Spring Tree Series with Mike Herrema: Tree GIS
This is where I screwed up.
This is the fourth part of the Spring Tree Series with Mike Herrema from Cornerstone University. Previous articles in this series:
Earlier this week I had a meeting about where to place surveying monuments. These points will have known data about location and elevation and will help the university with any future building project and it will also make incorporating our utilities such as fiber, electricity, water, and irrigation into one large GIS map. GIS stands for geographic information system and it can provide pinpoint accuracy of utilities or any data point. While we have each of these systems plotted separately, without the help of these monuments, we have never been able to successfully incorporate all of them together. These conversations made me think of Tree GIS.
Tree GIS has been around for some time now and it can provide a wealth of knowledge to the grounds manager or the arborist working in the field. Virtually anything about the tree can be stored into a data point and retrieved for later use with just a click of the computer mouse scrolling over the map. Trees can be marked by species, DBH, height, risk assessment, condition, and pictures can be added for easier identification. Anytime any work is being done to one particular tree, it can be logged into the data point for historical reference. Instead of scrolling through past invoices to see when a particular tree was treated for disease suppression or prevention, it is easy accessible electronically. Knowledge is power and it is incredibly useful when the groundskeeper can easily populate a list of risk hazards trees, for instance.
While Tree GIS can make the groundskeeper’s job easier, it does come at a cost. Depending on the size and scope of the project; to get the trees plotted can easily cost several thousand, if not tens of thousands of dollars. An institution is then married to this technology and the tree firm that completed the work for years to come. There is a wealth of knowledge that can be associated with each tree, but if it is not updated regularly, the whole project can quickly become useless and irrelevant. This is where I screwed up. I thought that I could update the information in my spare time, especially in the winter. I had plans to add the trees that we planted during the year, remove the data points for trees that we cut down and add notes for any trees that we decided to treat for various diseases. Just like the rough winter that we had that year, the Tree GIS also snowballed out of control.
Before committing to a Tree GIS system, there should be cost benefit analysis done with clear objectives from this project. There should be plans for regular updates to the data either by the in-house grounds staff or by the outside contractor. Questions should be asked like how the service provider will update the software years in the future with new technology requirements. If tree GIS will certainly be beneficial to your institution, the money is available, and then grounds staff can make the level of commitment to maintain it, then do it. But if you are on the fence, I might recommend looking for other ways to invest your funds.