National University of Singapore

LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment

"The Map Prac"

N. Sivasothi


  1. Students are in specific groups.
  2. Some students have been allowed to swap groups for valid reasons; have them follow group number (i.e. if swapping from B1, report to A1).
  3. Introduce yourselves to them and have them do likewise when group is together.
  4. Check they each have a gmail account - record it down on your attendance sheet or directly to the shared spreadsheet: LSM2251 Groupings.
  5. Begin the tutorial; timings:
  1. 2.00pm - Attendance & setting up gmail [15 mins]
  2. 2.15pm - Cardinal points and "boxing the compass" [15 mins]
  3. 2.30pm - Compass Bearings: lab and corridor exercises [25 mins]
  4. 2.55pm - Using Google Earth to find and annotate maps. [45 mins]
  5. 3.40pm - End with a revision of relative referencing. 


  1. Check your assigned group A1 - A5.
  2. Introduce yourself to your classmates.
  3. Work in pairs; if you have brought your own laptop, you can use that.
  4. Login to the network - wired macs do not require this. 
  5. You will need a gmail account - your TA will direct you to get one. 

PART I - Points of a compass

Part I TASKS: Points of a compass

The four cardinal directions correspond to the following degrees of a compass:

  1. North (N): 0° = 360°
  2. East (E): 90°
  3. South (S): 180°
  4. West (W): 270°

An ordinal, or intercardinal, or intermediate, direction is one of the four intermediate compass directions located halfway between the cardinal directions.

  1. Northeast (NE), 45°, halfway between north and east, is the opposite of southwest.
  2. Southeast (SE), 135°, halfway between south and east, is the opposite of northwest.
  3. Southwest (SW), 225°, halfway between south and west, is the opposite of northeast.
  4. Northwest (NW), 315°, halfway between north and west, is the opposite of southeast.

TASK 1: Draw a compass rose, indicate the cardinal and inter-cardinal points in 1/8 points.

Use a piece of paper and a ruler (we will accept an approximate drawing to save time). Note: your orienteering compass has a ruler's edge and can be used with a ruler, or second compass to draw right angles. Show this to your TA.

TASK 2: Increase the inter-cardinal points to 1/16 points. 

TASK 3: "Boxing the Compass" is the ability to repeat all 32 points of the compass. This was a basic skill of any sailor. You will attempt a less ambitious recital, using the 16-point compass, with the assistance of your partner and present to another group.

TASK 4: A paper map and a compass are used in tandem to orientate, determine distance and relative positioning. Identify the areas listed in Part II on the paper map and measure the relative bearing and distances between them.

Part II - Introduction to a compass, bearing and heading

Part II TASK: Find the bearing.

Courtesy of Kjetil Kjernsmo,

Bearing and heading

A bearing is the the angle between a line connecting two points and a north-south line, or simply, the direction provided by a compass of your target in relation to your position. The term is also used for the direction of travel required to reach the intended destination. 

Your heading, is the actual direction in which you are traveling. For example, having secured a bearing, you are forced to navigate around obstacles. In such an instance, you would have to adjust your heading and in the process, the bearing will change (as it always points at the destination). 

From a position in the corridor along S2 and S3, identify the prominent buildings and geographic features within your field of vision.  Record the bearing to the points and sketch a map of their relative locations. Be careful about your description as an imprecise description can point to the incorrect object.

Next, identify the locations using your position and recorded bearings on the paper map. Measure the relative distance and adjust your sketch map accordingly. Discuss the relationships between these measures.

Points from S2 corridor:

  1. MOE building, opposite Buona Vista MRT
  2. Fusionopolis,

Points from S3 corridor

  1. Bukit Batok telecom towers
  2. Bukit Timah telecom towers
  3. ITE Dover
  4. Singtel towers

Note: Your compass must be held perpendicular to the ground - the needle must be able to float freely. 

Your TAs will check the bearings and relative position of various points.  

Part III - Introduction to Google Earth & Annotating a map

TASK: Explore Singapore and Making your map. 

Go to Google Maps at

  • You need not login as yet. 
  • Get familiar with the following items:
  • Top-left of menu: Google has a package of applications: gmail, maps, search (text, images, video, blog content, scholarly sources, etc). 
  • The screen top has a search function. You can insert a place name or Singapore postal code here
  • Map, satellite and terrain views: how are they different?
  • Link: this provides a link to a set of directions or a map you create. It is a lengthy URL so it is useful to shorten it with a URL shortener such as


  • Searching/directions with Google Maps
  • Find your own home
  • Type in your postal code with "Singapore" in front.
  • In the dialog that appears, click "Get directions", and then enter "Singapore 117543".
  • Find Lab 7
  • How accurate is the satellite map? 
  • Hint: Check University Hall and Science Drive 4 
  • See how a map can be annotated:

Search for the suggested prominent points in Singapore listed below. You can use these points to characterise any map of Singapore and help you get orientated and make comparisons. As you find these maps, mark them in your map. To do this, you need to enter "Edit mode"

Making your map.

  1. Login to your Google account (you can do this on a separate window or tab).
  2. Return to your map and click "Refresh".
  3. Click the "My Maps" (top of left sidebar).
  4. "Create New map" - provide a title and description. 
  5. Start finding and marking the places below.

Points to consider

  1. WHERE do you set your place marker?
  2. Zoom out after placing your markers so that you have a grasp of relative location of these points on Singapore Island. I expect you to be able to point this out to me on a blank map.

Exploring Singapore - note the cardinal point with respect NUS

  • Places in and near campus
  • Kent Ridge Road and pt. 270 (now occupied by a water tower due west of Lab 7; you can find it if you walk up the stairs and turn to your right).
  • Pasir Panjang (Container) Terminal - search for an L-shaped projection south of NUS, along the coastline.
  • Pandan reservoir and mangrove: look in both map and satellite views - how close does the river get to NUS?
  • Kent Ridge Park.

  • Places around Singapore
  • Kranji River Reservoir
  • Causeway
  • Mandai mangroves - Sungei Mandai Besar & Sungei Mandai Kechil
  • Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) - centre of Singapore
  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (look in the centre of Singapore, west of CCNR)
  • Singapore River
  • Pulau Ubin
  • Pulau Tekong

  • Southern Islands 
  • Sentosa Island
  • St. John's Island
  • Pulau Semakau 

Your TAs will check your grasp of relative position between various points.  

Part IV - Further exploration and use

ASSIGNMENT (CA1 (Using Google Maps)/Individual submission)


You have been introduced to a potent tool that will help you in your appreciation of ecology. You will be asked to use Google Maps to supplement your Kent Ridge and Pulau Ubin practical reports. We will use a GPS to collect points along the route, and observe prominent points that you will be able to integrate into your report. 

Keep the map you submitted to add points that we encounter during lectures. I will also post maps that you will be welcome to share and annotate.   

With your new familiarity with prominent points in Singapore (many of you explored much more) here are two suggestions:

  1. Compare the present day map with a 1935 map by visiting (cick "compare maps") - link
  2. Visit the map exhibition at National Library Level 10 - link.


  1. Map example: Development along the Johor Straits (click on terrain view and explore) - link


  • Group A = Wed 27 Jan 2010
  • Group B = Tue 3rd Feb 2010


Using Google Maps, prepare a Singapore map marked with the following 22 placemarks:

  1. NUS Block S2.
  2. Labrador Nature Reserve. 
  3. The nearest hospital to Labrador Nature Reserve.
  4. Changi Village Jetty.
  5. Pulau Ubin.
  6. The nearest hospital to Pulau Ubin.
  7. In each quadrant of Singapore (North, South, East, West), mark two rivers (8 placemarks). 
  8. In each quadrant of Singapore (North, South, East, West), mark two islands (8 placemarks).

Remember to label and describe the map and placemarks accurately.


To submit your completed project, do the following:


  1. Copy the link of the map (right hand corner of the Google Maps menu; this is NOT the page's URL).
  2. Use a URL shortener such as or 
  3. Submit the shortened link of your map to:
  4. Remember that this is an individual project submission.

Add placemarks for the rivers of Singapore; differentiate the following by using a unique symbol or colour: 

  • Rivers
  • Reservoirs
  • Islands
  • Nature Reserves (note: not nature parks)

Special tasks: Why is the Sungei Mandai Besar, which drains near Woodlands, named as such? To find out why, draw a line to trace the river to its source and mark relevant points along the way.