Did you know that smartphones are now making data collection smarter and simpler for biologists? Every day, hand-held technologies are being used to help guide conservation efforts and enhance the capabilities of Conservancy staff and community science interns and volunteers.
As part of an expanded initiative to remove acacia, the Conservancy launched a pilot program in September to deploy students to help collect data on this highly-flammable and invasive species. With generous support from the Tyler Foundation and other private donors, four college students were trained by Conservancy staff to use the ESRI Collector for ArcGIS Mobile Application (App) on their own cell phones to map where invasive species like acacia occur in the Preserve. The app analyzes all types of data using spatial location and then organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes to provide a useful visual overview to identify patterns. The student-collected data was used by the Conservancy to develop an effective, prioritized removal plan for clearing some 56 acres of acacia between November 2019 and February 2020. The students are now conducting bird surveys and photo-point monitoring to evaluate recovery of native plants and to monitor any emerging acacia seedlings in order to prevent plants from reestablishing populations in restored areas.
In the sky above the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, seven California State University Long Beach students in the Masters of Science GIS Program are working with the Conservancy to map vegetation. Through a special research permit, the Conservancy deployed a drone and are using remote sensing technology and spectral satellite imagery to analyze types of vegetation and create models to identify fire-prone areas and prioritize locations for future acacia removal.
The Conservancy’s Wildlife Tracking and Cactus Wren Monitoring programs and a new Palos Verdes blue butterfly host plant phenology research study are using the mobile app Survey123 for ArcGIS. This online platform facilitates the collection of custom survey data and uploads data immediately to the cloud. The new app technology is enhancing the work of the community science programs in the field where there is little or no cell service, streamlining the data collection work of many interns and volunteers while also reducing errors and the time needed for analysis.
Survey123 and Collector for ArcGIS are customized for Conservancy projects and then uploaded to participants’ smartphones. These apps sync with the cloud-based ArcGIS Online site to enable the Conservancy to monitor endangered species, conservation easements, restoration work, invasive species removal, trail repair efforts and more in real time.
By utilizing the latest emerging technologies, community scientists with the Conservancy can directly and efficiently expand the understanding of plant and wildlife species on the preserves. These technologies will revolutionize and accelerate restoration activities to support imperiled wildlife populations and help the Conservancy make informed and timely decisions regarding future conservation needs.