How Iowa DNR improved data quality and reduced costs by 20% using AirSage

About Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Iowa DNR manages fish and wildlife resources, ensures the health of Iowa’s forests and prairies, and provides recreational opportunities in Iowa’s state parks. Fisheries biologist Rebecca Krogman leads the Large Impoundments research team, a team dedicated to developing tools and strategies to help improve management in large reservoirs across Iowa. Rebecca and her graduate student, Tommy Johnson (University of Florida), are working to update information about lake and reservoir-focused recreation, including fishing which is one of the most important recreational activities in Iowa.

Challenge

For the past year, Tommy has worked under Rebecca's supervision on a project to evaluate lessons learned from previous recreation surveys, which had taken the form of mailed and electronic surveys. The most recent survey had lower response rates than previous years, as well underrepresentation of younger adults, leading Iowa DNR to re-examine its survey and data acquisition plan. Looking at the process more closely, Rebecca and Tommy suspected a variety of challenges commonly associated with mailed surveys, including survey fatigue and recall bias. They considered a wide variety of possible survey and data acquisition methods and concluded that Iowa DNR should move away from mailed surveys in favor of a combination of in-person surveys and anonymous location data. Anonymous location data could potentially provide broader visitation behavior information which had been burdensome to respondents, whereas in-person surveys could provide user opinions, reported behaviors, and feedback.

Decision

While researching anonymous location data, Tommy found several companies that provided the type of data the DNR needed. The first company to respond was AirSage. Many things stood out to Tommy in his evaluation process. First, AirSage had the most user-friendly UI compared to other location data companies. Second, Tommy compared AirSage data with other datasets of visitation derived from in-person surveys and registration records, and after several tests, felt that AirSage data could be used at a broad spatiotemporal scale to compare visitation at public lakes and reservoirs of Iowa. Third, AirSage provided more data points for more locations than had been available from previous survey methods, lending more confidence in the resulting visitation estimates. Finally, AirSage consistently provided quality customer service and was responsive to the questions unique to natural resource management scenarios. Moving forward with AirSage was a no-brainer.

Results

With AirSage, Rebecca and Tommy have proposed the substitution of visitation data from mailed surveys with anonymous location data. Rebecca and Tommy agree that AirSage location data has various potential applications in the wildlife and fisheries field, so the full value of AirSage continues to be realized.

Higher data quality

Iowa DNR receives greater sample sizes and broader spatiotemporal coverage with AirSage compared to mailed surveys.

Cost savings

Using AirSage for visitation insights instead of mailed surveys constitutes about a 20% cost savings for Iowa DNR..

More insights

AirSage provides greater insights about out-of-state visitors, whose behavior had been very challenging to measure due to the cost of mailing surveys.
"AirSage has been very accommodating in helping us evaluate the use of anonymous location data in fisheries and wildlife. We see not only its utility for our lake survey needs, but also a wide range of other applications in parks, wildlife, and fisheries.
- Rebecca Krogman, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
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