Smartphone rangeland monitoring increases efficiency and monitoring ability
Sheridan – Not only is rangeland monitoring a time-consuming process, UW Extension Rangeland Specialist Rachel Mealor said that analysis can be intimidating and difficult.
However, improvements in smartphone technology mean that land managers can input data and analyze results using the same tool.
Mealor explained how land managers can utilize their smartphones in range monitoring during the Society for Range Management Wyoming Section’s annual meeting, held Nov. 12-14 in Sheridan.
Monitoring is not a new concept for any of us,” said Mealor. “We have done a good job of going out and showing people how to monitor.”
However, Mealor added that during the process, the second part of monitoring – analysis – isn’t being addressed as frequently.
“I often get asked, ‘What do I do with my shoebox full of data?’” she said. “As land managers, we need to take the next steps and ask what to do with the information.”
Ultimately, Mealor noted that if we can make monitoring easier and less cumbersome, it will provide more efficient analysis.
In monitoring, Mealor emphasized that land managers should be looking at plant communities of interest to produce a plan to meet their goals.
“Without the initial assessment or grasp of what is going on within the plant communities, we can’t move forward without goals,” she said. “We want to monitor changes, but we also want to record the resources and conditions.”
Common techniques utilized in monitoring, including photo points, line point intercept, landscape appearance and the Daubenmire method, are all well understood.
Additionally, each requires a similar process.
“When we go out to monitor, we have to gather our forms, find the GPS and camera and head out to the field,” Mealor explained. “Then we take coordinates, take our photos, set up the transect, collect data points, take our information back to the office, download the pictures, download the waypoints, enter the data into a spreadsheet and then analyze the data.”
The process of monitoring sometimes means that data analysis gets left behind.
“No wonder monitoring is daunting,” she added.
Using a smartphone to aid producers in monitoring, Mealor said, will allow land managers to save time and be more efficient.
“If we have a smartphone, some of the steps in monitoring are taken out,” she commented. “We already have our camera, GPS and clipboard right in the phone.”
Mealor continued that utilizing a smartphone can mean that the data is directly input into forms, which are easy to analyze and compare to past data collection samples.
There are a number of applications available on smartphones to aid in collecting range monitoring data.
One app is EDDMapSWest, explained Mealor, which is an early detection and distribution mapping system.
“This is a free app mainly used for early detection and rapid response,” she said. “There are a lot of folks using this technology.”
Because rapid detection leads to increased efficiency and a better chance of eradication and control, Mealor added that the tool can also be useful to detect new weeds.
“This is a nation-wide tool, and anyone who is interested can go online and see infestations that have already been documented,” she explained. “We can see what weeds are in our areas.”
Mealor is also working on a new app in cooperation is AgTerra, a company from Sheridan.
“We are getting very close to releasing this app for download,” Mealor said, noting that the app with available for Android users. “It outlines the Wyoming Rangeland Monitoring Guide.”
Within the app, she noted that users have the ability to take and store photos, select the method of monitoring they choose to utilize and input data directly.
“Not only does this increase efficiency, I think it will tell a better story and help us to make better decisions,” Mealor noted. “It gives us a visual and helps us to make decisions.”