One device to do it all: technology in the field

By Dana Wright, Land Stewardship Manager

Photo-monitor Sue Nelson juggles all the gear our volunteers currently carry to monitor a property. Photo by Jill Anderson.

Technology is moving if not at the speed of light, at least at the speed of sound. I’m not that old and can easily remember when a phone was something you actually dialed, televisions were controlled with dials and took up most of the living room, and the radio (also operated with a dial) took up the leftover space. Now a phone can handle all this without a dial in sight.

Having been called both a techie and a Luddite, I try to find a balance between the two. Technology should be used to increase efficiency and effectiveness without being cost-prohibitive or difficult to learn. Legacy’s program for monitoring protected land has dabbled in the technology world—we use GPS and digital cameras—but we have been held back by the nature of field work. Currently, Legacy’s photo-monitors carry into the field:
• a rugged GPS unit
• a binder encased in plastic
• a camera in a waterproof case or plastic bag
• a clipboard for taking notes

The wave of the future! Volunteer Neal Billetdeaux enjoys the greater ease and effectiveness of monitoring properties with a single device: a tablet. Photo by Dana Wright.

Starting this year, that awkward bundle will be downsized to one tablet, or one phone (no dials). We will utilize an application that will allow us to combine note-taking, photos, geolocating (finding yourself on the map), and georeferencing (placing information on a map) all in one device. Not only will data collection be easier and more accurate, data will become easier to track and share. Instead of having to manually sort and file photos, GPS points, route maps, and notes, the app will kick out one file for upload to our new database or to Google Earth. The file will embed photos and notes in their locations, and lay the monitor’s walking route over an aerial image.

Pretty neat, huh? If you agree and would like to help, consider making a donation to help Legacy offset the cost of six tablets that will equip our squad of 45 volunteer photo-monitors (contact info@legacylandconservancy.org or 734-302-5263).

These hardy volunteers make sure the land we promise to protect stays protected, and by adopting this new technology we make their work easier!

This article first appeared in our Winter 2017 newsletter, which you can download to read in full.

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