Formidable Phragmites

UDOT Region One is using a GIS app to help control an invasive weed that makes Utah wetlands inhospitable to native plants and waterfowl.

When phragmites get a foothold, it crowds out native plants like cattail, bulrush, and saltgrass – native species that provide food sources and cover for birds. Randy Berger, Wetland Manager with Utah Department of Natural Resources doesn’t have a single good thing to say about the weed. Berger manages wetland areas in northern Utah.

Phragmites in Northern Utah

Phragmites in Northern Utah. Photo by Lindsey Durtschi

UDOT manages the area beyond the pavement within the right-of-way, which involves regular mowing and getting rid of invasive weeds, including phragmites. UDOT Region One Area Supervisor Kelly Andrew, along with maintenance crews, has been using a GIS app that tracks the location of phragmites. He and Berger have been working together to fight weeds for years.

Andrew needed a way to keep track of the location of big patches of phragmites. Getting rid of the stuff is a three-year endeavor, and locating, spraying and tracking the spread of phragmites is time consuming. The new weed spraying app, in its second year of use, has made UDOT’s weed abatement effort more effective and efficient.

Kelly Andrew of Region One

UDOT Region One area supervisor Kelly Andrew

The app was developed by Seth Anderson of AECOM. He modified the ArcGIS collector app to create the easy-to-use tool. The app works on a smartphone or a tablet. Users simply choose the weed on a pick list, add comments, and create a point on an online map.

“The app automatically stores the date and username when the point is created,” says Anderson. “The Collector app allows for collecting and editing points even when the device does not have a data connection, too.  He just has to sync the data when he gets back to his office and has Wi-Fi connection.” Andrew introduced the app to Berger, who is now using the app to track phragmites treatment areas.

GIS mapping apps are a simple and effective way to collect and track and store data. Andrew recommends others at UDOT consider using an app. “If you think you have a problem that can be solved with a GIS tool, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Weed Sprayer Rig

For more information, contact the GIS team at udotgis@utah.gov

For more posts about putting GIS to work, see the following links:

Getting it Right

GIS Apps to Improve Safety