It has been said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is also true with land management practices because change on the landscape occurs slowly overtime. Having some way to maintain a photographic record of this change will assist land managers in making decisions about previous and future management options. A new application, or app, called RxBurnTracker for smart phones and tablets has been developed. It allows land managers a quick and simple way to monitor and document burn units before, during and after prescribed fires. The main goal of RxBurnTracker is to help land managers determine how effective their prescribed burn was compared to management goals. RxBurnTracker also allows land managers to track the progress of individual burn units relative to the number of prescribed fires that have been conducted on that site. RxBurnTracker can even be used with other management practices, such as mechanical or chemical applications to see effectiveness or vegetative progression through time.
RxBurnTracker is available free for both Android™ and Apple™ devices at their respective app stores. This app uses the photograph capabilities of the users phone or tablet to capture and record images. After initial photos have been taken, the unique ghost image capabilities of the app allow the previous image of that site to be aligned with the current image of the particular spot for precise reference. The app also allows the user to record burn information, such as burn date, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction for each time the unit is burned.
How to Use the App
RxBurnTracker is user friendly and easy to operate. The home screen of RxBurnTracker opens to Burn Units (Figure 1). To begin documenting burns, click the “+” symbol, which will allow the user to add and name a new burn unit. Once the burn unit is named, tap the screen or “+” symbol to add a photograph or burn data. If “Photo” is selected, tap “add location” and type the name or description of the new photo point, selecting “Done” when finished. The new photo label will have a check mark by it, select “Go” to allow the user to take the desired photograph. The app will prompt the user to “Use Photo” or “Retake.” This will take the user back to the burn unit where more photo points can be added by selecting the “+” and following the previous steps. Once the unit is burned, the user can add the burn data by selecting the burn unit, selecting “+,” then “Burn Data,” to add the burn information, then select “Done.” When the user is ready to begin adding post-burn photos, select the desired burn unit, then “+,” then “Photo,” select “Start New,” select the name of the desired photo point, it will have a check mark when selected, then “Go.” This will take the user to the camera. A transparent or ghost image of the previous photo from that particular point will appear on the screen. Transparency of the ghost image can be adjusted by sliding the white button located in the lower right of the screen. The ghost image feature allows the user to line up the current photo with the previous photo (Figure 2). This feature ensures that the new image is taken in the same place and position as before, so a consistent photographic record can be maintained (Figure 3). RxBurnTracker automatically puts all photos and burn data in chronological order beginning with the newest first. At any point, the user can go back to a burn unit and add new photos or new photo points as time progresses.
RxBurnTracker is a tool land managers can use to observe and document the regrowth of vegetation following a prescribed fire. RxBurnTracker is a simple way for land managers to see short-term progress within their long-term prescribed fire management goals. This app is also a great way for land managers to know where they are relative to their management goals and, more importantly, to show them where they have been.
Natural Resource Ecology and Management
R. Seth Coffey
Graduate Research Assistant
Natural Resource Ecology and Management