Harnessing the Power of the Cloud

Cell phone utilizing new mapping technology.Imagine being out in a forest, and knowing with a simple glance at your phone what invasive species are located nearby, regardless of who owns what land. That’s the goal behind a new cloud-based mapping effort.        

“We are testing a new data and information system, so that everyone in the region can work with the same biological information,” says Kevin Rohling, Forestry Technician for University of Illinois Extension Forestry. “We hope this information unlocks our potential to coordinate with everyone who is working to conserve forests.”

The new information-sharing system will track: 1) invasive species, 2) prescribed fire and 3) forest management data, from forest plans to actual efforts to implement forest management. These systems are based on ArcGIS Online, which allows users to collect and update information in the field.

Before this system was developed, conservation partners managed data independent of each other. This made it hard to share or combine data – or determine how well we were succeeding on the landscape. For example, it was hard to determine our success at prescribed fire and invasive species control. Further, it was a difficult, at best, to determine where the work was collectively occurring.

This kind of comprehensive, region-wide information also is expected to help develop new projects and more quickly respond to opportunities to bring additional funds to forest management.