Campus participates in student time-lapse project

By Alexandria Waldron

Last quarter, the Cal Poly Pomona community played a vital role in taking photographs for a student environmental study project of the University Quad.

Jeremy Munns, a second-year graduate landscape architecture student, conducted a pilot study on the CPP campus for a research methods class in landscape architecture. Susan Mulley, an associate professor of landscape architecture and instructor for the research methods for environmental professionals class, oversaw the project.

“In this class, students choose a research or analysis method and do a study using the method of their choice,” said Mulley. “Then, they report on the method after their study.”

Munns decided to combine two research methods used in environmental studies for his pilot study: time-lapse photography, and viewer or volunteer-employed photography.

The concept for Munns’s project was inspired by a website he stumbled upon called MonitorChange.org. Created by Sam Droege, a researcher at the United States Forest Service, the website provided information on how to monitor long-term environmental change by having volunteers use cell phones at provided photo stations to take pictures and combine those pictures into time-lapse photography.

“I wanted to look into the possibility of using an adaptation of this concept to monitor short-term social behavior in a public space,” said Munns.

To replicate the study technique used by Droege, Munns constructed a photo pole and placed it at the edge of the quad by Building 8 for a two-week period between February and March. There were instructions posted for students to take photos at a certain angle with their cell phones. The students were then instructed to email the photo including the date and time it was taken to a specific address.

“I had no idea if anyone would actually participate,” said Munns. “To my surprise, I ended up getting back around 116 photographs.”

Munns analyzed the photographs and tracked different activities as to how students interacted with their environment. These activities included standing, sitting, walking, cell phone use, and weather conditions. More specific details like where students were standing and if they were alone or in groups were also factors in the study.

“I wasn’t really surprised by much of the data, but one thing that did stand out to me was cell phone use,” said Munns. “I thought more people would be on their phones, but overall only 3 percent of the people were.”

Other results from the study concluded that people were more likely to sit on the grass in the Quad if the temperature was 70 degrees or warmer, and most group activity took place from noon to 1 p.m.

“Primarily, the pilot study was to understand and use the method,” said Mulley. “But the results are always interesting.”

All of the data from Munns’s volunteer-employed time-lapse study was collected and recorded into a final written report, which was then presented to his classmates.

The final report discussed Munns’s experience, as well as the positives and negatives of the method he chose.

“The one thing we saw as the most positive aspect and why people are using citizen science is it engages the public,” said Mulley. “People were really enthusiastic about sending in their photos.”

Of the 116 photographs submitted, 111 were used in a time-lapse video Munns created in Adobe Photoshop.

He sent the time-lapse video to all of the students and faculty who submitted photos.

“I think there’s a greater potential to get interesting data in long-term studies looking at environmental change, rather than short-term social behavior,” said Munns. “With the right implementation, I think the method has a lot of potential to study social and environmental change.”

The time-lapse video can be viewed on Time-Lapse CPP’s YouTube channel.

Time-lapse photo

Courtesy Jeremy Munns

Time-lapse photo

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