When you think of GIS, you might picture houses, streets or pipes. But GIS also has enormous benefits for the environment at large, as two Hawaiian sisters learned this year!
Molokai, Hawaii is often called the “Friendly Island.” An invasive species of trees called red mangroves have taken that moniker a little too seriously and started inching their way up and into the island.
Sarah and Lily Jenkins, two high schoolers from the island of Molokai, won the 2015 Maui Schools Science & Engineering Fair 5 for their innovative use of GIS, combining their love for technology and the environment into a dynamic project aimed at tracking the growth of the mangroves. The girls, a high school sophomore and senior, used GIS analysis of aerial imagery, historical maps and coastal surveys to determine the extent to which the red mangroves migrated onto the shore of Molokai.
Through detailed mapping, the sisters learned that mangrove has invaded 66% of Molokai’s ancient fishponds and fishtraps and will, in the next century, overtake 35.67% of Molokai’s fringing reef. The reef provides multiple goods and services to the island of Molokai, including sea glass, 280 different species of fish and 10 species of reptiles. The reef also provides ecosystem health, wetland protection and resources that make important tools like fishing nets. This information inspired Lily to plan to create a nonprofit that would raise money to aid in the removal of the invasive red mangrove.
The sisters demonstrate that GIS has uses that are tangible and important—whether you’re a municipality worker or a high school girl who loves the island she calls home. Their full report is here!