Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring

The creation of this report was organized by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station to explore how technology could be used to support the long-term systematic monitoring of urban trees by trained professionals, student interns and volunteers; assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes; and enable data to be organized and shared between researchers and practitioners.

Interviews with researchers and forestry practitioners led to the development of user stories demonstrating how various individuals would interact with a software tool designed for long-term urban forestry monitoring. The information gathered from the interviews also resulted in a list of related system requirements for an ideal software monitoring system. Using that list of requirements, an evaluation of eleven existing software platforms in three general categories (proprietary forestry software, proprietary non-forestry specific software, and free and open source software) was completed and options listed for expanding the software to meet the system requirements.

Data model and data integration workflows for a software system that met the majority of the system requirements were outlined, and PHS served as a test case for how such a system might work for tree planting and monitoring. The report concludes with a series of recommendations regarding cost and tech support, establishing an open data standard, creating a central data repository, and balancing collaboration and leadership.