Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Refuge installs QR code signs allowing visitors to enjoy virtual tour


Earlier this week, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge took a giant leap into the 21st century with the addition of the iNature Trail, which allows visitors to scan a QR (Quick Response) code and view interactive videos — including a virtual tour of Sanibel's 6,390-acre wildlife preserve — whether they are driving, walking or biking through the refuge.

On Friday, the final group of 10 QR signs were installed along Wildlife Drive by Rick Sanford of Road Safe Traffic Systems, assisted by refuge volunteer Arianne Lujan and intern Lydia Templin.

"For people who visit 'Ding' Darling, it's a great way to experience a personal tour," said Templin, who checked each sign with her SmartPhone prior to installation. "I think it will attract more interest for folks who visit the refuge."

Paul Tritaik, Refuge Manager, agrees.

"People are always saying 'Turn off your cell phone and go enjoy the outdoors,' but we're saying 'Come visit the refuge and, if you've got a SmartPhone, bring it with you,'" said Tritaik. "We're pretty excited about this project because we're the first refuge in the entire country to have it. We like to think of ourselves as a model for other refuges, and with this we are able to reach even more members of the public. Kids are especially gonna love it."

The iNature Trail can be accessed by scanning a code — similar to a bar code — with a SmartPhone, and activated via a free downloadable app, such as Neoscan or QR Scan. At "Ding" Darling NWR, there are 10 QR codes that activate videos and virtual tour information geared towards adults, and 10 QR codes intended for younger guests.

According to 'Ding' Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS) Executive Director Birgie Vertesch, the idea to bring the QR technology here to the island came from Elon University student Lars Bredahl, who grew up on Sanibel. Discussions about the project began in March, while the filming of the virtual tour videos took place in early April.

"We were able to do this pretty inexpensively," explained Vertesch. "A local videographer, Ann Potter, volunteered her time and talents to the project, and the result is a very high quality product. The only expense we really had was for the construction of the QR signs."

Funding for the iNature Trail was made possible by private contributions to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization which works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.

"I think it's a great opportunity to experience nature at 'Ding' Darling like never before," added Vertesch.

Wildlife Drive is open Saturday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Automobiles accessing the refuge roadway cost $5 per vehicle. Bicyclists and hikers cost $1 per person (under 15 free).

To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visitwww.dingdarlingsociety.org, call Birgie Vertesch at 239-292-0566 or 472-1100 ext. 4 or send an e-mail to director@dingdarlingsociety.org.

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