In early 2015 we began implementing a Geographic Information System (GIS). Huh?
A GIS is an integrated way of gathering, storing, analyzing and viewing data in useful and meaningful ways. Most everything in our lives has a geographic or location-based element to it, and in the garden world, this is especially true.
Detailed maps and current inventories are critical tools for managing living collections. The “Place” attribute of living collections is a powerful and natural way of organizing data for specific sites throughout the environment as well as individual specimens. However, GIS goes deeper than just the Collections here at The Farm. Physical features, like underground irrigation and utility lines, have been accurately marked (down to +/- 4 inches) using GPS. With this information, we are able to more completely plan for plantings and landscape work, knowing what infrastructure work is likely to be needed during the project.
Along with irrigation and utilities, we have been busy marking and collecting data on the locations of trees, planting areas, turf areas, pathways, pavement segments, light posts, buildings, even bird houses...you name it, we’re probably going to mark it. All of these landscape features are stored in its own GIS layer called a “Feature Class” that contains all of the attribute data about each specific object or area. Using our mapping software, we are able to stack these layers on top of each other in a digital environment to form visual representations of the real world environment.
Here is a thematic diagram of 5 separate layers on a portion of The Farm:
We have been working with data models created by the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS; a collaborative group of collections managers and GIS users from botanical gardens, arboreta, and university campuses from around the World. A data model is a practical template for implementing a GIS, and the APGG data model is specific to the garden world. By using this resource, we are able to fully standardize our GIS with a large number of public gardens and research institutions that have paved the way for technology integration in botanical gardens.
From helping Arborists locate specific species or individual trees for health assessments to producing custom maps for special events, we will be utilizing the power of GIS in many exciting ways. Other future uses of GIS on The Farm are handheld device GPS-based interactive tours and building mobile mapping applications focused on specific tour types (i.e. – elementary school plant lessons or garden groups with narrow, specialized interests).