• Darshini Babu Ganesh

Visiting St Catherine’s Island with teachers and girls from Smith College to fly drones

by Kerry Wallace-Massone

St. Catherine’s Island is one of eight large barrier islands on the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia. The island is 16 km long and up to 5 km wide. It is owned by the Saint Catherine’s Island Foundation and is not open to the public. The research center is set up to promote sea turtle conservation. research and education.

What an amazing few days I spent on this island with undergraduate students from Smith College, Boston and their Professor, Professor Jon Caris, Director of Spatial Analysis Lab. Smith is among the largest women’s colleges in the United States, with students from 48 states and 68 countries. An independent, nondenominational college, it is strongly committed to the education of women.

The girls were flying a variety of DJI Phantoms on missions to map the habitat of sea turtles and tortoise burrows on the island. The girls also mapped a 16th Century mission site that was used to convert the local Guale Indian tribe, who were later mascaraed along with the missionaries. This site was lost to the history books until the rediscovery through remote-sensing in 1981.

The girls were very confident and competent users of both the UAV’s and the mapping software and most enthused about using them for conservation purposes.