Conservation body using drone tech to monitor offshore activities, mangroves

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By Vishani Ragobeer

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The Guyana Marine Conservation Society (GMCS), a local environmental body, is training young women, including six youth from Region One (Barima- Waini), to use drones to monitor environmental activities on land or offshore.

Currently, five young women, who are all studying or involved in marine studies, are receiving drone training from a GMCS intern and licensed drone operator Nathan Prince. The group has been practising at the Marriott beachfront area in Kingston, Georgetown.

“This technology could be used to spot any sort of abnormalities in the ocean, for example,” Prince told the News Room in an interview at the beachfront.

The use of a drone means that individuals can stay at the beachfront, for example, to observe some activity farther out in the Atlantic Ocean. Similarly, the aerial viewing provided by the drones would allow the scientists to monitor mangroves in coastal areas.

For Maria Fraser, a young marine scientist who is learning how to fly the drone, the project allows the local environmental group to ensure that the marine ecosystem itself remains unharmed by monitoring the condition of animals. If these animals are harmed in any way, the group would be able to use drone technology to more rapidly investigate what has caused that harm.

“Marine organisms play an imperative role in our food security and the sustainability to our ecosystems

“If a marine animal is distressed it means our ecosystem is in danger,” Fraser says, explaining why monitoring the animals is crucial.

The President of the GMCS Annette Arjoon- Martins explained that such monitoring efforts are all the more important now that there is increased activity offshore because of Guyana’s developing oil and gas and increased shipping here.

Through the use of drones, society would be able to ascertain what threats have emerged and how responses should be tailored. If the organisation receives reports that an animal is in distress offshore, the president said that a drone can be flown out to ascertain what level of response is needed beforehand.

Since there is still a dearth of information on what species exist in Guyana’s marine space, she also said that monitoring efforts would be able to validate data provided to the Environmental protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory bodies.

“We see ourselves doing this as an independent third party monitoring effort but working very closely with governmental agencies,” Arjoon- Martins explained.

When the initial five learners are deemed proficient, the next phase of the project will include training for six young women in indigenous communities in the Region One communities of Imbotero, Smyth’s Creek, Morawhanna and Moruca.

“… they now will, in turn, be trained to operate the drains for the purpose of initially monitoring the mangroves in the Barima-Mora passage where there are no mangrove rangers presently to do that and the intention is for them to be able to monetise that data that they will be collecting,” she explained.

Guyana’s largest intact mangrove ecosystem is found at the Barima- Mora passage in Region One and efforts are being made to establish this site as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Importantly, too, it is expected that this project will eventually be expanded to other young women in other parts of Guyana to aid similar environmental monitoring activities.

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