My Experience as a Conservation Mapping Intern at ANS

Working for the Audubon Naturalist Society at Woodend Sanctuary this summer has been a truly great learning opportunity. I have met new and interesting people, gained new insights, and learned much more about stream conservation and ecology than I had ever imagined I would.

As a conservation intern, my job was to design graphics to assist in the visualization of data through spatial analysis. In other words, I created maps! With help from Conservation Director Eliza Cava, I used the geographic information system ArcGIS to display data gathered by Water Quality Monitoring groups, as well as reports collected by the Creek Critters app. The resultant maps compare the position of these points to land use data, helping to give an idea of the impact of land development on stream health.

The first map I began work on used Creek Critters data. A tool in the ArcGIS software called “data driven pages” allowed for each individual eight-digit watershed containing at least one Creek Critters survey point to be displayed separately. This resulted in a file that can be shared with various conservation organizations, so that they can get an idea of where general interest lies within their region by entering the name of the watershed in which their interest lies.

More work went into making these maps than you may think! To create this one, for example, each Water Quality Monitoring group surveyed their respective site about 3 to 4 times a year, spending approximately five hours collecting data each time, for multiple years. Then, creating the final version of the map itself took nearly a month. I had to plan, research, design, edit, and revise nearly every aspect of it. As time went on, the process became faster and faster as I learned and progressed. I probably don’t need to describe the sense of satisfaction when this map was finally completed!

Although the majority of my time was spent on cartographic pursuits, I was lucky enough to be able to experience stream data collection several times firsthand. My favorite excursion was electrofishing with the Maryland National Parks and Planning Commission. You can read the blog post about it here. [Insert link to blog post] I also tagged along on a Creek Critters monitoring trip to Rock Creek the very first week I arrived here. If I had to choose, I would say that my favorite macroinvertebrate out of all those captured that day was the dragonfly nymph. However, it was pretty funny to see how disgusted the kids were when someone captured a leech!

This summer has been one I will never forget. Although I live and go to school in Massachusetts, I was born in this area and hope to move back someday. I definitely plan to stay in touch and up-to-date with what’s going on at ANS. Who knows, maybe I’ll find my way back here in the future!

About Christian Schluter

Christian was an ANS intern in summer 2017.
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