Calflora     Weed Manager   Resources, Applications and Techniques

Updated October 30, 2018  
Weed Manager (WM) is a system which enables organizations engaged in land management to track weed infestations and treatments over time. If you are unfamiliar with Weed Manager, please see this presentation of the system's capabilities. Below is a description of various WM resources and component applications now available:

The Weed Manager Google Group
A discussion of core components of Calflora's Weed Manager system, news, new versions to be tested, planning, funding, etc.   If you are not yet a member, press Apply to join group

The Calflora Observer Pro Users Google Community
A discussion of the Calflora Observer Pro app for recording observations of wild California plants.

Observer Pro Phone Application
An app for collecting data about wild plants, using organization-specific data collection forms. The Android version is available on Google Play. The iOS version is available on iTunes.

Android FAQ

Android Full Documentation
Plant Observation Entry (POE)
Using this application, you can view, enter or edit a plant observation record.

The same projects and forms are available in both the Observer Pro phone app and POE. If you are a member of a Weed Manager organization, then you have access to certain projects and forms specific to that organization.

When you use POE to edit a record made with Observer Pro, it will come up with the same project and form used to enter it.

However, you can also change the project and form of a record from within POE. For instance, suppose a record was originally entered with the Simple Data Collection form. Using POE, you could change it to a project that has the Weed Data Collection form, and then fill in the weed related fields that are not present in Simple Data Collection.

POE can also be used to enter new records. When entering a new record, choose your organization from the drop down, and then choose one of your organization's projects. As soon as you have chosen a project, the page below will be filled with the data collection form that goes with that project.



Projects and Data Collection Forms:
A Weed Manager organization can have many projects. A project is defined by
  • a location (starting point);
  • a plant list; and
  • a data collection form.
Certain default data collection forms are available. One data collection form can be used for many different projects.

Some organizations have requested a custom form, containing the exact fields which the organization wants to collect.
Group Observations
The Group Observations application makes all records owned by an organization available to all members of that organization. The results include both published and unpublished records.

The results can viewed through one of several column sets, such as Basic Data and Weed Data Export. As a member of a Weed Manager organization, there are additional column sets are available, one for each of the data collection forms that your organization uses.

By choosing a column set that corresponds to one of your organization's data collection forms, you can download all of the data you collected (including any special fields such as those related to treatment).

The results can be downloaded in several flat file formats, as JSON or GeoJSON, or as a shapefile.



Group Observations Spreadsheet
The Group Observations Spreadsheet application is like Group Observations, but with a spreadsheet like editing interface.



Multiple Group Search
This application is similar to Group Observations, except that you can search for records from multiple groups at the same time. This can be useful if you are a member of more than one Weed Manager organization.

Project Setup
If you are the owner of a group (or have the Data Czar role within a group), use this application to view and edit existing projects, or to add new projects.

When you are adding a new project, enter a name and a description, and choose a data collection form. (This app will preview the various data collection forms which are available.) You can optionally also choose a starting location and a plant list.

If you are a member of a group, use this application to view the various projects defined for that group.



Shape Editor
With this application, you can view and edit any of the lines and polygons you have drawn or uploaded to Calflora. You can also draw a new line or polygon, upload a shapefile with polygons or lines in it, or upload a KML tracklog.

Each shape record optionally has a name. If you give a polygon record a name, you can use it in searches; eg. from within Observation Hotline or Group Observations.

Each shape record also has a declared purpose. The presumed purpose for any polygon with a name is search. The presumed purpose for any line or polygon entered as part of entering a plant observation without treatment information is assessment. The presumed purpose for any line or polygon entered as part of entering a plant observation with treatment information is treatment.



Survey Entry
A survey is a focused search for certain plants, in a discrete area, and over a limited amount of time. Using this application, you can view, enter, or edit a survey record.



Supporting Applications
Manage Group Members
If you are the owner of a group, use this application to add new members, or to assign roles to existing members.

Organization Options
Enter roles, rates of pay, crew, and activities for your organization.
Also, view and edit any saved searchs (eg from Group Observations) for your organization.

Work Session Entry
Enter what crew did which activity, on what day, for which project.
Note that when you are viewing a Weed Manager observation/treatment record in POE, you can directly view and edit all Work Session records associated with that observation.



Plant List Definition
If you need a custom plant list for one of your organization's projects, use this application to define it.
(When using the Observer Pro phone application, having a short plant list can sometimes speed data entry.)

If you are the owner of a Weed Manager group, you have ultimate administrative control over that group, in the sense that you can add members, remove members, and assign roles to members. Below is a description of the currently available roles.

owner The owner can add and remove members, and assign roles to members.
data czar A data czar can edit any observation record in the group.
team leader A team leader has a few editing priviledges that a regular member does not have; see below.
regular member A regular member can add records and edit their own records with Plant Observation Entry. A regular member can view all group records with Group Observations.
nominal member A nominal member is able to add records to the group, into any of the projects defined for that group. A nominal member cannot use any of the supporting applications.

With respect to the supporting applications, a member's role determines what he or she is able to do.

Organization Options: A regular member can use this application to view data if the policy to limit access for regular members is not in effect. A team leader and a data czar can use this application.

Project Setup: A regular member can view projects. A team leader can edit an existing project, but not make a new project. A data czar can edit an existing project and make a new project.

Work Session Entry: A regular member can view records. A data czar or a team leader can edit records.

Plant Observation Entry: A nominal member can view observation records added by other members of the group, but only in the same way that a non-group member would see them: that is, without any form specific details (without treatment information).

If your organization is responsible for certain regions, and has desktop GIS files with the boundaries of those regions,
use the Shape Editor to upload the GIS files.

Once uploaded, the region polygons will become part of your organization's portfolio of shapes. There are two immediate benefits:
  • The region polygons become available for searching purposes (to all members of the organization) from applications such as Group Observations, Observation Hotline, and What Grows Here?

  • When a member of your organization enters a new record, and coordinates of the record fall within the boundaries of one of the regions, the Region field of the record will be assigned the name of the region. This applies to records coming in from the phone or from the web.

How to do it:
Make sure your regions are available as a shapefile, including the projection (.prj) file component. From the Shape Editor application, open Upload.

In Step 1, you will upload the shapefile from your computer to a temporary table on the server.

In Step 2, choose which attribute from the shapefile contains the name of the region. Set the value of group to your organization. Set the value of purpose to REGION. Then press . The next time you do a search from the Shape Editor, you should see them.

Using the Polygons
To use one of the region polygons as a search area in Group Observations, open POLYGON, then open SAVED SEARCH POLYGONS, and choose the region by name from the drop down list.

Why define a new project?
A project is an organizational device for isolating observation and treatment records, so that they can be easily searched for and reported on.

In Weed Manager, work session data is associated with observation and treatment data by project and date. Once a project has been defined, and records have been added to it, it is possible to correspond work session information with observation and treatment information. In other words, when you see some observation and treatment records for a certain project on a certain day, you will be able to to tell how many hours your organization spent doing that work.

With this in mind, if your organization is going to be tracking work session information, then the best reason to define a new project is for accounting purposes. For instance, if you are going to need to account for all work in a certain area, then it makes sense to define a project just to contain data about that area. If all work in the area is added to the project, then later you will be able to report on work in the area simply by selecting the project.

Saved searches are the way to limit what records you will see in Observer Pro for a particular project. They are also a useful way to share a set of interesting records with other people, either inside or outside of your group.
Saving a Group Observations Search
Searches can be saved directly from Group Observations: 1. do the search; 2. open TOOLS and SAVED SEARCHES; 3. enter a name for the current search; and 4. press .

A search saved in this way will be immediately accessible to anyone in your group, and will not be accessible to anyone outside of your group.

Saving an Observation Hotline Search
To save a search from Observation Hotline: 1. do the search; 2. copy the URL; 3. go to My Calflora / Searches; 4. press Add another search; 5. enter a name for the search, and paste in the copied URL; 4. press .

To edit the search you just saved, click on just to the left of the record. If you want your saved search to be available to one of your groups, edit the record, and choose a group from the group drop down.

In a Group Observations search, all records must come from the same group. However, in an Observation Hotline search, you can mix published records from various sources. So, if you need to see records from other sources from inside Observer Pro -- for instance, observations of weeds from casual observers -- you can accomplish this by means of an Observation Hotline search.

Using a Saved Search for Historical Records in Observer Pro
Once you have saved a search, you can use it to control which historical records appear for a particular project in Observer Pro.

To do so, go to Project Setup, choose your group, choose the project, and press . Any searches that have been saved associated with the group (by you or by anyone else in the group) will appear in the HISTORICAL RECORDS (saved searches) drop down. Choose the relevant search, and then save the project record. More details are available in Project Setup Help.

When a history stack has polygons. a population record is automatically created for it. The population record is linked to the stack by means of root record ID. One of the polygons that belongs to a record in the stack becomes the reference polygon for the stack.

Typically, the reference polygon is the polygon from the oldest record in the stack. It may also be the largest polygon of any record in the stack.

The reference polygon is used to represent the stack in graphical situations where many records with polygons are displayed at the same time; for instance, in the Nearby function of POE, or in the Plant Distribution application.

A population record also has two other optional fields: ease of access (how easy is it to get to the population), and priority (how important is it).

You can change the reference polygon in POE when you are editing any one of the records in the stack. Press POPULATION (bottom left) to open the population record editor. The REFERENCE POLYGON drop down has the identifier of each polygon used by a record in this stack. To see the current reference polygon as a blue outline, check Show the reference polygon on the map.

When the polygon of the current record is showing in red, and the reference polygon is showing in blue, you can easily see the difference.

A patch that has grown larger since the original record:

A patch that has shifted since the original record:

A patch that has been reduced by treatment since the original record:

(Running more than One Application at the Same Time)
The Weed Manager system includes about twenty web applications. These applications coordinate with each other through the database on the server. However, if you make a change in application #1 that affects application #2, and you are already running application #2, the change will not be automatically communicated to the running version of application #2. You will have to reload application #2 to see the change.

For instance, suppose you have the Group Observations application open, you have chosen a plant list call "Early Fall Blooming Herbs", and you are looking for the plants on that list in a certain area. Then you open the Plant List application, add a new plant to the "Early Fall Blooming Herbs" list, and save the list. At this point, the database has the lastest version of the list. But, back in the your running version of Group Observations, it is still using the old version of the list. To get the latest version of the list, you must reload Group Observations. To do so, simply press the browser refresh button.

You can download the records you have been collecting in Weed Manager from the Group Observations application -- do a search, then open TOOLS / DOWNLOAD RESULTS.

When you download a shapefile, the attribute names are deliberately shortened in accordance with this data dictionary.

(See also Group Observations Help.)

Observer Pro Techniques
Some Weed Manager users have encountered capacity problems when they loaded large numbers of historical observations onto Observer Pro. Here are some techniques to control how many historical observations are loaded onto Observer Pro when you do a REFRESH.
  1. If you are able to edit projects, then for each project, use a saved search to determine which historical observations are loaded for that project. If you do not assign a saved search, then all observations in that project will be loaded. With a saved search, you can limit the historical observations available in Observer Pro to just those that you are going to need in the field.

  2. Go to My Calflora / Preferences / Observer Pro with Weed Manager: Organizations and Projects. If you are a member of multiple organizations, you can choose one or more of them as active -- during your next session with Observer Pro, you will able to contribute data to any organization selected as active. Inactive organizations will not appear on the phone at all.

  3. For each active organization, you can choose one or more projects. During the next REFRESH, historical observations will only be loaded into Observer Pro for the selected projects.

    Practically, using this feature to control what project data is loaded onto the phone can make a huge difference in the time it takes to do a REFRESH. Also, when less historical data is loaded, Observer Pro responds more quickly, and you may able to find the plant populations you are looking for more easily.

    Note that choosing active organizations and projects is a personal preference. If another member of your organization needs to work on different projects from you on the same day, they can set it up with their own preferences.

Observer Pro (Android) now has the ability to show background lines and polygons which are not connected to an observation. This can be useful if there is a certain discrete area -- eg. a trail -- that you need to survey periodically. If a line representing the trail appears on Observer Pro's map when you are in the field, then you can easily tell when you get close.

Which lines and polygons to display is a personal choice, and is controlled from My Calflora / Preferences.

To choose lines and polygons, go to Preferences and open Observer Pro with Weed Manager: Background Lines and Polygons. When you select your Organization from the drop down, it will load a table with all of the named lines and polygons associated with that organization.

To select a shape to be uploaded to Observer Pro, click on the purple dot, and then check the "Available in Observer Pro?" checkbox. (Once you check or uncheck this checkbox, the choice is written immediately to the database.)

The next time you do a REFRESH from Observer Pro, your selected shapes will be uploaded. They will appear on the map whenever you make an observation for that organization.

The choice of background polygons is per user and per organization. If there are several members of the organization in the field on the same day, they each might choose different background lines and polygons. You can load as many shapes as you want onto the phone. However, if you upload a lot of complicated shapes (each with many vertices), it could potentially slow down the performance of Observer Pro.

On the phone, each background shape is drawn as a yellow line. With the "Map" background selected, the yellow line can be difficult to see, but with "Satellite" selected, it really stands out (see the screenshot on the right). The background shapes are not labelled when they appear on the Observer Pro map, so it is a good idea to be familiar with your chosen shapes before you are out in the field.

Weed Manager System Design

How to Join Weed Manager

Weed Manager is available as a subscription. Please contact Calflora to start a new Weed Manager subscription.


Calflora is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

In accordance with Federal law and US Department of Agriculture policy, Calflora is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9419 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

The following organizations have provided the principal funding for the development of the Weed Manager system:

USDA Forest Service
Marin County Parks
National Park Service (San Francisco Bay Area Network of National Parks)
Midpennisula Regional Open Space
Tamalpais Lands Collaborative ONE TAM

The following organizations have provided funding for Weed Manager components as well as technical and design assistance:

Marin Municipal Watershed District
Yosemite Conservancy
California Invasive Plant Council