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    Smartphone Apps in Natural Resources Webinar


    I just want to welcome everyone to the Smartphone Apps in Natural Resources Webinar Thank you for joining me today

    My name is Kevin Rohling I'm a Forestry Research Technician with the University of Illinois Extension Forestry down at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in southern Illinois Before I begin here I just want to mention a couple of things Questions will be addressed at the end of the webinar and you can ask a question at any time during the presentation in the chat box Here's a few possible suggestions if anyone is still having issues

    You can change the device, make sure your speakers are being recognized by your computer, make sure they're turned on, and there might be a icon under the zoom app that you might have to select on So with that, we will get started Really one of the great things about this smartphone era and the ability to use the smartphone apps is we're no longer required to carry all these different tools with us into the field Which, as we know, could be pretty unwieldy if you're looking into many different things Really all you need is your smartphone, and along with the smartphone, a lot of applications are taking the place of these other hard copy resources such as the field guides, databases, maps

    We're gonna go over a whole slew of different applications that could be used in field studies and Natural Resources There's really quite a wide variety, so I've narrowed them down into a few groupings We'll go through them in these groups to make a little more sense of them I hope before we get into the actual apps, there are some things that you'll want to consider Are these applications that you're looking into Android or iOS or Apple compatible

    Is it region-specific? Some apps might be specific to a different portion of the country Will it work for your area? The data needs Down here in extreme southern Illinois, especially, we have a lot of locations where we can't connect up to the internet Does it have the ability to work offline? Storage requirements This is one that I've run into you on my personal device

    A lot of these apps, especially the field guides, where there's a lot of images and requires a lot of data That's something you might want to consider as well Current support Is the app being updated? In this technological world, things move pretty fast so you want to make sure you're getting the most up-to-date applications In addition, is is their costs for the application? Is it free? Is there a one-time charge or is there an ongoing membership fee in some cases? Battery life of your device

    If you're going to be out in the field all day, you might want to consider having an external form of power or portable battery charger Storage capacity In relation to what I had mentioned a little bit ago where some of these apps take up a lot of space If you have the option of extending your memory in your device, you might be able to add some of these apps to an SD card I thought this was going to be a way that I could really make use of the external memory, but it turns out that it's not that simple

    Every time an application is updated on my phone, the device actually puts the app back on to internal memory So I would have to go in and manually change the location of the device memory and move it back over to the SD card, every time it updates I kept running into this issue where I would get all these apps and be like, okay great, I can fit all these high data apps But then, when these apps get updated, I'd run out of storage space and it was it was a lot more complicated than than I had anticipated So that's something to keep in mind

    Finally, the ruggedized device options If you know you're going to be using your phone or a tablet out in the field, you might want to consider looking into weather proof or weather resistant and shock group or shock resistant devices And then, just using some sort of cover or a case for your device that can stand up to some of those abuses As I mentioned before this is a pretty broad topic, to say the least I'm gonna hit on several that I've found useful or that I thought that others might find useful

    I definitely encourage you, if you're interested in these, to go out and do some research on your own Especially if you have a particular interest Odds are that there's an app out there specific to to what you're wanting to do To kick it off, we're gonna look into a few options for identification field guides and then databases Some of these are integrated

    might be identification field guides and databases as you'll see The first is straight up a identification guide This one is the forest pest insects in North America, a Photographic Guide This is available on both Apple and Android and it will help you to recognize some common pest insects that are affecting trees This is a free application, but it is a large data needs app

    539 megabytes, so that's almost a half a gig of memory and it can only be stored in internal storage I thought this one might be something that I could put on my external sd card, but it turned out not to be the case The app itself is very useful It has a lot of really great images If you're into seeking out forest pests, it is one that you might consider

    In addition to the imagery, it has a lot of information about the pest itself, some of the host plants that you might find it on, distribution, and so on This next app is another guide type app This is more almost like a binomial key This is available on Apple and Android It is free, no charge

    Not quite as much memory but still pretty significant It takes up a 199 megabytes and you could use it on an internal or external memory This one contains identification information and just information in general about different plants in Illinois It works for all taxa of plants Just to give you an overview, this app will enable you to input different characteristics of the plant that you're looking at and narrow down your options for what you might be encountering there in the field

    A lot of really good information about where you might find it, photographs, information about the description of the plant itself Here's the interface for Illinois Wildflowers It takes a look at your location and then you input first off the plant type, and then the flower color and petals This is, of course, if you have that available If you don't have a flower available on the plant this makes it a little more challenging

    The leaf arrangement and the habitat Once you input all that information, Illinois Wildflowers will narrow that down using its database and it brings you to the most likely suspects I've used this one quite a bit in the field Before we jump into the next batch here, I just want to mention I saw this article actually earlier today With everyone's social distancing and self isolating and that sort of thing, this is kind of a neat thing that people can do while they're isolated

    So the next couple of apps I'm going to mention are something that you could either do in your yard or if you're out in the field by yourself or even on your computer if you have old pictures You can upload them to some of these websites that are kind of linked to the apps Some of these next ones that I'm going to mention are linked to webpages and they have database capabilities That's useful to scientists as well as just keeping track of your own lists, and can be pretty fun The first of that type is eBird

    So, eBird is available on both Android and Apple As the name implies it is tracking and actually a database of bird locations and bird-watching and monitoring The e bird app itself is relatively low on the data needs spectrum, 42 megabytes The data that is entered into ebird is then verified by experts I've seen ebird used in a number of presentations and scientific conferences in some cases to verify what others are seeing, but there are some studies out there that are making use of this data as well

    A companion to eBird is the Merlin bird ID app which is a huge resource and documents over 3,000 different bird species If you're looking for a bird guide that is one that you might consider, but that is a very data heavy app as well About 500 megabytes, so that's almost half a gig of data As far as eBird goes, once you have this app uploaded, it will enable you to open an account It will keep track of your personal sightings, but it also allows you to explore different hot spots that people have set up

    Pretty much anywhere throughout the country you can find a hot spot and see what other people have been seeing in those areas You can set it up so that you can receive rare bird alerts If there's a rare bird found in your area, for example, you might be able to get an alert and go try to see it yourself This data is more and more being used in analyses by scientists, so you're not only contributing to your own interests but also to the scientific community as well INaturalist, this one is pretty popular

    If you haven't heard of any of these up to this point you may have heard of this one INaturalist is very similar to Ebird in a lot of ways It is free It takes up about 125 megabytes

    It does require that internal storage You can record observations of pretty much anything you will find in nature So, as eBird is specific to birds, INaturalist is for pretty much any nature observation and that you come across It's pretty cool because it crowd-sources the identification So while eBird has experts verifying identifications and things of that nature, INaturalist uses the crowd-source community

    They have a system where if three people confirm the species that you've input then they'll confirm that as pretty solid for that species identification Similar to eBird this shares with community, friends, scientists It's pretty fun to just go to the INaturalist website and dig around and see what people are seeing in your area Examples of what that app might look like A list from my supervisor's INaturalist page It shows the locations of all of his inputs For example, if you came across this tree out in the field you could snap a picture and upload it It'll take data from your location and the image and come up with some suggestions and you see right here, actually the top suggestion is the correct ID for that plant It's pretty fun

    I definitely encourage you to you check out their website and get some more information about the capabilities of this system Once you find something, this was just kind of an interesting find I looked up what was relatively nearby my location You could just click on that recent report and then you can do a deep dive It gives the description, distribution, and information

    All kinds of information that you can get into you pretty in pretty short order Up next, I have PlantNet This is another one that is both Apple and Android compatible It is free and relatively small, 53 megabytes, but only uses internal storage This similar to crowd-sourcing plant identification, similar to INaturalist, but specific to plants

    This database and sharing platform is analyzed by scientists as well Here's just an example of one that that I did a while back In most cases I came to find that it suggested the correct identification within the top three to five species that it suggested or so You would open up the app and there's a little button to either take a picture or upload a picture from your device to the app It checks that picture in relation to other plants in the database and comes up with the most common suggestions

    This one in particular turned out to be arrow-leaved tearthumb, which I was pretty curious about It had been growing in abundance adjacent to a disturbed area and I wasn't sure what I was looking at This one actually was not the top choice, but I was able to use the information that it gave me to dig a little deeper and came up with the correct ID This next one I want to talk about is one I'm probably most familiar with The app, in this case is called Great Lakes Early Detection Network, but it is really a branch of the EDDMaps system EDDMaps is called the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System and it is for documenting invasive species

    EDDMaps is the website name and Great Lakes Early Detection Network is the regional application that you would use that's integrated with EDDMaps Depending where you are in the country, there might be a different application that links up to EDDMaps in your area just because they try to focus on the species that you would find within your region Each region has their own separate app, but the cool thing is that it all feeds into this national database of invasive plants and animals and insects I've mostly used it for plants It's really cool and kind of fun once you get into it

    In addition to being able to document where you're finding these invasives, it also has a lot of info that could be used more as an ID guide as well, but you'd have to have an idea of what you're looking at You might use this in concert with one of those previous identification apps if you're not sure what you're looking at And then upload that to the EDDMaps or the Great Lakes Early Detection Network Some of the things that are interesting that come out of this, basically this online database is a repository for documenting invasive species locations and spread across the country You can upload the images and, again, this would be verified by an expert and then loaded into the the overall database

    You put in your location either using the internal GPS of your device or you can choose this location on a map, if you're no longer in that spot It'll ask you for other information, such as the time you spent there, size of the infestation, percent cover, and so on We're going to jump into the next section here This one will be on calculations, information, and recommendations The first one in this section I want to mention is the Service Forester's Toolkit

    This one, again, is available on Apple and Android It's based on a document that historically was just a hardcopy, the US Forest Service Service Forester's Handbook It's basically a reference book with a variety of calculators and graphing options for measurements, volume tables, your chart index

    A whole lot of things that you might use if you're interested in forest management This probably is a little more detailed than a lot of folks might be interested in, depending on your role, but it gets pretty in-depth about a whole suite of forest management options For example, here we have a graph of white oak and the projected growth of white oak over time It's pretty neat You can calculate the expansion of your trees over time if you have some of the variables specific to your site

    Stocking guides If you're interested in using your woods for later harvest These graphs can give you an idea of how your woods is stocked So if you're understocked or overstocked Again, this depends on a lot of specific characteristics to your site

    Up next is the SoilWeb application This one is pretty similar to a another website that I'm a pretty big fan of, the Web Soil Survey If you haven't used that website, I recommend taking a look at that SoilWeb is basically just the smartphone version of that If you're out in the field and you're curious about what type of soils might be in the area that you're in, the SoilWeb app will allow you to do that

    It's pretty neat Probably not something you could do very easily in the past I guess, without knowing your location and having a soil map along for the ride Next we have the Fire Weather Calculator If anyone out there is practicing prescribed fire this might be an app that you'd be interested in

    This one will do various observation calculations and will actually save the data to archive it for you if you need to keep those type of records It will allow for calculation of relative humidity, fine fuel moisture, and probability of ignition As long as you feed in current weather conditions that you might be taking there on the fire, it can make those calculations for you on the fly It could be pretty useful This one is very similar although more specific

    It's just to calculate the relative humidity So if we were looking for something a little more straightforward just with a couple of measurements in the field you can get your RH These next couple are in relation to spraying and herbicide use These two that I'm going to mention are from Clemson University Extension This one's called mix my sprayer

    It allows you to calculate product mixes and you can create custom lists of your preferred products You basically add the name of your product and insert the values in the input boxes and the app will automatically calculate the amount of product to include That could be pretty useful Calibrating My Sprayer is similar to that previous app, but helps in proper calibration, which is very important You don't want to put out too little or too much herbicide when you're doing this

    You want to have just the right amount, so you want to make sure in calibrate your sprayer This one allows you to insert a few different values and then it will come up with the appropriate calibration That brings us to the next and, I believe, the last section This one's going to be on the mapping apps There's a lot of options out there

    I'm just going to go over a few that I've used and mention a couple others that other folks have found useful as well The first one up is Avenza Maps this app uses geo-referenced PDF maps Basically, the GPS location information is embedded in the digital file of the PDF When you upload that PDF to this app, it can show you where you are on the map

    You can also input waypoints in the form of KML files and a lot of other things It's pretty useful It has its own map store There are a couple different options for uploading maps The one that is pretty useful to me is the map store

    It looks at your location and you can search for maps that are available for your area Some of the maps are free Others you have to pay an amount to use them with the app You just have to look into it Down here in southern Illinois, it's pretty neat

    The Shawnee National Forest has a whole series of maps for the entirety of the Shawnee National Forest Basically, you can go to the Avenza map store and download that series to your device That would be a lot of data though, so you might I want to figure out if you're gonna be in a specific portion of the Shawnee and then just download those portions of the maps that you'd be using You can also look up PDF maps that are georeferenced online and then download those to your device and then bring them up in the Avenza Maps app Or if you have a personal map

    For example, if you have maybe a forest management plan If you're working with a contractor or a state forester or something of that nature You might have a map of your property Chances are they've created this map in GIS and they can download it as a georeferenced PDF That might be a fun thing to have if you have that option

    Just to go back to some of the features, I've used it in the past to navigate You can put pins down You can capture points, tracks, and photos from different locations You can import or export different file types I mentioned the KML, GPS, or GPX and CSV files

    All of those could be used as waypoint files to document different features that you're finding on the land or someone else has already found and you can upload them and then use it to you navigate to those points It's pretty versatile It takes a little getting used to you but once you figure it out it's pretty cool In addition to Avenza, some other options for mapping I've got colleagues that have used Backcountry Navigator

    This one, it's kind of similar to this next one that I'm going to talk about so I won't get into too much detail But it'll have a base map and options for inputting points, lines, and polygons depending on the package that you have available I believe there's a free version, but then there's also advanced versions that you would have to pay for I believe that is a one-time fee The OnX hunt map app

    This one is one that I've been seeing a lot lately The neat thing about OnX hunt is that it uses information from plot maps to show private land boundaries A lot of people use it when they're hunting to make sure that they're on the land that they are supposed to be on This one's pretty fun You can again also use the OnX hunt app to make waypoints and and save locations and that sort of thing

    If you have spots that you've gone and checked out and you want to come back to That one does, I believe, have an ongoing membership fee I believe you'd have to do an annual membership fee There might be a free option as well but I don't think lasts very long The last one here is the hiking project

    This is one that came in pretty useful for me, if you do much hiking This one is through the REI store They put this app out It is free to use Basically the users are the folks who input these tracks for the hiking trails

    For example, I went on a backpack in Missouri last year on a trail that was criss-crossed by a bunch of unofficial trails and actually some other official trails that just kind of went all over the place We went down the wrong trail a couple of times and ended up using this Hiking Project app to get back on track That's one that I found to be pretty useful for that as well Then finally, the last app that I'm going to mention This is probably more for professional use, because even though it is a free app, you really need to also have an organizational account with the software company ESRI and have an ArcGIS online and desktop capabilities to take full advantage

    With Collector, you're able to create maps and databases in ArcGIS online or in the desktop Then, after you've created those maps and databases, you can then collect data with the collector app We've used it to – great with some great uses here I will just mention one project We've used it for tracking invasive pests and plants

    One thing we did was we used it to execute these roadside surveys for bush honeysuckle We partnered with several organizations down here in southern Illinois and we broke up into teams and we were able to go out and monitor roadways within these priority areas of the Shawnee You can see that map on the left All the dots on the left and right side of the map are points that we collected If you zoom in on some of those, you can see you can really start to see some hotspots and kind of cool spots, if you will, of the location of bush honeysuckle

    This image there on the right is probably our least infested and that was in this extreme southeast corner of Illinois You can still see where there were bunches of points together and so we could target our control of bush honeysuckle in those sorts of areas where it hasn't gotten totally out of control yet, and hopefully maintain that in has a little bush honeysuckle as possible With that, I am going to open it up to questions, but I want to mention we do have a couple more upcoming webinars Chris Evans is going to be doing an introduction to invasive species on April 29th and then I'm going to be doing another one on selected natural areas of the Shawnee National Forest on May 4th Our plan is to do keep doing webinars until this craziness is over

    So I hope you'll you'll join us for some more I'll mention here that we will have recordings of this and all of our other webinars on the Extension Forestry YouTube page ZACH — Thanks Kevin Very good presentation I'm going to open up with kind of a Q&A session for you here

    We had a very active chat box, so a lot of our questions already got answered by folks in the chat box Question one – Will all apps work for the desktop? KEVIN — I'm not sure I understand the question I guess it really depends Like I said, some of those apps that I talked about are kind of integrated with websites that are found online So definitely not all of them are compatible with desktop

    Like Avenza Maps, for example ,I know doesn't really work on desktop It's more exclusively a phone application, but really a lot of them are ones that you can probably access through desktop ZACH — okay and so moving right along Are all the apps free? KEVIN — No, I tried to mention that at each start I'm not sure how good of a job I did of that

    Most of the ones that I talked about are free or have some free type version that might have additional option packages where you might pay for them I know like Backcountry Navigator was one that has a free version and then has higher level of operation that you might have to pay for You just got to have to look at them and see for each one, but most of the ones I talked about are free ZACH — Okay, so this one is specifically for the Avenza app How do you determine GPS and put it in on the phone? I would assume that would it uses the phone's GPS

    KEVIN — yeah that's correct It would use the internal GPS and locate you If you're asking whether it could zoom to a point if you input it I imagine there is that capability, but I'm not sure on the specifics of how you'd have to do that ZACH — In your opinion would Avenza be useful to create a tree identification walk? KEVIN –Yeah, I think that would be an awesome use for it

    You might actually have to create it in GIS initially and then upload it to Avenza There might be a better option depending on your GIS abilities to have a story map of sorts that you might be able to link to online Then people could use as long as they had ability to access the Internet in the areas that you would be setting up your your tree ID walk I'd be happy to talk more about that sometime if somebody wants to send me an email about that ZACH — There is someone trying to find an app that they pair with an iPhone fisheye lens to estimate canopy cover

    Are you aware of any and how accurate are they? KEVIN — Short answer is no No I'm not not aware of an app that you'd be able to do that with That's a great question though I'd be curious ZACH — How good is privacy on apps particularly in terms of avoiding constant tracking? KEVIN — I guess I'm not really sure

    All these apps, almost all of them, used some sort of location tracking either to enable your use of inputting data at a specific location or even your objective itself might be to track your movements So there's definitely some issues with that I would imagine It's not something I've been concerned about generally because who cares where I've been walking in the woods But, that is something that if you're concerned about privacy that could be an issue ZACH — This one specifically for the sprayer app you mentioned earlier

    You mentioned it calculated herbicides Does it also have insecticides loaded for calculation? KEVIN — That's a good question I'm not sure I haven't personally done much with insecticides per se I'd have to look that up

    ZACH — We got another question about what is GIS? KEVIN — Oh shoot, sorry GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems or Geographic Information Science depending on the context It's basically digital mapping In most cases, well in a lot of cases I guess I should say, we use GIS to develop databases that are linked to specific locations So, can have anything ranging from municipality locations of fire hydrants all the way down to using aerial imagery and satellite imagery to track vegetation change over time

    It's really a useful tool using geographic data for analysis and monitoring ZACH — Okay, very good Can you explain a bit more about internal versus external storage? Somebody said that they don't think they have the capability to add SD storage Their tray only holds a sim card KEVIN — Yeah, that is probably true

    In my experience, I'm not sure hundred percent, but I know most Apple devices do not allow you to input an SD card or have external memory so whatever you have on internal memory on that type of device is all you got That's true on some Android phones and Google phones as well There may or may not be the option for you to add a microSD card, but on some Android phones, most Samsung's that I'm aware o,f may not be true for all, you can add some sort of microSD card That's what I that's what I meant when I was talking about internal versus external Internal memory storage is on the device itself whereas the external would be just the possibility of you having that microSD card

    ZACH –Are there any mapping devices or methods to give more accurate waypoints? This guy's been using Garmin for years which only has about three meter accuracy KEVIN — Unless you're willing to pay a lot of money, you're probably not gonna get much better than three meters of accuracy There are devices out there that will use ground control points and other towers that help improve the location of your GPS, but three meters is probably about as good as you can get with the devices that are widely available We had some issues on a tablet recently that was way off in some of its GPS location collection data and we ended up purchasing an external GPS that connected with our device through bluetooth It drastically improved the location of our GPS points, I will say

    But, it probably is not higher than that three meter accuracy okay ZACH — Everyone we've got we've still got some time for questions, so if we have not answered your question you can put it right there in the chat box or you can ask any more questions What was the fire weather app called again? KEVIN — Fire Weather Calculator ZACH — Are you planning on doing any webinars on only mapping KEVIN — I hadn't thought about it, but that's definitely something I would consider

    That's one of my strengths in my background, so yeah I would definitely think about adding a mapping specific talk ZACH — What are your thoughts on IPlant and PlantSnap apps? Have you used those? KEVIN — I am not used IPlant I have used PlantSnap in the past, but to be perfectly honest I believe it was a few years back From what I've heard, I think it's gotten better That's the thing with a lot of these apps that are using images to make identifications

    The more people input into them, the better the app gets it at making those IDs I imagine that those are probably getting better, but I don't have much personal experience ZACH — Someone else also asked about Picture This I guess that's another one of those apps KEVIN — Yeah I'm not familiar with it unfortunately

    ZACH — Do you know about VTree? KEVIN — Is that the Virginia Tech Tree ID? I think that one it's another kind of field guide type app that is more or less a database of identification information I believe that one could be pretty useful If that's the one that I'm thinking ZACH –Someone else asked about a presentation about endangered threatened trees in Illinois and where they're located We can talk to Chris about that

    He'd be an excellent candidate to do that talk We'll talk to him about that KEVIN — Yeah, absolutely I think he's done something similar to that in the past ZACH –Is there an ID app that does exotics as well as natives? KEVIN — I would say INaturalist would probably cover that

    INaturalist is just a repository for everything, so that would probably be my best suggestion for that Thanks everybody I appreciate you you all coming on and hope to see you for real at some point in the future All right thanks

    Source: Youtube

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