National Wildlife Refuge System

Modern Technology on Historic Refuge

These signs with QR codes provide videos and educational information to visitors with smart phones along trails at Pelican Island Refuge, FL.
Credit: Vince Lamb

April 16, 2014 - Now the most modern technology is available for visitors to the most historic national wildlife refuge in the United States.  QR codes have been installed along three trails at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, the nation’s first national wildlife refuge.

The QR code – short for Quick Response code – is a barcode with black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background. When scanned by a smart phone, brief educational videos and photos appear instantly on the phone. They are free to create and link to any Web site where information can be updated or changed as needed.

There are 11 signs on sections of the Centennial, Joe Michael Memorial and Birds Impoundment Foot trails. All are upland habitat not on Pelican Island itself, which is closed to the public. Each QR code on the iNature tour compliments the area where signs are located. “We didn’t want to graffiti the trail with signs,” said refuge visitor services manager Kevin Lowry.  There are messages about mangroves, salt marsh plants, protecting birds from fishermen, predators and prey, management of impoundments and historical photos of the refuge’s establishment in 1903. A QR code near the butterfly garden suggests ways to plan native species to attract pollinators at home.

Audubon Florida provided grant funding for the QR code signs, which have been a collaborative effort involving the Pelican Island Audubon Society, Indian River County’s Public Works Department and the refuge. An Audubon Society survey determined that 40 percent of the visitors to the refuge use smart phones and would be able to access information with QR codes.

Visitors see this video about Pelican Island Refuge
when they scan a QR code with their smart phone.
Credit: USFWS

Last updated: April 18, 2014