News from The GIS Institute: GIS Training Fundraiser

Long Caye, Belize – April 23, 2010 – Happy Earth Day (Yesterday)

Hello Friends – Much happening simultaneously for me at The GIS Institute this season – I’m working three main fronts; 1) a new training class now available to help fund this non-profit GIS work, 2) we have just successfully completed the process to create a preserve in Belize, and 3) I am continuing my support of plastic marine pollution awareness in our oceans. I feel like I am becoming adept at working on these volunteer projects, creating a new day job, and maintaining serenity…

In this newsletter, our primary focus is the fundraiser we are holding to teach the final version of our ArcGIS for Natural Resources and Field Conservation training class. Also a quick report about the preserve on Long Caye, Lighthouse Reef, Belize, and news from SeaLife Conservation picking up plastic marine debris under the Golden Gate Bridge this month. Thanks for reading!

Spring Fundraiser – We are teaching GIS classes!

We now have the final release of the ArcGIS class that Jack Dangermond & ESRI donated to The GIS Institute. Here’s the basic info for the initial fundraiser we are holding to raise money in support of my continued non-profit GIS work and to get the course into circulation.

The course is titled: Introduction to ArcGIS for Natural Resources and Field Conservation. A three-day version is standard, and fourth and/or fifth day modules are available. The course description and outline can be found at

Special limited-time pricing for spring fundraiser: $6k for the 3-day on-site course* or, three presentations of this course anywhere in the continental US for $16k* – tough to beat that for any Instructor-led on-site training!

Additional info:

– 12 Students per course: two additional students OK at $750/ea
*Must be scheduled and 25% deposit paid by May 31, 2010 Courses must run by September 30, 2010 – First come, first served availability. Other payment options available, ETF Payment approved, check or Credit Card OK. Full payment preferred at course completion.
** alternative geographic location and combination proposals are welcome
– Workbooks included, with course data.
– Certificates for successful completion.
– Authored by Drew Stephens and ESRI – a fun and rigorous course, led by Drew Stephens only!

Also this option: Gather yourselves and co-op! Find a training room anywhere in the continental US, pick a date, and guarantee seven students at $750/ea ($5250), I will open the remaining seats to additional students at that price, paid directly to The GIS Institute online on a per person basis.

I will be releasing a schedule of classes open to individuals next week.

Thanks again everyone – I appreciate the confidence and support you’ve provided over the years. I truly hope we can work together this year to bring GIS to your organization, and that these effort fuel conservation and humanitarian related GIS into the future.

In Belize

we have a significant success story! The Belizean government has granted preliminary approval of our proposal to create a 250 acre preserve on Long Caye, the privately held island we have been researching and mapping for the last two years on Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The approval action will protect forty percent of the 600 acres on Long Caye from development, which includes all of the internal lagoon and surroundings, along with over 6,000 of 35,000 feet of virgin mangrove coastline. The preserve may eventually become a related component of the Belizean National Park System, though it is too early to know.

Blake Ross, co-owner of Long Caye, says “The GIS Institute has played a critical role in the process of delineating the preserve…the use of GIS not only made it certain that we were delineating the right areas, it helped us share the story with all stakeholders in the process.”

On behalf of The GIS Institute, I facilitated the acquisition of a beautiful cloud free satellite image from GeoEye, Inc. in the fall of 2008. The image served as the base of all the data collection for existing natural and cultural features, as well as those from the planned and built environment. After acquiring the image, the next steps were to verify in the field what we were seeing in the image, and to work with the owners and community on the caye in an attempt to include the right amount of land for the protection of Red, White and Black Mangrove trees, American Crocodile, stingrays, plus the many fish and other marine life that make this ecosystem home. See the map – the darker areas are Caribbean waters dropping off to over 3000 feet deep!

The community here on Long Caye, as well as everyone involved with this effort is quite pleased with the result. I have collected a few pumice stones that have washed up on the beach here… I will send one to the first 20 donors, a small and fun gift from the earth… Please donate here to The GIS Institute to continue this important work here in Belize.

Long Caye is on Lighthouse Reef Atoll, about 75k east of the mainland coast. Lighthouse Reef is one of only four atolls in the western hemisphere, and it is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the second largest reef system in the world. Lighthouse Reef is far from population centers and other landmasses, making it a very unique place to study coral reef conditions, as well as mangrove and terrestrial ecosystems. Most of the influences on this remote atoll are already in “in the global soup,” both in the oceans and in the atmosphere.

Donate here

In Marine Plastic Pollution News, SeaLife Conservation has been collecting plastic marine debris under The Golden Gate Bridge this month, as part of the annual research they have been conducting in that location. The crew of The Derek M. Baylis was also able to escort “Plastiki” out of the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Plastiki project is all about raising awareness for marine debris and the way we view waste. The expedition itself centers around a revolutionary boat made out of recycled plastic bottles and srPET which will sail from San Francisco to Sydney over the next few months. See for more info on the Plastiki.

As you may have noted from blog posts I wrote from the “Think Beyond Plastics” voyage last fall, the problem of plastics in our rivers, lakes and eventually oceans is rapidly getting worse, as almost everything we consume has plastic in the life-cycle of the product. Think about what you see in even the “greenest” hip and healthy grocery stores, and see how the plastic take-out container has invaded the deli, bakery, prepared food sections, and most drink companies are offering only products in plastic bottles. We have yet to learn as a society how to discard these materials, and recycling efforts are only recovering a tiny fraction of these plastics.

I am in Belize right now, and there is just not enough time in the day to pick-up all the plastic I see washing up on the atoll, 50 miles from the mainland… Just look at this Hermit Crab with a plastic shell I photographed yesterday! Please donate to our efforts in collecting and mapping marine plastic pollution here: Donate

Your ‘at home’ challenge: Separate all plastics, even the non-recyclable stuff, from your trash for 30 days. Compost your vegetables and other organics. You’ll be quite shocked at how small the waste-stream is after removing the plastic and compostable materials. Please report back to us with pictures and stories!

More information about marine debris removal, and volunteer opportunities can be found at

We believe adventure is present in all GIS endeavors. The GIS Insitute strives to build community by bringing education, work, and service to the conservation GIS community.

Drew Stephens, Director,
The GIS Institute