Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
CARLSBAD FWO: 4-H Students Use GIS Skills To Assist Service With Mapping Invasive Plants At Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge
California-Nevada Offices , July 9, 2010
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Wild fennel, an invasive plant, located at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. (USFWS photo by Brian Collins)
Wild fennel, an invasive plant, located at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. (USFWS photo by Brian Collins) - Photo Credit: n/a
Invasive Curly Dock, growing in cacti at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. (USFWS photo by Brian Collins)
Invasive Curly Dock, growing in cacti at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. (USFWS photo by Brian Collins) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Tony McKinney and Stephanie Weagley, Carlsbad FWO


In July, five students from the national 4-H geographic information system (GIS) Leadership Team recently put their GIS skills to work when they were given the opportunity to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge map locations of two invasive plants on refuge lands – wild fennel and curly dock.  


The 4-H students, who are from various cities across the United States, were able to participate in this project effort because it was in conjunction with a series of user conferences in San Diego, California, sponsored by ESRI, a California based geographic information system (GIS) technology firm.


Through this effort, the 4-H students learned how GIS can assist in the protection of sensitive natural resources while the Refuge acquired valuable data aiding in the implementation of various resource management activities.


The five students, along with their parents and mentors, split into groups and headed out into the refuge to collect data.  By noon, the groups had mapped 32 weed patches totaling 3.4 acres and an additional 97 specific points where weeds were beginning to establish.  “The students had to learn plant identification and coordinate data collection methods to get the job done,” said Tony McKinney, GIS Division Chief for the Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, “This information will assist the refuge in developing a management strategy to deal with these two invasive plants.”


Kurt Roblek, acting refuge manager, said “the information collected saved refuge staff valuable time in eradicating the plants, since we now know where the plants are and the size of the areas that need attention.”


“We have worked with the national 4-H GIS Leadership Team for nearly 6 years,” said Esther Worker, ESRI’s youth education program manager.  “The presentations the 4-H students have made at our user conferences detailing the projects completed with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are a highlight for our conference attendees and clearly demonstrate the interest and abilities of our youth in solving geo-spatial problems.  The project presented at last year’s conference on the work completed at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex was well received.  We look forward to working with the 4-H GIS Leadership Team and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for years to come.”


While the 4-H students worked on the refuge, they also learned about the role the refuge plays in preserving threatened and endangered populations, such as the light-footed clapper rail, an endangered bird.  After completing the field work and enjoying some pizza, they assembled in the refuge office to begin their lab exercise.  McKinney explained, “they had to work together to download data from their various GPS units, format the data, combine it into a single database and create a map.  Once completed, we could conduct some rudimentary spatial analyses so the students can learn what conservation GIS is all about.”


Slader Buck, deputy project leader for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex commented, “These students already have enthusiasm for husbandry.  We could have a future refuge biologist here today!  We look forward to hosting the 4-H Leadership Team again in future years.”


Once the students’ work was completed, they presented the project results at ESRI’s 2010 EdUC, the Educational Users Conference held in conjunction with the International Users Conference.


About 4-H

4-H is a community of six million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of National 4-H Headquarters (USDA). The 4-H programs are implemented by the 106 Land Grant Universities and the Cooperative Extension System through their 3,100 local Extension offices across the country. Learn more about 4-H at www.4-h.org.


About ESRI

ESRI has developed GIS software since 1969. It is used in more than 300,000 organizations and provides the backbone for worldwide mapping and spatial analysis.


Contact Info: Stephanie Weagley, 805-644-1766, stephanie_weagley@fws.gov
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