Sometimes it’s useful to be able to connect the dots of a dataset, such as in
the case of animal locations. QGIS doesn’t provide this functionality on its
own; we have to download a plugin to do it for us. For this example, we are
going to use the leatherback turtle track
information provided by
www.topp.org, the Tagging of Pelagic Predators project’s website. You can
download the file or find it in the project files for this
tutorial. The file name is leatherback 41708.txt.
Open QGIS. At the top of the window, go to PluginsManage
and Install Plugins, then search for Points to Path and click
Install. Please note that if you search for Point
to instead of Points to the plugin will not appear in the menu.
You can now run the plugin from PluginsPoints to PathsPoints to Paths.
Currently, it’s on the General tab. There are also a
Date Format Reference tab, which will be useful later,
and an About tab.
The plugin is looking for a column that has the same character(s) for all the
points that will be part of one path. The software just needs to know which
points it should add to the line, so it asks for a column with a com- mon
identifier. For example, if I have a spreadsheet that contains location infor-
mation for one leatherback turtle, I would need an identifying column that has
the number 1(or any other character) in it for every row of data. If I had a
spreadsheet with information for two turtles, turtle 1 would have the number 1
in the identification column, and turtle 2 would have the number 2, so that
Points to Paths knows to make two paths for the data.
The point order field is the field that tells the plugin which order to connect
the points in. What the plugin wants you to do is specify a column that has the
date the location measurements were taken. For our data, and possibly in other
spread- sheets, you may run across a column called “date.sec” that doesn’t look
like a recognizable date format. A computer will be able to use that
information without being told what format it’s in, so if you pick the date.sec
column for the point or- der field, leave the date format field blank. However,
most of the time, you’ll have a more traditional date column. In this case,
you’ll need to tell the plugin what format it’s in in the following column.
The date format field’s purpose is to tell the plugins which format your date
in- formation is in. For example, say you have a date column in the format
MM/DD/YYYY. (To determine the format of your spreadsheet’s date column,
right-click on the layer name and select Open attribute
table. You’ll be able to see the column that has your date info.)
The plugin needs to know that the first number it reads is the month, the
second is the day, and the third is the year. It also needs to know that a
number ends when it is followed by a “/” symbol. So we type in the symbols
%m/%d/%Y, which basically translates our date into a format the
plugin can read. %m means month, %d means day,
etc. See the Date Format Reference tab at the
top of the plugin’s window, it will give you the codes needed to identify each
type of date information.
After you’ve filled in all of the above fields in the
PointsToPaths dialog, click OK on the
plugin window, a window will pop up asking you if you want to import the new
shapefile. If you click Yes and the shapefile doesn’t
appear, simply import it as a vector layer manually. (See the Using Vector
Data section of Making a Base Map in this tutorial.) It
will be saved in your top directory, unless you specified a file path while
naming your output shapefile. A line that goes through your points will appear
on your map.