Professor's GIS skills to aid endangered ape in Africa - 2009-03-24
CONTACT: Kenneth Aaron, director of communications, (518) 327-6297
PAUL SMITHS – One of the world's rarest species of ape stands to benefit when a Paul Smith's College professor heads on an 11-week journey to Cameroon, training others how to use geographic information systems (GIS) in their work with the Cross River gorilla.
Prof. Cheryl Joyce, who teaches GIS and chemistry classes at Paul Smith's, has volunteered with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on a project to map and determine the gorilla's habits. Fewer than 300 members of the species exist, making it perhaps the world's rarest great ape; the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed it as critically endangered and facing extinction.
"They had no GIS support and they just aren't that familiar with the technology," said Joyce of the researchers in Cameroon, who will employ the technology to save the gorilla and its habitat. She leaves at the end of March.
GIS helps researchers analyze and sort location-based data. In Cameroon, Joyce will teach researchers how to apply GIS in their work; Aaron Nicholas, director of the WCS' Takamanda-Mone Landscape Project, said those applications include monitoring habitat change and planning and reporting on field surveys and protection work. Ultimately, GIS can help researchers predict movements of the apes, population sizes and other information.
"GIS is a crucial tool that we need to apply to plan and monitor our conservation actions across an area the size of the State of Connecticut," Nicholas said. "We are really excited to have the opportunity to work with and learn from Prof. Joyce."
Joyce will do most of her work while based in the seaside town of Limbe. She expects to spend 10 to 20 days in the field as well. She is on sabbatical this semester, and is using a $1,500 grant from the Forestry Faculty Endowment Fund, which has been endowed by Sterling Tomkins, as well as another faculty development grant, to help pay for her trip.
She will also bring a pair of laptops donated from the college to give to the project.
This is Joyce's first work with wildlife, but has long been interested in using GIS to help protect water, land and species. She has volunteered for the Adirondack Park Agency during her sabbatical, working on a three-dimensional stereoscopy project to map the area.
She's expecting her trip to Africa to yield benefits for the college. "What a great experience to bring back to the students," Joyce said. "It's a whole other realm for GIS that I'm not that familiar with yet."
About Paul Smith's College
At Paul Smith’s College, it’s about the experience. The college, whose campus is on the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake, is the only four-year institution of higher education in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park of New York State. Our programs, in fields including hospitality, culinary arts, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship, the sciences, and many others, draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while
preparing students for successful careers anywhere. Visit www.paulsmiths.edu.
About the Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org