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Development of a Photo Monitoring Protocol

Photo monitoring is used to document melting glaciers in Glacier National Park.
Photo monitoring is used to document melting glaciers in Glacier National Park. USGS photos.


Photography is a well known process, but is probably under utilized as a technique for quantitative ecological monitoring. Though it may be an under utilized technique, recent projects comparing newly acquired and historic imagery offer dramatic contrasts resulting from progressive environmental alterations. For example, the USGS Repeat Photography project documents glacial recession in Glacier National Park by comparing imagery taken less than 100-years ago with recently acquired imagery to clearly illustrate the consequences of climate change (see image to right).

So, we are all familiar with photography as a means of capturing candid snapshots and artistic landscapes, but using photography to objectively capture the status of natural resources is equally valuable. Combine that with the fact that the Appalachian Trail environmental monitoring program relies on the contributions of many people, some professional researchers, some volunteers; some very experienced, some not. The amalgamation of programs, experience and expertise creates potential problems that a technique which objectively captures information regardless who is using it is of tremendous value.


Review existing photo monitoring methodologies, extract desirable procedures and techniques and combine them into a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that:

1. Is simple and easy to implement;

2. Reduces subjectivity with clear and concise guidance;

3. Can be implemented independently or integrated into other monitoring programs.

4. Is portable and does not rely on permanent markers or posts.

Useful Links


Key Contacts

Lucile Paquette

Contract Ecologist
Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Matt Stevens

Environmental Monitoring Coordinator
Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Fred Dieffenbach

Environmental Monitoring Coordinator
Northeast Temperate Network / Appalachian NST
802-457-3368 ext. 36
802-457-3405 (fax)

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster