Extending Geoporter’s reach: A volunteer’s view

Geoporter recently expanded their work to the town of Piedras Blancas, Costa Rica. As a new Geoporter volunteer, this was an incredible opportunity for me to be part of the work Geoporter does. 

During my second week interning for Geoporter in Bahia Ballena we drove to the small community of Piedras Blancas to conduct a workshop.


For the past three years Geoporter has based their projects in Bahia Ballena. However, their plan is to expand their work world-wide, and a first step is the expansion to Piedras Blancas.

Since this was my first workshop I was as interested in the material as in the participants from Piedras Blancas. The workshop was conducted in Spanish, so at times I had trouble following the presentation and questions, but it was also a great opportunity for me to practice my Spanish.


Amy taught us the basics of GPS and GIS, and then the group enthusiastically began to map. Through different types of activities the participants learned what they could do with a GPS unit and how latitude and longitude locations work with a GPS. Afterwards Amy demonstrated an interactive map and how it can be used to make informed decisions on global and local issues. The group wanted to learn more and so requested a follow-up workshop a few weeks later.

In Bahia Ballena time goes by quickly and it seemed like before I could blink it was already time for our second trip to Piedras Blancas. This time on the drive down I recognized places and landmarks from our previous trip, so the hour drive flew by. One objective for this workshop was to teach the participants how to create their own map using the online mapping tool, ArcGIS Online.


By this time I had created some maps on my own and knew how to work with the program. So I was an active participant, but it was funny for me to try listen and speak in Spanish instead of English. The participants from Piedras Blancas were very interested in learning.  The group was tasked with brainstorming different projects that could use GPS maps and these were some ideas:

  • Investigating contaminated waters in the high density housing development
  • Reforesting areas of the community to bring back wildlife
  • Mapping out areas of concentration of trash to demonstrate the need for curb-side trash pickup in the district of Piedras Blandas
  • Exploring sustainable agricultural practices

Another workshop will be held the middle of May. I’m working on my Spanish so I can join the conversation even more. I’m also looking forward to the drive because Costa Rica is such a beautiful country and the coast road offers amazing views.


Dale un Sábado Cada Mes a Tu Comunidad: Sábados de Surf y Servicio

Sabados_Surf y Servicio espanol

Dale un sábado a nuestra comunidad para que sea un lugar mejor. A partir de ahora hasta agosto de 2016, únase a al programa Sábados de Surf y Servicio en PNMB para hacer servicio comunitario. Para aquellos que participan en la actividad de servicio, se ofrecerán clases de surf, centrándose en la juventud. También tendremos fútbol en la playa o simplemente disfrutar de la playa con otros participantes. Las actividades de servicios varían por mes, pero el servicio se enfocará en el mantenimiento de los árboles sembrados en el parque como parte del proyecto Semilla de Ballena, haciendo limpiezas de playas, y ayudando a proteger nuestras costas.

Todos están bienvenidos a unirse!! Si usted desea colaborar mensualmente y convertirse en un amigo de esta Iniciativa de Sábados de Surf y Servicio por favor escribir al correo de AmyWork – amy (at) geoporter.net

Apreciamos mucho la generosidad de nuestros colaboradores y esperemos su participación.

Los últimos colaboradores:

Artifice;  Asociación de Guías;  Bahia Ballena Tours;  Ballena Info Center;  Bodhi Surf;  Costa Rica Cultural Tours;  Cristal Ballena;  CuidArte;  Cuna del Angel;  Flutterby House;  Hotel Vista Ballena;  Kura Design Villas;  Licorera don Isreal;  P.N.M.B.

Surf and Service Saturdays

Give a Saturday to your community to make it a better place. From now through August, join us for Surf and Service Saturday’s in PNMB to do community service. For those who participate in the service activity, surf lessons will be offered, focusing on the youth. We will also have soccer on the beach or just enjoy the beach with other participants. The service activities will vary by month, but the focus will be on maintaining trees planted in the park as part of the Semilla de Ballena project, doing beach cleanups, and helping to protect our coastline.

All are welcome to join. If you are a business and wish to become a monthly supporter of this Surf and Service Saturday Initiative please write Amy Work – amy (at) geoporter.net.

We appreciate the generosity of past collaborators and look forward to your participation.

Past collaborators:

Artifice;  Asociación de Guías;  Bahia Ballena Tours;  Ballena Info Center;  Bodhi Surf;  Costa Rica Cultural Tours;  Cristal Ballena;  CuidArte;  Cuna del Angel;  Flutterby House;  Hotel Vista Ballena;  Kura Design Villas;  Licorera don Isreal;  P.N.M.B.



DÓNDE / WHERE:  PNMB – Entrada Playa Chaman  / Marino Ballena National Park – Playa Chaman Entrance

ENFOQUE DE SERVICIO / SERVICE FOCUS:  6 de febrero – Celebración del Día Mundial de los Humedales  / World Wetlands Day

FECHAS / DATES:  Primer sábado de cada mes / First Saturday of every month

  • 6 de febrero (este sábado)
  • 5 de marzo
  • 2 de abril
  • 7 de mayo
  • 4 de junio
  • 2 de julio
  • 6 de agosto

Where does Costa Ballena Trash End Up? Can I Recycle?

As part of our Clean Streets, Clean Waters Project, we wanted to find out more about where our garbage in Costa Ballena goes and what happens to recyclables if they are thrown out with the trash. We took a trip to the Municipality of Osa before the 2015 holidays to meet with Yanitza Rojas and to the landfill where our weekly garbage ends up.

As we prepare for 2016, we want to share with you a few things we learned so that you can keep this in mind as we continue to try and keep our streets clean and oceans free of debris. Because in the end, it’s up to us to take responsibility for the waste we generate.

Landfill south of Palmar Norte, December 2015

Landfill south of Palmar Norte, December 2015, Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

Where does my trash go?

Trash picked up weekly from the Municipality of Osa is taken to a landfill that has been in operation for 34 years. The landfill is just south of the bridge in Palmar Norte. In 2016, there are plans to open a new receiving station on the property. This new center will be covered and will enable the workers protection from the sun.

Can I recycle?

Yes. Currently 3 groups, or families totaling 25 people, have received permission from the Municipality of Osa to separate recyclable materials from the trash, daily when the trash arrives on site. These families receive payment from selling the recycled goods back to the companies of Florida Bebidas and VICESA. Each bottle has a price and that price varies by the color or the material.

Should I separate my recyclables from my trash?

Currently No, but in the near future, Yes. In the current situation, each of the three families works for themselves. What they pull as recyclables is what they are sell. In 2016 when the new receiving station is opened, the three families will work together to sell the recyclable materials they pull from the garbage. Thus, in the future, they will work together and split the profits accordingly.

The current leader for all three families has stated that in the future, to have recycled materials separated from trash will be beneficial and will improve their productivity. To do so now, would mean that families will continue to keep bags of recycled materials to themselves. These bags may not see the landfill because they will have been set aside for their family to collect the profit.

In the coming months we expect to hear from Yanitza that the new Receiving Station has been opened and that separation of materials will be beneficial to the workers at the landfill. Until this point, if you do separate, keep in mind that it will help only certain families and continue to promote competition. We are working with Yanitza to develop a solution to help residents label or identify what materials are recyclable and what is general trash such as placing recyclable materials in green or transparent bags. Or something such as a label on the bag.

What materials are recycled?

Glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are currently recycled. The Municipality does not currently have the capacity to recycle paper or cardboard. Paper and cardboard cannot get wet, and the Municipality does not have a storage location that will prevent paper and cardboard from getting wet before it is shipped off to another part of Costa Rica to be recycled.

With permission from the Municipality, workers separate recyclables from trash, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

With permission from the Municipality, workers separate recyclables from trash, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

One group's recyclable materials, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

One group’s recyclable materials, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

New Receiving Station for landfill to open in 2016. Photo Credit: Amy Work

New Receiving Station for landfill to open in 2016. Photo Credit: Amy Work


See more photos on Flickr.


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!



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.

Huffington Post: Making an Impact One Person at a Time

Back in March 2013, we received a seed grant from the Pollination Project for $1,000 to support the creation of our Geospatial Technology Lab. The lab enabled us to offer trainings to residents here in Bahia Ballena at different locations around town and into Escuela Verde and Escuela La Flor de Bahia. At the end of the year, the Pollination Project was seeking input from their first year’s daily-awarded grant recipients to reflect on how the Pollination Project has helped seed change in the world. Geoporter responded with The Pura Vida of the Pollination Project: The Costa Rica Geoporter Story.

Our summary of how our Pollination Project award made a difference was selected as one of 10 incredible impact stories. Being selected rewarded Geoporter with an additional $500 award which we will use to support the expansion of our geospatial technology lab and highlighting Geoporter in the Huffington Post.

While the article highlights one person, we at Geoporter know that without all the community volunteers and everyone involved in this project, we wouldn’t be where we are today and making the impacts that we are. So thank you to all those involved in Geoporter!


The Pura Vida of The Pollination Project: The Impact of $1K in Costa Rica

Humpback whales from northern and southern migrations in the Pacific Ocean travel every winter to the breeding grounds near the equator. These humpback whales now have a breeding environment off the coast of Costa Rica that is less polluted than it was a year ago, before The Pollination Project seeded Bahia Ballena.

Bahia Ballena is a small coastal community with 3,000+ residents that has transitioned from a rural fishing village to one that brings in more than 20,000 tourists annually to see these magnificent creatures in their natural breeding grounds. Over the past year, residents of Bahia Ballena have been using GPS units and computers with GIS (computer mapping and analysis software), that were purchased with support from The Pollination Project, to improve the environment of their community and the habitat of the whales that call the ocean waters home for about four months every year.


This geospatial travel lab of four GPS units, rechargeable batteries and two computers has enabled Geoporter to train and educate community members to use these technologies to investigate their community. Over five months residents, including youth, categorized and mapped trash along the streets and beaches in town. After the 6 am Friday morning trash classification activities, key residents and leaders gathered to review the trash maps, created by residents, to examine concentrations of trash and identify new locations to place trash and recycling containers. By going door to door, residents collected enough money from ten companies and organizations in town to build and construct eight new trash and recycling centers with roofs to protect from the daily rains.

geoporter-laflor-basuraResidents know that placing these trash cans is not the final solution to eliminating trash in the streets and beaches and protecting the marine habitat, but rather there needs to be a behavioral shift in the people. With this in mind, residents and the resident Geoporter in town shared the GPS and GIS technologies with students in the local elementary school. Students learned how to use the technologies while also understanding their role in creating and eliminating trash in the streets. Using the trash map created from data collected by the students, the director of the school was recently informed that the school earned its first Blue Flag as part of the Bandera Azul program. Bandera Azul is a national program designed to recognize schools, communities, organizations that develop and implement environmentally friendly practices by balancing conservation, development and protection of natural resources.

With the new trash and recycling centers placed in the ground at the end of October, residents are now preparing for another high season of tourists and mapping the streets and beaches again to see if the new trash centers have made an impact in the amount of debris in the streets. With over 128 cm (50 in) of annual rainfall, it doesn’t take long for the trash in the streets to make the 2 km journey to the ocean and the winter breading grounds of humpback whales in Marino Ballena National Park. But trash isn’t the only thing residents are concerned about. ballenas-geoporter-jovino-bahiaballena-They also want to know when the whales are arriving, where they can be spotted in the ocean and the departure dates so they can help protect the whales and their habitat. Guides and captains from different Tour Companies are using these technologies to map the daily humpback whale sightings during the different migration seasons which will help them understand the whale patterns today as well to see changes in whale numbers, location, and arrival and departure dates in the future.

Without the support of The Pollination Project, Geoporter would have been without the geospatial travel lab to take to different locations to train and educate community members to apply the technologies and carry out projects themselves. The application of these technologies has earned national news recognition with two articles being published in La Nación, one of the national newspapers in Costa Rica, about residents using GPS and GIS in to map trash and monitor whales. Residents of Bahia Ballena along with Geoporter are grateful for this support and have had the opportunity to take this travel lab to other nearby communities to share ideas and help support other communities to start learning how to use GPS and GIS. With these seed funds, Geoporter applied for and recently received its 501(c)3 status in the U.S. to continue educating communities around the world to learn to use these technologies for themselves to investigate their community and make the change they wish to see in the world. Thank you for pollinating our project and helping us get started on our dream to change the world through education with GIS and GPS!

We currently have an IndieGoGo Project to help raise funds to continue this project. Won’t you help us continue to make a difference.


Bahia needs your support – Basura de Bahia

We’ve conducted trash (basura) collections using GPS to map the trash! The containers that will be used for trash and recycling have been purchased and painted by community residents! The community has identified the locations to place the trash cans using the trash maps they created!

All we are missing is the materials to build the roofs and frames to hold two containers together (one for trash and one for recycling) and the roofs to protect the trash and recycling center from filling with water (the holes have already been punched in the containers to let water escape).


Today a letter was sent out to businesses and community residents about the seeking support for acquiring the funds to make these basureros happen.

To date, the Geoporter Team working on this project consists of many companies and many individuals have volunteered their time and already contributed resources. What an incredible community. If you are interested in helping, contact us and we’ll send you the information to this project.


Dear friends of the community,

We all love our community and its natural resources. For that we are working hard to conserve our natural resources via trash collections and mapping, and subsequently the construction of trash centers, which are being strategically placed in the community of Bahia as you can see in the map.

Would you like to help?  If so, you can contribute via wire transfer to the accounts of El Colono La Jungla.  Please put in the detail/comments section: “BAHIA TRASH PROJECT”.  The materials cost to build the roof and frame for one trash center is 46,000 colones (Approx. $92 USD).  Please note that we have the trash cans ready and painted!

Please contact us for the account of El Colono La Jungla:

** The Muni will collect the trash
** We would like to place these before October 31

Team Geoporter

We’re Celebrating!!! We are Officially One! A Year as Geoporter in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

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.

Geoporter Year 1 - Costa Rica Visit

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.

Geoporter 1 -Year activities

Geoporter 1 -Year activities

Geoporter Year 1 - Costa Rica Visit

Geoporter Year 1 - Costa Rica Visit

Geoporter 1 -Year activities

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.

View Larger Map


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.

Recoleccion de Basura - Bahia Ballena - Escuela

La Flor de Bahia - GPS con grado 6
2013-08-30 09.39.45

La Flor de Bahia - GPS con Grados 4 y 2

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.”

2013-04-16 09.22.54

Geoporter 1 -Year activities

Geoporter 1 -Year activities

Geoporter 1 -Year activities
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).

Ballenas del Festival de Ballenas y Delfines - 2013

View Larger Map

Ballenas del Festival de Ballenas y Delfines - 2013

What a year it has been and we are excited to venture into this next year of Geoporter!