Ripples 3-12-15

This past (hopefully past) winter with sparse snow cover made some management activities possible, but planning for the coming season is crucial for habitat restoration. This involves evaluating existing conditions, lining up work crews, and ordering supplies and native plants suitable to specific site conditions.  Evaluating existing habitat conditions can be tricky, but like every aspect of science and  technology, new and better tools are available.
This winter, we have had the great pleasure of working with a young man from Germany named Johannes Schneider, a University student majoring in geography.  Johannes worked for several weeks with our staff as an intern, and was a great help to us in plotting and generating maps that we can use in several aspects of managing our preserves and programs.  I asked Johannes to write about what he did here, and he gave me the following:
Thank you Technology
Planning a trip always needs some preparation. Besides thinking about what to take with you, when to leave or where to stop for lunch, one thing more important is how to get to your destination. Twenty years ago you would have unfolded your road map the night before leaving and tried to figure out when to take which exit. Today you would probably just quickly type in your destinations address into your navigation system and a gentle voice would guide you all the way to it. It is a huge step from paper road maps to digital maps in your navigation system.

Today’s maps are not precisely constructed with scale paper on a maple table anymore, but rather a product of equally accurate programming and digital sketching. Since working with a map is not only a matter of navigation but also of localization, the development of the last years effects many fields maps are used in, even the work of Woodland Dunes Nature Center. Restoring diverse natural habitats is one of our projects which benefits from this modernization. A GIS (Geographic Information System) for example helps us to localize the different kinds of habitats by spotting different vegetation types on aerials and satellite pictures. In addition it allows us to design maps with the information for every purpose. Also in invasive species control, digital mapping is getting more and more important. Especially the cooperation of GIS and GPS (Global Positioning System) enables an efficient localization of invasive species. The coordinates collected with a GPS device by tagging the sectors of an area which include invasive plants can be easily transferred into the GIS program. The program then displays this data in a digital map. Twenty years ago a step of procedure comparable to this was a lot of manual labor and it would have also taken a lot more time to get results as precise as the outcomes of a GPS and GIS process. The combination of GPS and GIS also helps us to illustrate Woodland Dunes trails very precisely and in scale. The procedure is the same as the localization of invasive species – collecting GPS coordinates along the particular trails and transferring it into the GIS. Furthermore measuring the lengths of the trails can be easily done at the computer which is, of course, plenty faster than walking it for measuring.

For the goals we have the usage of the mentioned digital technologies is essential. Its fast working progress and more accurate results give us the ability to enhance our projects with the capacity we have in a way we would not be able to without using GIS and GPS.

Johannes was truly a great help to our staff, and our updated trail maps will be used by visitors for years to come.  We are grateful for the time he spent with us and wish him well in his future studies.

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