Browse by Subject
Contact Information

Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs / Natural Resources Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment / Inventory / Development of Software Tools for the Planning, Execution and Analysis of Inventory and Monitoring Studies
Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment

Development of Software Tools for the Planning, Execution and Analysis of Inventory and Monitoring Studies

[image:] View of a version of a data recorder software package developed for NIMAC projectsResearch Issue

National Inventory and Monitoring Applications Center (NIMAC) clients often contact us with general goals and desired outcomes of a monitoring study. Without specific goals, however, it is difficult to determine what variables to measure, how to design the inventory, what products will be produced, and how results will be used. Above all, planning and budget formation cannot proceed without these critical first steps. Once the project goals are established, the planning phase can begin. However, without a consistent, documented procedure to design the study and estimate costs given a desired level of precision of results, it is difficult to plan efficiently. Finally, once results are collected, tools are needed to store, process, and report estimates and their precision derived from the monitoring study.

Our Research

Often forest inventory planners start by determining what is to be measured without specifying what the information needs are or the results that must be produced.  Instead NIMAC has developed a series of 15 inventory and monitoring steps to help ensure that the monitoring is effective and efficient.  A set of tools has been developed (and is being enhanced) to assist with these steps. NIMAC created various procedures, tools and utilities to design, establish and conduct the survey, including GIS tools, data recorder programs, and data transfer methodology. Finally, NIMAC has worked to create new and adapt existing database, processing and reporting systems to incorporate clients’ data. 

Design Tool:

The Design Tool for Inventory and Monitoring (DTIM) implements a software-driven process whereby National Forests and other clients are guided through the monitoring program planning process.  It helps clients start by determining their true monitoring objectives and questions. Once these monitoring questions have been established, the Design Tool presents attributes to measure that will answer those questions.  The tool then helps them estimate the sample size and resulting inventory costs based on user-specified precision and design constraints. It can be adapted to different clients’ specific monitoring needs. NIMAC scientists previously developed a tool that helps create efficient plot designs, including the one currently used by the FIA program.

Survey Establishment Tools:

NIMAC scientists have developed an innovative procedure for establishing a monitoring plot network. This method forces sample plots to be distributed evenly across a study area without violating the major assumptions of classical statistical estimation procedures. It has been used to establish sample networks in various NIMAC projects.

[image:] view of a prototype of a GIS analytical tool that will be incorporated in the Analysis ToolProcessing, Analysis and Reporting Tools:

FIA has an existing processing and reporting tool called FIDO. NIMAC has developed the ability to adapt this tool to incorporate clients’ data. In addition to FIDO, NIMAC scientists have created other PC-based processing tools (e.g., TABGEN), that use the same extensively peer reviewed analysis methodology used by the FIA program. NIMAC is currently developing an analysis tool that will allow clients to interactively query and report on their inventory findings using a GIS-based interface.

Expected Outcomes

NIMAC hopes to create a suite of integrated tools in the form of a toolkit that can be readily adapted to new clients’ needs and serve as a model for other agencies around the country and world that want to establish monitoring programs. As the toolkit matures, more and more clients will begin to use it and its quality and usefulness will continue to improve.

Research Results

Lister, A.J. and C.T. Scott. 2008.  Use of space-filling curves to select sample locations in natural resource monitoring studies.  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.

Scott, Charles T.  2000.  Estimating two-way tables based on forest surveys  In: Hansen, Mark; Burk, Tom, eds. Integrated tools for natural resources inventories in the 21st century. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-212. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 234-238.

Scott, C.T., E.S. Guiang, C. Seubert, and T. Stewart 1996. Proposed forest resource survey for communities in the Philippines. P.305-317 in Multiple Resource Inventory and Monitoring of Tropical Forests. Hassan, H.A., C.Y. Mun, and N. Rahman (eds.). ASEAN Institute of Forest Management, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Charles T. Scott, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station NIMAC Program Manager
  • James Westfall, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Research Forester
  • Andrew Lister, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Research Forester
  • Jay Solomakos, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Systems Analyst
  • Steve Evans, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station Forester

Research Partners

  • Patrice Janiga, Forest Service Ecosystem Management Coordination
  • Renate Bush, Forest Service Forest Service Region 1
  • Barry “Ty” Wilson, Northern Forest Inventory and Analysis


Last Modified: 09/30/2008