Invasive Spartina Project

Spartina Grass field work using GeoMobile Innovations GPS GNS technology

Controlling the spread of invasive species in the critical salt marsh bay habitats of San Francisco, California has been an evolving process since the 1970’s. Since the intentional introduction of Spartina alterniflora (a species of cordgrass native to the East Coast) to restore marsh habitats, it has bred with the native cordgrass to produce a hybrid that spreads much faster, thrives in a wider ecological range, and grows more densely than the native variety in the bays. Unintentionally, the hybrid grasses are threatening to push out hundreds of acres of native flora and fauna in the waters surrounding San Francisco. In response to the threats of spoiling the habitat for dozens of native and endangered species the California State Coastal Conservancy launched The San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project (ISP). Starting in 2000 ISP has been mapping the threats posed to ecosystems by the “hybrid swarm”.

The challenges that ISP has taken on to map the threats of the invasive Spartina alterniflora include tracking and eradicating invasive hybrid cordgrass, selectively spraying herbicides to eliminate hybrids, and using DNA tests on grasses that are hard to distinguish from the native variety. To meet these challenges ISP field teams collect location and genetic data throughout the 30+ acres of nonnative infestation coverage area that still exists. Managing the amount of data collected (30,000+ records a year) has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks. To meet this challenge, ISP called on mobile GIS solutions professionals, GeoMobile Innovations Inc., to provide a custom data collection workflow for the field and a database management solution for the GIS manager.

“From a project management point of view, bad data quality could result in unnecessary expense treating misidentified Spartina; inaccurate reporting of progress toward eradication; or just scientifically questionable data, which would cause a deterioration of trust in and support for the project.”
—Peggy Olofson, the ISP project director

Program Profile

The Invasive Spartina Project is a coordinated regional effort among local, state and federal organizations dedicated to preserving California’s extraordinary coastal biological resources through the elimination of introduced species of Spartina(cordgrass).

Kayaking in a marsh to monitor Spartina Grass GeoMobile Innovations GPS GNS technology

Case Study Highlights

  • Built custom workflows that enhanced out-of-the-box functions of ArcGIS software
  • Saved time and money by creating easy to use software workflows for field crews
  • Reduced lost data and data errors with custom validations and rules during data collection

The solutions that GeoMobile supplied enhance the ‘out-of-box’ ArcPad and ArcGIS software framework, such as writing custom validations and coded rule sets particular to the Spartina project. Because the project does not have a programmer in house, they outsourced the custom programming to GeoMobile Innovations.

“The Spartina project had a lot of complicated relationships that I had to code for, like creating symbology and lookup tables based on multiple attributes that can’t be modeled via domains.”
—Craig Greenwald, Technical Director for GeoMobile Innovations

Other customizations included:

Spartina Grass being monitored using GeoMobile Innovations GPS GNS technology
  • Verifying all data rules are satisfied in all data entry scenarios
  • Calculating values like net treatment coverage dynamically – as values are entered/changed
  • Counting specific features that are present within the area of other polygons
    • Customizing “repeat attribute” behavior, where certain attributes are automatically transferred to new features only under certain conditions

GeoMobile Technology

“Using these programmed workflows has saved significant time in the field and in the office during data quality control checks. In the past, end of the year quality control checks could take months and data would be lost or thrown out due to errors not caught in the field. GeoMobile Innovations’ customizations have provided a less error prone and more efficient project workforce. They have made project data flow easy, fast, and require less thinking which has amounted to zero data lost in 2014.”
—Ingrid Hogle, GIS Manager for the Invasive Spartina Project