Free Data Collection Applications For Tree Inventories

By Dan Buckler, DNR Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, Milwaukee, Daniel.Buckler@wisconsin.gov or 608-445-4578

Tree inventories seem like such simple enterprises. Their purpose, essentially, is to determine what trees are growing where, in what shape they’re in and how big they are.

But to do them well requires expertise in arboriculture, proficiency with data collection and familiarity with GIS. And, of course, time. This is why many organizations turn to consulting arborists and foresters to conduct inventories and write management plans – they have that expertise and experience to see those projects through.

However, for some smaller or specialty projects, an organization may decide to collect tree data itself. For these efforts, a list of free digital data collection applications is available on the DNR website.

Screenshot of Anecdata application used for a tree inventory

The webpage linked above shows free programs one could use to collect tree data. Of these, TreePlotter Lite and Trees Count are the most “out-of-the-box,” while Anecdata and EpiCollect5 are the easiest to customize. All are viable ways to collect data in the field and export them into spreadsheets where you can explore what you just collected and what to do with the information.

Though these are good ways of collecting small amounts of data, they are not programs to manage that data. For some situations, managing the data in a spreadsheet (e.g., in Microsoft Excel or freely in Google Sheets) is perfectly satisfactory. However, if more advanced tools are needed, such as mapping, maintenance scheduling, complaint documentation or report generation, a commercial product is likely to be needed (or a tool developed in-house).

Any questions about these applications, or suggestions to this list, can be directed to Daniel.Buckler@wisconsin.gov. Happy inventorying!

Please note: contents of this article are shared for informational purposes only. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does not endorse and makes no representations, expressed, inferred or implied, concerning these organizations, programs or services.

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