Displaying all posts with the Webinar tag.

Using Existing Data to Analyze and Plan your Urban Forest

Trees line a city street.

A new tool from OpenTreeMap allows communities to use existing sociodemographic and land-use data to make more informed planting decisions and estimate the future ecosystem benefits of those trees over a 30-year period.

Cities, non-profit organizations and other land-managing institutions face competing priorities when it comes to managing the urban forest. Many organizations want to incorporate data on urban heat island effect, air quality and population density into their planting decisions, but do not have the GIS expertise or data required to do so. With OpenTreeMap’s new modeling and prioritization tools, you can generate heat maps of optimal planting locations that are customized based on your selection criteria, and experiment with digitally planting trees of various species and sizes to model the growth and mortality rates of those trees.

We have included two data sets from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) on tree canopy and impervious surface as well as additional data on population density, economics, and housing. In order to make the tool accessible to the widest audience, we only used data that is available in the continental U.S., does not have usage restrictions and has a level of geographic accuracy that makes it helpful in making planting decisions.

A screenshot of OpenTreeMap's prioritization tool.

OpenTreeMap allows you to prioritize your planting criterion by selecting custom weights. Shown here is a map created to identify optimal planting sites in Milwaukee based on population density, median household income and percent tree canopy coverage.

Your planting priorities may be dictated by other factors not yet included in the tool, which is why we can upload additional overlays to the map for you. For example, we can upload additional overlays with data on local zoning laws, soil quality, transit information, and funding restrictions. We can also upload higher resolution canopy and impervious surface data should it be available for your city or region.

We will incorporate additional information on health, water, temperature, wildfires and air pollution as it becomes available across the continental U.S. Unfortunately, much of the existing health data, including results from a recent study by the Nature Conservancy on the cooling and filtering effects of trees, is not geographically accurate enough to inform local planting decisions. That is to say data at the citywide or even zip code-level is not specific enough to help inform planting decisions at the neighborhood or street-level.

A screenshot demonstrating OpenTreeMap's modeling tool.

A sample tree-planting and the resulting ecosystem benefits projected over a 30-year period. We provide pre-set mortality rates based on tree species and size, that can be customization in the application.

A sample tree-planting and the resulting ecosystem benefits projected over a 30-year period. We provide pre-set mortality rates based on tree species and size, that can be customization in the application.

Once you’ve identified the optimal planting locations, you can model the outcome of your trees over time. Understanding tree growth and mortality rates can help inform management and allows you to demonstrate the long-term environmental and economic benefits of your tree plantings over a 30-year period.

We are in the final testing stages before making these tools available on the OpenTreeMap platform. Initially, the tool will only be available within the continental U.S., however, we plan to incorporate additional customization options including the ability to upload datasets to support groups outside the U.S.

In addition to OpenTreeMap, there are two other tools you use to help you prioritize plantings: iTree Landscape and the Trees and Health application. The U.S. Forest Service’s iTree Landscape helps you identify specific planting locations using land cover and census demographics, and explore existing canopy and ecosystem benefits. The Trees and Health application organized by Portland State University and the U.S. Forest Service includes data on neighborhood vulnerability as it relates to air quality in fourteen U.S. cities. You can use the application to identify planting locations that impact tree canopy and public health.

For additional information on the new forestry modeling and prioritization tools, we invite you to watch our recent webinar. The slides from this presentation can be found here.

Want to get in touch? We’d love to hear your questions and feedback: opentreemap@azavea.com.

Practical Methods for Reducing Urban Tree Mortality

2015_06_22_Street Foliage copy

Tree-lined streets like this one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania cannot be created overnight. Trees must be monitored closely to ensure their long-term survival.

We recently hosted a webinar on practical methods for increasing the annual survival rates of young trees, a topic that is critical to ensuring the longterm growth of our urban forests. Urban forests provide environmental, health, economic benefits that motivate tree-planting programs. However, realizing these ecosystem benefits depends on tree survival. Overall canopy levels in major cities have been declining, and tree planting and regeneration do not offset current losses.

Small, young trees typically have highest mortality rates. However, accurate mortality data is hard to come by and the data that does exist suggests over a quarter of trees planted die within first 5 to 9 years.[1]  The lack of available information on mortality rates and causes demonstrates the need for standardized tree monitoring protocol. Collecting and analyzing longitudinal tree data will take years, but to assist in data collection efforts the Urban Tree Growth and Longevity Working Group developed a minimum data set necessary for any urban tree monitoring project. This data set includes field crew information, tree species, location, site type, mortality status, condition rating, and diameter at breast height (DBH).

Technology can be used to support effective, long-term monitoring of urban trees and assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes. Azavea prepared a report titled “Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring” for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the USDA Forest Service on the requirements for ideal software monitoring system. The report is the culmination of over twenty interviews with researchers, practitioners from organizations throughout the US (federal agencies, academic researchers, municipal and nonprofit employees, volunteers, students). Included in the report are in-depth analyses of the software offerings currently on the market and whether they meet the features requirements that allow for successful monitoring.

Data-driven decisions can help you maximize limited resources and advocate for additional funding. Watch the video for more detail on the minimum data set and using technology to ensure the health of your urban forest.

Effective monitoring is not the only solution to increasing the mortality rates of young trees. TreePans, a family-run business based in Iowa, has designed a product that protect trees from mechanical damage and allows for more efficient watering. In the video below, Ben Brown of TreePans discusses the core functionality of the protect, how the implementation of TreePans at one university helped reduce mortality rates, and the importance of providing workers and community members alike with the requisite knowledge and resources for helping care for young trees.

Click here to sign up for future webinars, urban forestry news and product updates.

Recorded Webinar: NYC TreesCount! 2015

Coordinating a street tree census in the biggest city in the United States is exciting and challenging. Jacqueline Lu, the Director of Data Analytics at NYC Parks, discusses how NYC Parks developed and conducted TreesCount! 2015. Deborah Boyer from Azavea describes the software used to gather the data and how digital tools can assist with large-scale urban forestry data collection. We received a lot of great questions during the webinar and have compiled answers to some of the most common questions below. 

Is the TreesCount! 2015 software available for other municipalities?

TreesCount! is an open source project and the code is freely available at https://github.com/azavea/nyc-trees. Software development experience will be needed to set up the code, and the mapping process relies on the existence of a file of street block edges for your city or town. For groups without the technical capacity or budget to set up the code, OpenTreeMap may be another solution. OpenTreeMap is a cloud-based platform for helping groups map trees, track stewardship activities, and engage the community around caring for the urban forest. Although it does not include the event management features available in TreesCount!, it does support volunteer mapping as a citizen science initiative.

Why did NYC Parks conduct a volunteer-led tree inventory? Was TreesCount! more expensive than hiring an independent contractor?

NYC Parks’ goal was not simply to collect tree inventory data. From the project’s inception, they also focused on encouraging citizens to engage with the urban forest through the census. If the goal was to get data only, it likely would have been more cost effective to hire contractors to use satellite imagery to plot trees or complete an on-the-ground tree survey. NYC Parks’ focus on citizen engagement was central to the design and functioning of the software Azavea created for them.

Azavea team members volunteering with NYC TreesCount! 20145. Azavea team members volunteering with NYC TreesCount! 2015.

Are ecosystem benefits incorporated into the data?

The TreesCount! software does not calculate ecosystem benefits. After the 2005 census, NYC Parks’ ran the gathered inventory data through the U.S. Forest Service’s iTree Streets (formerly STRATUM) and they plan to complete a similar process with the 2015 data. The software platform for TreesCount! was focused on supporting Parks’ staff, individual volunteers, and partner organizations in their effort to inventory trees. The data was collected so that little manipulation is required for upload into iTree Streets and other analysis tools.

Were there areas that volunteers could not survey due to concerns about personal safety or data quality?

Before sending volunteers into the field, NYC Parks identified block edges where they thought there may be access issues or that would be challenging for volunteers to survey. Challenges included but were not limited to the location of the street, the direction of the street, and the existence of trees in a median. These areas were set aside for volunteers with advanced training or NYC Parks staff. There were also instances where expert surveyors visited a site and determined that the area was too dangerous to survey (example: trees located on a narrow median on a multi-lane street). The project excluded private streets, which fall outside the Parks’ jurisdiction.

How did NYC Parks encourage safety while mapping?

NYC Parks’ encouraged volunteers to map in pairs and groups, and all volunteers wore bright green vests designating them as a volunteer surveyor. Mapping events were often co-sponsored by partner organizations familiar with the area and were generally accessible via public transit.   

How did NYC Parks’ deal with naturally occurring or self-seeding trees?

TreesCount! 2015 was explicitly focused on mapping planted street trees located along street block edges. The surveying methodology worked well for single trees along streets and was not as well suited for gathering data on groups of trees that may appear due to natural regeneration.  

One of the thousands of blocks volunteers inventoried during TreesCount! 2015.

One of the thousands of blocks volunteers inventoried during TreesCount! 2015.

What does the NYC Parks define as a sign of stewardship?

A sign of stewardship is defined as evidence that a tree received tending or maintenance by someone. This can include tree guards, signs of proper pruning, flowers planted in the tree bed, and mulching. These categories of stewardship were taken from a study NYC Parks completed in 2006 on the effect of stewardship on tree growth and mortality. The study concluded that visible more signs of stewardship for a tree often resulted in greater longevity for that tree, especially when the tree was younger or newly planted.

How were volunteers trained?

Before mapping, all volunteers completed an online training and then received field training from NYC Parks staff or a partner organization. Training materials can be viewed online at https://treescount.nycgovparks.org/static/training/TreesCount2015Training.pdf

Recorded Webinar: Tracking Your Green Infrastructure

This week we hosted a webinar with TreeKIT on tracking and measuring the impact of green infrastructure with OpenTreeMap. As climates change and more regions face severe heat and drought, tracking green infrastructure is a necessary first step to measuring its impact and identifying the best locations for additional green infrastructure resources. With OpenTreeMap, you can increase public awareness of the value of green infrastructure and promote community stewardship. For users that provide local data and calculations, OpenTreeMap can also measure the money and water your green infrastructure saves each year.

As part of this webinar, we explored how:

  • OpenTreeMap can be used to gather and maintain data related to rain barrels, bioswales and other features
  • To increase public education of the benefits of green infrastructure
  • To promote installation and stewardship of green infrastructure

Click here for more information on the Green Infrastructure module and sign-up for your 30-day free trial today. You’ll find the full webinar recording below. We’ve also made the slides available on Slideshare. You can reach us at opentreemap@azavea.com with any questions. We hope you’ll join us for future webinars.


Join us November 11 to discover OpenTreeMap’s new Green Infastructure module

Do you wish you could map more than trees? As climates change and regions face severe heat, drought, and weather events, more organizations are promoting innovative techniques to harvest rain water, prevent stormwater runoff, and conserve water in general. OpenTreeMap can assist with managing those initiatives by tracking the location of bioswales, rain barrels, and other water conservation features.

We hope you’ll join us for a webinar on Wednesday, November 11 from 2-3pm EST to discover the new OpenTreeMap Green Infrastructure module.

Deb Boyer, OpenTreeMap Project Manager, will be joined by Philip Silva, Co-Founder and Co-Director of TreeKIT, to discuss how Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal Conservancy uses OpenTreeMap’s bioswale tracking features to fulfill their mission of increasing environmental stewardship.

During this webinar, you will learn:

  • How OpenTreeMap can be used for gathering and maintaining data related to rain barrels, bioswales, and other features
  • How you can increase public education of the benefits of green infrastructure resources
  • How you can promote installation and stewardship of green infrastructure resources
Space is limited. Click here to register and secure your spot today!

Recorded Webinar: Economically Analyze Tree Inventories

Azavea’s OpenTreeMap team and Data Analytics team collaborated to host an instructional webinar on 7/14 titled “Economically Analyze Tree Inventories.” We recorded that webinar, which is now available on our Youtube channel here or below in the embedded video. We’ve also uploaded our slides, which can be downloaded at SlideShare here with working links to the resources we mention in the Webinar.

Topics discussed included:

  • An overview of Azavea, OpenTreeMap, and the Data Analytics team
  • A survey of free and open source tools available for analyzing tree inventories and other types of geospatial data
  • A lighting-fast tutorial on how to use one such tool, CartoDB, to create an interactive visualization of tree inventory data in just 20 minutes.
  • A question and answer section where we discussed open data and other tree-related uses for CartoDB data analysis and interactive mapping

You can learn more about the types of tree inventory analysis we do at this OpenTreeMap blog post or at this Data Analytics team blog series that details step-by-step tutorials explaining how we did the analysis and which open source tools we used. If you have any questions, please contact us at opentreemap@azavea.com and we hope you can join us for a future webinar.

Recorded Webinar: Growing Your Urban Forest – Using the OpenTreeMap Bulk Uploader

On Thursday, April 16, we hosted “Growing Your Urban Forest – Using the OpenTreeMap Bulk Uploader,” a webinar on using the bulk uploader tools to import existing tree inventories and customize the species list on your tree map.

Every OpenTreeMap subscription includes access to the tree inventory and species import functionality at no additional charge. By uploading existing tree inventories and a custom species list, your tree map can become the place for users to update previous tree records, view inventories from a variety of organizations, search for trees using a species list that aligns more specifically with the trees in your region, and more.

As part of the webinar, we explored how:

  • Map owners can upload existing tree inventories and species lists
  • Uploads can be customized to meet the needs of your organization
  • Importing inventories can assist with collaboration between groups and encourage additional data collection

A recording of the webinar is available below and on YouTube. We’ve also made the slides available on Slideshare. If you have any questions, please contact us at opentreemap@azavea.com. We hope you can join us for a future webinar!


Join us on April 16 for “Growing Urban Forests Using the Free OTM Bulk Uploader”

Already have extensive tree inventory data? Wish the community could help you improve that existing data set?

Reserve your seat today for our next webinar on “Growing Urban Forests Using the Free OpenTreeMap Bulk Uploader” and discover how you can use the brand new bulk uploader tools to import existing tree inventories and customize the species list on your tree map.

Enjoy experimenting with the bulk uploader tools as part of the OpenTreeMap 30-day free trial, or as part of any OpenTreeMap subscription at no additional costs.

Thursday, April 16, 2015 – 2-3pm ET



In this webinar, we’ll discuss how:

  • To upload existing tree inventories and species lists
  • Uploads can be customized to meet the needs of your organization
  • Importing inventories can assist with collaboration between groups and encourage additional data collection

Space is limited. Register today to secure your spot.

Seedlings, Hackers, and Mobile Citizen Science: OpenTreeMap Community Events Year in Review

A standing-room-only crowd watches our “Hackers, Beer Geeks, and Arborly Love” presentation at the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry conference.

A standing-room-only crowd watches our “Hackers, Beer Geeks, and Arborly Love” presentation at the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry conference.

Every community forester knows how important events are in growing a thriving community. Whether it’s training classes, volunteer tree planting days, conferences, or even webinars, events are how community members bond and come together to achieve their goals. As we’re looking back over 2014, we thought it would be  useful to recap all the events OpenTreeMap was a part of this year to give you an idea on how you too can use OpenTreeMap to engage your community.

The largest OpenTreeMap to date, the City of Edmonton’s yegTreeMap, was launched earlier this year to coincide with a big event: Canadian Arbor Day! For over 50 years, Edmonton has been giving its 1st grade students free seedlings to plant at home, and this year they used their new OpenTreeMap to capitalize on this tradition and have community members contribute data and stories on the trees they were planting. The City of Edmonton performed a comprehensive promotion effort, including press, community events, tweeting, and blogging, which paid off in favorable press coverage and resulted in a map of over 267,000 trees.

Another very active OpenTreeMap, TreePeople’s TreeMapLA, also launched this year. Rather than one large event, TreePeople has been using the map in a series of smaller events throughout the year to support their programs, including a recurring “Thirsty Thursdays” theme pairing mapping of trees that need watering and stewardship in Los Angeles with a trip to the bar afterward for volunteers.

Civic Hackers at EcoCamp work on projects with environmental data.

Civic Hackers at EcoCamp work on projects with environmental data.

For Azavea’s part, we organized an event called “EcoCamp” this summer, a hackathon themed around sustainability and the environment. Hackathons are 1-2 day events themed around a particular issue or problem area, which bring together software developers, designers, and data analysts along with subject matter experts in the theme being addressed. Azavea has organized hackathons before, and they’re popular among Philadelphia’s civic-minded technology community. Since we’ve been working on OpenTreeMap (which is also civic hacker-friendly open source) and our other green stormwater infrastructure work for a while, we thought it was time for an environmentally-themed hackathon to convene both communities to work on shared problems. We had teams work on trash and sanitation data, parks data, urban agriculture, and more. Pairing tree enthusiasts with civic hackers and other communities through events like EcoCamp is an effective way to spread your mission and programming to a very diverse audience.

We also presented OpenTreeMap at a workshop at the Constructed Environment conference in October, focused on using crowdsourcing techniques to collect data about the environment and cities (page 34). The conference convenes researchers in the fields of architecture and the built environment from countries around the world each year. This year, it was hosted at the University of Pennsylvania, which allowed us to use the newly-redesigned PhillyTreeMap in an interactive tree-mapping workshop with attendees.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Partners in Community Forestry National Conference came in November. For the second time, we were honored to have our presentation proposal accepted at this fantastic event that attracts urban and community foresters and friends from across the US and beyond. Along with our partners Lee Mueller from the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (an active OpenTreeMap client) and Erica Smith Fichman from TreePhilly, our presentation “Hackers, Beer Geeks, and Arborly Love: Reaching Out to Unexpected Audiences in Urban Forestry” highlighted the power of events like EcoCamp, Brewer’s Grove, and the Arborly Love campaign to introduce and excite new people about community trees. We were thrilled with the standing-room only crowd during the presentation, which demonstrated how valuable out-of-the box public engagement ideas are to all of us. If you were unable to attend, Lee, Erica, and I reprised our conference talk for the third OpenTreeMap webinar of the year.

Want to learn more in-depth ideas about how OpenTreeMap can be used to engage your community? Our other recorded webinars are great resources. Our first webinar in 2014 covered how to get started with the then-brand-new OpenTreeMap Cloud (how far we’ve come!). Danny Carmichael from TreePeople in Los Angeles joined us for our second webinar, focused on mobile citizen science efforts and gathering data using the OpenTreeMap iPhone and Android apps. We post recordings and question-and-answers from each webinar on the OpenTreeMap Blog, as well as announcements of upcoming ones. Be sure to keep an eye out in 2015 or make sure you subscribe to receive bi-monthly OpenTreeMap’s updates by providing your email at the bottom of the OpenTreeMap website!

12 Great Questions about OTM Mobile Apps

otm blog

We recently hosted a “Mobile Citizen Science – Gathering Urban Forestry Data via the OpenTreeMap Apps” webinar, and just like the last time, we got a bunch of great questions in our Q&A – so many that we couldn’t get to some of them during the webinar.  See below for our answers, and let us know your questions by emailing opentreemap@azavea.com!

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