SWCDs Join OakQuest Mapping Partnership

by Lacey Townsend

This summer, several SWCDs joined forces with Metro and the Intertwine Alliance, with several other partners, in a large-scale citizen science effort to help map Oregon white oak throughout the Portland Metro region.

The goal of the Oak Mapping Work Group is to create a high-quality map of the Portland Metro region’s imperiled Oregon white oak habitat to guide conservation and willing-seller acquisitions, as well as improve connectivity for oak-associated species.

Oak Tree at Sunset

Oak Tree at Sunset – © Jason Faucera

Interested volunteers were trained to use the mapping tool, an app for their smartphones that uses global positioning system (GPS) data to pinpoint the location of each oak. Staff from Clackamas, East Multnomah, Tualatin, and West Multnomah SWCDs joined the effort this summer, mapping trees in their respective counties. Similar work has been done by other conservation professionals and more than 45 volunteers.

What happens to all these data points? The location of each tree and any photos submitted are stored in a database, from which a map of oak tree locations is generated. The data are being used to refine a computer model that interprets aerial photographs to identify oak trees in areas where volunteers are unable to survey.

Funding for the OakQuest 2014 effort has been generously provided by Metro’s voter-funded Nature in Neighborhoods grant program, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Check out the cover story in Metro’s fall edition of Our Big Backyard magazine for more information about the OakQuest project: http://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/OurBigBackyard_fall2014_web.pdf