August 7, 2012, I was making my way to Bahia Ballena to spend 2 months training residents, youth and teachers how to use GIS and GPS to map the whale sightings, trash in the community and use in the classrooms. Here we are 12 months later celebrating our first year as Geoporter and 1 full year in Bahia Ballena. What a year it has been.
I had the opportunity to spend the 1-year anniversary with two of the co-founders, Anita and Roger Palmer from GISetc and a project supporter here in Bahia Ballena alongside all the community partners. What did we do? We held a community advisory meeting to assess our current progress and chart out where we want to go. We created commissions and assigned individuals to assist with various projects. We celebrated with “arroz con pollo”…and with new t-shirts that were generously donated to the project.
It’s incredible to think how far we have come over the course of one year. But as we review this, there is still so much to do. New projects continue to develop and evolve weekly. For example, a new project is recording the locations of dead animals along the Costanera between Dominical and Playa Tortuga. We have also had success in placing new trash-cans around the community along with painting new trash cans to place in new locations identified using the trash map generated by the community. We have a separate trash-committee that is working to take steps towards preventing trash from entering the streets of Bahia, which will ultimately reduce the amount of trash we see in our oceans.
We have also connected with the elementary school here in town, Escuela la Flor de Bahia, to work with the teachers and students on mapping trash. Once a week a group of five community members heads to the school to use GPS to map and record the trash around the school and soccer field. It’s incredible to see how quickly the students are picking up on the GPS technology and racing to mark the next piece of trash. This trash mapping supports one of the activities the school has identified for their participation in the Bandera Azul program.
At Escuela Verde, there are four teachers using GIS and GPS with their students. They are using the technologies to understand soil types, boundary limits of their community, doing math geocaching, exploring ancient civilizations such at the Egyptians, Mayans or Nazcas, or understanding what causes earthquakes and where they occur (outside of Costa Rica). The students, ranging from grades 2-6, are now asking, “when’s the next time we get to use GIS again Miss. Amy.”
Currently we are in the middle of the 5th Festival of Whales and Dolphins, which brings people from all over the world to celebrate the Southern Humpback whales that call Marino Ballena Park home for approximately 5 months of the year. The 8 guides and captains and 3 companies participating weekly in this season’s monitoring, are busy taking guests out to the park to see the whales jumping. The whales are plentiful and at times the boats will see 8 whales. The most exciting news was seeing orca’s near Isla Cano and 4 male humpback whales jumping trying to gain the attention of a female humpback whale. And of course seeing the humpback whales jumping out of the water and showing us their tales (which are both white and black from the southern migrations).
What a year it has been and we are excited to venture into this next year of Geoporter!