Geography, Biology, Coyotes, and Maps

Coyotes & the Biodiversity of Urban Environments; from ScienceFriday 4/6/2012

I like coyotes. They look like puppies, to me. Little Mr. Inquisitive in the frame above appears fascinated by the camera or something off camera. I understand people consider them a pest. Farmers in the Great Plain and the Mountain West have poisoned them and shoot them on site. Farmers and ranchers then complain about deer, rabbit, and prairie dog populations exploding. I’ll I can say is, Duh. Kill the top-rung predator and what do you expect?

The ScienceFriday video clip is a great example of the holistic nature of geography coupled with biology. I’ve had people tell me, “no, this is biology. Its not geography.” Sorry, your wrong. Call it “biogeography” if you want, if it makes you feel better to include “biology.”

My definition of geography is very expansive.

Geography is the study of the spatial distribution, analysis, and interpretation of nouns, the people, places, things, and ideas of our environment.

Geography seeks to answer two questions.

Where is it? The first question any geographer will ask is, “where is it?” In other words, what is the site or location?

The other question is the one which opens Pandora’s Box.

Why is it there? What set of circumstance brought it here? What is the history of it? What is the situation of our object of study?

To answer these two questions, Geography and Geographers set about to pillage every other discipline looking for advice, techniques, methods, and tools to solve our conundrum. We are unabashed thieves, taking from Economics, Biology, Computer Science, Mathematics, Chemistry – whatever we can get our hands on.

The above video opens with an old topographic map of Manhattan Island. At 00.11, the newscaster has a map of Manhattan behind him, along with a terrifying fear-invoking image of a some canine with gnashing teeth (irresponsible journalism, a coyote will flee, unlike a mountain lion.)

At 00.50, we see more maps, showing where coyotes have migrated from and where people have first seen coyotes.

For the next few minutes, Mark Weckel explains his camera setup and we get a crash course on coyote behaviors and habitat.

At 3.14, the narrator provides us with information, using a map, about the migration hypothesis of coyotes. Coyotes are thought to have migrated from the American West across lower Canada to New York.

Along the way we learn coyotes, skunks, house cats, et. al. are opportunistic travelers, using deer paths for conveyance. Mark locates his cameras away from human-dominated areas to cut-down on vandalism.

All parts of the ScienceFriday video exhibit spatial awareness, an intrinsic trait of Geography.

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