I will never look at a garden map the same way again.

On October 23, 2010, Zoe Panchen, Aubree Pack, James Hearsum, and I participated in the first all-day workshop on geographic information systems (GIS) for public gardens offered by the Center for Public Horticulture. The sold-out workshop introduced local public garden and horticulture institution professionals to Esri ArcGIS software and the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS (APGG) Public Garden Data Model.

Brian Morgan explains the mysteries of GIS to a full house at 116 Pearson Hall.

The model’s developer, Brian Morgan, led the participants through all the basics of GIS for public gardens, assisted by Angela Lee of Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) and Mia Ingolia, curator of the UC Davis Arboretum (go Aggies!). While still in development, the model is already usable by any who wish to download it from the APGG site and try it with their own garden. After a brief introduction to the uses of GIS in various contexts, we spent the rest of the day trying out the model in ArcGIS for ourselves. Brian took us step by step through downloading the model, creating and editing a map based on aerial photography, digitizing plant data, and linking field-collected mobile device data with the map.

Angela Lee and Mia Ingolia look on while Aubree and James concentrate mightily.

While the workshop was meant only to be a basic introduction to GIS, by the end of the day, most of us were able to (more or less) successfully map and edit a sample section of the UC Davis Arboretum using the Public Garden Data Model. That said, I will be the first to admit that I accidentally deleted a critical file once, got lost more than once, and during the last portions of the mapping had to give up on the finer points of editing entirely. But! I learned enough to want to learn more, and I will certainly be looking for more opportunities to keep developing my GIS know-how from now on.

~Felicia Yu (photos by Dr. Lyons)