Better data better trails: study looks at social media uses
Washington Trails Association trip reports can help Forest Service maximize its limited resources
Appeared in The Daily Herald
Emmi Lia sat on moss-covered ground in the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River Valley. She balanced a laptop on her legs, looked at the screen and jiggled a connection to a wire running up to a tree. She appeared to be downloading data directly from the tree. In reality, her computer was plugged into a small infrared counter discretely attached to the trunk.
For weeks, the counter had been keeping track of how many hikers passed by on the adjacent trail. Lia needed the data but the tracker wasn’t cooperating. Electronic gadgets, even when well protected, don’t enjoy the wetness of a Pacific Northwest forest. Lia was persistent, and eventually she convinced the tracker and laptop to talk.
Lia is a research assistant at the University of Washington Earth Lab. She spends a lot of time outdoors, collecting data on how many people are using trails or driving on roads in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It’s important work, but collecting data in this manner is expensive and time consuming… (continue)