GIS and Inventory Systems

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
I made a post awhile back about inventory positions without much feedback. I was supposed to take a position which that would have been a large part GIS to inventory as well as creating management plants. But through a series of frustrating events the company I work for seems to have potentially killed that position due to a recent restructuring. So as usual I will go at it alone to learn and eventually use that tool to my benefit.

is anyone here using GIS to inventory trees and create management plans? Is this mostly in a forestry setting or do you find it valuable in an urban setting as well? Particularly public spaces and large commercial clientele.

what programs? I know Arc is $$$$ and was turned on to an open source one called Qgis. So I’ll start playing around with the free one.

also may take some courses at my local college but if anyone has some online sources I’d love to hear about that. I’m not opposed at all to paying for tuition for a few classes.

finally, those who use it. Are you able to sub contract out this service or is it mostly under an employer? Municipal or private?

my ultimate goal is to start my own business utilizing some more niche aspects of this industry, as well as some of the more traditional work like climbing and PHC.
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
I know knowlesforestry.com/ does quite a bit of contract inventory, management plans, consulting, and associated work...so there is a market out there.

As far as GIS, I've played a little with Q-GIS and did a full day training to learn it. That trainer said it is a like ArcGIS, but a couple of versions ago. The impression I got from her is that it is more than adequate for natural resource planning. If you are going to work with cities or bigger contractors, I think the reality is that you need to be able to integrate with ArcGIS.

I've used that a bit in the past too, but not nearly to its full extent. If I wanted to sit in front of a computer screen day in and day out, I thought it would have been worth using some more time at my previous employer to learn that better when I had the opportunity to do so for free (well, on their time...), but I don't see myself doing that for a career, so I never invested that time.

I'm pretty sure Q-GIS layers can be set up to import into ArcMap, so if you probably can do design work in there and send it to your client. May be worth paying ERSI for a year to make sure you know how to make the 2 work together so you can fully serve the client.
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Yeah I have heard the same about Arc being the status quo for what’s used.

I’m definitely trying to avoid sitting behind a computer day in and day out and I have a hard time seeing it being the bread and butter service around here but potentially something that could be of value and less wear on the body.

is this something you’ll still offer or was it with a previous employer? One thing that could be challenging is competing with the bigger firms that offer this type of stuff
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
I think you could probably compete if they can find you... probably less overhead so you can lower the price - just gotta maintain a quality product or the calls will dry up real quick.

I've done a few small projects for private neighborhoods. I just used Google Earth Pro. Not nearly as powerful as the other 2, but simple and enough for those limited scope projects. Just hired a full time helper who wants to trend more towards urban forestry. I think we could serve a lot of smaller communities and make a fill time job without a lot of travel. Some of the bigger companies have people on the road constantly - that costs a lot, so that would be one way to save expenses if you can keeping local.
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Google earth and just placing pin points? Seems like a simple and effective system.

you definitely got me thinking on the scope of where to offer this. I think it’s pretty appealing because it’s so hard to find someone to go into business with so this could be done solo.
 

ATH

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
Earth Pro. It is a different program, but also free. I use it to make Points and polygons (and rarely a path).

OpenStreeyMaps is another free GIS program I had forgotten about...more powerful than the Google programs, but apparently simpler than Q-GIS. I haven't used it, but my helper used it in school and seems to like it...but I don't think he has ever used ESRI products.
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Yeah I used to use earth pro a lot to pin point, and inventory of sorts, surf spots and potential surf spots when I was in high school-college.

openstreetmap is interesting, and pretty simple to play with so far.
 
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ATH

Well-Known Member
Location
Ohio
I've been looking into business management software more. Treezi seems to have a better inventory system than others.

I know I keep coming back with new info... I'm not holding out on you, just remembering something else every time I visit.
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
No worries man I really appreciate you returning with more info. It’s hard to find people who do this to pick their brains. I’m sure I’ll have some more specific questions as I explore it more. I actually just emailed a few GIS professors at the state college I’ve been taking courses to add on a class outside my Hort degree this fall
 
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kmac

Member
Location
Missouri
Standard program is ArcGIS, if you're going to be using any software suite, this is the one to use especially if you plan on doing any sort of intensive GIS work.

If you have no- to little experience with GIS but are willing to learn, many community colleges are beginning to offer certificates in GIS, I would recommend starting there. If you can't wait and want to dive right in, ESRI (the company that makes ArcGIS) offers an annual personal license for $100 which includes ArcGIS Desktop Advanced (Which comes with ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro in addition to the advanced extensions like spatial analyst, data interoperability, etc...) as well as access to ArcGIS Online ( I think). This license also gives you access to their knowledge base/training site which more or less teaches you how to use the software.

I'll admit that the learning curve can be a a little steep... but if you really are planning on doing your own consulting, it's an indispensable tool. I should also mention that you'll most likely being doing most of this work in dense urban areas.

Once you're familiar with the software, here is a general workflow for your projects:
  1. Meet with land managers / urban foresters and figure out what their needs are.
  2. Prepare for the inventory.
    1. This is where you'll want a standard database setup with the basic information you'll record about each tree.
      1. If maintenance records, damage reports, or work completed fields are to be used, I highly recommend utilizing relational database tables to help organize the data.
      2. Use domains to help ensure data integrity and reduce time spent in the field writing things out.
        1. E.g. domains allow you to use drop down boxes when filling in information.
    2. If you need to start right away, you can simply upload a geodatabase to ArcGIS Online and begin recording data out in the field.
    3. Make sure your equipment is in working order.
      1. iPad (preferably with a cellular connection but not required).
      2. Trimble R1 (Pro-grade GNSS receiver that connects via bluetooth)
      3. Chest harness for iPad for data collection.
  3. Conduct the inventory
  4. Process the data and run statistics
    1. If requested, you'll also likely be inputting a bunch of old data into the database at this point too like plant dates, maintenance records, etc..
    2. Calculate diversity of current tree species
      1. This can and does take many different forms... there are a lot of ways this can be interpreted.
    3. In your inventory, you'll likely have calculated risk and condition of each tree.
      1. Probably will plot out problem areas where there is a high number of high risk trees or trees in poor condition.
    4. You'll likely need to learn how to use the US Forest Service's iTree Eco program to pull out the monetary values that the trees in their community provide.
      1. This will usually be requested or expected.
  5. Develop recommendations
    1. Identify threats to the tree population.
    2. Identify how their program might be lacking.
    3. Where to plant their trees.
      1. This usually will include demographic/census data, rasters displaying various things, and local datasets that will all be blended together and an overlay analysis will be done to figure out where to plant in a community.
    4. What to plant.
      1. Region based and dependent on what you find out when you calculate the statistics for what the community currently has.
      2. Also based on threats to the trees.
    5. Recommendations for their tree program and how they could bolster it.
  6. Package it all up and present it.

That workflow is by no means inclusive or exhaustive and there is a whole lot that was left out but that's the gist of it. Of course, if the organization requests software to use, you could feasibly offer them some customized version of ArcGIS Online / Server (I'm like 90% sure most companies that are offering inventory solutions are just running ArcGIS Server on the backend.).

If you're a real go-getter, learn the Python programming language if you're going to get serious with GIS. It's a little extra work, but you could automate much of your workflow and make more time for drinking beer.

Here are some links to help you get started:

USFS UTC Report
Socioeconomic indicators of tree canopy in urban areas
Good discussion on what data to include in your reports

Good luck!
 
Last edited:

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Standard program is ArcGIS, if you're going to be using any software suite, this is the one to use especially if you plan on doing any sort of intensive GIS work.

If you have no- to little experience with GIS but are willing to learn, many community colleges are beginning to offer certificates in GIS, I would recommend starting there. If you can't wait and want to dive right in, ESRI (the company that makes ArcGIS) offers an annual personal license for $100 which includes ArcGIS Desktop Advanced (Which comes with ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro in addition to the advanced extensions like spatial analyst, data interoperability, etc...) as well as access to ArcGIS Online ( I think). This license also gives you access to their knowledge base/training site which more or less teaches you how to use the software.

I'll admit that the learning curve can be a a little steep... but if you really are planning on doing your own consulting, it's an indispensable tool. I should also mention that you'll most likely being doing most of this work in dense urban areas.

Once you're familiar with the software, here is a general workflow for your projects:
  1. Meet with land managers / urban foresters and figure out what their needs are.
  2. Prepare for the inventory.
    1. This is where you'll want a standard database setup with the basic information you'll record about each tree.
      1. If maintenance records, damage reports, or work completed fields are to be used, I highly recommend utilizing relational database tables to help organize the data.
      2. Use domains to help ensure data integrity and reduce time spent in the field writing things out.
        1. E.g. domains allow you to use drop down boxes when filling in information.
    2. If you need to start right away, you can simply upload a geodatabase to ArcGIS Online and begin recording data out in the field.
    3. Make sure your equipment is in working order.
      1. iPad (preferably with a cellular connection but not required).
      2. Trimble R1 (Pro-grade GNSS receiver that connects via bluetooth)
      3. Chest harness for iPad for data collection.
  3. Conduct the inventory
  4. Process the data and run statistics
    1. If requested, you'll also likely be inputting a bunch of old data into the database at this point too like plant dates, maintenance records, etc..
    2. Calculate diversity of current tree species
      1. This can and does take many different forms... there are a lot of ways this can be interpreted.
    3. In your inventory, you'll likely have calculated risk and condition of each tree.
      1. Probably will plot out problem areas where there is a high number of high risk trees or trees in poor condition.
    4. You'll likely need to learn how to use the US Forest Service's iTree Eco program to pull out the monetary values that the trees in their community provide.
      1. This will usually be requested or expected.
  5. Develop recommendations
    1. Identify threats to the tree population.
    2. Identify how their program might be lacking.
    3. Where to plant their trees.
      1. This usually will include demographic/census data, rasters displaying various things, and local datasets that will all be blended together and an overlay analysis will be done to figure out where to plant in a community.
    4. What to plant.
      1. Region based and dependent on what you find out when you calculate the statistics for what the community currently has.
      2. Also based on threats to the trees.
    5. Recommendations for their tree program and how they could bolster it.
  6. Package it all up and present it.

That workflow is by no means inclusive or exhaustive and there is a whole lot that was left out but that's the gist of it. Of course, if the organization requests software to use, you could feasibly offer them some customized version of ArcGIS Online / Server (I'm like 90% sure most companies that are offering inventory solutions are just running ArcGIS Server on the backend.).

If you're a real go-getter, learn the Python programming language if you're going to get serious with GIS. It's a little extra work, but you could automate much of your workflow and make more time for drinking beer.

Here are some links to help you get started:

USFS UTC Report
Socioeconomic indicators of tree canopy in urban areas
Good discussion on what data to include in your reports

Good luck!
I apologize for getting back days later after such an incredible post.

posting the work flow was huge insight and puts it all into perspective and will be reading through the links posted.

I’m going to take an intro class at a local community college I am already taking classes at. Will also pick a friends brain who writes code for GIS in a different field. He’s offered to teach me in person. I believe he uses python coding for all of his work.
 

kmac

Member
Location
Missouri
Sounds like you've got it squared away with learning GIS! I would definitely focus your efforts though on learning GIS itself at first, as learning Python alongside it might be quite a bit to handle.... It took me several tries to fully grasp the programming language and begin to use it proficiently. The best part though is that once you learn one language, the rest are much easier to learn. When you get to a point where you feel like you can start learning Python, try Codecademy, that's what I used. It won't teach you how to write scripts and what not, but it's really good for teaching you the python syntax and data structures.

As far as learning GIS is concerned, definitely pay attention to data types, formats, and conversions. 90% of doing GIS work is seemingly finding and collecting data followed by processing that data into a usable format for analysis... this is where Python usually comes into play by automating much of the process.

One final comment on learning GIS... if your community college is going to be teaching you ArcMap, I HIGHLY recommend learning ArcGIS Pro at the same time. ArcGIS Pro is pretty much the same thing as ArcMap, but it's much better suited for web mapping which is a big thing right now in GIS. Basically, as you learn how to do things in ArcMap, learn how to do them in ArcGIS Pro as well.

Good luck!
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Sounds like you've got it squared away with learning GIS! I would definitely focus your efforts though on learning GIS itself at first, as learning Python alongside it might be quite a bit to handle.... It took me several tries to fully grasp the programming language and begin to use it proficiently. The best part though is that once you learn one language, the rest are much easier to learn. When you get to a point where you feel like you can start learning Python, try Codecademy, that's what I used. It won't teach you how to write scripts and what not, but it's really good for teaching you the python syntax and data structures.

As far as learning GIS is concerned, definitely pay attention to data types, formats, and conversions. 90% of doing GIS work is seemingly finding and collecting data followed by processing that data into a usable format for analysis... this is where Python usually comes into play by automating much of the process.

One final comment on learning GIS... if your community college is going to be teaching you ArcMap, I HIGHLY recommend learning ArcGIS Pro at the same time. ArcGIS Pro is pretty much the same thing as ArcMap, but it's much better suited for web mapping which is a big thing right now in GIS. Basically, as you learn how to do things in ArcMap, learn how to do them in ArcGIS Pro as well.

Good luck!
Is learning code language like python a necessity?

I’m pretty keen with programs like AutoCAD and all the adobe products. I tend to learn programs fairly quickly and how to use them. Never divulged into coding and it’s pretty intimidating when my friend showed me what he’s written; much of it for fisheries up in Maine.
 

kmac

Member
Location
Missouri
Not really, like I said, learn the software and then think about coding, it’s definitely not a requirement.

If you’ve had experience with other layer based editing programs like Photoshop, then GIS should come pretty naturally... imagine photoshop but with an excel file attached to each layer.

Scripting with Python will just make things go a lot quicker. You don’t have to learn it right away, I’d say get a couple of months to a year in doing things manually while your workload is smaller. As you get more work, it’s going to be more difficult to do things manually and you’ll want to start automating things. What might take you an hour to do something manually will take only half a second or so to do with code. This obviously can significantly make your life easier if you get more work.

So no, you don’t need to learn it right away and you can definitely get by without it, but down the road it’ll be very helpful if not necessary.

The plus side to learning to code is that if you decide you want to do GIS work without running a business, many tree inventory companies would definitely be interested in someone that both knows GIS and can develop scripts/software to automate workflows. Time == $$$.
 
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Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Awesome. Yeah I understand the layering very well in the other programs. That makes me pretty confident with this for sure.

Are you, or are others, using drones for GIS work?
 

kmac

Member
Location
Missouri
Are you, or are others, using drones for GIS work?

Me personally? No. I do have access to a drone, but I don't bother with it...

Other companies? Probably, but I'm not sure to what extent realistically.

I would hold off on a drone till you find that it can provide a solution to a need down the road. As you first start out, you'll probably be dropping a good little chunk of change on equipment just to get started and drones go for $500 for a basic consumer level version so I wouldn't worry about it just yet.

Here are some good reasons why NOT to get a drone:
  1. The software needed to obtain georeferenced and mosaiced aerial imagery is pretty high... about $1,000+ for decent software that will set up the flight paths and stitch everything together for you.
  2. You'll likely be working in urban environments where you'll also likely be working within a controlled airspace because of a nearby airport... to get usable imagery at a decent scale you'll need to fly high.
    1. The FAA is the last agency you'll want knocking on your door...
  3. There's usually decent imagery for every major city or town through the Dept. of Ag's NAIP program. No point in a drone.
    1. This is usually a great source for imagery, they'll also usually have the NIR (Near-infrared) band included with their imagery which helps if you want to incorporate remote-sensing into your project to save some time.
  4. What about for tree risk assessments?
    1. You've got 5,000 trees to survey... you just don't have the time.
    2. Unless you're doing consulting...
Honestly, there's plenty of imagery out there from a variety of sources that will suite your needs and LiDAR is also becoming more and more available as time goes on. So the data is out there, you've just gotta find it...
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Great points. I was definitely getting a bit ahead of myself considering what could be possible and using more unique equipment.

when I was supposed to take an inventory position at my current job, before some restructuring, there were whispers of them training me, and some kind of certification, with a drone. Although there wasn’t much more detail.
 

kmac

Member
Location
Missouri
Yeah, there's also the point that if you use drones for hire, you also have to be licensed by the FAA if I remember correctly.

If you do want to dive into using drones look into "Photogrammetry" and remote sensing. If you get a drone, get one that can carry a LiDAR sensor.
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
I’ll do some research about that. Definitely seems interesting, although LiDAR seems more applicable in forest settings if I Understand it right? Didn’t seem to have much use in urban settings from what I could tell; although I do think there is opportunity for some more traditional forestry management settings where I am.

Side note: every time I read about LiDAR I think of a cringy yet awesome music video a graduate student from Europe made about it.
 

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