geospatial training program

Smartphones and GPS

by David Dickson
GPS-for-Land-Trusts_42013_301-624x377Smartphones are the swiss army knife of the digital world. They have replaced countless single-function gadgets from calculators to cameras to pagers to, um, phones! But for mapping geeks, one of the gadgets they have not quite been able to shake is the handheld GPS unit—at least until now.
The Geospatial Training Program (GTP) at UConn CLEAR, in collaboration with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, recently developed a GPS training for land trust volunteers. The one-day training teaches participants to collect data (waypoints, notes, tracks) in the field using a GPS unit, download that to a computer, and then create an online map using the collected data that they can share with the public. However, there might be a new way to collect GPS data that doesn’t require a handheld unit costing hundreds of dollars.
According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of American adults (56%) now own a smartphone; this is an increase of 20% in just the last two years. Most smart phones today are built to include a decent GPS chip that is useful for finding the nearest Starbucks, letting the word know where you are, and tracking your run, ride, or hike. Why not geo-referenced data collection, too?
For years, we have been scouring the app stores for the perfect navigation app that does everything a handheld GPS unit can, and maybe more. Our requirements were that it is easy to use; collects tracks, waypoints, notes, and photos; exports data in a wide variety of geospatial formats; requires minimal processing to create an online map; works on iPhone and Android; and is CHEAP! After many downloads and numerous fits and starts, we believe we are close. As a result, GTP is solidifying plans to develop and teach a “Smartphone GPS” course some time in 2014 (funding permitting). Set a reminder on your phone to remind you to look up the GTP course offerings in the spring!

Using GPS for Monitoring and Mapping Land Trust Holdings

By Cary Chadwick

On May 3, CLEAR’s Geospatial Training Program (GTP) and the Connecticut Land Conservation Council held its second session of a training course called “Using GPS for Monitoring and Mapping Land Trust Holdings.”


The one-day course is designed to teach participants how to use a handheld GPS receiver to map property boundaries and specific locations that can be monitored annually to determine and record compliance with easement restrictions.  The course is also useful for land trusts members and others looking to map trails on their properties.

The hands-on field portion of the training took place on the Haddam Land Trust’s Bamforth Wildlife Preserve, located just a mile from CLEAR’s headquarters. While walking the property, the 18 participants learned how to map property boundaries, trails, and points of interest including hypothetical violations, survey markers, invasive species, and scenic viewpoints. They also spotted a boxed turtle and garter snake. Field photographs were collected to be used in monitoring reports and mapping products. Later, back in the classroom, participants downloaded their GPS data and created interactive, online maps using free software can be shared within their organization or published on their land trust website.


For more information and to learn about future trainings, visit  In addition, CLEAR hopes to partner with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council again in the future to offer a series of workshops for Connecticut’s land trust members focused on best practices in land stewardship.