Where in the Arboretum? New interactive map answers that question.

August 5th, 2014 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin
map screenshot

A screen shot of the interactive map with pop-up detail for the tree Toona

A visitor to the Washington Park Arboretum recently wondered if the “tuna” tree grew among its world class collection of woody plants. She asked a staff member who figured out she meant Toona sinensis, a hardy member of the mahogany family with bright pink new growth. “Yes, we have three specimens.” replied Laura Blumhagen, working at the reference desk in the Miller Library. “Where?” asked the visitor. Laura searched the brand-new interactive map, located the Toona trees and directed the visitor to the northwest corner of the Arboretum where Lake Washington curves around near the off ramp from State Route 520.

The online, interactive map identifies landmarks, trails, gardens and most importantly every woody plant growing in the Arboretum. It can be browsed or searched. Users can turn layers on and off, measure distances, draw a custom route and print out a custom map. Zooming into the map reveals thousands of green circles that represent trees and shrubs. Click on a circle to learn the plant’s name and other data related to that individual specimen.
UW Botanic Gardens Director, Professor Sarah Reichard, envisioned a system where public visitors could gain a deeper appreciation of the value of the collections and the story behind each tree, as well as improve management efficiency. “The integration of the existing database and new map has exceeded my expectations” said Dr. Reichard.

In August 2012 the University of Washington Botanic Gardens received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to survey the Arboretum and digitize paper inventory maps. That groundwork enabled the development of a geo-referenced database and a publicly accessible, interactive map. Prior to this project, the paper inventory maps were arduous to update, impossible to search and inaccessible to the public and most staff. Surveying the Arboretum with modern equipment and digitizing inventory maps increased the accuracy of plant location data and decreased the effort to locate plants. Staff management of the collection has improved because time spent searching for plants can now be used caring for them. Docents save time creating seasonal tours by searching the map for trees of interest. The map integrates not just location information, but data about the plant’s name, origin, native range, health condition and the id number for the pressed plant specimen in the Hyde Herbarium.

Articles and posts about the mapping project

Arboretum Bulletin article about the history of mapping at the Arboretum and how the interactive map was created.
IMLS grant funds geo-referenced, integrated database
In the Arboretum with the total station and other milestones
How would you use an interactive map in the Arboretum?
About the map and credits

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iSchool Capstone: Improving the visitor experience with an app

June 20th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Sarai Dominguez

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Information School graduate students, Anna Sgarlato, Sarai Dominguez and Loryn Lestz, presenting their Capstone poster 6/5/2014.

It has been a great pleasure to work in partnership with the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and Information School to design the future Arboretum mobile app. My team and I had a blast!

After four quarters of information science courses, we were all eager to practice our learning’s in a real-world scenario. Throughout our first meetings with UWBG staff, we learned about the exciting digitization projects at hand. However, we still realized the information need of Arboretum visitors who wanted map and plant information while wandering the park, and not just at home on a desktop computer. We started our project with a research phase (which allowed us to meet and interview volunteers and staff throughout the organization), sketched our ideas, built an interactive prototype and tested our design with Arboretum enthusiasts; it was a hit!

My favorite part of the project was meeting volunteers and staff and noticing how invested in the Arboretum this group is. They truly believe in the Arboretum as a place for retreat, exploration, learning and building valuable friendships. These principles were the inspiration for our mobile app design and we hope that current and future park visitors will experience this in the information tool we have placed in their hands.

Thank you, UWBG, for an incredible capstone experience!

Interactive map of the Arboretum (optimized for desktop computers)

Sketching out the app user experience.

Sketching out the app user experience.

A design comp of the app home screen

A design comp of the app home screen


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iSchool Capstone: Designing an app for Arboretum visitors

June 19th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Loryn Lestz

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Information School graduate students, Anna Sgarlato, Sarai Dominguez and Loryn Lestz, presenting their Capstone poster 6/5/2014.

Working with the staff and volunteers of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens to design a mobile app for Arboretum visitors has been a wonderful way to bring my graduate school experience to a close. Everyone my team came in contact with during the design process was not only enthusiastic and supportive of our project but also eager to contribute ideas and provide feedback on the app itself. A number of the usability tests we conducted to confirm our design choices were done with volunteers and the passion they expressed for the Arboretum in my interactions with them was truly inspiring. It was truly encouraging to hear them talk about the ways in which they felt the app would be able to help them and the visitors they interact with to enjoy the Arboretum even more than they already do.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of this project for me as a designer was getting to negotiate a balance between enriching Arboretum visitors’ experience with new technologies and keeping that experience focused on the natural beauty of the Arboretum. As someone who loves coming to the Arboretum and forgetting that I am in the middle of the city for a few hours, I knew this was something we would need to be mindful of as we worked. My team and I were successful at keeping this among our top priorities throughout the design process, and couldn’t be happier with the resulting design. I am looking forward to seeing the app move into the development phase and can’t wait to see (and use!) the final product.

Interactive Map of the Arboretum (optimized for desktop computers)

Sketching out the app user experience.

Sketching out the app user experience.

A design comp of the app home screen

A design comp of the app home screen.


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How would you use an interactive map in the Arboretum?

August 20th, 2013 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

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Georeferenced Database Project Update

After a year of surveying Washington Park Arboretum grid points and digitizing paper maps we have made substantial progress on our georeferenced database project. The first few hundred points were relatively easy to survey. Now remain the most difficult points to find or see with a clear line of sight from a control point. Ground nesting bees and wasps also make getting close to a point challenging to say the least.

We need volunteers! Contact Tracy Mehlin.

UW Botanic Gardens Director, Sarah Reichard, talks with UWTV about her vision for an interactive Arboretum map in this video.

How would you use an interactive map in the Arboretum? What do you want to know about the collections? Leave a comment to let us know.

Click to see photo close-ups

Project accomplishments by the numbers

  • Migrated 20,000 records from the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium database into the BG-Base database
  • 25% of Herbarium database records post migration validated against physical specimens
  • 85% of grid points surveyed
  • 40% of paper grid maps digitized in ArcMap (geodatabase)
  • 6006 out of 18,094 plant specimens have been entered into the geodatabase

Historic Records to be made accessible

The Arboretum Foundation has agreed to give $15,000 to digitize historic paper records from the Curation office. These historic records provide critical clues about the identification and origin of trees and woody plants in the collection. By digitizing the records staff can access the old handwritten note cards and ledgers from their desk and once integration is complete the records will be accessible to everyone. UW Libraries staff will digitize the records and record basic information about each file.

An accession card from 1948.

An accession card from 1948.

This project is funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

 

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In the Arboretum with the total station and other milestones

November 30th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

The Leica Builder theodolite is a central part of the total station.

In August 2012 UWBG was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create a georeference database of the living collections. The first phase involves surveying in the Washington Park Arboretum.

Where are the monuments?

On a sunny autumn day a team of UW students, UWBG staff and team leader Jim Lutz headed down the East Arboretum trail to the Meadow with a shiny, new total station. They were on a mission to track down monuments that define the grid used to map Arboretum plant accessions. Once a monument was found they used the total station to determine the location in real space. (more photos below)

Total what?

A total station is a collection of equipment, such as a Leica Builder theodolite, tribrach, tripods, and prisms, that is used to measure distance and slope. A team of two or three people use it together to measure coordinates. Most of us have seen a total station in use by transportation survey crews. Low tech equipment like measuring tapes and marking paint are also used to do the job.

Making progress: georeferenced database project milestones

After months of preparation the  Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium records are now integrated into the BG-Base plant records database which means that a search now returns records for both plant accessions and vouchers. Vouchers are pressed plant material that serve to document and archive living collections while also supporting species identification.

Another milestone completed was scanning the print copies of grid squares. These print maps record where individual trees and shrubs grow with a dot and accession ID number. As plants are added, moved or removed the print maps are redrawn with updated information. As grid corner monuments are surveyed the corresponding scanned map will then be imported as a layer into ArcGIS Desktop and each plant accession will be clicked to essentially digitize the print map.

This is a portion of grid 35-2E. The scanned maps will be digitized the information incorporated into the georeferenced database.

The green dots represent the monuments recently surveyed and entered into an ArcGIS Map project with layers of city streets, park trails, an aerial view and the Arboretum grid map.

November 10th day in the field photos

 


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IMLS grant funds geo-referenced, integrated database

October 8th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

In July 2012 the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded a Museums for America grant to UW Botanic Gardens to integrate an all-inclusive database, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. The multi-part project will ultimately allow for one point of access to herbarium, horticultural and curitorial records linked to an Arc-GIS generated map, searchable from any web-connected devise. The database will be used to advance environmental research, improve Arboretum management and expand interpretation of the woody plant collections.

The first major task starting as soon as survey equipment arrives will be to measure and verify the geospatial coordinates of the physical monuments of the historic grid system used in the Washington Park Arboretum. These coordinates will be used to create a map that supports the geo-referenced database.


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