Case Study: National Parks & Wildlife Service Ranger App

Using OSi data to develop bespoke apps for Ireland’s National Parks & Wildlife Service

Ireland’s National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) used OSi data to create bespoke mobile and desktop apps for NPWS field rangers to record activities impacting protected Irish habitats and species.

The Challenge

NPWS is responsible for the conservation of Ireland’s biodiversity, national parks and nature reserves.

NPWS rangers carry out ad-hoc and routine surveillance of habitats and species within designated sites. Originally, their Site Inspection Reports (SIRs) were undertaken manually on paper. This method was time consuming so NPWS saw the need for a digital alternative.

NPWS recognised that any digital alternative should have a spatial element, so that the ranger can view and plot affected areas on a map. Rangers should also have the option to operate offline, due to the fact that many designated sites are located in rural areas with no mobile internet connectivity.

The Solution

A Bespoke Mobile App

NPWS commissioned a GIS company to design a bespoke app called SIR Mobile, available exclusively to NPWS field rangers.

A mapviewer (a tool for viewing a map) was built into the app using OSi maps and OSi orthophotography (aerial imagery), allowing the ranger to view an area in both mapview and aerial imagery view.

Map View Aerial Imagery View

The mapviewer loads cached (previously saved) versions of the map and aerial imagery. These cached versions of the map are available at different scales, so the ranger can still zoom in and out when they are offline.

Using the Mobile App

The ranger uses the mapviewer to digitally draw the outline of an affected area by creating a polygon shape.

In the image above, the ranger is marking the affected area with a polygon

The ranger then inputs information about the affected area (e.g. date of inspection, activity that is causing an impact, etc.) directly into the app using pre-populated drop-down lists. Previously, all of this would have been recorded on paper.

In the image above, the ranger is recording a negative impact that has been made on Geyer’s Whorl snails


A Bespoke Desktop App

NPWS also commissioned a bespoke desktop app, called SIR Desktop, which was also developed using OSi’s online maps (OSi MapGenie), as well as other spatial layers and data.

This desktop app is available to rangers when they return to their offices to access, review and edit their SIRS. Rangers can overlap the polygons that they drew in the field with additional data, and review them in the context of other scientific and spatial information.

In the image above, the ranger is using SIR Desktop to check whether or not the activity is taking place within a protected site

8 Benefits to NPWS

  1. Saving time: Digitising the process, and adding a spatial element with the introduction of the mapviewer, has made the site inspection process faster and more efficient.

“The app saves time as information is recorded just once, digitally. In the past, information was recorded in a notebook and typed into excel.” – NPW.

  1. Saving money: Now, rangers can quickly record and plot activities that may be impacting the site (e.g. habitat damage) while they are out in the field.

“The app saves money as it is a more time efficient way of carrying out required tasks in the field.” – NPWS

  1. Increased accuracy: Using OSi’s MapGenie service gives rangers access to the most detailed, up-to-date map data of Ireland.

“The introduction of the SIR apps has resulted in a more geographically accurate approach to collecting SIRs.” – NPWS

  1. Enhanced analysis: Before the apps, the only spatial element being used was the plotting of XY point coordinates. Now, rangers can plot boundaries and compare affected areas nationwide.

“The mapping functionality of the new applications has meant that there is now a defined area for each incident. This is a huge improvement in comparison to the previous system and helps massively in understanding pressures and threats to designated areas. It enables NPWS to easily and quickly access a centralised and nationwide map view of all SIR polygons, at any given time.” – NPWS

  1. More context while out in the field: Now, when rangers are out in the field, they can use their phones to view the locations of prime wildlife conservation areas, known as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and to view protected breeding habitats for birds, known as Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
  1. A standardised process: The use of drop-down lists to input information has standardised the data collection method, making it easier to compare SIRs across different locations and different time periods.

“The apps have resulted in a more time-efficient and standardised approach to collecting SIRs.” – NPWS

  1. Ability to work offline: Using cached versions of OSi’s maps and satellite imagery allows rangers to work even when there’s no internet connection.
  1. Enhanced decision making: By overlapping the SIR polygons created in the field with additional spatial layers and data, SIRs can now be reviewed in the context of other important information.

OSi Data & Services Used

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