University of Kentucky Case Study

Permanent GIS Markers Help University of Kentucky Save Trees


Like so many places in the country, development and time has changed the central Kentucky landscape and related ecosystems. Efforts are underway to evaluate restoration methods for the Bluegrass savanna-woodland. Lead by Philip Crowley, Ph.D., researchers with the University of Kentucky are working on a savanna-woodland restoration at Griffith Woods, a 750-acre farm located in north central Kentucky.

“The savanna has fabulous old trees,” explains Crowley. “Our aspect of the study will look at gradually restoring the savanna by helping the old trees living there as well as bringing in new species.”

The Problem

Researchers needed to create a fire-proof grid system for accurate monitoring and data collection.   Concrete survey markers would not distinguish specific area clearly and required a lot of heavy lifting.  The Survey markers needs to be portable, durable, easy to install and identify. Most importantly they have to withstand high temperatures associated with controlled burning. Since the study was intended to last over 100 years, they needed to find the best solution on the market.

U.S. Markers Products – the Right Solution

Their search for the just right marker ended when they found U.S. Markers products.

The markers include an above ground head that’s shock resistant and comes in different colors, shapes and materials. Researchers used different colors to identify 50 and 100 meter grids and track the different restoration methods. The corrosion resistant anchor system helped ensure that degradation or uprooting would NEVER be an issue the team would face.

GPS is also being used to tie into a GIS and electronically track the data and locations. The below grade component plays a major role in maintaining the marker’s position in the event the above-ground component is up-ended—an important aspect when working with decades of data.

Ease of installation makes the U.S. Markers vastly different from typical concrete markers. Where a traditional concrete marker weighs in at over 30 pounds, U.S. Markers weigh only about 2.5 pounds meaning installation can be completed by one person. Rana Ayoub Schafer is the U.S. Sales Representative for the U.S. Markers and is pleased with the lighter and more diverse alternative to concrete markers.

“You can carry a dozen of these markers as opposed to one concrete marker,” says Schafer. “They’re easier to see and can be color-coded for different situations. These markers are versatile and serve so many purposes.”

Generations ago, Native Americans used controlled burning to encourage new growth and tender foliage for the herds to eat. To mimic the process, the study includes controlled burning of portions of the landscape and monitors grazing impacts from mammals of today like voles and white tailed deer.

The materials used to make the U.S. Markers are highly heat resistant, a crucial factor when documenting the effects of controlled-burns. To ensure the marker’s ability to withstand high heat, flammability tests were performed to simulate a brushwood fire. While corners of the marker heads did discolor, the head proved resistant to fire.