Filling Out a Report

Full directions on how to complete a monitoring datasheet can be found in the Volunteer Manual 2019.

Click here to download a blank monitoring datasheet, however we recommend printing the field-ready monitoring datasheet to view previous data and enter new data. You can write in this year's updates to the datasheet when you are in the field monitoring, then enter your data online through your POC account. At the end of the data entry process, please upload a scan or picture of the filled in field-ready datasheet as your "raw" data.

The POC monitoring report provides a “snapshot in time”, taken in one or possibly two visits when the plants are reproductive. If the population has previously been monitored, try to visit the population within 10 days of the former visit date to ensure consistency. However, if the previous monitoring date was not during a reproductive time, it may be advisable to change the date. Discuss this with POC staff.

Lead monitors fill out the Monitoring Datasheet. Monitors are responsible for completing the Monitoring Datasheet.  Other members of the team may take leadership roles in coordinating site visits, following the protocols, etc. All approved monitors for a site and species are given that assignment and can check the previous reports online, but only the lead monitor should enter data. In advance of monitoring, monitors should log-in to the POC website and print out a field-ready monitoring datasheet. You can also view and print a map.

Respond to every question. Write ‘unknown’ or use provided fields for NA or ‘Don’t Know’ if you do not know.

Using a GPS Unit


Image of GPS unit with buttons labelled
Figure 3: The buttons as they appear on the GPS Etrex unit.


  • POWER allows you to turn the unit on or off.
  • BACK allows you to move to the previous screen
  • ZOOM KEYS (UP & DOWN) allow you to zoom in and out on the map
  • MENU allows more custom ability to each unit
  • THUMB STICK allows you to navigate between options and select an option or open a menu

To Turn the GPS Unit On/Off:

  • Press the POWER button. (Please do not forget to turn the unit off whenever it is not in use as the batteries run down quickly.)
  • To verify the unit has connected to the satellites, press the POWER button once. When the GPS bars in the lower right corner are solid, your device has acquired satellites.
  • Getting a good signal:
    • Moving around, especially in a straight line, helps the satellites locate you faster
    • If you are under a dense canopy, it helps to track satellites in a nearby open area first, then bring unit (with the power still on) back to the plant population
  • Accuracy: GPS unit will show accuracy at the top of the screen under the SATELLITE option
  • Try to get about 3-8m accuracy in open areas (if the error is a very large number at first, keep the unit on and wait a few minutes for the error to reduce as you walk around)

To Take a Reading (see Figure 1 for where to take readings in the population):

  • From the main screen, use the THUMB STICK to highlight the option SATELLITE
  • Hold GPS unit at a place you want to take a reading, select option with THUMB STICK
  • Record the reading on the Monitoring Form - °N is the top line (7 digit number) and °W is the bottom line (7 digit number). The northerly reading corresponds to latitude and the westerly reading corresponds to longitude. POC GPS units are set up to read in the coordinate system Decimal Degrees with datum WGS84 (if you don’t know the current settings on your unit view the “Check/Adjust Settings” section below in the Advanced Instructions).


Things to Know about the Garmin eTrex 10 Unit:

  • Screens: The eTrex 10 has one main screen with many different options available. Use the MENU button to change the order of the options. POC GPS units are set up with the following options to appear first when the units are turned on.
    • MapPhoto of GPS Unit Menu
      • Shows your current position on a map.
      • Tracks your movements with
        a trail
      • Can view the location of waypoints and shows the direction you need to travel
        to reach a point.
      • Options:
        • ZOOM KEYS (UP & DOWN) will allow you
          to zoom in and out.
    • Mark Waypoint
      • Mark a waypoint
      • See current fixed location for recording purposes
      • Enter a GPS coordinate to find
    • Waypoint Manager
      • View, delete or navigate to a waypoint
      • Think of waypoints as you would a visual marker on a landscape; you can navigate to them or use them as a position reference
    • Satellite
      • See current fixed location and GPS accuracy for recording purposes
      • See number of satellites currently connected to
    • Setup
      • Change the Time format
      • Change the Display contrast to make the screen easier to view
      • Change the GPS Units of measurements (see below in “Types of data”)
        • Position format (aka coordinate system)
        • Map datum
        • Units
  • Types of data: POC has preferred ways for you to collect this data (see below), but if you have collected GPS using one of the other coordinate systems or datums, indicate this on your monitoring form and we will convert.
    • Coordinate systems are different formats used for recording a location (aka POSITION FRMT)
      • Decimal degrees (e.g. hddd.ddddd) (POC’s preferred coordinate system)
      • Degree Minute Second (e.g. hddd°mm'ss.s")
      • UTM (e.g. dddddd)
      • Minute Decimal (e.g. hddd°mm.mmm)
    • Datum is the way the data are projected onto the earth (aka MAP DATUM)
      • WGS-84 (POC’s preferred datum)
      • NAD-27 (Conus)
      • NAD-83
    • Batteries
      • GPS units use a great deal of power and can drain batteries very quickly
      • Turn off the unit when you no longer need it
      • POC units may come with rechargeable batteries, so don’t throw batteries away
      • POC provides an extra set of batteries with each unit. Just in case!


To Check/Adjust Settings before Taking a Reading (crucial before recording coordinates):

  • From the main screen use the THUMB STICK to highlight and select the SETUP option
  • Using the THUMB STICK navigate down to POSITION FORMAT and select this option
  • There are two settings: POSITION FORMAT and MAP DATUM
  • Select POSITION FORMAT, and using the THUMB STICK highlight and select hddd.ddd°
    • This is Decimal Degrees and the requested format for POC
  • Select MAP DATUM and using the THUMB STICK highlight and select WGS 84 (requested format for POC)

Use GPS to Locate a Population from Previously Collected GPS Points or Create a Waypoint:

In order to relocate your population using GPS, you will need to enter the coordinates from a previous monitoring report into the GPS unit you bring into the field.

POC transforms all GPS data into WGS-84, decimal degrees, which should minimize the need to re-set your unit. However, you may wish to locate populations using readings in a different datum, in which case you must ensure that your GPS unit is set up for the correct datum of the coordinates you enter. Follow directions below.

To enter coordinates written on the monitoring form into the GPS unit:

  • Check the unit’s setup menu to see what coordinate system and datum the GPS unit is currently set to.
  • Adjust the coordinate system (aka POSITION FRMT) and datum (aka MAP DATUM) so they match the coordinate system and datum of readings you are using. See “Check/Adjust Settings” and “Types of Data” above.
    Photo of GPS Unit Coords
  • From the MENU SCREEN highlight MARK WAYPOINT and press the THUMB STICK to select
  • Scroll up until the reading in the middle is highlighted, press the THUMB STICK to select
  • Using the THUMB STICK use the left and right arrows at the bottom of this screen to highlight subsequent digits in the coordinate number
  • At the location number you wish to change, use the THUMB STICK to highlight and select the number you want to replace it with in the number pad
  • Scroll to the next number you want to change, repeat. Go through all the numbers until the reading is correct.
  • Once finished, scroll down to highlight DONE and press the THUMB STICK to select. When back at the Mark Waypoint screen, scroll down to select DONE again. This will save your waypoint. Write down the title of the waypoint you created (the number next to the flag), so you can navigate to that point.

When entering UTM/UPS coordinates, the first two digits are “1” and “6”. Do not change this as this represents “16”, the standard UTM zone for Illinois. The actual coordinates starts after the “T”.


Tracking Back to an Existing Waypoint (i.e. a waypoint you created):Photo of GPS Unit Tracking

  • Press BACK button to bring up MAIN MENU page
  • Highlight WAYPOINT MANAGER and press THUMB STICK (you are now in Waypoint Page)
  • Using THUMB STICK select the desired waypoint
  • GO should be highlighted already, use THUMB STICK to select
  • The Map Page appears and you are now ready to be guided to your waypoint. On POC units, there will be four boxes at the top of the Map Page
    • DISTANCT TO DEST – Displays the number of meters to arrive at your destination
    • GPS ACCURACY – Gives you the current accuracy of the GPS Unit
    • HEADING – Tells you the direction you are currently moving
    • BEARING – Indicates the direction you need to walk to reach your destination

The GPS Compass does not function in the same way as a conventional compass. It is not sensitive enough to detect which direction you are facing initially though it will provide a helpful direction once you are moving across the landscape. For this reason, use an actual compass to tell you which direction to go before you begin.

Example: Looking at the compass screen on the GPS unit, I see that the arrow is pointing straight to “N” with a distance of 6.66 m, indicating that I need to walk 6.66 m North to find my plant. However, when I look at my own compass, I realize that I am facing South. Therefore, first I adjust my direction by referring to my actual compass and turn to face North. Then I begin moving North while watching my GPS compass screen. I begin to see that my ‘distance to population’ is decreasing, so I know I’m moving in the correct direction.

Flora tracker logoUsing Flora Tracker App

The Flora tracker app is a GPS tool designed for Plants of Concern citizen volunteers. Through this app, you can save detailed waypoints and later to navigate to them.

Our Flora tracker app is currently only compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The app requires IOS 9.0 or later. Click here to download the Flora tracker app

The main screen of the Flora tracker app
The home screen of the Flora tracker app

Creating a waypoint at your current location:

  1. Click the button located in the top right hand corner of the home screen.
  2. Enter a name and description for your waypoint. Press “Save”. A notification on the screen will indicate that your waypoint has successfully been saved.

Note: Your waypoint will be saved in WGS-84. This is the reference system used by Plants of Concern

Viewing previously saved waypoints:

  1. From the home screen, press “Favorites” (star icon located in the bottom left corner) to view a list of your saved waypoints.
  2. To view coordinates for a specific waypoint, press the information icon located on the right. The coordinates of your waypoint will appear.

Navigating to a previously saved waypoint:

  1. View previously save waypoints by pressing "Favorites" (star icon located in the bottom left corner of the home screen).
  2. Click on the waypoint that you would like to navigate to.
  3. A map showing your current location (blue circle) and your marked waypoint (the red tack) will appear. The top of the map shows the distance from your current location to your marked waypoint.
  4. Zoom in (place your two fingers on the screen and move them outward) to view the most direct path to your waypoint.

Editing a description or deleting a waypoint:

  1. From the home screen, press “Favorites” (located in the bottom left corner). A list of your waypoints will appear.
  2. Press the information icon (located on the right side on the screen) corresponding to the waypoint you would like to edit or delete.
  3. The description and coordinates of your waypoint will appear on the screen, along with the options to edit or delete.

Chicago Park District Site Assessments 

Here are links to pdfs for Chicago Park District Site Assessments:
Rapid Color Guide
Plant Descriptions

Ravine RFQA

Here are some PDF resources for conducting a Ravine Meander Rapid Floristic Quality Assessment (RFQA):
Ravine RFQA Protocol
Ravine RFQA Datasheet
Ravine RFQA Guide 2019

Plant Identification Keys

Below are a few guides to help Chicagoland volunteers with identification of associate trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plant species. 
Associate Trees Key
Associate Shrubs and Vines Key
Herbaceous Plant Family Descriptions