Public Lab Wiki documentation

Mapping along the Rio Hondo River in Belize

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by Pat Coyle

Published Q2 2014 in the Grassroots Mapping Forum #5 Order online

In 2006, I founded Belize Open Source- Sustainable Development (BOSSD) a nonprofit that promotes environmentally and socially sustainable development through an open source approach to plan and implement land-based education on a 40 acre working farm. BOSSD partners with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) teams working in northern Belize.

I came across Jeff Warren’s post on when I was getting ready to map the 40 acre property I bought in Belize. I wanted to provide better definition, down to the individual tree level to support site development work and progress reporting. I wanted to make this methodology transferable to locals for community mapping. Belize has land boundary issues and recently went through a land adjudication process using a SwedeSurvey GPS and manual survey to map the country land parcels as part of a process to reform the lease, title and other forms of landholding. However, the party in power changed and the new regime has thrown out the results. Even on our property there has been a minor boundary dispute. I had been obsessing about servo drive gimbal camera mounts with a wireless video preview camera for my rig using a balloon to lift the camera. When I saw Jeff’s post using a cut-off plastic soda bottle as the support for the camera I thought, “I am not keeping this simple enough!” Jeff and Stewart helped me get comfortable mapping.

At Muffles Junior College campus we did two kite aerial mapping sessions together and demonstrated MapKnitter. We discussed infrared imaging and postprocessing for multispectral mapping as another useful tool in an environmental sciences program. I provided them with a complete Kite Aerial Photography kit to enable them to make more maps.

The fifth graders at the August Pine Ridge school enjoyed flying the kite and seeing their neighborhood and school in the map we made. Blanca Torres, principal of the August Pine Ridge school, wrote, “The aerial photo mapping seems very interesting. . . . We feel pride in having our community appear in internet pages and more if we are involved in getting those images.”

I’m not sure if anyone has used the mapping kits since the workshop, perhaps they have but haven’t posted it to Public Lab Wiki. It’s hard for a new technique like this to take off if there isn’t a local champion.