The Bugwood Network: Information Technology Support for Extension Forestry Programs In Georgia, USA.
respectively, College of Environmental Sciences;
Warnell School of Forest Resources;
Bugwood Network – College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,
PO Box 748, The University of Georgia, Tifton, GA. 31793. USA.
There are over 600,000 Non-industrial Private Landowners in Georgia who are supported by a variety of federal, state and university personnel. In the USA, each state has a single state Land Grant University that has responsibilities for providing educational programming and activities in support of private land- and homeowners. Georgia has 159 local governmental units (counties), and nearly every county has a local Extension office which functions as the local contact for private land- and forest-owners located within that governmental unit. University specialists are challenged with providing education and support materials to private and public clients through these many locations. We have utilized the World Wide Web, CD-ROMs and other information technologies since 1995 to deliver materials and information to user groups. In 2000, our web sites collectively received in excess of 2,000,000 hits and served over 260,000 unique visitors. In July 2001, we made an archive of over 6,000 high-resolution images available to users via a web interface for unrestricted educational applications. The Bugwood Work Group expands the traditional definition of Extension to a global audience through use of the World Wide Web. In this presentation, we will provide an overview of The Bugwood Network (http://www.bugwood.org/ ) with examples of how we utilize information technologies in our educational and information delivery strategies.
Bugwood is a network of closely related web sites focused in the areas of forestry, entomology, invasive species and integrated pest management that promotes the use of information technologies in these areas. It is a joint project between the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Warnell School of Forest Resources with support from the USDA Forest Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Bugwood web site began in 1996 to help promote the PhotoCD image products and to host Work Group publications (Douce, et al, 1995). Over the next few years, the Work Group began to develop custom content for the site and began to repurpose existing materials. Bugwood also hosts the Southern (USA) Forest Insect Work Conference site and has since expanded to host web sites for the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council, the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council and the Georgia Entomological Society. Specific sites have been developed to host individual subject areas as well as work in East Africa and the South Pacific. The philosophy of the Network is the coming together of various disciplines and technologies working together toward a common goal (Bargeron, 2000).
The Bugwood Work Group was formed in 1995 by Drs. Keith Douce and David Moorhead Dr. Douce is a Professor and Extension Entomologist in The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. His responsibilities include forest entomology, coordinator for the United States of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA-APHIS-PPQ) sponsored Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program and integrated pest management (IPM). Dr. Moorhead is a Professor and Extension Forester at The University of Georgia, Warnell School of Forest Resources. His responsibilities include forest regeneration, silviculture, forest management, prescribed fire, forest herbicides, forest IPM, and until recently, Christmas tree production. As Extension specialists, they provide educational information and training for Extension agents, landowners, foresters, and resource managers. The Work Group consists of Drs. Douce and Moorhead, a technology coordinator, a computer specialist, a digital archive specialist, secretarial support and a student worker. Work Group activities include development of projects using multimedia, web sites, and computer imagery to enhance their work in entomology and forestry education (Douce, et al. 1997a, b; Douce, et al. 1998b).
Bugwood now consists of fifteen unique, but related, web sites/URLs to break the content up into logical sections (Douce, et al. 1998a,b; Douce, et al. 1999). The current web sites are as follows:
University, state, regional and US-focused sites:
- The Bugwood Network Home – the "portal" into the network. http://www.bugwood.org/
- Forest Pests of North America – fact sheet based information related to pests of North American forests. http://www.forestpests.org/
- Invasive Organisms – general informational site on organisms that are considered to be invasive to US agricultural, forests, and natural areas. http://www.invasive.org/
- Forestry Images: Forestry Images: The Source for Forest Health and Silviculture Images. http://www.forestryimages.org/
- The Georgia Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Site – fact sheet based information related to invasive species of importance to U.S. agriculture and forestry with specific focus on survey programs within the state of Georgia. http://www.gacaps.org/
- The Southern (USA) Forest Insect Work Conference – updated yearly to support the work conference activities. http://www.sfiwc.org/
- The Georgia Integrated Pest Management Network – commodity-based (principally annual agronomic crops) pest management and identification. http://www.gaipm.org/
- University of Georgia, Department of Entomology – the department web site. http://www.ent.uga.edu/
- The Georgia Entomological Society – supports activities and publications of the society. http://www.gaentsoc.org/
- Southeast (USA) Exotic Pest Plant Council – the information center for the council and its members. http://www.se-eppc.org/
- Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council – the information center for the council and its members. http://www.gaeppc.org/
Sites focused on geographical locations outside of the United States – International focus
- Eastern Arc Mountains Information Source– to provide information and coordination for institutions and organizations working in the forested systems of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Kenya and Tanzania, Africa supported by the USDA Forest Service and USAID. http://www.easternarc.org/
- Africa – Forestry, Agroforestry, and Environment - to promote the protection, health and sustainability in African forests, agroforests and forest environments. http://www.afae.org/
- Tree Pest Management Network – to support the African Tree Pest Management Project. http://www.atpmn.org/
- Pacific Islands Regional Forestry Programme – to provide information and coordination for institutions and organizations working in forestry in the Pacific Islands as a prototype in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. http://www.spcforests.org/
These sites combine to include over 5,500 individual html pages and average over 250,000 hits each month.
The purpose of the Bugwood Network stems from the mission statement as illustrated above. Our primary goal is to educate our clientele and students in a quality, user-friendly manner. This will extend our reach in a timely and efficient manner and use information technologies as tools to reach this goal.
Key factors in the success of The Bugwood Network is the strong multi-disciplinary commitment and operational philosophy that the user is interested in quality content that addresses their individual needs. We believe that if the information presented is based upon sound biology and scientific principals and addresses the need of the users that the user really doesn’t care who wrote it. Our operational philosophy includes insuring that the authors and their respective employers/agencies/universities receive full credit for the content and information that they generate. We also believe that it is important that the navigation within the sites, and the layout, or “look and feel” if you will, of the system be reasonably standardized and of high quality and professional in appearance (Andres, 1999; Flanders and Willis, 1998; Krug, 2000, Lynch and Horton, 1999). If we do not have the needed content, we identify other locations that might and point the user to those locations, whether they are web sites, hardcopy publications or individuals or agencies that can assist the user. After all, these sites are sources of information, and the user is the important person. We are committed to providing the user with the best information set that we can package and deliver.
Our principle clientele consist of: University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension Agents and clientele located within the state of Georgia, USA. Secondarily, our clientele are individuals located across the Southeastern United States with questions and informational needs similar to that of our Georgia clientele, as well as other state, regional and federal personnel. Additionally, we believe that just as the web is short for the World Wide Web (WWW), our audiences/clientele are likewise the population of the world. A Bugwood Network user can literally be located anywhere in the world … we believe that it is our responsibility to keep that in mind as we develop content and provide information.
When the authors are faced with providing our users with information or are asked to identify causative problems, we ask ourselves:
- do we have any information on our web sites?
- if we do not have information on our web sites, should we?, and
- if we should, how do we obtain appropriate content and then load it onto the appropriate web site so that it is available to anyone that might need it, not to just the one person that asked the question.
Drs. Douce and Moorhead routinely refer County Extension personnel, foresters, landowners, homeowners, etc. to the web site as part of their problem solving/educational process. Many of the County Extension personnel and other clientele now call ONLY AFTER THEY HAVE CHECKED the web sites for information and have not found the information that they needed. We believe that this is an effective way to EXTEND our educational impact!
Figure 1 shows the Bugwood Home Page (October 12, 2001). Note that there is content on a wide array of subjects and disciplines. Some of these are more populated than others, but our goal is to take care of at least 80% of the potential questions and problems using these technologies, so that we can more effectively spend our limited time and resources on addressing the more difficult issues and problems that really do require our expertise and attention. This home page changes from time-to-time as we identify items of particular concern, such as the mosquito transmitted West Nile Virus problems that were experienced in the Eastern United States during the summer of 2001. Additionally, we also change the “Feature Sections”, those that are in the boxes (shaded) on the right hand side of the page. We invite you to visit and explore Bugwood (http://www.bugwood.org/).
The most recent, and perhaps the most significant addition to the Bugwood Network in the past year is Forestry Images released on July 9, 2001 (http://www.forestryimages.org/). Forestry Images is a web based, fully-searchable image archive and retrieval system that the authors developed in conjunction with the US Forest Service to serve Forest Health educational and support activities across the US. This system has been under development since the mid-1990’s. We recognized the need for quality photographs of forest insects and disease organisms to use in information technology applications, and began exploring ways to address this need (Douce, et al. 1996 a,b; Bargeron, et al. 1999). The concept subsequently expanded to include silvicultural images and to include photographs/images of a wide array of topics related to forest health and forest management.
The Forestry Images entry page (October 12, 2001) is depicted in Figure 2. Every photograph/image in the system can be found via several pathways: simple and complex keyword searches, menu searches, number searches, by photographer, etc. Four thousand five hundred (4,500) images taken by over 170 photographers were available to users on October 12, 2001. Several thousand additional images on a variety of topics taken by many other photographers are being processing and will be available in the system in the ensuing months.
The overall objective of Forestry Images is to provide an accessible and easily used archive of high quality images related to forest health and silviculture, with particular emphasis on educational applications. The database contains over 2,300 subject codes with scientific classification (Class, Order, Family, genus, species, identifier . . . etc. as appropriate). Approximately 225,000 pages of information were served to over 14,000 Forestry Images users during the time period of July 9 to October 10, 2001. The system has 1,085 members who have registered for full use of the system and for e-mail updates.
There is no charge for any educational application as long as credit is given to the photographer and/or to his/her agency/employer, and to Forestry Images as the delivery mechanism. The photographs and images in Forestry Images are either publicly-owned images, or have been released by “private” photographers to allow the images to be used with no royalty or fee charges in educational applications. For each image, we must receive legal release documentation stating that we, representing The University of Georgia, have the right to distribute the image without restriction as long as appropriate credits are given, and that the image may be used for educational purposes without royalties and fees. For commercial applications, the potential user must contact and obtain release from the photographer or contact person/agency. The photographer retains full rights to his/her images, The University of Georgia, for legal purposes, have copyright to the delivery/packaging process (Bargeron, et al. 1999).
We envision the image archive as being central to evolution of web-based educational information technology systems that will be developed and served by The Bugwood Network. We also believe that Forestry Images will be a valuable resource for educators, practitioners, regulators, students and scientists into the future.
Developing web sites usually involves many revisions as the web changes and as developers find new and better ways to do things. Traditionally, web sites have been developed by very large, task or company-oriented teams such as Microsoft, Disney, Sony, etc. and often take considerable time and resources to carryout. Usually, computer scientists, marketing, sales or customer support are the central forces behind design, development, implementation and operation of these web sites.
In university environments, we have seen the dichotomy of web sites being developed exclusively by personnel in Computer Support or Information Technology Support units, with only minimal involvement of scientists and educators, or by individual scientists who have a vision of how information technologies might be of help in carrying out or dissemination of educational information. Both approaches have lead to some successes and well as to many mediocre results. Anyone can build a web page, but a lot goes into developing a quality, information/educational web-based information system.
The Bugwood Work Group works as a team: Authors Douce and Moorhead are entomologist and forester, respectively. However, our team is made up of computer scientists who include expertise in: computer technology in general, database design and applications, web design, implementation and graphics. We feel that it is extremely important that ALL of these expertise’s and perspectives be included in the design, application and implementation phases of our projects!
The web is a very different media than Extension educators have traditionally used. It takes a different perspective on how users want to find information, and their willingness to spend time and effort searching for the information that they need. Additionally, the traditional concepts of academic departments and how academia operates is challenged by the needs of the numerous and diverse users and user groups of our Extension information. The authors feel that we have effectively evolved our approach to using the web to extend information to a larger audience and expand the traditional definition of Extension.
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Figure 1. Bugwood Network Entry Web Page (October 12, 2001)
Figure 2. Forestry Images web site entry page (October 12, 2001)