- Lavigne, D.
New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and Energy
- Vietinghoff, L.
University of New Brunswick
- Jordan, G.
University of New Brunswick
The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and Energy is responsible for forest protection as specified by the 1980 Crown Lands and Forests Act. Since passage of this Act, the Department - more specifically the Forest Pest Management Section (FPMS) of the Timber Management Branch - has assumed the major responsibility for spruce budworm surveys and assessments in New Brunswick. This responsibility involves collecting and analyzing large amounts of biological information needed (i) to provide optimum timing of the annual aerial control program, (ii) to provide a measure of program efficacy, and (iii) to provide an annual forecast of forest areas in need of protection.
This study examined the merits of a microcomputer-based approach in accommodating the data handling and analysis requirements of the Section. In particular, microcomputer technology was applied to three operational budworm survey files to allow direct comparison with present methods. The study also examined, compared and evaluated several microcomputer software/hardware configurations by looking at two distinct microcomputer operating environments ( the widely used MS-DOS environment and the newer Apple Macintosh environment), three database management systems (DBMS) (dBASE III, PC INFI and MacLion) and lastly, two statistical packages (SPSS/PC and STATGRAPHICS).
The study indicated that a microcomputer approach would offer definite improvements in data handling and analysis over the current situation at FPMS. Improvements arise from less manual handling of data - including automatic calculation of intermediate results, and verification of data at entry time - thus reducing potential sources of human error. As well, data storage and retrieval can be made much more efficient, providing rapid access to filed information in a user-friendly setting appropriate for personnel with little computer training. Although statistical analyses were comparatively more cumbersome using either of the two statistical packages examined (additional data management is necessary for some analyses), the requirements of the FPMS can be met more efficiently with a microcomputer-based approach permitting more frequent analyses and direct access to results.
An M5-DOS operating environment was recommended, based not only on performance, but also on the availability of support from the provincial governments Access Centre (Department of Supply and Services). Currently the Access Centre does not support the Macintosh, although this study indicated that the Macintosh provided a productive, user-friendly computing environment, fully capable of meeting the needs of the fPMS.
The specific DBMS recommended was dBASE III. Although dBASE III, PC INFO and MacLion are all powerful DBMS, the latter two lack the user-friendliness that dBASE III exhibits, not only in data storage and retrieval but in programming as well. This user-friendliness is important at FPMS for two reasons: (i) it is anticipated that the filed information will often be accessed by persons inexperienced with computers and, (ii) it is anticipated that most of the programming will be carried out by personnel within FPMS, with limited programming experience.
Although both SPSS/PC and STATGRAPHICS appeared to have the capability to handle the analysis requirements of FPMS, STATGRAPHICS has two advantages: (i) it is menu-driven as opposed to command-driven and thus would be more effective in the periodic-use situation at FPMS and, (ii) it possesses an enhanced graphics capability. Further study of the statistical packages is necessary before a recommendation can be made.
Based upon the recommendations above, anticipated file sizes, data handling and analysis requirements of FPMS and discussions with personnel at the Access Centre, the microcomputer configuration recommended is (i) 512K, MS-DOS-based system with at least one diskette drive, (ii) a Bernoulli disk drive to allow handling of large files and to facilitate information backup, (iii) a dot-matrix printer with graphics capability, and (iv) an 8087 math co-processor to enhance speed of statistical calculations.