|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.
This workshop was run from our research camp at Kuyimita, on the shore of San Ignacio Lagoon. The camp was set up in 1992 by Ecoturismo Kuyima, a local organisation dedicated to conservation and responsible ecotourism. Today, Kuyima runs most of the boats on the lagoon, and is the largest employer in the region. Our relationship with Kuyima began in 2003, when we moved our base of operations to their camp at Kuyimita. We are now working with both Kuyima and the local landowners on sustainable development projects.
Laguna San Ignacio is located within the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve,
and has gained international recognition and protection as a whale
sanctuary (read more here).
This adventure offered many chances to observe wildlife, explore the
diversity and wonder of desert and marine ecosystems and experience one
of the wildest places on earth. Whale watching, mud flat excursions,
mangrove explorations, bird watching, desert hikes and cultural experiences
were all offered throughout the week.
As the area around Laguna San Ignacio is part of a nature reserve, there are very few buildings. Participants therefore camped in tents during this workshop. We had a few available to rent, but as March is a very busy time in San Ignacio, we recommended people bring their own. They also needed a sleeping bag and mat.
Ecoturismo Kuyima provides us with a small hut as a research lab. The hut
is big enough for six people to work comfortably at any given time. Electricity is
provided by solar and wind power, backed up as required by a pair of portable
generators. CERF has its own computers for research use, but participants were
required to bring their own laptops for use during the workshop.
And because it seems to matter to some people... Fresh water is limited in the desert environment around the lagoon, so we have to make some allowances. Drinking & shower water is made from sea water in a local desalination plant and trucked to Kuyimita. Showers were hence limited to one every other day. Toilets are of the composting type, using sea water to flush.
Meals were prepared by Ecoturismo Kuyima staff and served in a permanent thatched hut (called a palapa). The menu was traditional Mexican cuisine, with lots of fish. Vegetarian options were available with advance notice.
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, as well as a contribution to the ongoing conservation
research being conducted by CERF's crews in and around the lagoon. US taxpayers'
contributions were tax-deductible.
Baja is a big place. (You'll frequently hear, "but it looks so much smaller on a map!") Getting around is straightforward, but it does take time. The nearest commercial airport to San Ignacio is at Loreto (LTO), which is served by Alaskan Airlines, Aero California, and Aero Mexico. Seats are limited, as each airline only flies to Loreto once or a few times a day. Check airline websites for details. We recommended people not book through one of the many internet discount sites, since if anything goes wrong, there's no way to get any assistance. Use their sites to find flights, then contact the airline directly.
We told people to pack lots of patience, so they could enjoy the trip.
All but Alaskan make a stop at Hermosillo to clear Mexican immigration. Customs
clearance happens at Loreto. A passport is required, and whenever traveling to
Mexico, don't lose the tourist card you get on the
plane! (citizens of countries other than Mexico, the US & Canada, please check
with the Mexican consulate in your country to ensure you don't need a visa)
Make sure to be at the rendezvous site below at the indicated time!
was at the Hotel Oasis, Loreto, BCS, Mexico, 19:30.
What to bring
We recommended people not bring more luggage than they could carry and handle on their own. We recommended that they pack a carry-on bag with an extra set of field clothing and personal essentials in the event that their luggage was lost and/or took several days to catch up with them.
This is particularly important in Mexico, as one of our PIs discovered one winter, when his bags were lost between Philadelphia and Los Angeles – there is no reliable means of forwarding lost luggage from LAX to anywhere in Baja California.
Suitcases are difficult in the wilderness, so we suggested that clothing and equipment be packed in duffle bags or some other soft case. Space and weight are at a premium, particularly on the van from Loreto, so project staff asked that luggage be as compact and lightweight as possible. Also, we suggested that bags be waterproof - a duffle bag lined with two garbage bags is ideal.
We asked that people take into consideration the weather conditions during their team when packing for their expedition. We suggested that participants bring warm outer clothing and good rain clothing (even in Mexico: it doesn’t rain often in the desert, but when it does...) so that they could remain comfortable in windy or wet conditions on the water (think open boats travelling at 20 knots on choppy seas...) or on land. Volunteers were told to be prepared to dress in layers to accommodate changes in the weather.
Polyester “Fleece” and thermal layer fabrics have good wicking qualities, are warm, and dry out rapidly - these are a good idea in an environment where the climatic conditions are highly varied. Heavy cotton fabrics (e.g., jeans) should be avoided, as they are slow to dry and cold when wet. Several layers of thin clothes are preferable to one thick layer in terms of adjustment to weather conditions in the field. There are no facilities for washing clothes at Kuyimita, but the local women offer a laundry service for a (really modest) fee. The camp staff are pleased to explain how the system works and what it costs.
Clothing/Footwear for Fieldwork
Clothing/Footwear for Leisure
Bedding and Bathing
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