Educator Spotlight: Cary Chadwick

Bringing Geospatial Science and Technology to Communities

Cary Chadwick instructs students at an NRCA programCary Chadwick is an Associate Extension Educator focused on geospatial science and technology at the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), part of UConn Extension. She joined UConn in 2006. Cary coordinates the Geospatial Training Program (GTP) at CLEAR.

The GTP provides hands-on training in geospatial technologies for a broad range of audiences including municipal officials, state agencies, non-profit organizations, private sector firms, and educators representing both K-12 and higher education. These trainings teach individuals how to use technologies including geographic information systems (GIS), GPS and field data collection applications, and web mapping tools to improve workflows in their organizations and make better informed decisions in communities across the state. Workshops range from one to three days and are often tailored to meet the needs of various stakeholders.

One example of this is showcased in the way that CLEAR supports Connecticut’s many land trust organizations, providing training to the CT Land Conservation Council and others to increase the use of geospatial technology in land conservation and stewardship. GTP’s hands-on training on accessible technologies have helped various land trusts establish mapping protocols within their organizations.

Whether it’s using smartphone GPS to create trail maps and increase public awareness of their holdings, or GIS to locate and document property boundaries and encroachments, land trusts are just one of many sectors that are now leveraging geospatial technology to improve the way they manage their resources.

Another of Cary’s long-term program areas involves working with youth and community volunteers. In 2011, Cary was part of the team that created UConn’s award winning Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA). The NRCA has since grown to include three innovative programs that teach geospatial technologies along with conservation science to connect high school students, adult volunteers and teachers with conservation efforts in communities across the state.

“I think the most rewarding part about being an Extension Educator is getting to work with people from across the age spectrum,” Cary states. “We all have something valuable to contribute and I have personally learned so much from working with both youth and older adults.” The NRCA is a collaboration of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE), the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, the NEAG School of Education, and CLEAR.

Cary also works to support the geospatial capacity of other CLEAR and Extension programs. She actively works with the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) team to provide geospatial data, maps and technical guidance to support outreach for communities facing new stormwater rules under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) general permit.

Cary supports Connecticut Sea Grant and the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture programs through the development of the Aquaculture Mapping Atlas and the new Recreational Shellfishing app, tools that provide access to data to support aquaculture permitting, management and recreation across the state.

Additionally, Cary developed the Fish Community Viewer for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Division of Inland Fisheries, an interactive viewer that provides current and historic counts of freshwater fish and macroinvertebrate species across the state. These viewers, along with a plethora of additional data, maps and information is available to the public on the Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online (CT ECO) website, a partnership between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP aimed at providing access to statewide imagery and natural resource data. CT ECO is a unique and valuable resource for Connecticut, with almost every sector across the state relying on the site for data.

An area that CLEAR is expanding on in 2020 is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones for both teaching and research. Along with faculty from NRE, as well as other Extension and CLEAR faculty, Cary has been actively involved in the newly formed Advanced Remote Sensing Imaging & Analytics Lab (ARIAL) at UConn. This group hopes to integrate UAV technology into various Extension programs in the near future. Several pilot projects are currently underway.

Cary’s passion for geography and GIS has grown as fast as the technology itself, and she enjoys the challenge of keeping pace with emerging technology. Cary is an active member of the CT GIS Network; a volunteer group of GIS professionals representing all sectors of the industry and has served on the Network’s Steering Committee for five years as both the Vice President and the Education and Outreach committee chair. She has organized several CT GIS Day conferences, coordinates the annual CT Maps Competition and is a registered GeoMentor with the American Association of Geographers, providing support to K-12 schools, teachers and informal education groups to introduce GIS and geographic concepts to students across Connecticut.