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geoporter-blackEach month we’re bringing you a progress report from our Geoporter program. The following is a report from our first Geoporter, Amy Work, about the work she has been doing in Costa Rica…

Since August of 2012, I have been living and working in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica teaching and training educators, youth and community members how to use geospatial technologies, or GIS and GPS, to investigate their community resources or issues they think are important. I want to take just a few minutes to summarize some of the incredible Geoporter activities taking place here in this wonderful community that have occurred in the past month. There are so many things, but I’ll try to keep it short.

Pollination Project
Geoporters was selected as a recipient of a Pollination Project to improve our mobile geospatial technology lab. With their support we were able to secure a few additional GPS units, one that have a stronger signal under the forest canopy cover, two laptops to conduct additional GIS trainings, and rechargeable batteries to use with the GPS units. We are so happy to be a part of this wonderful opportunity. We have also been asked to help another Pollination Project to use geospatial technologies to map the trees they are planting. What a great example of being able to thank The Pollination Project by “paying it forward.”

Let’s talk about Boundaries and Mountains at Escuela Verde:
I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible teachers and staff at Escuela Verde, a bi-lingual school for grades K-6. To see the way these students are processing the information related to the GPS and GIS activities they are doing, is incredible. The past few weeks I have been working closely with Esteban, the new 5/6th grade science teacher and David, the 1st/2nd grade social studies.

David’s students are learning about political boundaries and key features found in every Costa Rican town; which include a soccer field (cancha), mini-supermarket (pulpería), church (iglesia), and school (escuela). To make learning these concepts more fun, we took a field trip to actually see the boundaries of the district, Costa Ballena, where the school is located. We marked the locations of the boundary limits and the features using GPS units. Oh, and don’t forget about the photos to go along with GPS’ing the locations.

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The class is now downloading the waypoints and photos, and transferring the information that was recorded on paper to a digital version so we can symbolize the features to create a map to share with their parents.

Esteban’s 5/6th grade class has been exploring mountains, valleys, rivers and deserts that are found in Costa Rica and around the world (with deserts in the world rather than Costa Rica). What is the tallest mountain in the world? What is the largest desert in the world? The longest river? And where are all of these features located?

After examining a map of these features using ArcGIS Desktop and a modified activity from Mapping Our World, we used GPS units to mark elevations on school grounds. The students were able to compare mountains, valleys and rivers found on the map, but understanding differences in elevation. Next students are planning to create presentations highlighting these features and more information about each theme.

What to do when the northern whales have started their migration north?
The whale monitoring project working with tour guides, captains and tour companies has taken somewhat of a break this month due to the early departure of the northern whales that have called Bahia Ballena home since late October. But this has provided us the opportunity to prepare for the southern whale migration season, which will arrive in June and stay through early November.

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We are in the process of mapping the whale sighting data from this past season of northern whales to add to the map of the southern 2012 whale season from August to October. We will then be able to use these maps when we start our training for new guides and captains next week.

Rise and shine!!! It’s Trash Collection Time!!
Starting in April, a solid group of about 8 people (at times up to 15 people) have collected and categorized trash in order to map the landscape of trash in the streets and on the beaches of Bahia Ballena. We’ve had 5 trash collections starting at 6 am. Yep, that’s 6 am. The sun has just come up and it’s one of the coolest times of the day. We’ll collect trash until 8 am, but it seems that we have such a great group that we don’t finish until around 9 am. And one day, we went until 10 am when the sun and heat let us know that it was time to call it a day.

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We’ll continue to map the trash in the streets to continue providing information for others, Asociacion de Guias de Bahia Ballena (ASOGUIBA), Asociacion de Tour Operadores, and the Asociacion de Desarrollo (Development) can construct new trash cans and place them in the areas of trash hotspots.

Silence your cell phones, it’s presentation time
On May 7th, Geoporter had the opportunity to present our project and what we are doing to the Chamber of Tourism and Commerce of Costa Ballena de Osa (CACOBA). We presented all the projects we have been working on and a future project of creating a community map of Bahia Ballena with youth here in town. We’ve already made some progress with getting some of the waypoints and photos of different tour companies, restaurants, hotels in town.

We were also invited to a meeting organized by KETO to present our trash mapping project as they continue to work with different individuals, organizations and the National Park staff to seek improvements for Marino Ballena National Park.

This week, we will be driving to San Jose to make a presentation to La Nacion, a national newspaper in Costa Rica. In the afternoon we are headed over to meet with MarViva, an organization that promotes the conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.