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Sharing the Knowledge

Nickolas Faust, principal research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology (see main article, "Mountain Gorilla Preservation Helps Rebuild Rwanda"), and collaborators at Georgia Tech's Center for GIS, including director Steven French, Paul Beaty, and Subramahyam Muthukuman, spent five weeks in February and March of 2000 teaching two officials from the National University of Rwanda how to use ERDAS IMAGINE and ArcView GIS software.

Of particular interest to the trainees was the condition of the border between Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congo, especially since the Virunga Mountains are situated in this area. The students merged Landsat Thematic Mapper scenes from 1987 and 1999, a Landsat 7 15-meter panchromatic scene from 1999, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery taken by the space shuttle in 1994. The images were rectified using a digital elevation model and terrain data and then combined with ArcView GIS shapefiles to delineate features such as roads and streams. The students also learned classification techniques using five-meter hyperspectral data.

Using GIS and other data, Georgia Tech also created a virtual Virungan environment on its Atlanta campus, using a three-screen projector system that allows visitors to immerse themselves in a three-dimensional simulation.

Zoo Atlanta will play a key role in sharing what the new institute learns as well.

"The zoo is the major vehicle for public education," explains Clare Richardson, president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. "Zoo Atlanta is not only a field research and conservation organization, but it also offers a wonderful education program that reaches a broad population that needs to hear the message of conservation."

Plans call for GIS and spatial analysis technology to be part of Zoo Atlanta's new Willie B. Conservation Center. There, through immersion environments such as those at Georgia Tech, visitors will be able to experience what researchers see in the Virunga Mountains.

For more information about geographic imaging, please contact ERDAS (toll-free tel.: 877-GO-ERDAS [877-463-7327]) or visit ERDAS on the Web at www.erdas.com.

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