The newly launched Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program at Langara College in Vancouver has produced CrowTrax, an interactive map that tracks aggressive crow behaviour.
People who’ve grown up in B.C. are already familiar with the idea that springtime means crows aggressively protecting their nests, but for visitors the prospect of being suddenly dive-bombed by a crow can come as a nasty surprise.
There’s a reason that a group of crows is referred to as a “murder”.
Information is power, though, and CrowTrax, developed by Langara Continuing Studies instructors Rick Davidson and Jim O’Leary, aims to put crow attacks in perspective by pinpointing their location and severity on a map.
The Langara GIS program is the first of its kind in Canada, designed to address the use of geospatial information, which contributed $20.7 billion, or 1.1% of GDP, and generated about 19,000 jobs to the Canadian economy in 2013.
The geomatics sector analyzes and delivers geospatial information for purposes ranging from transportation to construction, utilities, natural resource management, weather analysis, property boundaries, emergency response services, etc.
A study for Natural Resources Canada showed that about 2,450 private sector geomatics firms contributed $2.3 billion to the Canadian economy in 2013.
In contrast to the private sector using proprietary tools, students in Langara’s GIS program learn how to use low-cost open source software on each student’s own laptop computer.
From April to June each year, the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC (WRA) gets roughly 200 phone calls per day by people who have been chased or attacked by crows.
The birds’ motivations aren’t particularly malicious in that they’re only defending their young, but getting buzzed by a crow can be a terrifying experience.
Anyone in the Lower Mainland can get involved by contributing their crow encounter to CrowTrax.