School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Virtual Field Course


The Belize Virtual Field Course uses panoraMap (software for panorama visualisation and analysis) to take you on a tour of Belize from your desk. In so doing, it maximises the number of people able to participate in the ongoing work of our Belize Research Group. This work was presented in poster form at the recent 2001 UK Belize Research Meeting.


The underlying software was written by Jason Dykes as part of the JISC-funded Virtual Field Course project. More details about the panoraMap program are available on the VFC web pages. At the moment, it is still at the pilot stage.When the final version of the software has been released, the Belize Field trip should be accessible over the web.

Creation of these Belize pages was supported by a grant to Neil Stuart and Malcolm Murray from The University of Edinburgh Development Trust.


The software allows you to navigate around Belize, examining data at a range of scales. This is done by clicking on maps. When the program first starts up you should see a screen like this:

Initial map screenInformation about the data currently displayed

Various different maps and types of data can be displayed. The software also offers facilities for complex spatial analysis, but to keep things simple this is not explored further here.

You can change the basemap displayed. To do this, go to the Locations menu and select Load map... The list of available maps for this view is shown. Click OK to load them all. You can change between maps by returning to the Locations menu and choosing the name of the currently displayed area (in this case Belize) and then picking the desired map from the list that appears. Experiment with these, then return to the Base Map.

Background changed to show the distribution of rainfallInformation about the data currently displayed

The yellow and red coloured dots on the base map show the location of panoramas (360 views). Clicking once with your left hand mouse button on one of these automatically activates a panorama viewer. Note the orange arrows which appear on the map, showing the direction you are looking towards.

The orange arrows on the map move with the panorama, to show the limits of the current view

Other coloured dots offer links to web pages, video footage and image files.

The yellow rectangles mark the position of regions which can be zoomed into for examination at a finer scale. The rectangles shown above correspond to areas where the Department is currently engaged in research activity.
One of these is at the southern end of New River Lagoon. If you click on the yellow rectangle you are taken to this region. The image below shows New River Lagoon, using a Landsat (satellite) image as the background map. The red spots mark areas where measurements of pine tree density have been carried out.

A satellite image of the Hillbank region - the lagoon appears in dark blue.

As before, clicking on one of these dots activates a panorama.

An area of open pine savanna in NW Belize

Below is an example of a panorama. It uses the MGI Zoom Java applet, which is similar to the viewer in the actual panoraMap program, except that this one has additional zooming features.

To move left or right in the panorama, hold down the left mouse button and move the cursor across the image.
The and keys allow you to zoom in and out.
More controls are available by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the bottom left hand corner.

Panoramic images such as this one provide information about the vegetation growing at known locations. This can be used to help ground truth the satellite images, one stage in the production of a classified vegetation map. This software was recently used by an MSc student in Edinburgh (who hadn't managed to get to Belize) to classify the vegetation in a new Landsat scene.

Belize Virtual Fieldtrip Homepage
Last updated July 2001

For more information contact Dr Malcolm Murray

The University of Edinburgh
Drummond Street
Edinburgh EH8 9XP
Scotland, UK

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