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Higher Accuracy for Wetland Surveys Ireland Boosts Business Case

Overview

Wetland Surveys Ireland provides professional ecological consultancy services to a range of clients in both the private and public sector throughout Ireland. The company was established by Dr Patrick Crushell, an experienced ecologist in the field of nature conservation and environmental consultancy since 2002. Following recent projects that required high accuracy recording of spatial data, Wetland Surveys Ireland invested in a device that provides sub-metre location data to your phone or tablet.

The Challenge

“At WSI we have been using apple iPhones and iPads in the field for recording ecological data over the past five years. We have found these devices to be excellent as a means of recording field data. The user-friendly interface, ease with which text can be inputted, stability of the software, and the security and easy transfer of data are the key advantages we have found with using these devices. The internal GPS of these devices typically provide location data to within 5m. This level of accuracy is perfectly adequate for the majority of ecological surveys we have undertaken (particularly when combined with high resolution aerial imagery). However, there are instances where it can be beneficial to acquire a higher level of accuracy, for example rare plant surveys or quadrat monitoring surveys. There are now a range of options available that enable you to acquire high accuracy (consistently within 1 metre) location data on your phone or tablet. Although the cost of the devices remains high, it is more affordable than purchasing a standalone device with such capability that runs on its own proprietary operating system and software. In our experience these devices are a lot less user friendly than your IOS or Android device."

The Solution

Recently, Ireland's National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) began requiring WSI to provide submeter accuracy for its vegetation data. Following considerable product research and reading online reviews they settled on the EOS Positioning Systems Arrow 100 which MGISS supplied. This is a small and portable GPS receiver that connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. The receiver automatically overrides the internal GPS of the phone and provides real time sub-metre location data. The apparent advantages of this product over others included; a removable battery, competitive price, reportedly higher degree of accuracy (even under tree canopy), stable software, and excellent Bluetooth connectivity. Having such high accuracy increases the organization's confidence in the maps WSI creates and strengthens political decisions based on the survey results. “It’s a big battle to conserve peatlands in Ireland,” WSI Director Patrick Crushell said. “We have pressure from the European Union to conserve." Irish bogs have been growing since the last Ice Age. Today, a healthy bog has almost complete coverage by certain plants and mosses. By collecting data on moss coverage, WSI helps NPWS understand if a bog is healthy or degraded.

The Result

We tested the receiver during a week surveying remote blanket bog areas in the west of Ireland and are impressed with how it performed. The receiver itself is rugged and waterproof. It straps to your belt and has an external antenna that can be attached to your backpack or within a pouch of a specially designed funky baseball cap. While using ESRI Collector on an iPhone we were consistently getting accuracy of between 0.2m and 0.7m. It was rare that the reported accuracy exceeded 1m. The Bluetooth connection is excellent, and the device battery still had plenty of charge at the end of the day. Overall, we are very happy with the operation of the device, though the cost was significant.”