Ecosystem Accounting, GIS, Mapping

Attending the 1st Ecosystem Accounting Conference in the Caribbean

My journey with Ecosystem Accounting began in 2018, when a National Ecosystem Assessment was done for Montserrat. It highlighted the need for accurate spatial data in order to understand the total economic value of the Montserrat environment. The work that was done by Environment Systems focused on Earth Observation (EO) based Mapping and Interpretation, which developed a detailed map of terrestrial habitats on Montserrat. This, combined with the marine data which was collected by the Waitt Institute through the Blue Halo Project provided a good base to report on the extent and condition of the ecosystems in Montserrat.

Montserrat Terrestrial and Benthic Habitat Map Combined

My colleague and I, are pictured below with the awesome team in 2018 at Environment Systems in Aberystwyth, Wales. We spent two days together, learning and sharing about ecosystem services, spatial metrics, rasterization and Sentinel data.

At Environment Systems in Aberystwyth, Wales

Now, four (4) years later, Montserrat along with four other British Overseas Territories have been able to complete their 2020 Ecosystem accounts with guidance from eftec, funded by a Darwin Plus Project and in collaboration with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

The 1st Ecosystem Accounting Conference for the British Overseas Territories was held March 1-3, 2022 in Anguilla. This brought together practitioners from Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. Persons who specialize in natural resources and statistics from each of the various islands were present.

By reporting on the contributions of ecosystems to a society’s well being in monetary terms, helps us all to compare the value of ecosystems more easily against other goods and services that we are more familiar with. In other words, the accounts provide a framework for the collection and presentation of environmental and economic data, so that the value nature provides can be better understood. This provides an evidence base to support environmentally and economically sustainable decision making, 

Montserrat’s Chief Statistician, Ms. Siobhan Tuitt shared a thorough report of how the 2020 ecosystems accounts were compiled and any challenges that were faced in sourcing the data.

During a breakout session, I had the most exciting opportunity to share where we get our mapping data from and how this data fits into our ecosystem account.

Presenting about mapping data during a break out session

Anguilla was ideally suited to hosting the conference, as this location provided many opportunities to visualize the value of ecosystems. Here are a few of the pictures that I captured. These pictures are worth a lot more than a thousand words!

It was indeed a pleasure to attend the 1st Caribbean Ecosystem Accounting Overseas Territories Conference. We are now focused on the ways in which these ecosystems can be best managed to ensure continued services and benefits to the people who use them.

Pictured Left to Right – Ian Dickie, Natalya Kharadi, Lavern Ryan, Siobhan Tuitt

GIS, Imagery, Mapping

Training Workshop: A Basic Introduction to QGIS, GPS and Drone Mapping

In collaboration with the Montserrat National Trust and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), LRR Geospatial Consultancy provided a 2-day basic introductory course on QGIS, GPS and Drone Mapping to 19 participants from diverse backgrounds to include persons working in the field of agriculture, biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and land surveying.

On Day 1, the participants were given a brief overview of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and its components. They learnt about the visualization and data consolidation capabilities that a GIS provides and the major differences between a map and a GIS.

Delving into the opensource software, QGIS, participants were given a step by step guide on:

  1. The user interface of QGIS
  2. Loading Vector Layers
  3. Navigating the Map Canvas
  4. Symbolization and Labelling
  5. Digitizing an existing feature
  6. Creating New Vector Data
Training Material Provided

Day 2 focused on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and drone mapping covering the following topics:

  1. Introduction to GPS and Terrasync Software
  2. Field Data Collection
  3. Loading GPS Points into QGIS
  4. Layout and Exporting Maps
  5. An Introduction to Drone Mapping

Participants learnt that GPS, developed by the United States Department of Defense is only one of four Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). GLONASS which was developed by Russia, Galileo which was developed by the EU and BeiDou which was developed by China make up the other three Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

After being introduced to the software, and given tips for optimal data collection, participants were then challenged to collect a list of spatial data (points, lines and polygons), from the beautiful botanical gardens of the Montserrat National Trust using the Garmin etrex 30x and the Trimble Geo7x.

Map of the Botanical Gardens
Montserrat National Trust Botanical Gardens

Participants also learnt about the four major types of drones and were further engaged with videos and explanations about the Delair UX11, a fixed wing drone and how it is used for spatial data collection.

Holding the Delair UX11 Fixed Wing Drone

Participants are now better positioned to create, collect and share spatial data.

Participants on the course

If you are interested in learning more about this course or how GIS can help you in your work, contact LRR Geospatial Consultancy via email at lavern@lavernrogersryan.com. Visit our website at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

You can also submit a message using the form below.

Disaster Response, GIS, Mapping, Volunteering

Becoming a MapAction Volunteer

When the call came for Caribbean volunteers to apply to MapAction, I was keen to sign up. Having followed the work of this organization and the amazing group of persons who work as volunteers, I saw this as an awesome opportunity for me to contribute to the work of saving lives.

MapAction is a non-governmental, UK based charity, that specializes in providing mapping for humanitarian emergencies. MapAction has the ability to quickly gather crucial data and convey it visually, in the form of maps.  With MapAction’s support, aid agencies, governments and local partners, are in a better position to make informed decisions to deliver aid and emergency supplies to the right place, quickly.

Living in Montserrat, with an active volcano and being privy to how devastating disasters can be, I was grateful for the prospect of being able to use my skills in geospatial technologies to contribute to humanitarian efforts during a disaster. My mind quickly raced back to the impact Hurricanes Irma and Maria had on my neighboring Caribbean Islands, in 2017. I wanted to be in a better position to offer assistance if a situation like that – God-forbid – presented itself again.

I therefore, submitted an application to the organization and not very long after, I was greeted with an email inviting me to an “Assessment Day“. Needless to say, I was very happy to advance to the next stage.

Assessment Day turned out to be very interesting. Surprisingly, during the introductory session, I was reintroduced to the Head of the MapAction Caribbean Section, who reminded me, that we met, while he visited Montserrat in another capacity several years before. Moreover, the gentleman who is the Preparedness Lead for MapAction worked in Montserrat briefly on a project back in the early 2000s. I found it to be very fascinating how unsuspectingly our paths crossed again! In addition, hearing the testimony of a fellow MapAction Volunteer, sort of sealed the deal for me. He explained what being a volunteer all entailed and how my skills can contribute to saving lives.

Overall, this interview process was detailed enough to ensure that I was a good fit for MapAction. Amongst other skills, the panel assessed team spirit, leadership potential and the knowledge and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools and software.

Receiving another email shortly after assessment day, entitled, “MapAction Caribbean Section – Interview Outcome”, I nervously, but anxiously opened it. The words that bounced from my computer screen, read:

Congratulations, you have been selected to join our Caribbean Team! 

This was awesome news and I am absolutely thrilled to be apart of the MapAction family and being able to contribute to society in this capacity.

I look forward to sharing more about the work of MapAction and my experiences in future blogs.

Learn more about the work of MapAction at www.mapaction.org.

Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specializing in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat. Learn more about geospatial services in disasters at www.lavernrogersryan.com.

GIS, Mapping

Celebrate GIS Day Annually and Don’t Forget the Cake!

Since my introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  some 15 years ago, GIS day is one of those days that I look forward to annually. GIS day is usually on the Wednesday of Geography Awareness Week in November.  It is the one day set aside to show how geographic intelligence touches everyone and provides excellent forum for users, like myself, to showcase unique GIS accomplishments.(See my previous blog –  Counting the population is as easy as 1, 2, 3 with the help of GIS).

This November, (November 14, 2018) hundreds of organizations from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Caribbean will be hosting gatherings that will serve to ignite the imagination of the future geospatial innovators who will move our planet forward using GIS.  All registered users who will be hosting an event for GIS day 2018 is displayed on www.gisday.com. It is indeed a global event.

Users in the Caribbean region are joining in as well.  Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Trinidad have already registered their events.

Montserrat is no exception. Our event is registered too!

In the past, to add to the sweetness of this event we have often added a cake to the celebrations.  Here are a few pictures of the cakes we have had to celebrate GIS day in Montserrat over the years.

Now there is absolutely no reason not to love GIS day! Find an event close to you and use the opportunity to learn more about this exciting technology and its amazing capabilities.