Thursday, March 22, 2007

Warren Wilson receives grant for GIS project in Panama

Warren Wilson College and an environmental conservation organization in Panama have been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Panamanian Secretaria Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion (SENACYT). The grant will be used by the college and the organization Conservation through Research, Education and Action (CREA) to research and implement ageographic information system (GIS) and wireless sensor network on the 1,000-acre Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama. The reserve is part of the largest contiguous rainforest in Central America.

"I'm excited about the project because it focuses on both sustainability and cross-cultural education," said Geography Professor David Abernathy,who coauthored the grant application with Michael Roy, CREA executive director. Abernathy anticipates "some type of student exchange so that WWC students can work in Panama and hopefully a Panamanian student can workand/or study at Warren Wilson."

Abernathy said another focal point of the project will be the use of "green computing" techniques. The computing equipment not only will be designed to minimize power consumption, but also will be operated by solar power.The creation of a GIS and wireless sensor network database in Cocobolo Nature Reserve is a vital part of CREA's intent to help meet the sustainable development goals of Panama. CREA intends to utilize the reserve as the testing center for a system that would combine the following: traditional knowledge system of local farmers and landholders; research on sustainable agriculture and natural resource protection from higher education institutions and non-governmental organizations; and the latest technology for collecting, analyzing and disseminating environmental data in the form of a comprehensive system for managing and distributing geographic and environmental data.

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