hands using OuterSpatial app on mobile phone

Open Space Tech

Using digital tools to help plants, animals and people

Rapidly advancing technology may seem to be at odds with open space preservation, however, new technologies such as digital mapping, apps, cameras and software are essential to Midpen’s work. These tools help us understand and adapt to an ever-changing world, care for the natural environment and support the public in learning about and visiting the preserves.

Restoring Native Plant Communities 

Together with dozens of partner organizations, staff is working to create a publicly accessible, fine-scale vegetation map of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties that will show precise information about plant communities. This map is actually a complex set of data compiled using computer-based machine learning that incorporates field-collected data, Lidar (3-D laser scanning) and aerial photography. This thorough data is foundational to Midpen’s Wildland Fire Resiliency Program, allowing staff to identify areas with high fuel loads, invasive species, defensible space needs and other fire risk factors, and therefore prioritize areas for ecologically sensitive vegetation management. 

Protecting Wildlife

Midpen wildlife biologists use the fine-scale vegetation map to model and protect suitable habitat for dozens of sensitive wildlife species. Acoustic recording technology and specialized software that identifies species’ wingbeats and calls assist staff in our work with rare bats and endangered marbled murrelets, a seabird that nests in old-growth trees.

Through a partnership with the Santa Cruz Puma Project, mountain lions are fitted with temporary GPS tracking collars to help us understand how to best manage preserves for both wildlife and people. And specialized wildlife cameras are making amazing discoveries of the rare species in Midpen preserves, including most recently the presence of Santa Cruz kangaroo rats and purple martins in Sierra Azul Preserve. Both species were not known to still be present in Santa Clara County, and Midpen is now working to support their populations.

Enhancing Public Enjoyment and Education

Along with GeoPDF maps that can be printed or downloaded on smart devices from openspace.org to help visitors plan their trip to a preserve, Midpen OuterSpatial outings can be enjoyed online at home, or on your mobile device as a self-guided interpretive activity at a dozen Midpen locations. The Midpen 3D app allows you to explore Midpen’s 250 miles of trail in three-dimensional detail, including allowed uses, distances, steepness, elevation profiles, and geographic features.

Access apps, maps and data that can enhance your knowledge and preserve experiences at openspace.org/tech.

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