NatureMapping on the Yellow Dog Plains

Two weeks ago, I participated in an amazing 3-day training session for NatureMapping, sponsored by the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, which will be the first site in Michigan officially working with this tool. This course was led by the dynamic Karen Dvornich, co-founder and National Director of The NatureMapping Program, and Outreach Coordinator for the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Washington.  (See: brief history of NatureMapping).  Here’s how YDWP describes NatureMapping:

There is a new way for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers to get involved in the scientific community… the goal of Nature Mapping is to encourage citizen scientists to collect baseline information on a variety of flora and fauna types, send the data to a central database, and to create visual displays of the records collected. (…) The idea behind Nature Mapping is to create a system that allows individuals that have an interest in nature but not necessarily a degree in Biology to still be able to collect useful information. The program is designed for laypeople, school children, landowners, and other users that might not have the technical expertise to run more complicated programs…. The benefit is that it can be used for a variety of projects and is easy to use.  NatureMapping works by providing users with a handheld PDA with a built in GPS. When the user wants to record information, such as a bear track or bird sighting, the PDA takes you through a series of questions to help collect the right information. Once the user is done surveying or observing, the PDA is brought back to our central database and the information is uploaded locally and nationally (… providing) educators, non-profits, the scientific community, and any others with a tool that can be used by all.

Exciting! Now that I’m certified to work with NatureMapping, I am already planning how to use it to develop a biodiversity inventory (for a large forested property in Marquette county). I will be starting with the timber management plan, figuring out the habitat codes, and adding ground data (either aerial photos available from the county, or working with GoogleEarth sat images). Something to do this winter! The daily observations and PDA work will have to wait until spring.

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