Penny for Your Summer GIS Thoughts

While a pandemic summer is bummer, it didn’t melt away mapping endeavors. Here are reflections by students on how they leveraged spatial inquiry during this time/space apart:

Espy Thomson ’21, Environmental Science & Policy

This summer I used the ArcPro program through Smith College’s Spatial Analysis lab to complete an internship with Northampton’s Planning and Sustainability Department. The department had recently acquired an old golf course property that they planned to restore, but they had no one to create a master plan of the trails for the property. With help from the Spatial Analysis Lab and from the City of Northampton, I recorded existing trails and suggested trail connectors to develop a comprehensive trail map. An important consideration was how to reroute trails, based on the new property boundaries. GIS helped me visualize that information. The trail plans were presented in August at a public hearing and were well received! Hopefully, they will offer walkers a safe place to go to get outdoors in this time of COVID-19. I would definitely recommend going to explore the Pine Grove Golf Course property. When the maps become public, you will be able to locate a Great White Swamp Oak, the third largest of its kind in the Northeast.

Wayne Ndlovu ’22, Geosciences

This summer I got the chance to continue working on my Summer Research Fellowship (SURF) project where I assess road salt impacts on wetland groundwater and soil geochemistry. This is a project that my advisor, Prof. Amy Rhodes, and I started working in 2019. I selected different wetland types based on examining a GIS datalayer of MassDEP Wetlands and noting their proximity to different roadways. Wetlands located next to minor roads included Arcadia Bog, Mill Valley Road Bog, and a vernal pool and a bog (Arcadia Bog Vernal Pool and Arcadia Bog Moat) located adjacent to one another; these four wetlands are located in Belchertown. Wetlands located near state highways included East Templeton Pond and Trout Brook Wetland, both of Templeton, and Quag Bog of Gardiner. A wetland at Fitzgerald Lake of Northampton is located near heavily trafficked local roads. Waters and soils from these wetlands were sampled and analyzed in 2019. This summer with the help of the SAL, I created Survey123 templates that can be used by other researchers for Geochemistry field data collection. I also transferred all my field data from last summer to Survey123 and used this data to create base maps for a StoryMap. This StoryMap will allow me to share this research with a much larger audience. I believe this is one example of an effort to make Geosciences more inclusive, accessible and open to everyone. The StoryMap follows the format of a research paper: we still include the method and discussion sections. However, to engage the audience, we have been coming up with ways to eliminate the scientific jargon, but still tell the story of road salt impacts.

Audrey Cho ’23

This summer I used ArcGIS Storymaps to demonstrate the migratory patterns of the Resplendent Quetzal, a near-endangered bird native to central and South America. While this was just one of my many projects at my internship with Engage Globally, I found the storymaps platform really helpful and easy to navigate in getting critical information across.

Hannah Dillahunt ’21, Environmental Science & Policy

Last semester, through my special studies course, Coastal Resilience Belize, I used ArcGIS, drone imagery taken by Smith College staff and satellite imagery to map shoreline movement in Ambergris Caye, Belize from 2000 to the present. A low lying tropical island, Ambergris Caye is extremely susceptible to the effects of climate change such as increased tropical storm events and shoreline erosion. To combat these increased changes, Ambergris Caye has built many seawalls to extend the island’s beaches and protect the prosperous hotel industry on the coast. This summer I continued this research on shoreline erosion and accretion through SURF (Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship). Working with Professor Washington-Ottombre, I was able to take a closer look at the coastline through Google Earth Pro, and used ArcGIS Pro to map seawalls on the coastline in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019. I also drew shorelines for each of these years using a shoreline indicator method in which I used landward vegetation lines and ocean debris to decide where the shoreline existed on the coast. Even though the seawalls in this area were built to protect the coast, they cause erosion to occur on either side of the walls. As the effects of climate change continue to affect the shores of Belize in coming years, Ambergris Caye will have to decide if seawalls are a resilient and effective option to protect their homes and community.