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Indigenous community in Peru tests out the Forest Watcher Mobile App

Community monitors in Peru detect and record a clearing in their territory using Forest Watcher.

Posted on March 29, 2023
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Forest Watcher Updates Improve Managing Teams and Reporting on Data From the Field

Posted on March 29, 2023
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GFW newsletter

In the height of rainy season in the Amazon, the community monitors of Buen Jardín de Callaru motor along the winding river that cuts through their territory. With them is Betty Rubio Padilla, who is visiting to train monitors on how to use forest monitoring technologies to investigate deforestation alerts.  

The community is responding to an alert received in the Forest Watcher mobile app. The available data on recently detected tree cover loss and fires, combined with strong existing knowledge from the community, has made investigating potentially illegal clearings and fires within Buen Jardín de Callaru and many other communities across the tropics more efficient. Betty — who now works for Rainforest Foundation US’s Rainforest Alerts Program in Peru — and her community, Puerto Arica, have been using Forest Watcher for five years and they have already successfully rebuffed illegal coca plantations encroaching on their territory.  

These community monitoring teams, like many GFW users, are offline in the field for extended periods of time, meaning that Forest Watcher is essential for their work. To make Forest Watcher easier and more convenient to use, we’ve recently updated it to provide new and improved features. 

What is Forest Watcher and who uses it? 

Forest Watcher is a free desktop web (Forest Watcher Web) and mobile app (Forest Watcher Mobile) for the frontlines of forest protection. The tool makes GFW’s satellite-derived fire and deforestation alert data sets available to users offline and in the field. 

This means that those working in forest protection, like community forest monitors, park rangers, protected area managers, smallholder farmers and others protecting global forests, can use Forest Watcher to locate, document and expose illegal or unwanted deforestation regardless of internet connectivity. 

Since the last time Forest Watcher was updated, we’ve heard from users about additional updates and new features that would help make Forest Watcher easier to use. We aggregated this feedback and conducted targeted user interviews to better understand challenges and needs for verifying alerts in the field.  

Based on this feedback, we’re pleased to introduce exciting new features that make managing teams, sharing data and reporting field investigations more convenient. To make it easier to understand what new team features are available and how the team functionality can aid your workflow, here are some key definitions to know: 

  • Teams are comprised of multiple members (i.e., managers and monitors) investigating a particular area of interest for alerts.  
  • A manager can create areas of interest, teams and custom report templates that are accessible to all members of their team. Managers can also add and remove monitors from teams and associate teams with one or more areas of interest. Lastly, managers can send monitors to the field by assigning alerts or locations. All manager tasks can be performed using Forest Watcher Web.  
  • A monitor is a user who completes reports and assignments in the field by navigating to alerts or locations to conduct investigations. All monitor tasks can be performed using Forest Watcher Mobile

There is no limit to the number of teams you can create or join. Each team member has a specific role and associated permissions. 

Summary of team member roles and permissions 

 

Administrator

Manager

Monitor

Limit per team

1

Unlimited

Unlimited

View all team content on FW Web

Associate areas and contextual layers with the team

 

Add or remove monitors to the team

 

Assign or remove the manager role for other teammates

 

Transfer the Administrator role to another manager

 

 

Delete the team

 

 

What’s new: Introducing improved team roles and workflow 

Improved team management  

  • Managers can oversee monitoring teams by inviting members to join their teams and assigning different roles. This helps managers keep track of multiple teams that monitor numerous areas for alerts.   
  • Monitors can receive team invites and join teams directly in Forest Watcher Mobile. 
  • Managers can appoint team administrative access to monitors or other team members. This is especially useful to monitors, who can learn how to manage a team without creating one during trainings.    

Introducing assignments 

  • Managers can assign an alert or a location on the map to a monitor to investigate. 
  • Monitors can navigate to these alerts and complete their assignments in the field. 
  • Managers can then track the status of these assignments and view monitors’ recorded routes on the map.  
Assignments shown in Forest Watcher app

Access to Planet satellite imagery 

  • Forest Watcher users can now view high-resolution (5-meter) satellite imagery in tropical forest regions, updated monthly.  
  • Using Forest Watcher Web, users can also compare two time periods of Planet imagery to gain a better understanding of forest change on the ground.  
Planet imagery shown in Forest Watcher app

More ways to record data in the field  

  • Monitors can choose from multiple report templates for an area to record audio files alongside written notes, and upload and organize multiple photos into galleries.  

Export and share your data 

  • Teams can export their areas, alerts, assignments and reports in more accessible file formats — Shapefile, GeoJSON, CSV or PDF — making it easier to view on desktop devices, incorporate into any GIS software or share with others. 
  • Users can share data via download, email or a shareable link.  
  • Individual images or entire galleries can be downloaded as ZIP or PDF files from reports. 
  • When exporting and sharing reports, users can exclude sensitive information (e.g., user location). 

Major bug fixes 

  • Users can now view reports created by their teammates with custom templates in Forest Watcher Web. 
  • Monitors can track their routes in Forest Watcher Mobile when their device is locked or the app is minimized.  
  • The default report template is now available in seven languages.

Since the app’s launch in 2017, Forest Watcher has continuously evolved to meet the needs of our varied users. Whether it be civil society groups in Madagascar, environmental police in Brazil or Indigenous communities in Peru, Forest Watcher can now better support forest guardians around the world.  

Access Forest Watcher Web and download Forest Watcher Mobile. 

Learn more

  • Watch the recording of our webinar, Forest Watcher: Making Forest Monitoring Easier and More Effective, which provided a detailed look at Forest Watcher’s latest features. View the recording here.
  • Visit our Help Center to learn more about how to use Forest Watcher. Help Center materials in Bahasa Indonesia, French, Portuguese and Spanish are coming soon.
  • If you have any further feedback, suggestions or questions, please email us at forestwatcher@wri.org

Ruth Nogueron and Gabrielle Nussbaum also contributed to this article. Liz Bourgault contributed to a previous version of this article. 

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