Mapmakers Improve Conservation

Jazmin VarelaQ & A With Jazmin Varela

Fund staffer Jazmin Varela works as our Strategic Conservation Planning Information Manager. She explains how GIS mapping can improve conservation efforts. 


Q: How does the Fund use Geographic Information System (GIS) technology?

A: We can craft high-tech “snapshots” of land for planning purposes. Near Houston, for example, we’re using detailed elevation data to identify remnants of coastal prairie scattered within other landscapes. These prairie fragments are critical for the endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chicken.

Q: How has this technology surprised you?

A: I’m amazed at how powerfully maps tell stories. In South Carolina, we created a window into history by documenting the concentrations of land still held by family members with no clean title, a legacy of the post-Civil War period that disproportionately affects African-Americans.

Q: What new trends are emerging?

A: We’re using a whole suite of tools to improve conservation. We can monitor a forest with regular flyovers, versus trudging through to measure the canopy. We also can plan ahead for development impacts by evaluating possible conservation actions early. Thanks to these tools, our work is getting ever more strategic. It’s an exciting time.