Survey Research Program

Surveying the Wild on the Web

BBER Maps Visitor Patterns in Boundary Waters Canoe Area

The Internet has made it easy and inexpensive for the average person to type up a survey, post it online, and get feedback in a flash. But while do-it-yourself surveys may be convenient, they are no substitute for the scientifically rigorous data collection systems developed by BBER’s survey research team. Public and private sector clients who need to meet a higher standard can’t afford to cut corners when it comes to research. However, they can realize some cost savings and multi-media options with sophisticated online surveys.

UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research is tapping the endless possibilities of the Internet with a new custom web-based survey tool designed by John Baldridge and Jim Sylvester of the Survey Research program and Programmer Bob Campbell. Developed in partnership with the US Forest Service and William Borrie of the UM College of Forestry and Conservation, the team created a visual, interactive online platform for The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Survey. The government wanted to learn more about visitors’ experience in the Boundary Waters, drilling down to find out which lakes and rivers they paddled each day, which campsites they used, and how easy it was to find those sites.

BBER’s web-based survey tool allowed users to create a diary of their trip, click on a map to identify the areas they visited, and then answer questions based on their experience. Survey participants were able to suspend their session and come back later if needed, and questions could vary depending on which part of the map they clicked.

BBER’s web survey tool opens the door to numerous possibilities for survey research clients beyond traditional paper or phone surveys. Using visual elements, sound files, data sets, and highly-customized question sets all becomes possible. Thanks to the Bureau’s survey research expertise applied to new technology, visitors to the Boundary Waters will find their next trip to the wilderness that much better.