CWU Sustainability Map

Many universities are implementing ways to conserve energy, reduce waste, and operate sustainably. At Central Washington University, students, staff, and faculty have been working on both top-down and grassroots approaches to sustainability that we wanted to share with the public. The result was an interactive online map CWU Campus Sustainability Map that I created as a research project under the guidance of Dr. Sterling Quinn in the summer of 2018. You can click a feature on the map such as solar panels, energy-efficient buildings, xeriscaping, bus stops, etc. and see different options for learning about or promoting sustainability on campus.

 

Working on the sustainability map was a new process for me. When Dr. Quinn approached me about the project I was excited. Web mapping was a part of GIS that I was very curious about and wanted to learn more of.

 

I created the map using all open source software. Tilemill was used to create the basemap. I used the Leaflet API for the web programming framework. This was all new to me. I had to learn various software programs along with some HTML, CSS, and JavaScript coding. I did this by working through open courseware from Penn State University titled Open Web Mapping. I also worked through tutorials on other web programming courses like that of W3schools.com. With permission, I adapted some icons from the University of Washington’s sustainability map. It was really cool seeing how all the software and languages came together to create a final map.

 

CWU’s College of the Sciences offers competitive grants for undergraduate students doing research over the summer. The grant was a unique opportunity to work full time a project, use an established lab space at the university, and share my work with other undergraduate researchers. Through the grant, I developed a usability survey that was sent to faculty, students, and staff. The goal was to determine what features were needed or most important to make the map easy to use. It was great to see the feedback and to know where and how to fix some issues.

 

The process of creating the usability test was also an informative experience in research design and implementation. I had to go through the process of getting human subjects review approval, as the usability survey was sent to human subjects. This process gave me new perspective on social science research studies and the work that goes into them. The campus operations department embraced the map and added hyperlinks to the CWU Sustainability website so that visitors from the school and community alike can explore these initiatives geographically.

 

This whole project was a great experience. I got to learn about a fascinating part of GIS where I hope to continue learning and developing my skills. All the interactions and experiences I had during the project only fueled my passion for GIS and its capabilities.

 

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