By Lynn Lefort

Map showing areas with abrupt elevation changes to avoid, when trying to force a bear out of the Hattie Cove Campground

Have you ever looked at a map, used a GPS, flown a drone, or explored the world via Google Earth?  Geomatics is a branch of science that involves the collection, processing, analysis, and interpretation of data related to the Earth’s surface. Pukaskwa National Park uses geomatics in many aspects of its daily operations, including planning and decision-making.

Geomatics plays an important role in countless park projects. Data to be used in geomatics software is collected using a variety of tools, such as paper maps, spreadsheets with location information, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and remote sensing (air photos, drone and satellite imagery). Using desktop exercises in the planning stage of a project can save valuable time, energy, and money when it comes to executing field work and producing meaningful results.

Below is a listing of park projects where geomatics have been used, which include ecological integrity monitoring, fire management, species at risk recovery, visitor programs and guides, and trail maintenance.

  • For Species at Risk (SAR) monitoring, drone footage was used for determining Pitcher’s Thistle colony extents and habitat use.
  • Air photos were analysed to determine sampling locations to monitor Snapping turtles.
  • Planning prescribed fires requires an analysis of forest types to pre-select suitable fire locations, and identifying areas where successional forests could create habitat for SAR and other wildlife.
  • Using remote sensing images and planning field work reduces costs for projects involving the park’s interior forests, as they are only accessible by helicopter.
  • GPS locations plotted on a map, with additional information in a spreadsheet, help Parks Canada manage the maintenance on hundreds of trail structures in the campground and backcountry. Crews know exactly where to go after damage is reported, determine easiest access, and decide on necessary equipment.
  • Using GPS tracks allows boat operators to identify “safe” routes to follow and avoid hazards like shoals.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors were unable to visit the location of a construction project. Parks Canada provided them with topographic maps, drone footage, pictures, and vegetation maps, so they could “see” what the conditions are like and plan for when the project is able to commence.
  • Visitors planning trips to Pukaskwa use maps from the Parks Canada website or the park’s visitor guide to help them organize and execute their visits to the campground, Coastal Hiking Trail, or Coastal Paddling Route.
  • Maps are frequently created to indicate an area closure.
  • Interpretive programs often use maps or images to illustrate their presentations.

The possibilities for the use of geomatics in parks is endless and continually evolving. If you’ve ever used a map, GPS, drone, Google Maps, or Google Earth, then you’ve been planning and making decisions using geomatics tools.

 

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