MPG Ranch is a 9,500 acre ranch in the Bitterroot Valley dedicated to ecological, biological, and environmental study and education. They hired GCS to create a method of collecting field data, uploading it to ArcGIS, and running analysis and reports on the database.
The Ranch spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on landscape restoration efforts, planting, seeding, building earth banks and ensuring drainage, putting up fences to keep grazing wildlife out, and other efforts that revitalize a habitat. Researchers wanted to find out whether their efforts were having a positive impact on wildlife and analyze what treatments worked best.
After considering options like Trimble GPS devices with ArcPad, the team decided on an iPad solution. Combining high resolution aerial imagery of the ranch (at a 6-inch ground scale), sensitive GPS on the iPad, on-demand sync with a database, and touchscreen controls, GCS created a system for wildlife observation collection and analysis that streamlined the process for biologists. Collected data was funnelled directly into ArcGIS for analysis.
The iPad app and Desktop analysis tools have uses for multiple projects on the ranch. Researchers have concluded one study on songbird populations during fall migration, in areas called “shrubby draws,” linear areas that follow a gully and include small amounts of cover surrounded by grasslands. Researchers record an “observation session” on the iPad app, which shows an exact GPS position over high-res imagery. This helps them determine observational distance and didn’t require them to descend into a gully to make an observation, which might destroy habitat and disturb wildlife. Each bird sighting recorded information on bird species, location, and vegetation use. Sessions could be recorded when disconnected and uploaded when finished (and back to wi-fi coverage) with a “Sync” button, which also downloads updates from other researchers.
They tracked patterns in bird occurrence, abundance, and diversity through both time and space. Because the data are geo-referenced, they could examine bird use of specific areas and small-scale features. These observations will help guide additional restoration projects in the draws and provide a quantitative means of evaluating the effectiveness of restoration treatments.