Thanks to two University of Lynchburg students and some GPS technology, Camp Kum-Ba-Yah in Lynchburg has a better map of its trails — something useful for staffers, campers, and emergency personnel alike.
A couple of years ago, camp director Tasha Gillum decided the camp needed better information on all of its trails. “Our map was old and archaic,” she said. “Someone had just drawn it on a topographic map.”
She mentioned the need to Dr. Dave Perault, a University of Lynchburg environmental science professor who brings his son to the camp every summer. He teaches classes on remote sensing and geographic information systems, so he immediately started thinking of which students he could put on the project.
“Students are always saying, ‘What can I do with GIS for an internship project,’ so I’m always looking for opportunities so I can line a student up with it,” he said.
Adam Hauser ’20 started the project last year and Taylor Waymire ’19 was the next student to ask Dr. Perault for suggestions on how to get more experience with GIS. “He gave me an opportunity, and I ran with it,” she said. “It was an opportunity to complete a GIS project on my own. It was a lot of fun.”
To create the map, Waymire hiked the trails while carrying a device that recorded the GPS coordinates with every step. She also noted the latitude and longitude for points of interest, such as emergency access points to the trails. She used the computer program ArcGIS to combine that data with information from other sources about the camp property and designed the new, accurate map.
She hit a few snags on the way, but she said that made it a good learning opportunity. “I got to make an amazing map that we finished, and Dr. Perault was an amazing mentor,” she said. “Any time I had a question or was confused, I asked him. I emailed him. We’d meet and go through it step by step to make sure I understood it.”
One day during the map-making process, Gillum saw a fire truck pull into the camp parking lot. Her first thought was, “What’s happened?” A fire department official said he was there to ask if the camp could provide any precise details on access points to the camp, which paramedics would need to respond quickly if anyone suffered a medical emergency while out on a trail. Ironically, just the next day Waymire was going to come with an update on the map.
Gillum said the more accurate map will be helpful for emergency planning, staff training, and providing accurate information about the length of trails. “It’s a win-win for us, for the community as well as for the student experience,” she said.
The project also helped Waymire map out her future. “I wanted to know if I could do this for the rest of my life as my career,” she said, adding that she believes the answer is yes.
In May, Waymire graduated after cramming four years of study into just three. Now she plans to pursue a graduate program focused on GIS technology. “I’m very ambitious,” she said. “I knew what I wanted to do, which was environmental science, and I had an end goal in mind. I just had to figure out how to get there.”