Now Live: Mapping Patagonia National Park

Here at Maps for Good we are excited about a lot of things. We are particularly excited about two things right now:

#1 We have JUST GONE LIVE with our Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our upcoming project, Mapping Patagonia National Park. We’re incredibly grateful to have received a National Geographic Young Explorers grant, which will cover $5,000, and now we are fundraising for the remaining $7,500 we need to make this exciting project happen.

This project has been a dream long in the making. We’re thrilled and humbled by the enthusiasm and support we’ve received from friends, family, and the cartography and conservation communities. You can check out today’s blog post by Conservación Patagónica, the organization creating the park, which profiles our project.

Please take a moment to check out our Kickstarter page here and consider backing our project. And if you like what you see, please share it around with your friends. We have great rewards for all of our backers, starting with, at a minimum, a behind-the-scenes view of our expedition from start to finish. We’ll also be giving back in the form of our maps that we produce as part of the project, as well as a beautiful e-book chronicling our expedition.

Fundraising on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing; if we don’t reach our goal of $7,500 in 30 days (by November 30th), we don’t get any of the funds. One of our goals is to reach 30% of our funding goal — that’s $2,250 — by November 10th (day 10). It’s ambitious, but we’re optimistic. They say that 30% is somewhat of a tipping point for Kickstarter projects, so we’re eager to get there.

Thank you, everyone. We couldn’t be more excited about this project and where it will lead us. As always, if you have any questions for us or just want to get in touch, drop us a message at or Or leave a comment below!

#2 We had a tremendously successful month in Costa Rica. We jetted off just a few hours after packing up the Maps for Good booth at the Common Ground Fair and arrived in Monteverde to four eager students ready to learn some mapping. Not just eager, but also bright, motivated, and willing to hit the ground running. “Dream students” would be another way to describe them. Thus began the Fall 2012 Map Team.

CIEE Map Team, Fall 2012. L to R: Megan Maccaroni, Shanita Brown, Marty Schnure, Ross Donihue, Grant Cooper, Jill Cordonnier.

Two of our students, Jill and Megan, the self-proclaimed “Bird Nerdz,” were focused on mapping characteristics of bird populations in a new biological corridor on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica. The Corredor Biológico Pajaro Campana, or the Bellbird Biological Corridor, extends through ten life zones starting at the continental divide in Monteverde all the way down to the Gulf of Nicoya on the Pacific coast.

Our students accompanied the local ornithologist conducting the bird census — this was the first year of the census — and mapped all twenty transects (20 kilometers in all) in the corridor. Quite a feat, especially considering that most of the transects involve bushwhacking through thorny brush, hopping barbed wire fences, and passing the occasional cocodrilo, or crocodile. After collecting all that geographic data, they joined the census data to it to create a spatial database of the bird populations of the corridor. From there, they produced nine neat visualizations, including these (the different shades of green on the land represent different life zones):

by Jill Cordonnier

by Megan Maccaroni

Grant and Shanita were focused on reforestation research, looking at the effect of slope and maintenance (mowing around the trees, applying fertilizer) on survivorship and growth of several tree species. The goal of the broader study is to determine what kind of reforestation success farmers can expect without devoting a lot of maintenance to the trees. The scientific community in this area has mostly said that it isn’t worth it to have farmers to try to reforest their land if they’re not going to put a lot into maintaining the little trees, but there isn’t much evidence to back that up. So this study is trying to figure it out, with the hope that unmaintained plots have a survivorship rate that makes it worth it for farmers to try to reforest parts of their land.

Whereas Jill and Megan were mapping at a small scale (small scale means large area, think of scale like a fraction), Grant and Shanita were mapping at a very large scale (small area, lots of detail). Grant and Shanita mapped over 2,000 individual trees, and they did it with a great attitude. They joined two years of tree growth data to their geographic data to create an incredibly useful spatial database for the Fundación Conservacionista Costarricense, the Costa Rican Conservation Foundation.

What did they find? Grant found that, as he expected, first year survivorship of trees was higher on flat plots than on sloped plots (83% compared to 53% survivorship). Even more, he isolated which species grow well in both environments, and which only do well on flat ground. This sets up questions for future research, and will inform planting decisions in the future. Check out Grant’s map and graph below.

by Grant Cooper

by Grant Cooper

Shanita’s mapping was focused on twelve experimental plots that explored different maintenance regimes: no maintenance, just mowing around the trees, just fertilizer, mowing and fertilizer. Shanita found that mowing substantially increased first-year survivorship and growth in comparison to no maintenance, while fertilizer did not. Further, she found that fertilizer and mowing together do not increase survivorship or growth more than just mowing does. Shanita’s work opens up some fascinating questions for further research that could influence how Costa Rica approaches reforestation. One of the species she was working with was a newly discovered, and yet unnamed, species, which is exciting too.

by Shanita Brown

by Shanita Brown

Very cool stuff.

Below are some photos from our map critique, in which we all head up on top of the grassy hill and workshop everyone’s maps over ice cream treats. It’s a great opportunity for the students to take a close look at each other’s work, share ideas, and give constructive feedback.

Supervising these internships is a fun and interesting challenge. They’re structured like, well, internships, rather than a course, but the steep learning curve may be better suited to a class format. We’re always exploring new ways of trying to strike the right balance there. What do you all think? What are some ways we can most efficiently and effectively teach a lot of new material, much of it very technical, and facilitate individual applied projects along the way? Some of the parameters we’re working within: small number of students (4-6), 5 hours per day M-F, a large field component, and the students are not supposed to put time into their internships outside of internship hours (i.e. no homework).

We are thrilled with how much our students learned over the month. Learning GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and cartography is anything but easy. They worked hard and the payoff was big;

Thanks, Shanita, Grant, Jill, and Megan for being fantastic students, and thanks Karen and Deb for being supportive collaborators! We’re excited about continuing to build the conservation mapping program in Monteverde and making it the best it can be, for the the students and for conservation in Costa Rica.

Thanks for reading! We hope our next post will be about how well our Kickstarter project is going.

-Marty & Ross


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