A virtual field trip for Environmental Technology students

Peterborough ON – January 20, 2021

Professor Erin McGauley teaches the Applied Ecology course in the Environmental Technology program. Normally, the course begins with a field trip to a provincially significant wetland on Lake Ontario near Port Hope. But 2020 was not a normal year, so Prof. McGauley got creative.

To emulate the rich learning experience from the field trip, she created a virtual field trip using Fleming’s ArcGIS license and ESRI’s StoryMap product.

The resulting StoryMap (https://arcg.is/0Oqe4e) allowed her to:

  • showcase wildlife observations
  • compile air photos for comparison
  • embed a video about wetland boundary delineation
  • incorporate historical information, and
  • include a call to action re wetland conservation

StoryMaps lend themselves to general-interest review, and as a result, she was able to share the link beyond the Fleming community. The result:

  • The StoryMap provided a platform for outreach to the numerous private landowners with whom she has built relationships, and who permit Fleming students and faculty to tromp through their backyards each year.
  • By sharing the StoryMap, she was able to initiate conversations with landowners. She learned about childhood horse-drawn sleigh rides and shinny games on frozen wetland ice, the strong connections between protecting this wetland and the formation of the local Willow Beach Field Naturalist group, and the neighbourly relationships at work in the stewardship of this provincially important habitat. She was also able to share what Fleming students study during their wetland field trip.
  • The StoryMap allowed her to reach out to colleagues at the Municipality of Clarington, one of whom holds the position of GIS Technologist (a Fleming grad). Through her network, she was able to obtain fine-detail elevation mapping and a fly-over elevation video of the Port Britain wetland to enhance the Story Map for next year.

This StoryMap will continue to enrich student experiences as a reference resource, even in years where ET students have had their boots in the wetland muck. It also provides an alternative learning opportunity in instances where students might miss the field trip or can’t attend because of physical accessibility challenges.

Prof. McGauley says that is the best part of this push to pivot to online delivery – it’s not a one-off effort, but work that faculty and students can continue to reap benefits from into the future.

Take a look for yourself! You can access the StoryMap here.