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Chronolog technology helps to monitor landscape

A Bureau of Land Management chronology station in Ruby-Horsethief Canyon will create a time-lapse view of a project to control Russian knapweed with the help of visitors’ phones. (Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management)
Citizen science effort uses cellphones to create time-lapse photography of sensitive areas

If you want to help protect public lands, use a chronolog or volunteer on a popular trail.

What is a chronolog, you ask?

It is an interactive tool for the community to monitor changes to the landscape using their phones, according to Colorado Canyons Association.

Chronolog stations, such as the three now in McInnis Canyons National Conservation area, allow visitors to submit pictures that are combined to track changes in the landscape.

Visitors place their phone in a pre-installed bracket and take a photo. They then email the photo to the address posted at the station, and it will be added to the inventory that creates the time-lapse visual.

The three new chronolog station are at Knowles Canyon Overlook at Rabbit Valley, May Flats in Ruby Horsethief Canyon and Sieber Fire Restoration Area at Jones Canyon Trailhead.

At Knowles Canyon, the technology will help track and monitor a rare species of desert wildflower called the Dolores River skeletonplant. It is endemic to the Western Slope of Colorado, meaning it is the only place in the world where this species can be found.

A chronolog station at Knowles Canyon will provide information about a little-known species of desert wildflower called the Dolores River skeletonplant (Lygodesmia dolorensis). Visitors place their phone in the station and take a picture, and a time-lapse recording of the area is studied by scientists. (Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management)

The plant blooms pink flowers from May to August, but it germinates in the right conditions so it can be very scarce or very common at this site depending on precipitation. The chronolog time-lapse will provide information about the conditions of Rabbit Valley over time, and supplement data provided by the citizen science of the Dolores River skeletonplant monitoring project.

At May Flats, the invasive Russian knapweed is being controlled biologically by the release of the Russian knapweed gall wasp, which targets the weed specifically.

The biologic control slows the spread of the plant, which outcompetes native species in valuable riparian areas. The chronolog time-lapse will help monitor how the gall wasp is affecting the Russian knapweed and how native vegetation is responding.

At the Seiber Fire Restoration Area, the chronolog will help monitor how a sagebrush restoration project is progressing in a fire burn area. Replanting sagebrush in the area is important to limit erosion in areas that were stripped of vegetation during the wildfire.

Trail volunteers needed
Trail information specialist volunteers Anna and Rod greet visitors at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitors Center. (Courtesy of Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance)

Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance and the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument are looking for new and seasoned volunteers to help manage the increase of trail users.

Trail information specialists assist visitors in popular locations such as Lower Sand Canyon and Rock Creek Trails, Sand Canyon Pueblo and Lowry Pueblo, Painted Hand Pueblo and Escalante Pueblo. Service is preferred in three- to four-hour increments.

Volunteer trail specialists are near popular trailheads or rove within high-use recreational areas to orient visitors and provide information about BLM rules for visiting the area, such as Leave No Trace and Visit With Respect ethics.

For information about becoming a trail information specialist, email Shaine Gans at swcocanyons@gmail.com.