|CERF||GIS @ CERF||Baja Logistics||Laguna San Ignacio||Staff|
GIS in Baja
Exploring Marine GIS: An ArcGIS Field and Lab Course
Note: this course is not running per se in 2007. We will be running a research team through Earthwatch Institute from March 24-31, 2007, which will have more of a GIS focus than our other teams, which may be of interest. The plan at the moment is to revisit this GIS course beginning in 2008.
Laguna San Ignacio
Our operating area includes San Ignacio lagoon and the coastal waters of Baja California from Punta Abreojos to San Juanico. Due to the logistical difficulties of working in the open Pacific, most of our work is focused on the lagoon. Grey whales are common throughout the study area, but particularly abundant in the lower reaches of the lagoon, between Punta Piedra and Isla Ana. The wintertime climate at San Ignacio lagoon is typical of a coastal desert. At night, the desert cools to temperatures in the low teens or even single digit Celsius. In the middle of the day, in the break between the winds, it can get as high as the low thirties. This daily shift in temperature drives the wind in and out of the lagoon. The usual pattern is a moderate to strong NE outflow wind at night and in the morning, which switches around to a strong SW inflow in mid- to late afternoon. There is usually a break in the middle of the day. Occasionally, the offshore patterns will dominate, and the weather gets much less predictable. Rain squalls are infrequent, but every few years, the area gets hit with a tropical storm, which can dump three inches of water onto the desert in a few hours. The soaking is worth it though – the flowers are spectacular the next day!
The campsite is right on the shore of the lagoon. There is a shallow shelf extending about a quarter mile into the lagoon which is completely exposed at low tide. At high tide, the boats can land just in front of the camp, but at low or intermediate tides, it is necessary to walk through the shallows out to the boats. There are stingrays in the shallows, so you’ll have to tread carefully (and never in bare feet!). Instructions on how to avoid getting stung will be given on site.
The desert is home to the usual collection of less than savory creatures. Snakes and scorpions are present, as are coyotes. The precautions to take basically involve staying within the camp boundaries, shaking out shoes in the morning, and not leaving anything outside the tents at night.
There are several settlements around the lagoon. About 2 mi from the camp is the fishing village of El Cardon, with its small government subsidised store and satellite telephone. A mile and a bit the other way is the settlement of El Poblado, where the local children go to school (grades K-8) and where the project makes a point of calling at least once per team at the local art cooperative run by the local women. The nearest town of any size is San Ignacio, about 2 hours away, down a really bad road.
The local economy is focused on the lagoon. Whale-watching is the most lucrative business in the area, however, it only lasts for three months of the year. The rest of the year, the locals make their living fishing for finfish and shellfish. There was a proposal to develop a massive saltworks on the lagoon, which would have changed the place forever. That proposal was dropped, however, thanks to opposition from the locals themselves, backed up by powerful external lobby groups. The primary concern from the community perspective was that the saltworks would only have provided a handful of local jobs, and it would have destroyed the fabric of the community, not to mention the ecology of the lagoon.
Sustainable development in the lagoon area has recently been given a big boost, thanks to an arrangement between Wildcoast Foundation, ProNatura, and the local Ejido (landowners' cooperative), in which the locals have agreed to a conservation easement on their common land in return for a large trust fund which will generate approximately $25,000 USD per year, pretty much forever. Rules agreed to by the Ejido and the NGOs restrict the use of the trust funds to sustainable development activities in the lagoon.
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