Many times when we think of apps, the two main categories that come to mind involve entertainment or business. However, that is just a small part of what mobile apps can accomplish. The students at Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University are finding some amazing ways to combine the power of technology with the importance of environmental stewardship.
Research Associate Jason Grogan oversees many projects at SFASU. Not only does he assist faculty with numerous research projects in forestry, he is also manager (forester) for the college forestlands. Additionally, he assists with teaching several courses, specifically helping to integrate technology and electronic devices into forest measurement data collection.
“Our students are currently using AppSheet to collect forest inventory data to use to make management recommendations for the forest. AppSheet allowed me to create an app that specifically collected the data we wanted, integrate a map in the app, and have all the data automatically combined into a single file, all without programming experience,” explains Jason. “AppSheet also allows us to use the student's smartphones rather than purchasing new data recording devices every time technology improves. The Bring-Your-Own-Device concept has the potential to allow concentration of our investment in other technological needs, rather than often replacing field data recording devices.”
Prior to using AppSheet, Jason attempted to use customized programs in an off-the-shelf GIS package. However, certain portions of the data recording process were prohibitively slow. He also used a off-the-shelf forest data collection programs and basic spreadsheets, but these did not allow for pick lists, error checking, or map support.
In just two months, a customizable app builder has made great strides in helping the students of the SFASU forestry program. Jason is excited at the new possibilities this poses for present and future programs. “Development of this app has began a discussion about the potential of ‘Bring-Your-Own-Device’ for teaching purposes; this has the potential to greatly change the way we function and allow the students to take the technology with them! I see AppSheet as a way to more effectively leverage our overall investment in technology which will not only benefit our students, but our environment as a whole since we are training the next generation of foresters, wildlife managers and environmental scientists.”