The FQA FAQ

Summarized how-to for using the Locations system to track the floristic quality of a prairie remnant. For more detail, see the specific pages referenced in each question’s answer.

  1. What are “floristic quality assessments”?

  2. What are these CoCs and where do they come from?

  3. How do I use the online tools here to track FQAs?

  4. Where at the Remnant Prairies web site can I work with this stuff?

  5. So how do I manage locations?

  6. What are these “georegions”?

  7. How do I create and manage a Region using the map tools?

  8. How do I manage other aspects of a Region?

  9. How do I manage FQA studies for a Region?

  10. How do I view and use an FQA study?

  11. How do I create and manage a Line georegion?

  12. How do I create and manage a Marker georegion?


  1. What are “floristic quality assessments”?

    A Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) is semi-quantitative technique for measuring the ecological characteristics of a parcel of land. Simply put, it takes an inventory of the species found at a site and makes a variety of calculations based on characteristics of those species. These calculations report the relative ecological “goodness” of the botanical communities living in the parcel.

    The fundamental data used in FQAs are the characteristics determined for each species by expert botanists. You can see these characteristics by exploring through our plant database. The most important characteristic is the Coefficient of Conservatism (CoC). The CoC for each plant found in a survey is used to calculate the mean Floristic Quality Index for the land at that particular time.

    There are also a variety of other measures (such as wetland indices) that can be reported, but the CoC-derived FQIs are the main output of FQAs.

    More information here.

  2. What are these CoCs and where do they come from?

    Coefficients of Conservatism (CoC) are integer values from 0-10 where 0 is the least conservative (ie weediest/exotic) and 10 is the most conservative (ie most ecologically sensitive). Expert botanists assign these CoCs — often using a consensus committee process — to each species of interest in a given area.

    Typically these areas have been US states, but this mostly reflects the professional identities of the botanists doing the work, not anything botanically relevant. However, these CoCs are particular to specific areas and would not transfer well from one continent to another, for instance, since an ecologically crucial plant in Australia is likely a weed when transplanted into the US. The CoCs of that plant would be very different in the two places.

    Right now we’re focusing on the Kansas CoCs here at the Remnant Prairies web site partly because the Kansas data set is by far the most complete and detailed and partly because most of us involved with this effort are located in Kansas. However, as we obtain additional data — and more importantly interest — from other states, we’ll adapt our online tools to produce FQAs for other states as well.

    Read more about the concepts behind FQAs and a general introduction to measuring and monitoring plant communities.

  3. How do I use the online tools here to track FQAs?

    The process is quite simple, though it has a number of moving parts so please take a few minutes to wade through a few details. Here are the topics we’ll deal with in the next few questions:

    • Understanding Groups
    • Managing Locations
    • Creating Georegions — in particular “Regions”
    • Managing Regions
    • Managing FQAs within Regions
    • Managing Lines
    • Managing Markers

    Keep reading to learn more.

  4. Where at the Remnant Prairies web site can I work with this stuff?

    The Remnant Prairies web site is organized into two main areas:

    • Public areas: pages accessible to everyone including anonymous visitors who aren’t logged into the site — such as this FAQ you’re reading right now
    • Group areas: pages accessible only to logged-in users who have been made members of that group

    The “Your Workspace” page is kind of a third area, in that it is the portal through which you can see summaries from all your groups and easily access those groups — but for our purposes here, just think of “public” and “groups”.

    On the public Locations page at this point, we simply link to a demo location (happens to be the Konza Prairie but none of the data are "real"). This location is just to give you a chance to play with the tools to see how they work.

    Real locations are managed within groups — and thus are accessible only to people who are members of those groups. So if you want to start to use our online tools here for a real prairie you’re working with, signup/login (if you haven’t already) and then email us about your project. We’ll set up a group for you so you and your collaborators can track your own data.

    Note: we’re going to update the site soon to make it possible to manage “real” locations also within the “public” areas of the site. There are publicly-owned prairies whose analytic results are of general interest to everyone — not just group members. We’re going to make such locations “read-only” for everyone but those who are managing these projects.

    We’re also going to make another update to the site to list group locations on the main locations page when a user is logged in and has locations in her groups.

    More information here.

  5. So how do I manage locations?

    This answer will be relevant only to people who are members of a group and to whom we’ve granted the necessary superpowers. Those people will see links various places that allow them to do the following tasks. If you don’t see such links, then you don’t have those powers. If you think you should have those powers, email us and we’ll discuss it.

    Within your group, you can create, edit, and delete locations. Your current locations are listed in the left side of the main panel of your group’s home page. There is also a link there to create a new location. Each process has plenty of instructions and hints, so accomplishing them is pretty self-evident. Here is a summary.

    • Creating a location: Click the “Add location” and fill in the form with your new location’s name and a description. Navigate the Google map to your location from its default location centered on Topeka, KS. The easiest way to do this is type an address (street if appropriate; city and state regardless) and let Google center the map for you. Alternatively, switch the map to “Map” mode from “Satellite” and then zoom out. Drag the map to your location, then zoom in and switch back to “Satellite” mode until you find your spot. Click your mouse in the map at the center of your new location to insert the latitude and longitude into the form. Then click the Save button and your new location will be in our database.
    • Editing a location: Go to your location’s main page and you’ll see an “Edit” link right under the map (if you have the necessary superpowers). Click that link and you’ll reach a form where you can edit the name, description, and center (by clicking the map again) of your location. Save your changes, and that’s it!
    • Deleting a location: If you have the necessary superpowers, you’ll see a “Delete” link just under the map in the form where you edit your location. You will be asked to confirm your action if you click this link, so you can back out before the irrevocable deletion occurs. Once you do delete a location, any georegions, FQAs, etc associated with the location will also be deleted.

    All the following entities function within the context of a location.

    More information here.

  6. What are these “georegions”?

    Once you’ve got a location in your group — or if you go to our demo location — you can manage “georegions” — a term we’ve come up with (for better or worse) to name the various types of annotations or overlays that you can create for the location.

    Georegions allow you to interact with the remarkable powers of Google Maps — the system we’ve used to build the tools on the Remnant Prairies site. Google Maps provides us with the map imagery and the geographical information (latitudes, longitudes, and derived information like areas and lengths).

    There are three types of georegions:

    • Regions: two-dimensional areas that define spaces where you can perform FQAs.
    • Lines: one-dimensional lines that you can name and describe
    • Markers: points that you can name and describe

    With these overlays, you can characterize important information about your location such as the precise location of rare plants, boundaries between one section and another, or (most importantly, with Regions) FQA studies.

    As you move your mouse around the map, any georegion you pass over will automatically highlight in yellow in the list to the right of the map — so you can easily tell which georegion is which in the map.

    There are two ways that you manage your georegions:

    • Using the map — for map-related information
    • Using pages for the georegions — for all other information like FQAs

    This may sound complicated, and it is to some extent, but this is due to the fact that our system extends the basic information handled by Google Maps to add stuff specific to our purposes here.

    More information here.

  7. How do I create and manage a Region using the map tools?

    Regions are created by clicking this icon in the map:

    You then “digitize” your region by clicking points around the area of interest. You double-click the final point to “finish” the region. This will automatically open up a dialog where you name your new region. Type in a name and click the “OK” button. This will save your new region to the web site’s database, and your new region will show up in the list just to the right of the map.

    You can zoom the map in to see precisely where you put your vertices, and you can drag them around. Additional vertices are automatically created for you next to any one you select, so with a bit of effort, you can easily shape your region exactly as you like.

    Any time you alter a region by dragging a vertex in the map to resize the region, the region’s name will highlight in red in the list to the right of the map. You MUST click in or on the georegion to bring up its dialog box and then click the “OK” button in order to save these changes back to our database — or else they will be lost. After you save your changes this way, the red highlight will clear. NOTE: some browsers don’t instantly clear the red highlight (Firefox on OSX does; Safari on OSX and IE do not — who knows why? Browsers are weird). You may need to move your cursor over the region and then back off in order to see that the red flag has cleared.

    If you want to edit the name or description of the region — or if you want to add FQA data — then you need to use the region’s pages — which we address in the next question.

  8. How do I manage other aspects of a Region?

    There are a number of features of a region that go beyond the latitude/longitude vertex data that the map handles for us. These features include the name and description of the region and, most importantly, any FQA data we collect for the region. We manage this information not via the map but via additional web pages.

    The FQA stuff is an entire topic to itself that we’ll get to in a later question.

    To edit the name and description of a region, click on its name in the list to the right of the location’s map to reach the region’s main page.

    On this page, you’ll see the region’s title and description — including the area of the region. Just beneath the description, you will also see a link to “Edit title and description” (if you have the necessary superpowers, that is — which you will in your own group but you won’t in the public demo location’s regions).

    If you click this “edit” link, you’ll reach a form where you can edit the title and the description. If you have the necessary superpowers, you will also see a “Delete” link in the form. If you delete a region, you will also delete any FQAs collected for that region, but you of course will not delete the location where the region is located.

    Back on the region’s main page, you will also see lower in the page the “Floristic Quality Assessments” section, with a link to “Manage” these FQAs. We’ll get to this next.

  9. How do I manage FQA studies for a Region?

    The last section of the main page of any Region is the “Floristic Quality Assessments” section. (See the Research Plot 1 page of our demo Location as an example.) There you will see a link to Manage the region’s FQAs.

    Clicking that link takes you to a summary page for all the region’s FQAs. These results are displayed in a table (see this example) that highlights the most important parameters from each FQA and makes it easy to see trends across the FQAs. Each study’s name is a link that leads to its detail page. There is also a link to create a new FQA study.

    When you create a new FQA, you need to give it a title and the date that it was completed. You can optionally provide a description. It’s best to title a study with something that clarifies when it was done. The completion date need not be exact — this field is mostly used to order the studies in the summary table. Typically a study will cover an entire season or a several week period, so a title like “June 2008” with a completion date of “30 June 2008” would make sense.

    Once you’ve created a new FQA, you are next sent to the main editing page for the FQA. This is where you can record what species you’ve found in the region. This page is a bit complex, unfortunately, but this is where all the important action occurs. It has four main sections:

    • Available Species: This table lists all the plants in our database. You can find plants by browsing through them using the “page” links at the bottom of the table or by searching by scientific or common name. Searching is probably easiest, and partial matches work (eg using ‘clover’ to grab all the various types of clover). In each row of this table, there is a “Select” button for species that you haven’t already included in this study. Those that already are in the study don’t have a button but rather tell you that they are indeed selected.
    • Plant List Import: This section lists all the prior plant lists done for this location. Since creating a plant list is time-consuming when you’ve got a lot of plants, this feature allows you to simply pull all the plants you found before with one click. You can then add any new plants and remove any others that you didn’t find this time.
    • Selected Species: The next section is where all the plants in the current study are displayed. Each row includes a “Remove” button that allows you to drop a plant from the study.
    • General Information: This form allows you to edit the title, description, and completion date of the FQA study.

    Finally, there is also a “Delete” link in the form if you have the superpowers needed to delete a study. Deleting an FQA will remove its associated plant list — but of course will not delete any of the plants nor will it remove the region attached to the study.

    Once you’re done editing the plants included in the FQA, you can click the link at the top of the page to return you to the FQA’s main page — which we’ll discuss next.

    More information here.

  10. How do I view and use an FQA study?

    The main page of a specific FQA (reached from the region’s FQA summary page or the edit page of the FQA) displays the full details of the study. There are two main sections besides the title and description of the FQA:

    • Detailed Findings: This table includes all the calculations and results of the study — notably measures of the relative numbers of native/adventive species and the floristic quality indices. The “Coefficient of Conservatism Tallies” section allows you to drill down and see the specific plants in the study that have a particular coefficient of conservatism — which nicely answers the questions like “What particularly good (or bad) plants have we got here this year?”.
    • Species in Study: This section lists all the plants reported in the study along with their CoCs (currently for Kansas).

    Note that there is a link to a printer-friendly version of this report which is handy if you want a hard-copy. Given the interactive focus of this tool, however, we think that simply reviewing things online makes more sense.

    This is particularly the case because the details on this FQA detail page are re-calculated in real time whenever the page is requested — so you can instantly see the results of any changes you make in the plant species you include in the study.

  11. How do I create and manage a Line georegion?

    Just like Regions, you create Lines using the map tools for its Location. You edit lines via both the map and page forms.

    You start creating a Line by clicking this icon in the map:

    Click where you want the line to go and conclude with a double-click to stop the process. This will open a dialog where you provide a name. Once you click the “OK” button, your new line will appear in the list to the right of the map.

    You can move around a line, add vertices for bends, etc through the map. Any changes you make via the map will flag the line’s name in red. You’ll need to save any such changes by clicking on the line to bring up the map dialog box and clicking the “OK” button. This will clear the red highlight. NOTE: some browsers don’t instantly clear the red highlight (Firefox on OSX does; Safari on OSX and IE do not — who knows why? Browsers are weird). You may need to move your cursor over the line and then back off in order to see that the red flag has cleared.

    Managing the name and description of the line is identical to the process described above for a region. Click on the name of the line in the list to the right of the map to get to the line’s main page, then click the “edit” link you’ll see there to reach the edit form. Make whatever changes you want and save them. If you have appropriate superpowers, you’ll also see a “Delete” link on the edit page.

    At this point, since there are no other capabilities that we’ve defined for lines that are comparable to FQA studies, there’s nothing else you can do with a line other than include a description. At some point, we may develop tools to handle transect studies that would use lines, but we haven’t yet found a compelling reason to do so. Such studies are difficult, time-consuming, and probably well beyond what landowners of remnant prairies are able and interested in doing.

  12. How do I create and manage a Marker georegion?

    Just like Regions and Lines, you create Markers using the map tools for its Location. You edit markers via both the map and page forms.

    You start creating a Marker by clicking this icon in the map:

    Then simply click where you want the marker to be. This will open a dialog where you provide a name. Once you click the “OK” button, your new marker will appear in the list to the right of the map.

    You can move the marker around simply by dragging it in the map. Once you do so, the system will flag the marker’s name in the list in red. You’ll need to save any such changes by clicking on the marker to bring up the map dialog box and clicking the “OK” button. This will clear the red highlight. NOTE: some browsers don’t instantly clear the red highlight (Firefox on OSX does; Safari on OSX and IE do not — who knows why? Browsers are weird). You may need to move your cursor over the marker and then back off in order to see that the red flag has cleared.

    Managing the name and description of the marker is identical to the process described above for a line. Click on the name of the marker in the list to the right of the map to get to the marker’s main page, then click the “edit” link you’ll see there to reach the edit form. Make whatever changes you want and save them. If you have appropriate superpowers, you’ll also see a “Delete” link on the edit page.

    At this point, since there are no other capabilities that we’ve defined for markers that are comparable to FQA studies, there’s nothing else you can do with a marker other than include a description. We’re of course glad to hear any ideas — post them as a comment to this FAQ!


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