Location, Location, Location

My research this summer is building upon Medical Aid Nicaragua: Outreach Scholarship’s (MANOS) previous efforts to map the community of Chaguite, Nicaragua. Their data were expansive, but were incomplete and somewhat unreliable. Drawing from a background in geology and environmental science, I believed we could learn so much more about the community’s social infrastructure if we could better understand the underlying geography and distribution of resources in the region. Using the team’s Garmin eTrex 20 GPS receiver, I would need to collect x,y coordinates of every latrine, cistern, and water source at each house in Chaguite. Paired with tracks of paths within the community and house/building locations, I could create a relatively comprehensive map of community resources.

Last summer, I learned the basics of GPS point collection from Pablo Yáñez and Carrie Dolan. Geology professor Greg Hancock also provided guidance on measuring elevation and how to best understand the community’s groundwater table. The direction and velocity of groundwater flow in the community could have large implications for understanding and managing water contamination. Previous research by MANOS team members has revealed that Chaguite’s communal water sources have tested positive for fecal coliform in the past, and therefore would like to have a better sense of latrine location relative to water sources and to know the direction of groundwater flow. To gather the necessary data, we would need to take a GPS waypoint at each latrine and measure the water table level of each well (to the best of our ability). However, due to the limitations of our GPS technology, both Professor Hancock and Mr.Yáñez warned that elevation data would likely be inaccurate.

I was able to finalize an interview schedule in the days leading up to the trip. For each water resource in the community, both public and (hopefully) private, I drafted a brief questionnaire. The questions were short and direct; I hoped to ask them in a language familiar and comfortable to respondents. Translating the questions into Spanish was relatively straightforward, thanks to the help of other fluent speakers traveling with me. After running through it a couple times, working out both the language kinks and my own nerves, the interview took around 10 minutes. I hoped it would actually take that long it the field!