CERF GIS @ CERF Baja Logistics Laguna San Ignacio Staff  

GIS in Baja

Exploring Marine GIS: An ArcGIS Field and Lab Course


The Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation hosted an immersion week in geospatial sciences and marine biology in San Ignacio Lagoon, Mexico, in March 2006. These pages describe the programme in more detail.

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.

GIS Course Summary:

This week long adventure was for both beginning and advanced GIS users, and was also suitable for those with some experience looking to integrate GIS into their own conservation projects or professional work. The workshop included 2 days of instructor led training covering an “Introduction to ArcGIS 9”, using ESRI training materials and taught by an ESRI authorized instructor. Participants could integrate these skills and perform exercises in an exploration of the Marine Data Model, and discover how data modeling is used in GIS. In addition, participants worked side by side with CERF’s graduate students and marine mammal biologists, collecting data on the distribution, behavior and ecology of gray whales occupying winter breeding grounds. The course included data collection in the lagoon and the opportunity to learn how to use some of the tools used by marine mammal scientists, digital images, image processing software, CERF’s 10 year photo identification catalogue, GPS units and underwater sonar tracking devices were all incorporated in the field work sessions. Participants contributed to CERF’s ongoing research projects, studied the concepts of data modeling and management, learned and integrated the skills used in photo id cataloguing, participated in behavioral monitoring of gray whale mothers and calves and learned the basic requirements for creating a working geodatabase for conservation planning. Additionally, those with ongoing projects or datasets were encouraged to bring their work with them, as a Data Modeler and GIS Consultant were on hand to work with these participants.
Mapping mangrove biodiversity

Topics which were Covered in this Course:

  • Introduction to ArcGIS 9
  • Marine Data Model
  • GIS in conservation research and planning
  • Geospatial science; building a geodatabase, using GPS data in scientific research
  • Marine Mammal Science; Gray whale migratory behavior, photo identification
  • GIS in coastal ecology; Mangrove & lagoon benthic biodiversity mapping

Wilderness experience:

Because of the remoteness of the venue, this GIS workshop was also a wilderness adventure. Participants were immersed in the everyday of biogeographical fieldwork, literally living alongside and among the data they collect! The experience was ideal to learn real GIS (in this case ArcGIS 9), and provided the opportunity to consult with GIS professionals, using these tools to further professional and academic goals.


The cost of the trip was $1,399.00 USD and included all GIS instruction, course materials, ESRI ArcGIS 9 trial version software, meals, camping accommodations, whale watching trips and naturalist led hikes. The food was authentic Mexican cuisine, served in a beach-side restaurant, and participants camped in tents near the lab. More information here.


March 6-12, 2006

Getting there

Participants arranged their own transportation to and from Baja California, Mexico. There were 2 options for joining the team in the field. Participants could fly in and out of Loreto Airport or they could drive to the lagoon campsite themselves. More information here.

Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation, 43 Park Hill Dr., Frome BA11 2LQ, United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 7745 730873· Fax: +1 (815) 327-0183
E-mail: info@cerf.bc.ca

This page maintained by info@cerf.bc.ca.

Copyright ©2005 Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation.