Belize Field Training
Be sure to sign up for the belize trip! More information can be found here
Be sure to sign up for the belize trip! More information can be found here
We’re sampling the Tijuana River today. We board a group from the San Diego Chapter of SurfRider Foundation at 7:00am, and head out the channel. Right away, its a busy start – a nuclear submarine launches in front of us with a significant escort, and then close passes by two Navy hovercraft. Once we get outside the bay, we keep heading south, towards the US/Mexico border, where the Tijuana River flows in into the Pacific Ocean just north of the border. The Tijuana River watershed is heavily populated on both side of the border, and trash accumulates throughout the dry season. Once the fall rains come to the area, much of this trash is sent out to sea, despite the efforts of many agencies and conservation groups.
We had a fast sail “down the hill” to San Diego yesterday – big bright sunshine filling the pilothouse as we passed Dana Point, San Clemente, Trestle’s, Oceanside, Black’s, and finally “home” to San Diego. I’ve sailed a lot in this area, and I appreciate the comfortable feeling of familiar waters… We tie-off at the San Diego Yacht Club, and make way to LaJolla for the San Diego SurfRider Foundation Chapter Meeting. Sixty people in attendance, many raising their hands when asked if they came specifically to gain new information about Plastic Marine Debris. We screened a 20 minute segment of the film “Strange Days on Planet Earth”, detailed the last few days of our voyage, complete with maps, and Dave Robinson took questions from the audience. We seem to be getting more effective at connecting with people as we get further into the expedition. Perhaps we seem more certain after traveling this far, and talking to so many people along the way – it seems our credibility is growing as we walk this walk….
Miriam Goldstein, a SCRIPPS researcher, and Science Director of the SEAPLAEX Expedition last summer joined our crew for dinner locally. Miriam studies not only the spatial distribution of the tiny plastic pieces in the Pacific Gyre, but the chemicals that are bonding to these bits of debris. Miriam is a scientist who rigorously follows the scientific method, so she is the perfect person to discuss the methodology we are using in our current debris work with SeaLife Conservation. We are both very interested in finding the means to accurately sample very large areas of the gyre for plastics densities, to determine the degrees of mixing and separation. I’ll discuss some of our ideas in the final post.
Happy GIS Day everyone! Today was a big one for us on the Baylis. We celebrated our official event Tuesday on the SRV Derek M. Baylis, off the coast of Newport Beach, CA. A crew from Prikett Films http://www.prickettfilms.com/portfolio flew in on the Billabong Seaplane to meet us and film while we conducted an at sea lesson for a group of students, parents and professional athletes. Mike Prikett’s current project is a documentary about marine debris, and what various groups of people are doing around the world to remedy the problem. Nice to know we are showing up on that radar!
The plane landed close to us, and taxied right up to our stern – Capt Mark kept us close while the seaplane crew tossed out an anchor off the nose of the plane. Port-side hatch opens on the plane, and out pops heads, and then a dinghy, an engine, and over came several people, including professional big-wave surfers Mike Parsons, Grant Baker “Twiggy”, Greg and Rusty Long. These guys ride REALLY big waves (60′ plus) and they are committed to learning about and sharing a message of responsibility and sustainability among the surfing community.
We had three main components to our GIS Day Celebration:
- a lesson on kelp forest from our naturalist, who explained how these unique communities thrive and evolve over their life-cycle
- a plankton-tow, to investigate the microspoic members of this ocean comminuty, and
- a major discussion and demonstration of the GIS and GPS work we are doing around marine debris mapping
The overall goal is advocate attention to the careful considerations we need to make as consumers of plastic. Hard to believe how much technology and time goes into making products that some of us only use for a few minutes, or maybe even seconds… The film team will provide footage to us for use on the website later…
We also had a long and calm visit from a large pod of Risso’s Dolphins, which was a great teaching opportunity
Getting late over here, so I’ll sign off with a video of the plane landing and taking off….
The Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS.org) has a great LISTSERVE – for those of you in the GIS world, a $35 membership is worth its weight in support and interesting information from the list… I sent out a note asking for volunteers in the area to come help us out for our morning survey, and Jenni Gomez, an SCGS member from Long Beach answered the call. Jenni works as a GIS specialist for the The City of Loong Beach, and she brought Rob Earle with her, who works for the Storm Water department. One of my primary interests in the marine debris work I am doing revolves around what happens when single use plastic and polystyrene leave human hands as waste, so it was a treat having Rob aboard to educate us about storms drains, and the efforts to minimize trash from flowing into the ocean through storm water system.
The Ocean Gyres, in particular the North Pacific Gyre, have gotten much attention this summer. I am certain that people need to know these giant vortexes are filing with 50 years of industrial waste, yet I am quite convinced that the “human – gyre interface” is where we need to be focusing our attention. We can’t (yet) follow all of our trash from the point of manufacture to the ocean or the landfill, but we can speculate that much of the stuff that ends up in the oceans either blows out of trash cans, or carelessly leaves human hands… either way, we are creating quite a mess, and threatening many species at all aspects of the food chain….
The bottom line is:
- plastic does not break down, it only breaks apart (into smaller ans smaller pieces),
- no matter what size, shape or material it is, plastic look like some living creature when it is in the water, which means,
- some other creature will eat it, or attempt to eat it, and die of entanglement or starvation.
We spent two hours surveying the east side of San Pedro Bay, which is inside the breakwater of The Port of Los Angles, and we picked up almost 400 pieces of debris… hard work, very satisfying, yet I wish it did not need to be done…
Kudos and thanks to Rob and Jenni from The City of Long Beach for helping us out!
After Rob and Jenni left, we had a regularly scheduled boat program with the staff of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium http://www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org/ – What a great and fun group of people! We were sort of preaching to the choir, though there was plenty of new information exchanged, and we all had a fine time sharing and creating community.
Off before sunrise with a skeleton crew – even without much sleep, I love getting up and off the dock early like this… We put all the dock lines and fenders away quickly whenever we are moving on the Baylis. Once they are stowed, I go up to the bow and enjoy first light as we leave the harbor for San Pedro.
Our first debris recovery this morning was a styrofoam coffee cup that we spotted from a long way off… we were not too far offshore, and the wind had blown the cup into our path… as we approached, a seagull landed next to it, and began taking bites out of it. We scared the bird away, retrieved the cup, and took a GPS point, as we do on all of our retrievals… It’s tough to think that may happening all over the world everyday…
The expedition will have a big change from here on out – more boat traffic, the night sky not so dark, and the air and water close to shore has the color of the industrialized world. We pass Ventura, Point Dume, and take a line straight across Santa Monica Bay to Palo Verdes, keeping L.A. well of the port side… We round the peninsula to San Pedro doing 9Kts, and enter the breakwater of the Port of Los Angeles. Big day on the water, we tied-up, eat, and hunkered-down for the night. Here’s a short video of the main sail coming down at the lighthouse…
Our first full day here in Santa Barbara was full of errands, cleaning the boat, and for me, processing the GPS data we collected while recovering debris from the waters off Santa Cruz Island (see yesterdays post). We partnered with the local Surfrider Foundation chapter to take a group of volunteers from a variety of local conservation organizations out on the Baylis for a sail, so we could show them what we are doing, and to hear about their work. In attendance were people from Surfrider Foundation, Santa Barbara Harbor Keepers, Heal our Oceans Together, Project Kaisei, and several others.
Sharing the experience is one of the most satisfying aspects of this work. So there we are, doing 6 Kts with 30 people aboard, and I see plastic in the water… “DEBRIS OFF THE PORT BOW!” I yell, and Martijn grabs the pole net – we are past it too quickly… He marks the spot for the Captain by pointing the net at it, and we do a man-overboard drill, turning the 65′ boat under-sail around. We can see our wake, and Martijn has the spot correct, and we retrieve the 4 sq.cm. piece of plastic. Yes, it is a lot of effort for a little piece of debris, nut it provides a credible image to all who witness and participate, that plastics in the ocean is a big problem, and that there are people willing to do extra-ordinary things to clean it up. I heard someone on the boat comment that “these guys are hardcore” – I look forward to the time when we don’t have to be. More photos at the bottom of this post…
We got in just at sunset, and we went straight over to The Santa Barbara Yacht Club building, where our evening program taking place with a slightly larger crowd from the local community. SeaStudios Foundation screened a 20 minute clip from their National Geographic / PBS Film “Strange Days on Planet Earth”, with Edward Norton. The piece was mainly about plastics in the ocean, and it really hits home for me after the week I’ve had living and breathing this issue. Click here for more info on the film.
The evening program continued with several short presentations from representatives of the local groups, like SurfRider Foundation and Project Kaisei – then the former Mayor of Pacific Grove, CA, Dan Court spoke to the audience. Dan successfully stewarded a polystyrene ban in Pacific Grove, and was quite active in supporting a similar ban in Monterey, CA. He has been a crew-member on the Derek Baylis with us for the last week, onboard to see this work firsthand, and to support other communities along our route. Dan is quite an amazing speaker, he is encouraging without saying ‘you should’, and he is uplifting and motivating while still reminding you of how hard some of this work can be. My favorite quote from Dan tonight “Vision without action is a daydream and action without vision is a nightmare”. One ironic twist turned teaching tool for Dan, and later Dave Robinson, as one of the sponsors donated bottled water to the event. I couldn’t help take this picture, and think about the dark humor, and sad irony this positive intention set into motion – it does help illustrate just how embedded plastic is in our choices as consumers…
Dave Robinson then closed the night with a discussion of what we are doing on the Think Beyond Plastics Expedition, and what we can do as individuals to remedy marine debris and fisheries. He stood in front of the map I made, with data collected the day before off Santa Cruz Island, a national park. Very rewarding for me to see that map in front of all those people, with ‘the ink’ still drying…
Dave also reminded us of the constant election being held in the choices that show up for us in restaurants and stores. Dave asks us to think about the vote we cast with our wallets everyday as consumers. Specifically, he reminds us to think about the alternatives to single use plastic bags, cups, straws etc, and polystyrene cups and take-out containers. Some of these alternatives include using a seafood watch card at your restaurant when ordering fish, and carrying your own stainless steel water bottles.
Other photos from the day – click for full size image:
Waking up off Santa Cruz Island, in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was a real treat. We had a nice breakfast, and then everybody got busy with a variety of chores, Capt Mark and Dave workng on the boat in the engine room, Martijn outside with a mask and snorkel cleaning the hull and making sure all the intakes were clear. Dan and Shauna went off for a paddle in the kayakes to see what they could find, and I worked on the blogs and GPS usint for a while.
We pulled-up the hook at about noon, and set a course for Santa Barbara, about 25 miles due north… Within five minutes, Martijn sees debris, and we all spring to various posts… he keeps an eye on the trash as if it’s a man overboard… I grad a net, and Mike grabs the GPS. We get that piece, then see another and another… in all we spend 45 minutes “on the way” to Santa Barbara, picking up trash in the Marine Sanctuary… kind of sad to see all that debris out in such an otherwise pristine area. Most of the trash we collected was candy wrappers and chips bags, with one Walmart shopping bag, the closest point to Santa Barbara – at least we had something handy to put it all in as we emptied the trash when we got to shore…
Here’s a map of that data collection – click to see a larger version…
Winds 20 -25kts. We’ve been “hiding” behind Point Conception for 36 hours, waiting for the wind and the swell to calm down a little bit. After catching a few waves at Coho, we raise the sails to head further down the coast. I’ve never gone from upwind to 14 kts so quickly… Capt Mark took us up towards the actual point so we could get a good look at Governor’s… It was like peeling out of a small eddy in a really swift river…
We built some weather days into the schedule just for events like this one, and this protected area was a fine place to wait out the weather… Along he way, Dave provided sailing knowledge, and we were visited by more dolphins… mostly a travel day, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Click any images for a larger view.
A day to prepare. After a great day working the sailing and evening programs yesterday, today’s work includes provisioning, sail planning, and a few maintenance items for the boat. At breakfast, Captain Mark ‘orders’ us to go for some exercise or recreation before we start our work, because we’re going to have a big day preparing and likely sailing through the night. Most of us go for a surf across the harbor on a nice beach break. As soon as we’re done, everyone is off to complete their tasks – for me, that means making sure the blog us up, getting the GPS gear charged and ready, and adjusting a few website related issues. Mark makes the announcement that we will leave at midnight, as a 15-20 ft swell is approaching, along with 15-20 kt winds, and we don’t want to be in open water north of Point Conception as those conditions appear.
Part of our role on this journey is to look for the deep dependencies we have on single use plastic and polystyrene – the stuff we all use, sometimes only for a few seconds, and then throw away. We decided to do our provisioning at the local farmers market in San Luis Obispo, because it supports the local economy there, and it gives us a chance to meet people and mix it up a little before we go to sea. We meet at six, to carpool down to “SLO town”…
Once we walk around the corner and enter this night market, the color is vibrant, and the energy is up. Fruits and vegetables from all over the area are on display, and farmers become proud salesmen, making sure we all know about their harvest. I’ve never provisioned a boat with this much fresh produce – we bought lots of stuff that was not even on the list; basil, honey, pistachios, lemons, beans, strawberries, avocados, and more…
We hold, smell and taste many flavors from this carnival of the senses; the sights and sounds are alive and moving and swirling… We make one end of the market, and turn for the other end. Much more a festival to me than a farmers market….
Even puppet shows for the kids! More pics at the bottom of this post.
As we got further into the concessions end of the market, we began to notice the plastic and polystyrene containers, lids, and straws that have become the meal delivery vehicles of choice for our society… after picking this stuff out of the ocean for a few days, it doesn’t look like a tasty treat, or a quenching drink anymore. I’ve found what I think to be engaging ways to start conversations with these vendors about the way they sell their products to ‘us’. Some vendors seem quite interested in the fact that bio-compostable cups, bowls, and silverware are become almost price neutral, others seem to think it is not an issue.
Either way, we made sure they knew we were not going to buy anything from them delivered with a single use product mage from plastic or polystyrene. If you are concerned about these materials in the oceans and waterways, you can vote like this too. Also, I do like to remind people that we are all learning and
changing our ways… good people are working hard to create jobs and products in this very market, and they are the type of people to realize that their product may sell better if it’s delivered with compostable dinnerware – it’s up to us to let them know we want and expect sustainable materials – click here to suggest sustainable suppliers for your favorite restaurants and vendors!
Back to the journey. By midnight, we’re stowing supplies and bringing-in the lines to make our way south. I love leaving at night. Nobody to see us off… coffee brewing, and those with a late watch tuck-in for a few hours sleep. My GPS gear is tracking our progress, as is all the navigation software aboard the Baylis.
Captain Mark and Dave both use paper charts to plan and track progress – I appreciate that for so many reasons, the main ones being that the electricity can fail, and you can still work the nav problems, and you can see little bouys and other chart features, while still seeing the big picture at the same time. Small computer and chart-plotter screens just cant facilitate that.
I‘m so excited to make the turn around Point Conception. I get some sleep, as I have the 5:00am to 7:00am watch. Once I’m up, I join Dave for late stargazing, and a beautiful sunrise as we approach the point.Here’s a little YouTube film I made of this morning…
Up early Wednesday to find a coffee shop and get email in and out… the fog is thick, and the streets of Morro Bay are quiet… I’m thinking about how the people of this town must describe where Morrow Bay is when they are traveling… to the north, the cliffs of Big Sur, and to the south, Point Conception and then Santa Barbara. Morro Bay, and a few other small towns, share a unique quiet coastal zone of California that has a slight feeling of the New England fishing villages, mixed with a surfing and boating lifestyle… ‘unique’ and ‘community’ are the words I have in mind.
I find The Rock Espresso Bar – OPEN – nice – it’s named for this rock, an igneous vein at the harbor entrance, whose surroundings eroded away long ago…I get my work done, later joined by some of the crew to finalize the plan for the day… a morning surf, clean the boat, staff meeting, and then our Think Beyond Plastics Program starts at 3:00. He added that we will stay in the harbor an extra day to wait for the winds to clock around from S to NW, so we’ll have a fine 15- 20 Kt wind off our starboard shoulder one the way south around Point Conception.
Today our first program work starts – we’ll take a large group out on the boat, the Derek M. Baylis (‘the Baylis’) for “science under sail” – marine ecology, plankton tows, and ‘trash talk’. Then we will screen “Strange Days on Planet Earth”, a production of SeaStudios, whose foundation is the primary creator and supporter of this expedition.
Now writing later… the day went well. Great interest in the program work we are doing, and an enthusiastic turnout at our evening program. For the sake of time, I’ll let the pics talk for now, and provide a program brief after we get to Santa Barbara.
Weeks of planning finally boils down to departure day – phone calls, charts, website updates, last minute provisioning – all part of the day… then Dave Robinson, SeaLife Conservation Program Director, has us all over for a traditional pre-sail dinner of fresh fish and salad… one last check of the email, and the mapping site, then we’re off to the harbor…
All well after our 12 hour shakedown from Santa Cruz to Morro Bay, With little fanfare, and under the watch of only the slipped boats in Santa Cruz harbor, we let the lines at 10:30 Monday night, under the full moon. After a few high-fives and fist bumps, our crew of six settled in for sleep and our shifts on watch. My first watch came at 3:00am – I joined Martijn Stiphout at the helm, then an hour later he was relived by Capt Mark. I slept again before sunrise, and woke to scan the horizon… I saw a little bump, getting bigger quickly. Debris – we turn the boat, get the net, and here’s our first retrieval, a smiley-face balloon…
A few minutes later, a humpback whale came and thanked us with a beautiful show; a few blows and and some turns, then a beautiful dive (tail in the air), and a minute or two a return breach out of the water – very cool. I had camera in hand from taking the retrieval picture, and I switched it to video to catch this:
The Think Beyond Plastics Expedition is underway. A little background on the voyage: Drew Stephens, from The GIS Institute, will be aboard the Derek M. Baylis this November, a 65′ research sailboat, traveling through communities in Southern California, providing GIS support to Sealife Conservation and Sea Studios Foundation. The goal is to provide scientific and advocacy support for the polystyrene container and single use plastic bag bans being considered by local governments along the route. Programs will run from November 4th in Morro Bay and conclude at the end of November in San Diego. We will host evening programs in communities to screen SeaStudios films (Plastic Plague, and Bag the Bag), and to facilitate panels with local marine and government officials. A DVD resource will also be provided in reusable shopping bags made from recycles plastic bottles. The DVDs contains the films, a sample polystyrene ordinance, a list of cities and counties that have adopted the ban, a copy of state ordinance AB1358, and a list of local vendors who will provide alternative bio-compostable products to cities and businesses. The DVD tool allows a city to essentially create a legally defensible ban in their community from a copy and paste. The overall goal of these meeting is to provide tools and credible imagery for citizens to foster change in their communities.
During the day, SeaLife Conservation’s role is to provide the Derek M. Baylis as a venue for an educational opportunity to those interested in pursuing this cause. We will provide a short daysails to conduct “Science Under Sail” activities, which include a plankton tow (and video microscope examination of the sample), a general survey of local waterfront to see storm drain and streams, and demonstrations of our debris removal and GPS/mapping techniques.
SeaLife Conservation has been studying and educating the public about ocean plastics for nearly five years. They have learned a tremendous amount about how plastics impact our oceans, and just as importantly, the sources of the plastics. During that time we have worked with a number of city and state agencies to develop better practices to help prevent plastics from entering our oceans. SeaLife Conservation work with the city of Monterey, in particular, has been very rewarding. This past February Monterey passed a ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam) takeout containers within the city limits. SeaLife Conservation is broadening its mission area, and extending the reach of its message by supporting cities to pass bans on polystyrene and on plastic bags. Sealife Conservation’s particular strengths are educating the public and studying plastic types and concentrations. These strengths are best put to use by partnering with non-profits and city agencies interested in adopting bans.
Sea Studios has been producing films about the environment for National Geographic, PBS, and for private distribution for years. Recently, they have sought to highlight their work in communities and leverage their work to help create change, just as Sealife Conservation has. We started working with Sea Studios this past summer, hosting participants from two very successful events they produced, the Think Beyond Plastic Film Festival and the Plastic Pollution Coalition Summit. With two successes under our belt, it was time to step up our collective game!
I made it all the way to Gaborone, Botswana from Cape Town today. I woke early so I could meet with Nadia Smith from Stellenbosch University, in the Western Cape. We met last year at the SCGIS meeting in California. At the time she was with Peace Parks Foundation, now she is working toward her PhD. involving remote sensing (satellite and aerial captured images of the earth) applications. We had coffee at the airport, and discussed the “state of GIS” in South Africa, as well as ways we may be able to foster a chapter of SCGIS (www.scgis.org) for the Western Cape area.
(South Africa is too big to get a single chapter going…)
I was also able to donate a Student Edition of ArcGIS 9.1 to The University, on behalf of The ESRI Conservation Program.Made the plane to Jo’Burg, and then one to Gaborone… Kyle Good, from Cheetah Conservation Botswana, picked me up, and within one hour, I was greeted by a beautiful, purring Cheetah. There at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, they have two tame Cheetah living in a protected area as part of their education and outreach work – see their website for more about this fantastic and meaningful approach to practical solutions for a species having significant challenges to it’s habitat – www.cheetahbotswana.com — what a greeting I had… (and one of the friendliest and hassle-free international airports I have ever passed through – seems like Santa Fe, and so does the place). They also received a copy of ArcGIS 9.1, the “awards ceremony” pictured below…
I had my first Ostrich that night, prepared by an experienced chef, and I must say it was quite good, and did not taste like Chicken!
I got here almost a week ago for some much needed rest, and to sort out gear, email, and the logistics for the rest of the trip. Two of the days, one on each end, were dedicated to just that, which gave me three days to have a look around… Tour day one featured a day loop down to Hout Bay, and then Cape Point, in Cape Peninsula National Park. I’ll let the pictures do most of the work here…
Latitude 34.24 Longitude 18.30!
I had my running gear with me, so I took a nice long run – I liked the feeling I got running along the coast where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet… I was deep in thought when I came upon some baboons! I drove back up the east side of the cape, and back to town. This entire day was a treat for the eyes.
Next day was Sunday – I was going to find a church to visit, something I like to do in foreign lands, but I decided to go on a slightly different quest, still connected to my sprit and passion…
Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for (I think) 27 years. The main waterfront has a museum dedicated to the anti-apartheid struggle, so I started there. Here are several pictures of some of the posters that were (illegally at the time) distributed through the years. Also included are some photos of the photos they had up – I really liked how comfortable they were with me taking pictures. They clearly want people to know about this time in South Africa’s history.
This last photo captures the same feeling that I see in the famous US photo from Kent State… Very interesting museum.
Then we boarded a ferry for the short trip out to the island, in all about 120 people on the tour. Wow, they are still good at processing people here! In very short time, we were boarded onto four buses for a tour of the island itself, each bus with a very knowledgeable guide.
First prisoners, 1960′s
This was the hole in the quarry where the prisoners were able to talk freely, unbeknownst to the guards… it is said that this is where South Africa’s new government was formed…
…Then we entered the prison, and the mood shifts dramatically to somber… Our guide for this segment is a former political prisoner, who for about 30 minutes, shares his story about what life was like here. There were about 30 of us in this room.
Two white South African men on the tour, their wives by their side, each spoke-up and shared what it was like for them during the 80’s and early 90’s. They had two mandatory years of government service, which meant that they were charged with enforcing apartheid. This was a very moving time for everyone there, and I sense that those guys got a just a little closure on some feelings they have carried for some time…
Then we saw the famous courtyard, and Nelson Mandela’s cell…
Very interesting time here for me. I was following the news of the day with interest back then, and it was good to see these places. It seems to me we westerners don’t experience much African history or news…
Next day, I just moved around the area, talking pictures and shooting video – suddenly I saw a shop that rented surfboards… and that was it… Yesterday I got to surf in the Atlantic, in (for me) heavy surf, and this morning a much gentler day in the Indian Ocean…
On the conservation side of my work, I met with two groups here – more on that later!
I leave for Botswana in the morning… so here’ my last (for a while) sunset from Cape Town…
What a day. Up at 3:30 am, and in Cape Town by 16:30, one hour time change west. I’ve gone from 3 degrees south, to approximately 33. From the air along the way, a nice view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I also saw Harare, Zimbabwe, and a good deal of Kruger National Park, South Africa as we descended into Johannesburg.
“You’ve been in Kenya & Uganda?” asks the Immigration officer… “Please present your Yellow Fever vaccination document” – which had been strategically placed in my desk drawer at home… I was able to reach the airport medical services, and get an immunization (for a price), and make my way into South Africa, clear customs, and recheck my bag for Cape Town. A few hours later, I’m in a right-hand drive car, headed into town in search a place to stay and some rest time. I end-up in Camp’s Bay, just south of Cape Town proper. Very nice, small seaside community Here’s the view from my place…
I made it to Entebbe, Uganda at night, and when a miscue with my pick-up was clear, I jumped into a Sheraton Hotel Van, certain that I would at least have a safe & comfortable landing, with access to phone and email to get connected with the SCGIS member, Fortunate Muyambi, who is my contact here. An hour later, we arrived in Kampala, the capitol City. Next day was incredibly stormy, power knocked out, and the hotel generators fired up. I got a local simm card for my phone — a great move for those of you traveling internationally, take your phone, and get a card in each country you visit. Locals will be much more accessible, and available to call you back if needed.
Fortunate and I connected the next day, and after making a plan, we were off to the headquarters of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Here we net with several officials and staff who are using GIS (among many applications), to track Silverback Gorilla movement within the National Parks. I was able to provide an evaluation copy of ArcGIS 9.1 to Fredrick Wanyama at UWA, on behalf of the ESRI Conservation Program.
We also had some time to discuss the ability of ArcGIS to handle the various geographic projections they use in Uganda, and how they can permanently migrate to ArcGIS from the older ArcView 3.2 software. It’s always a tough move for people to change to software they are less familiar with, but as the advantages are discovered (a personal journey), it becomes easy to use the newer version.
Later, we stopped by the ESRI Uganda Distributor, Amadra ori-Okido’s office, and let him know what SCGIS Uganda will be up to in the next few months…pic below.
Fortunate works for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, the organization founded by Diane Fossey. Her work to monitor the life and habitat of the Silverback Gorilla is still carried on by a team here in Uganda, and by dedicated group in the US . We were to travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinag Gorilla National Park in the south western part of Uganda, to run a training class for wardens and rangers. Due to the combination of my tight schedule, and some last minute problems in the parks, we were unable to make the drive west. Plan B was engaged – Fortunate and I went to the University of Makerere in Kampala, and set-up at the department of Wildlife Biology for a day of SCGIS Uganda chapter-building strategy. Cool display of Hippo and Ostrich skeletons too!
I am traveling with and sharing documents which will help local SCGIS leaders get organized, announce meetings, make presentations, and create the momentum to get Conservation GIS users connected to one another for support, data sharing, and even training. I also donated some training materials and data, on behalf of AllPoints GIS, to the soon to be SCGIS Uganda. Pictured are Fortunate and myself with the formal presentation of software, on behalf of the ESRI Conservation Program.
It was a busy three days. I also happened upon a World Tobacco Free Day Parade headed down the street, complete with a marching band in the lead – they were playing “When the Saints Go Marching In…”
Later, I went back to Entebbe, and found a room at the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel to sleep before an early flight. Funny place – then US President Clinton and Current George W. Bush have been to this facility, but all I saw was this guy…
So today I have a meeting with The staff of African Conservation Center, which went well, and then off to meet the Kenya ESRI distributor, Willy Simons, of Okar Services Ltd. We discuss the state of GIS in Kenya, and the needs of cooperation with software companies and conservation practitioners (who typically have little money for software. It’s a delicate balance to keep everyone happy and working, and I will have insight to bring back to ESRI headquarters in California. A few errands, farewell to new friends, and I’m on the way to the airport for my flight to Uganda, once again with David the Taxi Man…
Lucy figured I would need a rest (YES!), so she took the liberty of booking two nights at The Masai Lodge, adjacent to “The Park”. This park is literally next to Nairobi… honking horns and traffic for ½ hour, then we turn onto a dirt road, and within 5 minutes, I see eight or ten giraffe, with downtown Nairobi in the background…look close, you can see the giraffe.
I get a meal and some nice conversation with some locals visiting the lodge for a children’s’ birthday party, and again, everyone is interested and supportive of the work I am doing here.
Linus picks me up at 6:30 am to go on an excursion into the park to see wild animals. We had a great six hour ride, and saw wild dogs, vultures, buffalo, giraffe, ostrich, and many other critters, but the loins were hiding, along with the rhino, hippo, and cheetah, all of which are living in the shadow of the city.
Back at the lodge, I rested, wrote some email (to send later), and then went walking around to take some pics and enjoy the evening light. Nduni, the Masai head of security for the lodge checked-in with me, and next thing I know, we are off the grounds and I’m chasing him through the bush to go find the giraffe… We work with broken English and hand signals to have a good conversation while we walk quickly towards the giraffe – I don’t know how he knows where they are, but we get to a clearing, and there they are…
It’s getting dark, and Nduni wants to cross the river, go back into the park, to get me closer than this pic offered. As much as I would love to have the skills and instinct he has, I’m thinking it’s better to get back to the lodge. These guys don’t think twice about spending days in the bush – they know where to sleep, and they know how to avoid getting eaten while they live in tune with their livestock and the wild animals. He thinks, and understands that I’m a ‘little green” when it comes to night hikes in lion country… He came by for a nice visit while I had dinner.
I’m back at the Gracia Guest House, where I will be walking distance to my next gig, another two-day workshop for several Nairobi-based organizations. My host is Lucy Waruingi, who is an energetic and dedicated GIS guru for the African Conservation Center www.conservationafrica.org
Other participants include staff from Save the Elephants www.savetheelephants.org, Amboseli Baboon Research Project, National Museums of Kenya, ESF Consultants www.esfconsultants.org, and GreenBelt Movement www.greenbeltmovement.org
This last one is well known for it’s Women’s Tree Planting project, headed by Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist who founded an Africa-wide movement that empowered women, confronted corrupt officials and planted millions of trees in ravaged forestland…
We get an early start on Friday morning, and keep moving at a fine pace. This class is only 7 students, and they all have some GIS experience – we are mainly getting them tuned to ArcGIS 9, as they have been using ArcView 3, along with most the conservation community in most developing countries. At lunch Lucy calls a shop about fixing my laptop monitor, still dead. I back everything up on the portable hard drive I am carrying, and off goes my machine into the streets of Nairobi. I finish the day using Lucy’s desktop for the presentations. Later that evening, my laptop shows up with a new monitor for Ksh $8000, about a hundred bucks… amazing, and I can work at night again!
The course went well. And now my total number of students is 82, from 14 different organizations – I hope to far exceed my goal of 100 students in six countries. I’m calling the trip “Service for Africa”.