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Georgia College Student Develops Water Protection App

Assessing and improving the quality of the Chattahoochee River — which is the water resource in Hall County, Ga. — just became a little easier thanks to an app developed by a University of North Georgia student.

by Kelsey Podo, The Times / February 5, 2021

(TNS) — Assessing and improving the quality of Hall County's water resource, the Chattahoochee River, just became a little easier thanks to an app developed by a University of North Georgia student.

Catlin "Cat" Corrales , who studies environmental spatial analysis, created a geographic information systems platform to help Chattahoochee Riverkeeper plot sites for its Neighborhood Water Watch and classify the location's safety.

Dale Caldwell , the nonprofit's headwaters director, said the program involves volunteers taking samples from local creeks and streams each week. Those water specimens are then analyzed by interns in the organization's laboratory for turbidity, conductivity, optical brighteners and E. coli. Any found threats are then addressed by Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

Although collecting samples may seem straightforward, Caldwell said oftentimes volunteers may visit a site that's unsafe, such as an area near heavy traffic.

Through Corrales' app, he said volunteers and staff can drop a pin and indicate whether or not a place is ideal for taking samples. The platform also gives Caldwell a better idea of where to send volunteers.

"It's going to be tied to our internal map, so when staff or volunteers are out and about, they can use the app to grade the site based on safety assessment," Caldwell said. "If a new volunteer wants to be a part of the program, I can find out where they live and where it makes sense for them to sample in the watershed."

Corrales said her connection with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper began when she interned last summer at the nonprofit's headwaters location in Gainesville. During the fall 2020 semester, she took a data acquisition and management class, which she said equipped her with the skills to develop the GIS app for the organization.

Caldwell said he expects to begin using the app immediately now that it is integrated with the nonprofit's master map.

"I think one of the things I'm most excited about too is furthering our (Chattahoochee Riverkeeper's) relationship with UNG's ESA (environmental spatial analysis) department," he said.

Since childhood, Corrales said she has been passionate about conservation. Growing up, her mother, who is from Costa Rica, taught her about the human-caused threats to the Amazon rain forest and how certain actions can harm the earth.

"It was something that was implanted in me," she said. "I grew up with that in my head."

Corrales said she originally wanted to pursue a career in environmental studies and conservation, but suffered a spinal injury that now limits her ability to walk long distances and carry equipment. When she heard about UNG's environmental spatial analysis program, she said it seemed like the perfect fit.

"It's a great way for me to do the conservation work that I like without having to do the field work I could not," she said.

Once she graduates from UNG with her bachelor's, Corrales said she intends to pursue a master's degree and later work at a nonprofit or conservation organization where she can contribute her GIS background.

For more information about UNG's environmental spatial analysis program, visit

(c)2021 The Times, Gainesville, Ga. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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