Arboretum creating digital map of plant collection

Image: UWBG

The folks at UW Botanic Gardens are at work on a digital map of the Arboretum’s plant collection that will allow visitors to look up species info on smartphones as they wander through the park. The project includes digitizing heaps of paper records and linking the data to a GIS map of the grounds. UW News reports:

“People will be able to find an area in the arboretum, then zoom down and see which plants are there,” says Tracy Mehlin, project manager and information technology librarian at the UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture. “It will be really fascinating and educational to have all of that history linked to the plant records, and accessible online to everyone.”

One of the first tasks of the project was to begin surveying and verifying the geospatial coordinates of the 230-acre park, which decades ago was divided into 595 grid squares, each 100 feet by 100 feet. When those grid markers and coordinates are confirmed, they will be used to create a map that supports the geo-referenced database. Two- and three-person teams of students and staff have already been out surveying for the past couple months. …

Others involved are helping with various projects, including digitizing the existing maps, as well as handwritten notes and histories attached to each of the park’s 10,000 “accessions,” plants that are part of the formal collection.  The UW Botanic Gardens owns and manages the collection in the arboretum which is a City of Seattle park.

When completed, the searchable database will be a boon for environmental research, park management and visitors, Reichard said.

“The idea is that eventually you’d be able to get the coordinates of a particular collection, like our magnolias, and locate them on your cell phone or GPS unit,” she said. “We can start putting together virtual tours, and visitors can go from plant to plant.”