Adapting to Change

The jungle is constantly changing. Large mammals break through low growing plants, fungi break down fallen material, and birds, insects, and monkeys are constantly roaming about the canopy.

The most recent edition of the Chan Chich trail map was produced in 2006. However, since then, the wildlife has continued to go about its business making small modifications to the landscape over the past eleven years. Not to mention, the occasional tree fall from storm interrupting the balance. As a result, because of the organic, unpredictable movement of nature, this map isn’t as accurate as it was a decade ago. Now, Alana and I undertaking the task of updating the maps to reflect how the trails look now.

Naturally, the best way to see what the trails were like was to set out on foot ourselves. Over the past couple of weeks, Alana and I have been walking the trails and tracking our movements with an iPhone GPS app. The program then draws lines based on where we have gone, producing a visual that will directly replicate a guests movement through the jungle. What’s more, through this process we are also able to measure the distance of each trail as well as how long it takes to walk it.


Ultimately, this information can be extracted from the phone and imported to  ArcGIS mapping software. With this system I can correct GPS errors, produce labels and legends, as well as conduct spatial analysis.

The use of this software is a great opportunity both for me and Chan Chich for many reasons. First, after taking an ArcGIS class at Cornell University over a year ago, this allows me to brush up on many of the skills I have forgotten.

Second, by doing this it provides a more user friendly map for the Self-Guided Tour for the guests. Not only will the map now be more up to date, it will also have improved visuals. In the years since the last map was created, satellite imagery and geographic databases have only been improved. Now, the map doesn’t have to only be on a blank background, but can also be placed on a birds eyed image of the lodge or inserted on to a topographic map of the area.

Lastly, as Alana and I continue to locate the Ramon tree on the property, this map will provide an excellent base to plot our data. This means increasing the ability for staff to find the tree when it comes time to harvest the nut and begin producing Ramon nut products.  With the more complex functions of the software, we can even begin conducting spatial analysis of the occurrence of the Ramon nut to better predict where it can be found outside of the trail system.

Ultimately, moving forward, this map will not only be able to improve these projects, but any other endeavors that the lodge may take on in the coming years.

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