New Online Interpretive Trail to “Open” at the Yale Forests

White sign on a tree in a forest. Green letters on the sign say "RED FRONT"
July 1, 2020

Damaris Chenowith, Laura Green

Yale-Myers Forest now has an online version of one of its interpretive trails, providing a virtual rendition of educational content about forest ecosystems and management that will be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. The project uses ArcGIS StoryMaps, a platform that promotes user-friendly digital storytelling enhanced by maps. The storytelling format allows for an interactive presentation of information, highlighting unique features along the trail in the form of custom maps. Harvest prescriptions, vernal pools, and areas that have been managed with prescribed fire are made accessible to “visitors” far and wide through their computers and smartphones. The project to bring the trail into the digital age was supported by a grant from the Rosenkranz Award for Pedagogical Advancement to professors Marlyse Duguid and Mark Ashton.

Image of the online version of the Red Front Lot Interpretive Trail

The first trail to get this new digital treatment is the Red Front Trail (click to visit!), which focuses on the interactions between forest management and wildlife. The physical version of the trail winds past vernal pools where researchers have spent decades studying the interactions between amphibians and their environments. It meanders by an open meadow that is maintained by prescribed burns to preserve critical early-seral habitat, where diverse herbs and shrubs feed insects and birds of all kinds. It runs through a closed-canopy white pine stand where the evergreens provide thermal cover in the winter for deer and turkey. The digital trail takes the same journey, providing users with some of the benefits of field-based learning by integrating geospatial data, photographs of key features, and a written guide along with video where possible. First year Master’s student Damaris Chenoweth (M.E.Sc. ’21) spent the fall and winter translating the trail into StoryMap form, with support from the Yale Forests’ postgraduate fellows Rosa Goldman (M.F. ’19) and Laura Green (M.F. ’18).

The Red Front Trail StoryMap will be put to use this spring by students in Dr. Mark Ashton’s Silviculture course, for whom the StoryMap will offer a remote-learning field trip to see how silviculture is deployed in Yale Forests. The trail is now “open” to all through the Yale Forests website!