MapInfo / Forestry Users Meeting - 03/04/05

After nearly a year and a half since the prior meeting,  the MapInfo/Forestry Users Group met on March 4th 2005 at the offices of  Port Blakely Tree Farms in Olympia, Washington.   Nearly 20 participants, from Oregon, Washington and Montana attended the meeting which lasted more than 5 hours and was filled with several excellent presentations and discussions. 

After a brief welcome note, introductions and a few comments, long time MapInfo user Mr. Tom Curley,  GIS Program Manager of the Suquamish Tribe, began the meeting  with a presentation on Using GPS with GIS.  This broad ranging discussion reviewed the variety of ways the Suquamish Tribe implemented GPS with their MapInfo system.  The examples ranged from older, notebook based GPS systems employing Blue Marble's Geographic Tracker software (included free with MapInfo Pro) for field mapping, to procedures required for post processing, differential corrections on Survey Grade GPS collected data.  The Suquamish tribe has used GPS technology at a variety of levels to map cultural sites, locate property corners, identify shrimp harvest areas, map fire boundaries, and navigate canoe journeys among other things.   Tom's presentation covered a wide variety of creative uses of GPS technology.

Next, Tony Cooley , of Data Directions presented options and components of PDA based Mobile Mapping alternatives for Foresters.    The discussion presented details and options as related to the hardware, software and data requirements of PDA mapping systems.  Two mapping programs were reviewed.  First, Tierra Mapper from Geo-Information Solutions of Tucson, AZ was offered as a low cost, MapInfo compatible solution.  Tierra Mapper offers built in GPS support with navigation and data collection capabilities.  Point data is read and written to a standard MS Access database.  The product also offers the collection and display of GPS Tracks and free form, user drawn "red lines".  Included with Tierra Mapper  is a utility to convert a MapInfo Map Window into a Tierra Mapper compatible data file, ready for the PDA.  Second the moderately priced, yet powerful ArcPad program, from ESRI was reviewed.  ArcPad offers full field based GIS capabilities including unlimited vector layer editing, and robust GPS support.  ArcPad may also be customized to add additional tool bars and capabilities.  PDA connected GPS hardware can be configured with PDOP masks and to average point collection among other settings.    The MI2AP product from Avantra Geosystems was discussed.  MI2AP works from within MapInfo and converts an entire MapInfo Workspace into an ArcPad compatible map.  Unlike the Universal Translator, the resulting Shape files retain their symbology (color, shape, symbol, etc.) reducing set up and configuration time significantly.   MI2AP also provides for the creation of ArcPad forms from within MapInfo Professional.  Employing forms for PDA based data collection and display greatly increases the efficiency of PDA based field data collection.  The talk was concluded with a live demonstration of form based, point collection within ArcPad and the integration of a Hot Linked digital photograph also collected with the 1.2 mega pixel, camera equipped PDA.

Chuck Vopicka database manager of the Forest Biometrics Research Institute, followed the mobile mapping presentation with the demonstration of the latest offering for the FPS Forest Inventory System, MFPS (Mobile FPS).  Developed using VB.NET, MFPS operates on a standard Windows Mobile 2003 PDA and offers foresters an efficient option for field data collection in a format directly compatible with the desktop version of FPS.  MFPS also provides for a certain level of customization of presentation and data collection forms. 

Following Chuck's presentation Kevin Ceder, Forest Technology Specialist with the Rural Technology Initiative,  presented a lively discussion on the new, ever changing Landscape Management System (LMS).  Funded with help from the US Forest Service, LMS is an extensive set of free software tools to assist with natural resource management activities as related to landscapes.  LMS can bring together forest inventory data, growth models, GIS analysis, and graphical display for a complete tool box for land managers.  Some of the free display components of LMS include the Stand Visualization System for viewing Forest inventory data, and Envision for lifelike 3D display with inventory integration of landscapes.    LMS is an open and growing project.  Some discussion was focused on the future integration of the FPS Growth Model to the LMS program as well as the ability to utilize MapInfo based GIS data. 

Independent GIS developer, Phil Woods,  next discussed procedures and tools he's created for the creation, maintenance and analysis of hydrologic data.   Much of the work Phil has performed was in support of the timber management activities of Port Blakely Tree Farms where Phil was employed for more than 8 years as their GIS Manager.  Some of the discussions was related to issues and concern of integrating and validating field collected stream survey data.

Chris Lacy, GIS Forester with Port Blakely Tree Farms, concluded the presentations with a discussion on creating interactive WEB maps with MapInfo Professional.  Chris went into details on the procedures and steps involved to create a series of WEB maps which were used in a recent land sales offering by Port Blakely Tree Farms.  The resulting interactive maps, ultimately available on the Internet and CD ROM, offered increasing levels of detail for each offered tract of land, ultimately displaying individual stand details with timber inventory information included.   

The meeting concluded with a tour of the Olympia Port Blakely offices and a viewing of finished milled lumber from more then 14 species of trees from around the world, grown on various Port Blakley Tree Farm plantations.

Note:  Some of the presentations from the meeting are available in digital format.  If you wish to receive a digital version of one of the presentations above please  send an email.   Questions? call:  (541) 345-4MAP.

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