University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point - 2010 - Schmeeckle Reserve


Courtesy of Vista Engineering / Vista Data Vision

TSchmeeckle Reserve is a 280-acre natural area on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). Its mission is to preserve and manage native habitats of Central Wisconsin, serve as an outdoor laboratory for the university, and provide recreational opportunities for the community. The Reserve is a significant field station for the university. In the 2008-2009 academic year, over 2,400 students attended classes or conducted research in Schmeeckle for a total of 9,000 hours. UWSP faculty and staff teach hands-on classes in forestry, natural resources, soils, waters, wildlife, biology, geography, ecology, and history. Student organizations conduct research and activities in the Reserve, such as white-tailed deer, flying squirrel, and bat population studies, ecological restoration, prescribed burning, and timber harvesting.

Environmental Monitoring Stations

In 2002, the UWSP Biology Department funded the installation of two environmental monitoring stations in the northwest corner of Schmeeckle Reserve. Data was manually downloaded with a handheld computer every 20 days, brought back to campus, and converted into a complex spreadsheet for processing. Dr. David Hillier, a Biology faculty member who coordinated the monitoring stations, developed the spreadsheet and converted data into graphs that could be posted on the Internet. Although effective for general courses, this was a time-consuming system and provided only limited access to the true potential for data. When Dr. Hillier retired in 2005, data was no longer downloaded from the stations and they fell into disrepair.

Schmeeckle Reserve became interested in upgrading the stations and developing a more simple way to collect and disseminate the data. In late 2009, funding became available through the College of Natural Resources that allowed a committee to consider different options for the monitoring stations. It was decided that one of the stations would be upgraded and moved closer to the Reserve’s visitor center. Here, it could be connected to the building’s electricity and network system, allowing automatic collection and the ability to show real-time data.

To avoid the complex spreadsheets and manually created graphs, we also looked for software that would provide simple online access to the monitoring data for faculty and students. Vista Data Vision was the perfect fit for our needs. It automatically translates and imports the monitoring station data into a database. The data is instantly accessible online and can be viewed as graphs or downloaded into spreadsheets for further processing. The students and faculty can choose specific time frames to look at based on their classes or studies. It does everything that the old “manual” method accomplished and more... and does it quickly and automatically. The software is an incredible time saver and makes the data much more accessible to a large number of people.

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