Shifting from Trash Collections to Taking Action! What can we do to prevent trash from entering our streets?

Since April, various individuals from Bahía-Uvita have been working together to understand a serious problem that impacts communities around the world: Trash. Every Friday, starting the first week in April, individuals have gathered to pick up trash from the streets. Each week a new location is selected for the cleanup. But, this isn’t just any ordinary community trash collection. Residents are using GPS technology to record the location of the trash they collect and then using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to create maps that show the amount of trash and type of trash collected.



The approach residents selected to map the trash is: to count and classify the type of trash in a 24m radius along the streets and beaches. The resulting trash map shows the areas that have the greatest amount of trash.


As a community, we could continue to collect trash every Friday for the rest of our lives. But that is not the answer to the trash problem. Rather, we have to take action to prevent trash from entering our streets in the first place. Using the trash map, we as a community have identified where new public trashcans (checkered flags on map), to use for both trash and recyclables, need to be placed. The community is working now to gather the resources and materials to construct trashcans to place in the identified locations.


The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Uvita recently constructed 4 trash cans to place in Bahia-Uvita. These are in addition to the trash and recycling cans sponsored by Bodhi Surf School and Bahía Aventuras (green flags on map) in January and the materials that others such as the Asociación de Guías and the Asociación de Operadores de Turismo y individual businesses are looking to also provide.

basureros-uvita-asociación de-desarrollo-integral-de-uvita-geoporter


Placing trashcans in public locations is not the only solution to eliminating trash. Education and outreach are also important for understanding what we can do today as well as how our actions today can impact the future. The last two Fridays Geoporter has switched from trash collections to discussions about what actions can we take to reach out to students, community members, businesses and tourists who visit our community. The ideas generated from the first meeting were plentiful and impressive, but not the final list. The list will continue to grow as others submit ideas and choose to take responsibility for helping to implement the actions that will benefit the community.


During this last meeting, the group highlighted the most important items to carry out as a community and what each person would be willing to commit to doing. Thus for future Fridays individuals will work on items they commit to and report back. We invite all those interested in assisting to join our meetings and conversations and to share new ideas and commit to an action(s) that is important to them.

Geoporter in April

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.

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.

Ballenas Map Only 2012-12-01

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.

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.

The best gift of all is sharing with others

One of the objectives of the Geoporter project is to share our knowledge of geospatial technologies, GIS, GPS and remote sensing, with others. But ultimately what we hope to achieve is that by sharing our knowledge with others, others will acquire the skills to not only use GPS they will have the skills and knowledge to share what they’ve learned with others. And so the sharing begins…. 

Every week, we have weekly meetings with the tour guides to learn more about GPS, how to use the data collection sheet that was developed in conjunction with the tour guides and Fundacion KETO, and transfer the data to the computers to map it. Recently new guides have started to attend the trainings, and others already using GPS have started sharing what they know with those who are new. 

The first week in December, the president of the Asociacion de Guias de Bahia Ballena (ASOGUIBA) and one of the key partners in the Ballenas project, Fernando Guerrero invited the president and treasurer from the Asociacion Guias Turisticas Piedras Blancas, in Piedras Blancas National Park. Bruss and Rocio came to our evening meeting where Fernando explained GPS to them and had them practice using GPS in the street. Ronald explained the project and showed how they are using ArcGIS Online to record whale sightings in Marino Ballena National Park and the trash map that is being used to assess the location of new public trash cans.

The following day, Bruss and Rocio explored a bit of Bahia Ballena with Luz and Fernando using GPS units from the project. They then returned to Bahia Aventuras to download their points and create their own map. They were excited to see the result and were discussing ideas they would like to explore in Piedres Blancas and how to recieve additional training using GPS and GIS. 

It was wonderful to see the sharing of knowledge of using GPS to collect data points and then transferring them on a map. And what’s better is that the residents of Bahia Ballena were teaching others. I think a transition has begun…