|Department of Agriculture Uses GIS to prepare for Emerald Ash Borer
By Mike Dolbow, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
On April 7, 2009, Wisconsin state officials confirmed an emerald ash borer infestation south of La Crosse, spurring officials in Minnesota to step up monitoring efforts that have made significant use of GIS technology since they first began in 2005.
Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees. Since its accidental introduction into North America, EAB has killed millions of ash trees in 10 eastern states. While it has not been found in Minnesota, the new infestation is on the east bank of the Mississippi River just 1 mile southeast of the Minnesota-Iowa border. In response, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has sent inspectors to Houston County to determine if the infestation has spread into Minnesota and stepped up EAB monitoring in southeastern Minnesota. Building on previous early detection efforts, GIS will continue to play a pivotal role in this response.
"GIS is critical to our EAB efforts. For example, using GIS-enabled PDAs allows us to efficiently cover our survey areas and collect data in the field," says MDA entomologist Mark Abrahamson. Since 2005, MDA has been undertaking early detection efforts, which involves coordination of field staff from several partnering organizations. The resulting traps, detection trees, and destructive sampling of declining trees are visible on static and interactive maps at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/pestmanagement/eabdetection.htm
For the GIS Team in MDA’s Information Technology Division, the EAB detection survey data presented an excellent opportunity to utilize their newly designed web mapping application, developed in 2008 with the help of Pro-West & Associates from Walker, MN. This application gives the public, MDA partners, and other stakeholders the ability to view, query, and understand MDA business data through a web browser.
"The EAB application is a model for providing comprehensive information," says LMIC GIS Data Coordinator Nancy Rader. "In addition to the interactive map, the site includes a map legend; full documentation of both the data and the EAB introduction risk model; search, print and download options; and help with the mechanics of using the site." That’s music to the ears of the MDA GIS Team, who focused on usability and extendibility when building the application last year. Several other public web mapping applications are available from MDA’s external web site, and the recent upgrade to ArcGIS Server 9.3 has made them even more stable and usable than before.
"Having the ability to easily move GIS data from the field to a web-based, interactive map is a great way to keep our stakeholders in the loop and inform them of the status of EAB in Minnesota," says Abrahamson. While we probably won’t be able to stop the emerald ash borer from invading Minnesota, at least we can use GIS to maximize our efforts to potentially mitigate the impact.