next, Table of Contents, previous

Uses of GIS at The North Carolina Arboretum

Spatial Data and GIS in Western North Carolina

A member of the University of North Carolina System, the Arboretum spreads over 426 acres within Bent Creek Research and Experimental Forest surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. The Arboretum serves as a regional and international resource for education, conservation and enjoyment.  The Plant Records department at The North Carolina Arboretum benefits from GIS by being able to monitor plant collections and provide visitors with general maps of the property.

The use of GIS at the Arboretum is helpful in monitoring our plant collections.  We can collect data on the conditions of the plants, growth rates and a variety of other detailed areas of interest and record this information in our plant records database program, BG Base.  BG Map, our mapping program works in conjunction with BG Base to form a specialized GIS system to track our plant collections. The "BG" in BG Map and BG Base stands for Botanical Garden. We map the accessioned plants at the Arboretum as well as rockwork, trails, roads and utility lines. The non-plant features that we put on our basemap help in locating our plants in field inventories.  To learn more about BG Map and BG Base follow these links to our software provider's page. We have recently upgraded our system to BG Map for Windows using AutoCAD Release 14. The two programs can function separately or together as a specialized GIS. Both of the programs are written with the same software so they work well together.
Community Contact
Angela Brown
Plant Recorder & Computer Systems Specialist
The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way
Asheville, NC 28806-9315
We are able to check on plant conditions using the printed maps. The maps that we print can be either 8 1/2" x 11" book maps or plotted maps up to 24" x 24". We can print maps and check various garden areas to do plant inventories to keep our records current. The plants that we track on our base map include trees, shrubs and vines. The herbaceous perennials are accessioned and tracked within our database, mapping them would be too cumbersome and time consuming. We do use hand drawn maps to show general bed locations of herbaceous plants for staff use.

Field Mapping

To maintain the base map, we map our gardens with a Totalstation, as seen at left. This is a very accurate surveying instrument; we can measure with accuracy up to 1/10 of an inch! That kind of precision is needed when you are mapping plants that are planted in close proximity. The yellow instrument on the tripod sends a signal to the red and white pole with the prism.
We decided that the Totalstation setup is more appropriate for collecting the field data for our base map than a GPS system for accuracy reasons.
The Totalstation uses a palmtop computer to capture the data points of interest. The plants that are mapped with the Arboretum's accession numbers can be placed on the base map automatically from the uploaded data from the palmtop. The absence of having hand entered in data greatly reduces the chance of human error. Mapping with the Totalstation requires a 2-person team. One person enters the data into the palmtop computer and the other moves from point to point with a prism mounted on a pole. This prism reflects a beam of light back to the Totalstation and the equipment is able to calculate distance, slope and elevation. This is in relation to the Totalstation. This is translated into x, y, and z coordinates for each data point. Our Plant Recorder is responsible for the mapping process and this is performed with the help from volunteers.
With this mapping equipment we are also able to record the utility line information for our property. All of our utility lines from electric to phone lines are underground. It is a great benefit to be able to go to a map and be able to locate utility lines. If there is a irrigation line break we can fix the problem and know what kind of lines that we will be seeing before we start digging.
We are hoping in the near future to be able to offer our visitors an interactive kiosk so that they can access our plant collection records and generate their own maps to take with them to find the plants on property.  Being able to give the public access to these records would be a great benefit and learning experience. The public would benefit from being able to take a print out of the plants that they liked at the Arboretum to their local garden centers and be able to grow them in their own landscape. Not many of our visitors know that we are taking great strides to record our plant collections and use those records for information as well as educational purposes.

Target Pole With Prism

next, Table of Contents, previous