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Junior designs app for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

January 27, 2021

University of North Georgia (UNG) student Catlin "Cat" Corrales has always been interested in water conservation. So she jumped at the chance to intern with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK) in summer 2020.

CRK employs various strategies to protect and preserve the Chattahoochee River, its lakes and watershed. Its mission is to educate, advocate and secure the protection and stewardship of the Chattahoochee River, according to its website.

"I got immersed in the organization," said the junior pursuing a degree in environmental spatial analysis. "I got a feel for how they worked and used GIS (geographic information systems)."

Corrales' internal knowledge of CRK led her to turn a class project into a real-world application for the nonprofit. During the fall 2020 semester, Corrales developed and designed a GIS app for CRK's Neighborhood Water Watch program.

"The app would allow volunteers to physically visit different areas of the Chattahoochee River waters and use their smartphone to drop a location pin," Corrales said. "Volunteers would collect a water sample and the app would store information about the site where it was taken."

Dale Caldwell, director of CRK's Headwaters office in Gainesville, Georgia, said the app will save time and effort for volunteers with the Neighborhood Water Watch. The fast-paced, community-driven collaborative program has Chattahoochee basin residents bring water samples from nearly 200 stream stations to CRK's laboratories. The goal is to assess and improve water quality in urban, suburban, and rural streams, while protecting human health in neighboring communities.

Caldwell looks forward to putting the app to use in 2021.

"When I am out and about, I might cross a bridge over a creek and think it looks like a good site for water collection," said Caldwell, part-time faculty of environmental studies at UNG. "But then I will look at the road and realize it's not safe."

He then can launch the app on his smartphone and capture data about the site being easy, moderate or unsafe to access.

"Instead of volunteers investigating a site, I can do the assessment," Caldwell said. "Then when volunteers call and ask to help with water collection, I can provide them specific details."

Corrales said she was pleased to use her GIS skills to construct a useful product for CRK.

"This was a real-world application that is for an organization that conducts vital conservation efforts and protects our local waterways," she said. "I'm very interested in water conservation, and that made what I was doing important."

Caldwell said Corrales was a great student to work with on the project.

"She was a great listener and an intelligent student," he said. "We are really happy with the app."

For more information environmental spatial analysis and GIS, visit UNG's Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis website. For information about water conservation, visit CRK's website.

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