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Students in Dr. Christine Ambrose’s Conservation Geographic Information Systems class at Thomas University and others get ready to take a field trip down the Ochlocknee River in November 2016. Participating in the excursion are (from left) Dr. Christine Ambrose, TU professor; Vicky Redden, member of the Ochlocknee River Water Trail; Georgia Ackerman with Tall Timbers Red Hills Awareness; Knox Miller, TU student; Margaret Tyson, Chair of Ochlocknee River Water Trail; James Clutch,TU student; Seth Stanaland, volunteer; Daniel Stanaland, TU student; Brittany Harris, TU student; and Braxton Hicks, TU student. 


Thomas University GIS students to be featured on WFSU-TV

In the fall of 2015, a group of Thomas University students in Dr. Christine Ambrose’s Conservation Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class took a data collection field trip down the Ochlocknee River in preparation for a Hidden Gems Paddle event.

As the students charted the river, noting areas clogged by fallen trees as well as a spring and beds of mussels, WFSU-TV producer Rob Diaz de Villegas filmed their trip. That film will be featured on April 7 as an installment of WFSU-TV’s “Roaming the Red Hills” series featured on the show “Local Routes.”

The field trip was part of a bigger project that began a few years before.

Dr. Christine Ambrose, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Geospatial Analysis Planning & Preservation (GAPP) Lab, had been looking for a way to work with the Ochlocknee River Water Trail (ORWT) group founded by Margaret Tyson, a TU adjunct professor in the graduate program in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling.

ORWT group members were working with the Georgia River Network, an organization committed to advocating for and promoting Georgia’s rivers to establish a recognized public water trail on the Ochlocknee River in Georgia.

Ambrose, who provides hands-on real world assignments for GIS students, had an idea. In the fall of 2014, her students began working on the ORWT project. Taking the lead was student Amanda Lanphere, who graduated in the spring of 2015. She turned the project into an internship in which she mapped launch/access points, wrote descriptions of, and photographed the access locations along the Ochlocknee.

Lanphere wrote a detailed report and entered the information into the Georgia River Network’s online interactive database. Anyone visiting the GRN website can now access the information about the Ochlocknee River, which provides opportunities for visitors and ecotourism in the area.

In the fall of 2015, Ambrose’s new group of students in the Conservation GIS class continued the ORWT project by collecting and entering more descriptive data about the river, such as its bridges and other nearby areas that might attract visitors. Then the group started focusing on the GRN’s Hidden Gems Paddle that would include people from across the Southeast who came together in November 2015 to paddle down the Ochlocknee River.

That’s when the students took the field trip along the river to prepare for the Hidden Gems Paddle event. The students’ work kept visitors from encountering any unexpected obstacles along the route. The students also created maps for the event and placed them online so visitors would also know about the stops for lunch and for presentations by guest speakers.

“The Ochlocknee is a very challenging body of water to paddle because of its highs and lows,” Ambrose said. “It is a wild river.”

Now their efforts will be shared on WFSU-TV at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7.

The entire “Roaming the Red Hills” film series will be shown at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, in the Flowers Foods Executive Classroom inside Smith-Bonvillian Hall on TU’s Main Campus.  The event will also include an introduction by Diaz de Villegas as well as a panel discussion afterward. The event is sponsored by Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy.

Education that Engages... Empowers... TRANSFORMS

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