By the Salish Sea

Community Mapping Update from Victoria BC

The Geography 380 Community Mapping class students at the University of Victoria have been working on some interesting projects using New Open Green Maps in the last year. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, some with extensive GIS experience and some with almost none. This makes Open Green Map a perfect platform to co-create interactive and community-engaged projects that we can pass on to our partners. The Community Mapping class itself focuses around community-engaged learning, meaning that our students work with one of several partners each semester, matching their mapping skills and theory with the community’s expertise on place. Projects usually stretch over several cohorts of students, allowing the community to engage with a variety of learners and allowing students to bring various perspectives to the project. 

This year we’ve focused our work on environmental organizations – The Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition (SPEC), the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, and the Gorge Tillicum Community Association’s Natural Areas working group, helping to enhance and further watershed knowledge, sense of place, pollinator corridors, community planning, shoreline and ocean health, and community perspectives.

SPEC is a cross-municipality association that is working to create a Bioregional Framework that will help guide land use and planning decisions in the region for the next century. Their goal is to see this framework adopted by the three municipalities that make up the Saanich Peninsula. This region is home to several rural communities, a few village centers, and a spectacular array of marine and terrestrial ecosystems that support trout streams, endangered Garry oak meadow ecosystems, Coastal Douglas-fir forests and some of the most bio-rich marine environments in the world. We even have glass sponges! Students this year are using Open Green Maps to record place-based observations from residents and to engage High School students in “thinking like a watershed.”

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a non-profit marine learning center that features native species aquarium tanks to teach residents and visitors about the marine environment around Vancouver Island. Tanks include a Pacific bull kelp forest with salmon, a rockfish habitat, an octopus called Wanda and several touch tanks that allow children to engage with marine species. Students have been working with Shaw to create a map of shoreline ecosystems that residents can visit in the area, allowing them to connect their learning at the center to nearby parks and public spaces. 

The Gorge Tillicum Community Association promotes sustainability and green infrastructure in a neighborhood adjacent to Victoria, BC. Its residents have a strong environmental ethic and many are members of an urban gardening group called the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers. Laurie Brown, a member of the Natural Areas working group at GTCA, wants to promote pollinator support as a viable way to garden in the Gorge neighborhood, and so asked Community Mapping students to work to educate local residents about the benefits of pollinator species and the plants needed to support them, and to encourage residents to identify their own pollinator gardens on an Open Green Map. This map will help residents build a corridor of pollinator-supporting ecosystems that will eventually stretch from one end of the neighborhood to the other. 

We are thrilled to now engage using the new Open Green Map platform, which will allow for more robust and meaningful engagement with these communities. 

Maleea Acker, Ken Josephson and the Community Mapping Class 

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