Notes and Suggestions for Botanical Garden Surveyors - Part 4

By Walt Dunlap, Mapping Specialist, The New York Botanical Garden
© 1999 The New York Botanical Garden
As a mapping specialist at The New York Botanical Garden and a professional land surveyor for the last 20 years, I am offering consulting services on land surveying to any garden that is mapping or planning to map their collections or garden.

|Using Radios to Communicate | |Courtesy|


Using Radios to Communicate

In this technological world it seems inconceivable to work without radios. Their reasonable cost and ease of use practically mandates them as a tool, even though a 2-person crew may be operating within earshot. Hands-free (voice-activated) sets are especially useful; however, the ones I have used have been cheap and prone to a lot of unwanted clutter from nearby transmitters. Some may prove more useful in rural areas. The better radio units cost more than $165 each and allow some channel selection flexibility. They may also offer hands-free add-on modules. Of course they are all useless around noisy sites, especially high traffic or construction zones. A good set of hand signals in that case helps avoid any confusion.

It's important for the crew to understand the scope of each setup and the intended tasks before splitting up, even though radios are available for contact.

Generally the crew chief "runs" the rod and the instrument operator stays put. I'm always amused that the public inevitably assumes that the instrument operator is the crew chief and addresses queries to the person with the expensive looking gear on the tripod. Either one may be the note keeper. The rod sets the pace and decides the shots to take. The operator is responsible for recording the data accurately and protecting the instrument at all times. Don't leave it unattended for a minute!

Use those radios to keep in constant contact but avoid unnecessary chatter. Use them to begin and conclude a shot and to keep in touch during it as needed.



Between the two crew people there is usually an eagerness to get the job done efficiently and with the least amount of friction. Here are a few guidelines offered to help with this.

The rod person's job is to set the rod and hold it for the shot whether it is a back sight or side shot. I always explain it as a Zen opportunity to be at one with the bubble. The concentration should be on the bubble from the time it is set to the end of the shot. If an instrument operator sees the eyes of the rod person glancing up or to the sides, it is an indication that the rod is not doing the job properly. The rod should remain motionless until released. The radios are there to keep in touch so that once the shot is commenced the rod is expected to maintain stillness as best as possible. Sloppy rod work is often frustrating for the operator who sights the glass, commences the shot, and then finds that the rod has drifted out of sight and then must re-sight or ask for a plumbed rod.

In difficult shots the rod should anticipate the proper height to use for visibility and offer that "the glass is up" when it is ready for location, not forgetting to mention that the rod height has changed if you are keeping elevation notes.

The operator's obligation to the rod is to require the least amount of time possible in that frozen statue mode. To do this the data entry should be done FIRST before acquiring the target so the rod does not have to wait through the data entry and the shot. The operator should release the rod person at any time, and as soon as, the rod is not required for sighting. Generally the rod begins the shot with a data recitation (object, rod height, offset, etc.) and the operator ends the shot with a signal. With radios it is often easy to conclude with two firm double-clicks of the transmit button, avoiding having to repeat a mantra of "good" or "got it" all day long. The operator should also direct the rod in a brief but decisive manner to the suggested best sighting area for the glass.


Updated June 1, 1999
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