natural areas. You know just, and it's also been pleasantly surprising to come to such a highly developed island with a very dense population to come to a park like this which still has a lot of elephants, a lot of wildlife. And seems to be in pretty good condition. So it's really, there's an interesting contrast of intense population , intense agriculture, and yet respect or maybe even a love for nature on the other side. So it's been refreshing.
43:13 EA: I guess we should know it I mean it's a pretty obvious thing but we just don't. I mean nature's sort of, it's resilient, it's, it changes, it I mean all these words disturb and stuff but you know we're the ones who are impacted by all these things.
43:38 TM: Right, this is a human disaster. It's not a, I don't think it's an ecological disaster at all. I think it's just a blip on the whole scene. Just a, it's not very big. I mean I may get shot down for saying that.
43:59 EA: Sure, well, you have to say what you think. When you go back to DC and you're walking down the hall and one of your colleagues says so hey you know, what'd you find in Sri Lanka?
44:09 TM: Hm¿that's¿an interesting question. Because there's many ways to answer that. You could say you know¿
44:24 EA: An Indian pita laughing
44:30 TM: An incredible human disaster, just you know heart wrenching and gut wrenching tales of families being taken and destroyed. And yet there's this contrast of coming to the south here, southeast, and seeing a natural area which is you know there is definitely, it has been affected, but the affect is minimal. And maybe a few water buffalo died, but that's probably it. And well, probably a lot of fish and amphibians we just don't know of, when the salinity of the of the lagoons, some of the lagoons changes when they got inundated. So there are those subtle changes that we might not appreciate at the moment. So it may be one or two lagoons have been drastically changed and they might flush out after the rainy season they might not. And maybe we'll have a different ecosystem starting in one of those lagoons. It becomes more brackish or saline, salty. But so for me there's this, I think even without the tsunami there would have been this very interesting contrast in an island where you don't normally see that in such highly populated areas. Usually the parks are not as large and are usually under a lot of stress. You know people, people, two million people visit this park and yet it seems to be in pretty good shape. And so the stresses they they're controlling the stresses to this park. And from other areas that I've been to, highly, very densely populated areas the parks are in bad condition. A lot of poaching, people don't respect the park.
46:27 EA: So there sort of already is an environmental ethic here, it just needs to. Or maybe its animals, not necessarily coral or¿
46:43 TM: Yeah, I hate to anthropomorphize, anthropomorphize, is that the word? Is that the right word? I'm getting tongue tied here laughing
46:50 EA: You hate to do that.
46:51 TM: I do hate to do it because you're trying to put human values (cell phone) or you know calling an elephant an individual name or something like that. So are we over reacting to something that we shouldn't be over reacting to? To the resilience of nature? Or is nature there and really doesn't care.
47:18 EA: Well that's what I've been wrestling with for the last every night this week.
47:22 TM: Right
47:23 EA: Go ahead.
47:24 TM: I, I, yeah I've taken some interesting lessons home from, over the years about, I think, I think, you know nature's really harsh and nature really doesn't care. It's not a loving environment. It's not something where you can just wander off. You know we were told to move because there might be a bull elephant that might, sort of nasty mood. It's a, it's chirping¿
48:01 EA: What is that?
48:02 TM: That's a gecko.
48:04 EA: Oh laughing
48:08 TM: So that's how I feel. I don't, I don't, I think nature's beautiful and I love every second of it and that's why I do the work that I do. But deep down I don't think it really cares pretty much. I know it doesn't care about us. Laughing
48:28 EA: Well that's been made pretty clear. Is there anything I'm missing?
48:38 TM: Actually I think you've got a, you've been very lucky, you've got a very, you've got a very interesting and I wouldn't say complete, but you've got a pretty good picture and a nice contrast. I mean you've been seeing the human devastation and you've seen an elephant that's been angry at us. And just when you're in a situation like that you realize that you're not in a city, you're just in an area. And if he had chosen to run at us instead of run away it would have been a very different situation. A very different outcome to the story.
49:19 EA: And there'd be no map
49:20 TM: There would be no map! Laughing So I think you've been very lucky and you, it's an, by pure luck you've managed to come to an island, I mean you could have gone to Indonesia perhaps and just been you know probably not given the same opportunity to see the effects on a natural area versus human area. So I think it's been very interesting.
49:58 EA: We've all been lucky, it's been a good expedition.
50:00 TM: And we've gone through the expedition has evolved as well which has been really interesting. It's been almost like an organism as we've¿can't we've discovered things and discovered what we can do and can't do. I think people in this little expedition have been very malleable, malleable. And so have adapted. I think if we'd spent, I mean we were planning to spend four nights in the park at one stage and that would have been too much. We would have lost out on opportunities. So.
50:48 EA: Well it's been sort of a moving target.
50:50 TM: Right.
50:51 EA: Which is I guess sort of the nature of the rapid assessment because you don't know what you're, we didn't know¿
50:57 TM: We had no idea what we were coming into. Do you feel you've missed anything?
51:04 EA: Oh I'm sure I have, but I wont know until I start writing and say¿
51:08 TM: No I mean as, about your experience? I'm not talking about the interviews or anything I'm talking about, I mean this is your first experience of really tropics.
51:23 EA: Oh yeah.
51:24 TM: And probably your first experience of camping in tropics.
51:28 EA: Yes laughing
51:29 TM: And so, I mean, that's, that's, not a lot of people have done that. And very few people have had the adrenaline rush of being so close to an elephant and seeing a beautiful bird.
51:46 EA: Yeah, and we did a lot of that. All of that.
51:47 TM: And so you've got a nice cross section of different experiences to take home with you.
51:56 EA: It's hard though, it's hard to reconcile with everything that we saw. You know I go, at night I go 'Wow, what an amazing day' and then I flash back to all of those people, all of those homes and I go what am I doing? Why am I doing a story about¿
52:08 TM: But the story I think is the contrast. I mean I hate to do this when 9/11 happened I cycled home that day. I cycled over the key bridge and I could see the pentagon burning. And¿car¿
52:40 talking about a bat
52:51 TM: But so what I took home from 9/11 was that I was cycling home, and the birds were calling, and they really didn't care. It was like we were going through this great natural disaster of our own, not natural national, sorry. And it was really just like wow, they really don't care about us.
53:18 EA: I know, I hate it but it's sort of like life goes on, or natural world goes on.
53:22 TM: Yeah, you know this is September and things are singing away, birds really didn't care. And that's when it sort of like came to me like wow, animals and nature really doesn't care. And maybe there will be a lot of people who really disagree with me saying that nature is loving, but it's not. It's really harsh. The deer has to run or it gets eaten, and the lion has to run or it doesn't eat. You know there's that old saying.
53:48 EA: Do you remember the last place we went and¿?...and we kind of drove, the Chinese take out place that was gone. And remember when we pulled in and all the people thought we were giving aid and then basically we got out and said we're gonna go look at the coral reefs. I had a hard time, I just¿
54:11 TM: Well that's because we're human. And so we want to look after our own species. I guess. But yeah I mean it's, you know we've got a lot of equipment, a lot of money, and we're spending it on looking at, but on the other hand the way I justify it is and perhaps it's incorrect is that there's a lot of people looking after the people. But there's not too many people looking after nature. I feel that a lot of times. I think everybody¿you know Bill Gates is giving a lot of money to helping humankind and disease, and that's fine there's nothing wrong with that. So that's why I feel there needs to be people who really are focused on nature. And try not to get distracted by humans.
55:14 EA: The human element. The human¿
55:15 TM: Yeah, although, you know we do mingle a lot so it's definitely an intertwined system.
55:24 EA: So what should I call you?
55:26 TM: Hm, I'm a, my checkered background. I have a computer science degree, but then I've gone on and got a geography masters. So I guess some people call me a spatial scientist.
55:48 EA: Really? A spatial scientist? That's cool.
55:49 TM: Right, or a conservation geographer. Right, I, it's¿
55:57 EA: Conservation geographer? That's like archeo-astronomy or astro-archeology.
55:58 TM: Right laughing I guess geography is more of a social science, and so I'm really on the cusp of both. I do a lot of true science. Okay I don't go out and do null hypotheses and have these great¿but I do do science and I do try and answer questions. Versus geographers will sometimes tackle social issues. You know one of the great quotes is Einstein when he was sitting at the desk working away and pondering his future. I continue to quote and he says ' well I've pondered, and I've thought of becoming a geographer. But I decided it was too difficult so I turned to physics.'
56:46 EA laughing
56:50 EA: so one of the criticisms of a geographer is we're like let's consider everything you know. so I'm, I'm, I try and be very focused on the remote sensing, the GIS and asking questions around those issues. Because I think you can get distracted. I'm not an ecologist although I have had a lot of exposure to it so you know I glean things from it. I don't just say it's a bush it has a so and so spectral signal. I do understand its primary growth and how it looks and successional forests and what it looks like from an image and that kind of thing. To try and understand. So I've got a broad understanding perhaps a broad but not very deep understanding of ecology and biology.
57:39 EA: How it all fits together.
57:40 TM: Right, so¿
57:43 EA: And where it goes on the map too.
57:45 TM: Right so, I'm a very spatial person.
57:50 EA: Okay, right. Well I'll call you a spatial person then. And birder extraordinaire.
57:52 TM: Oh, you don't have to lie.
57:54 cough
57:55 EA: Um, you're off the hook. But um I hope that I can call you in DC if I've got other questions because I probably will.
58:01 TM: Is that enough?
58:03 EA: Oh it's fabulous.
58:04 MS: Okay here is some ambi MS.
58:10 AMBI
58:10 birds and bugs
59:52 chirping
59:55 birds and bugs
1:02:13 shuffling, walking
1:02:25 END

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