No Act is Too Small When it Comes to Protecting The World’s Oceans

While we continue to work in Bahia Ballena, we want to make sure you are aware of what some of our community supporters are up to. They make a difference and we want to give back to those who are also making a difference around the world.

Have you ever thought about your actions and the impact those actions have, not only on you and your immediate surroundings, but further downstream? Three years ago, our friends and colleagues at Bodhi Surf created the My Ocean Guardian Journey Contest as a way to recognize and give back to individuals who do something in their lives to protect Mother Nature and our magnificent oceans.


In addition to this contest and commitment to recognize individuals actions to protect our oceans, Bodhi Surf has also developed the Traveler’s Philanthropy Program as a way to help the local community non-profits continue to do their great work. Bodhi Surf has allocated a percentage of revenue from each of their guests to three local organizations in the community: Geoporter, Forjando Alas and Keto. At the end of each stay, their guests are given the opportunity to decide where they would like their “share” of the Bodhi Surf donation to go. Many of the Bodhi Surf guests even decide to donate a bit more to these local non-profits.

The Traveler’s Philanthropy Program enables these organizations to move ahead with their projects and even collaborate on other projects that they might not otherwise be able to do. In future blog posts, we will fill you in on how these funds have enabled Geoporter to work with young students in the after school program Forjando Alas.



So, take the pledge this October and become an Ocean Guardian by committing to implement a few of the ten concrete actions that anyone of us can take everyday to reduce our environmental impact.

Once you’ve signed the pledge, enter the 3rd Annual My Ocean Guardian Journey Contest to share your simple actions that help protect our environment and oceans. Anyone can make a difference. Here’s an opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for your actions!



Seeds of change are planted early!

As a grade-5 student, Maria Paula was one of the first Bahía Ballena community members we (Roger Palmer and Anita Palmer) met and worked with. This was in 2009, three years before we officially became Geoporter. One of our favorite workshops and activities in the community during that time was working with the local grade school, Escuela La Flor de Bahía and with the after school club Groupo Surf, started by Travis Bays of Bodhi Surf. MariaPaula_grouptrashcollectionDuring these workshops, young students learned the use of GPS and GIS mapping for fun as well as use in authentic community projects. Maria Paula was one of the interested students who continued to meet through Groupo Surf activities. They were able to apply GPS and GIS to ocean conservation, mapping their town and a project they personally decided to conduct… a “little” trash-mapping project.

MariaPaula_LAUsersConfBy 2011, that little trash-mapping project garnered attention from Geotecnologías, a company in San Jose, who was the local organizer of the Latin American User Conference for professional GIS users. With the help of a local Peace Corps volunteer to prepare and practice, Maria Paula presented an inspirational plenary presentation on how she and other students used geospatial technologies and Esri mapping technologies to encourage her community to care about trash and to use these technologies to do something about it! All this was presented to a ballroom filled with over 500 professional GIS users from all over Latin America! There certainly were a few moist eyes that day and all adults were amazed at her poise and grace while just turning 13 years old. Needless to say, the resulting standing ovation was not a surprise!

So what happened with the “little” trash-mapping project? It has flourished and grown and the culture of trash in the community and even parts of the region has changed in the past six years. Trash cleanups now engage dozens of community members including local hotel owners, tour guides, boat captains and even visiting tourists, both adults and children alike. Over ten recycling and trash centers have been established and the local municipality has agreed to pick up the trash on a regular schedule. This agreement is unique in that it was propagated by the proactive work that is being done by the community members of Bahía Ballena!

MariaPaula_FieldCollectionAnd how about Maria Paula today? She is now in grade 11 at the colegio (high school) with hopes and dreams of perhaps attending college, a rare opportunity for many rural students. She leads a normal community life of playing goalie on the local women’s soccer teams, keeps up with school work and of course spends time with friends and on Facebook. What makes her stand out is her willingness to still step forward and volunteer to work with community improvement projects.

During these first three weekends of September, Maria Paula conducted digital surveys of visitors at the 2015 Festival of Whales at Marino Ballena National Park over the six days of the festival. These surveys will result in many more volunteers to participate in the new mapping and improvement projects in Bahía Ballena and the region. Maria Paula’s volunteer contributions over the years and today are indeed a part of putting her community on the map.

~Anita Palmer

Mobile Mapping of Humpback Whales

This weekend marks the third and final weekend of the 7th Annual Festival of Whales and Dolphins. Each weekend over a thousand tourists have come to Bahia Ballena to venture out on a boat and watch these incredible creatures.


These whales arrived mid-July from their home in the Antarctic waters. Southern humpback whales number around 3,000. They migrate to the warmer waters off the coast of Costa Rica to have their calves. While they are here, the mothers teach their calves how to surface for air and how to breach, the awe-inspiring behavior that is spectacular to see.

This season, guides and captains are using their mobile devices to record the whale sightings. In the previous three years, GPS units were used. With smart phones becoming more popular, we were able to shift monitoring and data collection to mobile devices.

Screenshot 2015-09-17 16.40.00

Using Esri’s Collector App, nine guides and captains are participating in this year’s monitoring of whales from the Southern hemisphere. (Four others use GPS units on the boats). Collector enables offline data collection, meaning the data capture doesn’t use minutes to capture and collect the data, an extremely important factor. Once back on land and done for the day, guides and captains connect to a wifi location and serve up their data.

The ability to collect data with mobile devices has enabled the map to be updated on a daily basis.  Check out the work of Bahia Ballena’s guides and captains in their live map of the whale and other cetaceans.


These whales will remain here until about mid-October, when the calves are strong enough to make the journey back south.

Geoporter and a Graduate: The Buzz About Christian

I’m Christian Gehrke, a recent graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) from San Mateo, California. I am down here in Costa Rica to both be a sort of liason between Geoporter and OWU, but also volunteer for Geoporter and help the community of Bahia Ballena until the end of August.

Now how did I get here, you may ask? Well, the answer is basically a mix of luck and right timing…and I suppose a little bit of skill on my part. I frankly need to rely on that skill, since before coming to Costa Rica, I was able to speak about five words of Spanish. But, I’ll have you know, I’ve been down here for over three weeks now, and I can confidently say that I know almost 16 words at this point, and counting – I know, I’m a fast learner. The people have been very understanding and patient with me, which I cannot thank them enough for.

One of the ways I distract the locals from my complete ineptitude in learning and retaining their language is with one of the instruments that I came down with, which is a drone with an attached camera. One of my tasks while I am down here is help update the aerial imagery of the area, mostly Bahia Ballena, which hasn’t been properly updated since 2001. This is helpful for Geoporter in terms of mapmaking, analysis, reference, and more. It’s also fun for me to see the reactions of some people when they see it fly.

The cool thing about this drone is that you can control the angle of the camera while it’s flying, so after I have captured the straight-down images that can be stitched together, I like to angle the camera up, and you’re able to see just how beautiful a place this is; the ocean, the mountains, the clouds, I find it all breathtaking. I honestly think I was a bird in another life, and this drone helps me tap into that inherent love of seeing things from above.

Anyway, the three-plus weeks that I have been down here have shown me a lot, about the country, myself, and they have already given me a unique perspective, which I know will shape my mindset as I go into the future. I don’t know exactly what I am going to be doing after this, and I honestly don’t know what I want to do after this, but already, this experience has helped shape my mindset as I prepare to go even further into the ‘real world.’ I look forward to seeing what the next four weeks will provide. ¡Pura vida!

Standing Room Only: Impact Event San Diego

So to say that the environment was just like Costa Rica, isn’t too far off the mark, thanks to the rain.

The combined weekend total bumped the total July rainfall to 1.7 inches, a new record rainfall for July. The previous wettest July record was in 1902, with 0.92 inches of rain. But this is so little compared to July in Costa Rica, where an estimated 5.5 inches of rain falls in July.

Over 40 people trekked in the rain to make it to the First Geoporter Impact Event. With food and beverages donated from the Boisset Collection, there was standing room only. Roger, Anita and Amy found a little space in a spiral staircase to share the story of Geoporter.

It was wonderful to catch up with so many people who lived in California or who lived elsewhere and spent their evening with Geoporter.

The donations received will help Geoporter make several trips to the nearby Osa Communities to expand on training and will enable several sessions in working with the youth in town. We are extremely grateful for all the kind words we heard and the interest in continuing to support Geoporter.


Impact Event: San Diego, CA

Geoporter will be in San Diego, CA!! We invite you to join the Founders and Director for light appetizers and drinks Sunday, July 19, 2015, from 6:30pm – 9:00pm. Thanks to Boisset Collection for their wine donation.

Geoporter-InviteforImpact-SanDiegoJuly19_2015Come and learn more about our exciting non-profit that uses GIS to inspire community action. Suggested donation: $10-$20. We will have great door prizes from Costa Rica. Don’t miss out. We hope to see you there!

For those attending the EdUC, this will be following the reception and is only a 15-20 minute walk from the Marriott Hotel.

To help us with the amount of food and drinks, we kindly ask those who know they will attend, to send a brief RSVP to let us know how many might be coming. Partners, kids, or others are welcome!

RSVP using this form by July 15. You can also send an email to or call / message (214) 533-8376.

525 11th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
(Use Park West Blvd Entrance)


Sponsors for San Diego Event to Impact:

Publication from investigating sources of polluted waters

Back in March as small group of Geoporters met with the Executive Director of the Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA). Mohammad was down here on his way to get an update on other water projects he is involved with in the Osa Peninsula. He heard about Geoporter’s recent project, working alongside the community’s ASADA (local water authority) and Ebais (local health clinic) to explore sites of contaminated surface waters from direct source in Bahia-Uvita.

During the dry season it was brought to Geoporter’s attention that there were some really smelly locations. Upon further investigation, these sites were mapped and photographed and shared with the Ministry of Health who have worked with the businesses responsible for these waters to clean up and prevent future contamination.

From the resulting meeting with CSWEA, Geoporter’s initial efforts in mapping contaminated water sources was published in their 2015 Spring edition of the Central States Water Magazine (see page 14).

This is only the beginning of the investigations, but it is working alongside other community agencies to help prevent an even greater problem in the future.





From Doing to Presenting: Our First Showcase at CACOBA Expo Fair

Geoporter has taken the step towards sharing our work with others in the Costa Ballena Community.  Mid-March, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism (CACOBA) held an Expo Fair where various tourism companies, local businesses, artists, and projects could share with others their services, products or programs. Geoporter setup a table in the Expo Fair to share our work and make local residents aware of how geospatial technologies (GIS and GPS) are being used by community residents to investigate community resources and problems.

CACOBA Exop Feria - Geoporter with Amy and Luz

Switching from from doing to presenting, we had to organize flyers, printout maps (using a printer that is designed to print out 8.5″ x 11″ and then tape them together), and create a Geoporter sign. With the creativity of Luz, she was able to make our first Geoporter sign. The hand-painted sign will be with us for as long as the cloth material holds up. It’s a priceless piece.

Luz and her creation of our new Geoporter sign


Change is all around us

Be the change you wish to see in this world!

January, we celebrated World Environmental Education Day. We celebrated this day with our friends and colleagues from Bodhi Surf, Bahia Aventuras, Hotel Bahia Azul, ASOGUIBA and others. Youth and adults alike participated in a street cleanup, trashcan clean-out, and sign painting and placement. The signs were an expansion of the “Yo No Tiro Basura” sticker campaign that was established during the Festival of Whales and Dolphins. We topped it all off with an amazing lunch of “arroz con pollo” or rice and chicken, were almost everyone brought their own eating utensils.

WorldEnvironmentalEducationDay-2015 youth-making-a-difference Yo-No-Tiro-Basura-Geoporter


It’s time for an “Organización sin fines de lucro”

Geoporter community members have been working hard these first two months starting the process and paperwork to obtain a non-profit status in Costa Rica, or what is known as an Organización sin fines de lucro. This status will provide Geoporter with additional opportunities.


Additionally, community members have identified the projects and goals they wish to accomplish during 2015. We’re taking the leap from three community based projects to six. The projects include:

    • Clean Streets, Clean Waters
    • Participatory Whale Monitoring
    • Coastal Escuelas
    • Aguas Grises / Aguas Contaminadas (new)
    • Coastal Reforestation (new)
    • Flaura / Fauna (new)

Always in our hearts

Bahia Ballena experienced a huge loss at the beginning of 2015. One of Geoporter’s key supporters, Walter Brenes, and owner of Bahia Aventuras, was taken from us all too quickly, along with two other colleagues Cezar Fonseca and Daljit Singh of Bahia Aventuras. The community is still recovering, taking one step at a time and continuing to keep these individuals in our hearts as the sun rises each day without them. Here is a wonderful piece highlighting the our dear friend Walter from our colleagues at Bodhi Surf.



In late May we will be having our annual in-person Board of Directors meeting. What are other organizations doing that Geoporter should be aware of that can help us to continue to grow and improve? We are still young and have room to learn from all of you. If you know of something, we’d love to hear from you.

A look at our year in 2014

We’ve closed the doors on 2014. Where has it gone? Geoporter has been busy in Bahía Ballena and beyond! Funds and support from our 2013 Indigogo campaign, from providing community-based geospatial education experiences to 230 students from 16 different groups, and from a new from a collaboration with the Woods Institute at Stanford University provided us with a little under $15,000 to help us achieve the following in 2014:

TaniaLuzGeoporter Assistants:  We provided stipends for two local community members to assist the Geoporter Director, allowing Amy to focus on tasks to grow and expand Geoporter. These two Assistants, Luz Badilla and Tania Calderon, have been working approximately ten hours per week since June. They are a wonderful asset to Geoporter, spearheading the day-to-day operations of the “Clean Streets, Clean Waters” and the “Participatory Whale Monitoring” projects. They are also helping with outreach to the community, while stepping into leadership roles and becoming Geoporter instructors at community-based trainings.

LuzJovino-RanchoQuemado3 New Communities:  We expanded the geographic area where we work to include three communities in the Osa Peninsula: Rancho Quemado, El Progreso and Bahía Drake. Two workshops, totaling three days, focused on implementing GIS and GPS to monitor community resources and identify community boundaries. The Geoporter Director and three local Geoporter community members conducted the workshops in each community during the slower tourism months from September to November. This work was conducted as part of the Osa and Golfito Initiative (INOGO) and the Caminos de Liderazgo Project, under the supervision of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. In 2015, we look to continue this collaboration and work with two additional communities conducting similar workshops.

Cheves-Reymer-Guias-Training-GeoporterNew Guides and Captains:  We trained seven additional boat tour guides to use GPS and participate in the mapping of humpback whales, their offspring, and other cetaceans throughout an additional two seasons. Previous captains and guides assisted training these new guides. Boat tours to see the migration of humpback whales and their offspring is the primary economic driver of Bahia Ballena and geospatial technologies is helping this tourism sector to better understand develop sustainable tourism practices to keep from stressing the whales.

“Clean Streets, Clean Waters”:  The community transitioned from data collection and mapping of trash in the first part of the year to taking action and applying these actions to make a change in the amount of trash in the streets and beaches.

  • Villia-Dario-Sticker-NoTiroBasura-GeoporterWe developed a silent “Yo No Tiro Basura” sticker campaign with community members who mapped trash. Using a local printing company, 4,100 stickers were created with funds donated from thirteen local businesses and organizations. This campaign raised the level of awareness to making a commitment to not throw trash in the streets.
  • Community members created a video using local photographs to highlight the beauty of Bahía Ballena and how it is affected by the trash that is left behind. This video was showcased in front of 5,000 tourists during the 6th Annual Festival of Whales and Dolphins in September.

Ninos-GPS-Basura-GeoporterSchools and Youth: We advanced teachers’ and youths’ understanding and use of GPS and GIS by working with Escuela Verde and Escuela La Flor de Bahía Ballena and the after school program of Forjando Alas.

Joseph-Margarita-T3G-GeoporterTeacher to T3G Institute: We supported Margarita Morales, the Director and a teacher at Escuela Verde to apply and attend the T3G Institute on the Esri campus in Redlands, CA. Alongside other educators from around the world, she learned the skills and pedagogy to incorporate GIS into her classroom as well as prepare her to conduct outreach to other educators in her school and in the region.

Jovino-Luz-Fiona-Quebradas-GeoporterVolunteers and Quebradas:  We learned from and engaged with another volunteer, Fiona Lewis from Australia, for two months in late spring. She worked with students at Escuela Verde, helped create necessary organizational documents, supported training, and worked with Geoporter assistants, Luz and Tania. She also supported the implementation of a new community project, mapping the quebradas (or creeks) in town for emergency purposes and to identify point sources of pollution.

Traveler’s Philanthropy Program:  We established a long term funding opportunity with Bodhi Surf, one of the local tourism companies in the region. Geoporter was selected as one of three local organizations to receive funds from Bodhi Surf’s Traveler’s Philanthropy program. Previous guests are given the opportunity to donate pre-established funds to Geoporter or contribute more, if they choose to do so. We hope this will be a continuous source of funding for 2015.

In looking back over this past year we managed to do much with the resources we had. We are committed to continue the work we have started in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica and expanding our efforts. We are looking forward to the exciting things to come in 2015 with Geoporter. You continued support and interest in Geoporter helps us continue to grow, allowing us to make a difference in the live and communities in which we work.

Thank you!   Pura Vida!   Gracias