There was good energy walking into Brooks Hall on this chilly October day. Most West Virginia University students were on their fall break but the “stalwarts” of WVU’s Geography Department were here and ready to play host to the dozens of California University students who made the hour long drive down to be there. The group of students coming down were from a variety of academic backgrounds like business, environmental science, and, of course, geography. We were given a quick tour of the building and were shown the computer lab where we would holding the 3rd Annual Central Appalachia Mapathon. For the past few years this event has seen the best and brightest of the two neighboring Geography Departments meet together to network with each other and work together to work on a common task.
The task for this year’s event was laid out to us by Dr. Brent McCusker, professor of Geography and head of the WVU Youthmappers chapter, MaptimeMorgantown. Dr. McCuskergave us a background on our task, the mapping of Bui National Park in Ghana. This project had us mapping the buildings and roads of this section of Ghana along with keeping a keen eye out for any land disturbances that could be a result of small-scale gold mining operations which are very environmentally damaging and illegal within the Bui National Park. We were given our hashtags and soon after began mapping.
From 9:00 to 11:30 students and professors analyzed imagery from satellite imagery taken over Ghana in order to label buildings, roads, and other features.
Professors and experienced mappers were on hand to help anyone that had any questions or required second opinions.
By end of the Mapathon CALU and WVU students had mapped 3,372 buildings and 7 land use features that could have resulted from illegal small-scale mining operations. Everyone in the room was tired after two and a half hours of focused mapping but there was a sense of pride in having offered a valuable service.
The day would end on a high note with pizza and drinks being offered by the fine staff of the WVU GIS department. The rest of the day would be filled with fellowship, laughter, and the forging of new relationships of like-minded people who wanted to make a difference.
Adam Wells is a Junior at the California University of Pennsylvania. His course of study is Geography with a concentration in GIS and Emergency Management. He spent this past summer as a virtual intern with USAID and is the current Vice President of the California University YouthMappers chapter.