By Erika Zambello
If you've been in Duke Gardens recently, you might have noticed a group of students marching purposefully through the trails, a bright yellow apparatus clutched tightly in their hands. No, they are not looking for signs of extraterrestrial life. They are, however, using the Gardens in a unique way: creating a map as part of a GPS and Geographic Information System (GIS) assignment.
Audrey Archer, a first year Nicholas School of the Environment graduate student, and her assignment partner Emma Vaughan, a second year Nicholas School graduate student, arrived early one Thursday morning to finish mapping for their Forest Measurements course.
"The goal is to produce a map of the Blomquist trails and 30 'point' features throughout the Gardens," Archer explained in an email, point features being,"fountains, visitor center, benches, the dawn redwood trees, Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, lakes, etc."
|Photo by Audrey Archer|
"This was an awesome opportunity to explore the Gardens," Archer says. "There aren't too many classes that you can take a walk in the Gardens while simultaneously working on an assignment. An added bonus: a large portion of this class is learning how to ID trees. As you know, a lot of vegetation is labeled in the gardens, so our data collection proved to also be a great study opportunity! Talk about multi-tasking!"
|Photo by Emma Vaughan|
"We got a base map in place using an aerial photograph," says Beth Hall, Paul J. Kramer plant collections manager. "We went through and basically drew on where paths were in the aerial photograph, and then our summer interns went through and added all the benches." Additionally, each bench on the map has a corresponding photograph for easy identification.
Duke Gardens has mapped the paths, benches, and irrigation heads throughout the Gardens, and it has begun the long process of mapping all the plants.
"The aerial photograph is so accurate that we'll be using it to map individual trees and shrubs," Hall adds, "You can see perennials on the ground."
As these mapping projects continue, Duke Gardens will be host to a wealth of information that can be used for classes, visitors, and efforts to refine and improve management plans. Though I do not yet know how to use GIS or other mapping software, I am incredibly excited because these projects really offer more ways to get to know our Gardens.
Blogger Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.