SCGIS 2013 Scholarship Program


Here you will find information about our 2013 scholars. This group is selected by our chapters in 10 countries and regions around the world. We encourage all SCGIS members to find candidates doing work or needing help relevant to what you do, and to reach out and contact them, introduce yourself, see how you can help them. Those wishing to donate can do so at the official SCGIS site. Scholars Page 1 . Scholars Page 2

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dMr Alejandro Coca Castro, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia
*-Organization full street address (in your local format): Kilometro 17 Recta Cali-Palmira, Apartado Aéreo 6713, Cali
*-Organization full mailing address, if different: N/A
*-Country: Colombia
*-Work phone with country and area code: 57(2) 445 00 00
*-Work fax with country and area code: 57(2) 445 00 73
*-Main email: - Leader of The Decision and Policy Analysis Area (DAPA)
*-Organization Web site URL if any: DAPA - - CIAT -

Environmental and conservation issues have been the focal point of my education and professional background. I am an Agricultural Engineer from the National University of Colombia, Bogotá. Currently, I am working as a researcher in the Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) research area at the International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia. More specifically, I am working as the GIS analyst of the Terra-I project, the first tracking tool in near-real time of habitat loss in Latin America and the Caribbean ( In total, I have around 3.5 years of developed skills and experience in the GIS and Remote Sensing fields.


MAP GALLERY (Click on any map at right)
Deforestation Terra-i data + Airphotos by Glenn in Ucayali Region, Peru (Click here for larger map)

ArcGIS Online Webmapsd

Custom Map Application (new window)d



. I consider it highly important to share my work, experiences and information with my colleagues and the general community. For this reason, I am interested in sharing with the SCGIS community the results of the project in which I am involved. In addition, I would like to obtain specific technical knowledge (database management, landscape tools, cartography and GIS web technologies) that will allow me to progress in GIS and improve the workflow, methods and analysis of my project and future projects. Additionally, I see these events as a chance to initiate the process of opening an SCGIS chapter in my country in accordance with the increasing number of GIS users and institutions which have been turning their technologies towards conservation efforts.

In my current job, I work daily with several GIS and remote sensing tools and data. My tasks include working with the downloading, processing and post-processing of data (HDF, BIN, ASC and ESRI raster and alejandroshape formats) and information (literature) to support the monitoring of deforestation in Latin America and the Caribbean. To process the output data mentioned above, I use tools provided by NASA, ESRI and my own research area. Specifically, I have been working with GIS and remote sensing software with varying levels of familiarity: advanced (ArcInfo), intermediate (ERDAS, ENVI) and basic (GRASS, SPRING, ILWIS). Additionally, I am familiar with the raster and vector libraries of the R software which allow to me to carry out analyses of large GIS databases and also facilitate the performance of multiple statistical tests. To reduce the time necessary for processing steps, my team and I create scripts in programming languages, the vast majority in Java and Python, which allow us to automatize and analyze large data sets. Furthermore, my knowledge in web GIS technologies has been increasing since my involvement with my current job. One aspect of the project is to assist with the visualization and sharing of the output data in two platforms, one made based on ESRI web tools,, and the other one using Google APIs,

The following are some of the outputs of work in which I have been involved:
- identification, quantification and planning of Permanent Protection Areas and Legal Reserves in Brazil,
- GIS analysis to show the artisanal mining impacts on the Peruvian forest -
- Assessing the alarming land-use changes in the Paraguayan Chaco -
- Tracking forests loss on the Guatemala-Belize border -
- Training Bolivian technicians to use the Terra-i tool -

*-What GIS training are you interested in? Although I am performing multiple GIS analyses every day, I think my GIS skills can be increased and improved with the aim of generating more synthesized and streamlined information to users. Firstly, I am highly interested in learning about the management of databases using GIS technologies, as I work with a variety of formats and need to know the best way to organize them.

(Right, Alejandro shares his GIS work on the Terra-i program with colleagues)world

Next, I am also interested in going into detail on the landscape and habitat fragmentation tools that are available in the GIS field. Currently, my analyses go towards identifying the impact of anthropogenic actions in conservation areas and natural ecosystems. However, the output data of my project has the potential to perform well in GIS analyses such as identifying areas with the fastest land-use change during a certain period (including associated drivers), overlapping ecological data to understand the relationship between landscape alterations and the status of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and modeling future landscape change scenarios based on the historical data generated by the tool, among other things. Thus, I need to increase my level of GIS expertise to carry out these kinds of analyses and totally take advantage of the tools’ capabilities.

Finally, although I have been familiarized with ArcInfo tools, the variety of different tools and ways to share the output data (e.g. online GIS technologies) are still relatively unknown to me. Additionally, to advance my GIS skills it would be interesting to learn about cartography and map design tools to produce friendlier and more visually agreeable maps.

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