A GIS student blog post about his experiences volunteering GIS, by Rob

This past summer I wanted to gain more experience mapping.  I chose to pursue volunteering opportunities where I could gain experience and contribute to an interesting project prior to going back to school.  A GIS instructor at the time suggested a project by a cross country ski club, located in Rossland BC who wanted to update their current trail maps.

Working through this project allowed me to:

  • Explore new challenges and skills; with the support of the people around me and the time to just play with the functions and capabilities of ArcMap, I learned a lot about working within different files, editing and map layout. Taking courses could have offered structure, but taking a project over and producing a finished product that will contribute to a local volunteer organization has given me a little more incentive.
  • Experience and understanding; working through problems not only introduced me to a new skill set, it also instilled a level of confidence that comes with practice.  For example, uploading KML files is a simple task, but often GPS units are not very accurate and missing much of the necessary attribute data for a desired, final output.  In this case, many hours of editing has been completed to take a rough line and converting it into a useful polyline.  This has involved iterations between the ski club and me for quality checking the edits and simply putting the time in to do the work.  After a line feature has been edited, attributes such as trail name and distances had to measured and entered.  A trail numbering system has been established and appropriate symbology defined for all the features.  All this and making the map readable!
  • Contribute;    I love that people will be able to benefit from my work here.  A local community effort asked for support and I was able to help.

  • Karma;  while being out on our trails, wherever they are, I’m doing my part to maintain a local trail network and having fun doing it

Thank you Blackjack or the opportunity to work with you!

Check out the links below for a sample of where we came from and where we are at now (still in draft form!)

New DRAFT trail map                                                  Old trail map

I highly suggest going out there this winter and checking them out!!

Not too sure where you can help out, go to your own local organization, otherwise here are some international opportunities out there:

CIEE Research Station Bonaire sometimes posts jobs on their page when they have openings, but they also have a list of links to other great sites

“Our mission is to provide outstanding educational opportunities to students in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation.  We strive to provide interdisciplinary marine research opportunities for CIEE students as well as visiting scientists and their students from around the world.  Collaboration with ongoing local research and conservation efforts is basic to our mission as is our commitment to provide scientific data, analysis and support to Bonaire’s environmental, educational and governmental entities.”

 Coral Cay Conservation

 “Coral Cay Conservation is an internationally renowned and accredited conservation specialist dedicated to providing the resources to help protect coral reefs and tropical rainforests throughout the developing world.”

 Mostly unpaid (or small stipend) positions.

OceansWatch International looks like an awesome opportunity (though it is volunteer-only)

“In close co-operation with the world’s sailors, divers and academics, OceansWatch undertakes marine conservation projects and offers humanitarian aid to coastal communities in developing countries.  OceansWatch offers resources, in the form of ocean-going research vessels and expertise, such as marine biologists, members training, project management and support crew.  OceansWatch strengthens the link between the global yachting and diving communities and those who are actively involved in marine research, education and conservation.”

ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) is a non-profit that often has GIS internships/short-term positions (not really ecology-focused, but occasionally something comes up)

“ACTED’s vocation is to support vulnerable populations affected by wars, natural disasters and/or economic and social crises, and to accompany them in building a better future; thus contributing to the Millennium Development Goals.  The programs implemented by ACTED (around 300 per year), in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, aim at addressing the needs of populations affected by wars, natural disasters and/or economic and social crises.”

And it’s always worth checking Idealist