Red-tail News

New photo station uses cell phones to track environmental changes


MUNCIE, Ind., July 13, 2022 – Red-tail Land Conservancy has installed a new Chronolog environmental monitoring station at Dutro-Ernst Woods in Muncie that uses cell phone photos to track changes in a newly planted prairie.

Chronolog is a citizen-science project that allows the community to help in research and management of natural areas by creating a crowd-sourced digital time lapse. Nature preserve visitors can add to the time lapse by positioning their cell phone on the Chronolog platform, taking a photo, and submitting it via email. Directions on the station instructs visitors on the process. It takes less than a minute.

Each new photo adds to the time lapse video. By watching it, the community and land managers can pinpoint changes in a landscape that are challenging to visualize at nature’s gradual, slower pace. After submitting a photo, the visitor is emailed a copy of the time lapse video that includes their picture. The time lapse can also be viewed at Red-tail’s page on Chronolog’s website.

“Prairie restoration takes painstaking patience and perseverance. It can be frustrating when an ecosystem does not look dramatically different overnight. Or even over months,” said Kelley V. Phillips, Red-tail’s Communications and Outreach Manager. “Because habitats take decades to recover after development and disturbance, we face a challenge of keeping the community excited about ecological restoration when day-to-day it may seem the same.”

The prairie near the entrance of Dutro-Ernst Woods was selected for Red-tail’s Chronolog station because of its easy public access and ongoing restoration efforts. The site was once the Ernst Nursery, but had been vacated and left fallow for decades before Red-tail Land Conservancy acquired it. After years of soil preparation, seeds for a shortgrass prairie were planted in December of 2020.

“This summer is the first season we are starting to see the grasses and flowers planted in 2020. While it is still going to be years until the habitat reaches its full potential, visitors will be able to notice the subtle differences in plants and wildlife with each season. The visual data that will come from everyone’s photo submission to the Chronolog time lapse will make the transformation even more dramatic and satisfying to watch. It will be a great reference tool for other prairie restoration projects,” said Phillips.

Red-tail Land Conservancy is one of two organizations in Indiana that has a Chronolog station and the only nonprofit. “As one of the first in the state to use this monitoring tool, our community can be a role model for citizen science. We encourage everyone to stop by and join the project.” This Chronolog station is planned to be active for at least three years. There is no limit to the number of photos a visitor can submit over time.

Dutro-Ernst Woods is located off Hwy 32 at 1601 S Perdieu Rd., Muncie, IN 47302. It is open daily from dawn to dusk. Directions, trail map, and more information on visiting can be found at


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