On technique…

Walking the transect

Baseline information transect > follow-up transect to assess changes following project implementation

We borrow transects from the international development assistance tool kit. Field workers in developing countries make use of transects as part of the participatory mapping of village infrastructure and landuse.

  • are a means of sampling a site to identify what conditions, structures and previous works exist there
  • are made in a straight line across a site.

A simple tool of many uses

The transect is used to gather information about an area of land such as:

  • soil conditions and how they vary across a site
  • existing vegetation — species, distribution, abundance
  • the presence of human artefacts
  • the type and distribution of buildings or other structures
  • the presence of soil degradation
  • terrain — slope, aspect
  • drainage — location of areas of moist or dry soil, runoff channels and direction, pooling.

Making transects


A transect requires an activity organiser and a group of participants.

  • clipboard and pad, notebook or some other means of recording information
  • string or rope if the transect course is to be marked out
  • a sketch map or field sketch of the area to be transected for each team, with an estimate or an accurate measurement of its size.

The process

Transects are made by teams or individuals following parallel routes across a site and recording information as they go. The product will be a matrix of characteristics distributed over the site compiled on a map.

A few points

It is useful for the oganisers to mark out a transect route with string for the transect teams to follow. This can yield more-accurate information. It is useful where people could be put off course because of an irregular surface, vegetation or rough terrain.

Do it safely

Organisers should make a preliminary walk-through of the survey area to check for hazards.


Coordinators should make a count to confirm that all members of the transect teams have returned.

The transect is participatory

The transect:

  • used the team approach
  • is an inclusive technique; it involves people participating in a project rather than a designer doing the work for them
  • is useful for community projects such as during the site analysis stage of, for example, a community garden
  • encourages ongoing involvement in a project because it includes people at an initial stage.



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Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.