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AmboGIS - the Amboseli Geographic Information System
The application of GIS – Geographic Information System – tools provides new and interesting ways of looking at the long-term data of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. (You can find an introduction to GIS at ESRI's GIS primer.)
The image on the right, showing the Amboseli ecosystem, is an example of how GIS can combine data from widely differing sources. The surface topography is derived from data collected from the Space Shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in February of 2000. The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) obtained elevation data on a near-global scale to generate a high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth. Overlaid on that, we have, for example, the Amboseli road network, data collected by the AERP research team driving along the ecosystem roads and tracks with hand-held GPS devices. The middle map zooms out to a scale of ca. 1:300,000 to show most of southern (former) Kajiado District including the group ranches that now comprise the new Oloitokitok District.
Thanks to generous support from ESRI (systems, software and data model development), the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration (operational funds), Vienna Zoological Garden (aerial survey), the US Geological Survey's Goddard Space Flight Center (satellite data), and IFAW (contribution to running costs) a sound basis has been built for mapping, analyzing and planning for elephant and ecosystem conservation at the Amboseli ecosystem in southern Kenya.
Google Earth is one of our growing number of in-kind donors. Access to Google Earth Pro allowed us to construct the right image. It shows the Amboseli ecosystem from the south, looking over Kilimanjaro from an apparent height of 26 miles (42 km) above the ground. The Amboseli National Park extent (150 mi2, 392 km2) is seen in pale green overlaid on the pale yellow range of the Amboseli elephants (3000 mi2, >7000 km2). The international boundary is the yellow line running from upper left to lower right. The two vegetation-covered granitic outcrops seen to the west (left of the image) are Longido in Tanzania and Namanga Hill in Kenya. Beyond them, the edge of the Great Rift Valley is evident. Follow it 300 miles (480 km) to the north, beyond Nairobi, to the dark masses of the Aberdares Mountains on the left and Mount Kenya on the right. The eastern boundary of the elephant range is marked by the line of the forested Chyulu Hills. The brownish patches apparently draped over Kili are sections of high-resolution satellite imagery.
GIS analysis supports a number of our work areas, for example: