Informing Conservation Management Decisions Through Technology
Using advanced technology and an aerial platform, CAVU captures, analyzes, and shares data to inform better conservation management decisions.
CAVU is a US public charity helping people create viable solutions for our planet's scarce resources.
CAVU in Action!
News at CAVU
May 01, 2014
The CAVU/Sea Turtle Conservancy Turtle Survey Team just returned from a multi-day leatherback sea turtle nesting census. Covering the Atlantic coastline from the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border to Colon, Panama, STC researchers were able to locate, count and photo-document Leatherback nests. While flying above the coastline, nesting areas are easily distinguishable by their unique crawls in the sand (as shown in the images left and below). The sections of coastline being surveyed are marked with GPS waypoints, which makes comparing year to year data easy.When a nesting location was noted by the counters, a GPS embedded image was captured to cross reference the sighting. Having a complimentary photo record is a very useful tool to verify the observers remarks. Preliminary population numbers were recored, with one critical beach,Chiriqui, showing more than 700 visible nesting sites. The latest survey was an expanded version of the mission carried out in 2013. The team consisted of Dr. Emma Harrison and Cristina Ordoñez of STC and Capt. Alex Cavaletti and photographer Sean Davis of CAVU. More details will be added soon!
Photo credit- Sean Davis 2014
April 24, 2014
CAVU flights continue to be instrumental in supporting Costa Rica’s Minister of the Environment (MINAET) management effectiveness of protected areas across the country. On a recent flight of the Osa Conservation Area, land managers were able to monitor land use and detect illegal activities. Of upmost importance were the areas bordering the Humedal Térraba-Sierpe, a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance. MINAET officials were able to detect and document destructive practices being carried out. Only visible from the air, the flights uncovered trenching being done by palm oil operations, shrimp farming in the mangrove areas and violations to the protected areas’ buffer zones. Additional areas covered were Parque Nacional Corcovado and the Laguna Pejeperro Wildlife Refuge. Throughout the flights observations were also made of illegal gold mining and forest fires. With the information and photographic eevidence gathered on the flights, MINAET officials are able to immediately take corrective measures to curtail the activities.Taking part in this most recent flight were- Rodolfo Acuña, Geinor Barquero, Laura Díaz, and José María Arroyo of MINAET.
April 17, 2014
Work by GIS experts, is transforming CAVU imagery into analytical data that helps our partners better understand conservation management effectiveness. This recent example takes images collected for our partners at Association Costa Rica Por Siempre, and demonstrates the extent of the typha invasion happening at Palo Verde National Park in Costa Rica. This plant species is choking out native vegetation, decreasing the amount of suitable habitat for waterbird species. Efforts are underway by park managers to eradicate the species through mechanical intervention. In this series of data, typha is denoted by the pink areas on the maps, areas in yellow depict the areas where intervention has taken place.
CAVU and ACRXS are in year two of a multi-year partnership to monitor the park.
CAVU Flights Assist CATIE and Conservation International With Mangrove Assessments in Gulf of Nicoya
April 17, 2014
CAVU flights for CATIE and Conservation International played an important role in assessing mangrove habitat in Costa Rica’s Gulf of Nicoya and Isla Chira. The flights carried Dr. Miguel Cifuentes and Christian Brenes of CATIE, who were using the aerial perspective to visually estimate the structural and floristic composition present in the mangrove area gradients ; useful for the design of field inventory information.
Mangrove forests provide many important ecosystem services: carbon sequestration and storage, reproductive habitat for fisheries, filtration of contaminants and sediments, scenic beauty. In addition, they provide materials and subsistence products to local populations. The objective of CATIE’s research is to determine the economic value of carbon accumulation and other priority ecosystem services that contribute to sustaining the livelihoods of communities around the Gulf of Nicoya, in northern Costa Rica. CATIE researchers will estimate the mangrove ecosystem carbon stocks and their historical changes due to land use dynamics since the 1960s. In addition, CATIE will document the livelihoods of local populations and determine their vulnerability to climate change. This information will help determine the economic value of the most relevant ecosystem services for local communities. Ultimately, the goal through this research is to help promote the sustainable use, restoration and effective management of mangrove forests in the area.
These flights are part of CI’s greater vision and project implementation for Nicoya with key partners such as CATIE and CAVU.
After the flights, Dr. Miguel Cifuentes Jara had this to say, “I’d like to thank CAVU for offering this incredible opportunity. We gained unique insights about the distribution and condition of land use categories along the coastal margin of the Gulf of Nicoya. This helped tremendously with our site selection; it significantly cut the time we would have had to spend scouting for sites via roads or shore access. I was really impressed at how much easier it is to scout for sites and identify land use features from the air.”
January 03, 2014
Happy New Year! CAVU is looking forward to a busy flight season. Our latest newsletter is now on line- click here to learn more about our completed and upcoming projects!
October 11, 2013
On Septemeber 7th, an event was held at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix to launch the Raise the River campaign. Renowned actor and conservationist Robert Redford and dignitaries from United States and Mexico were in attendance to celebrate one of the greatest environmental restoration opportunities of the Century — an ambitious, multi-national effort — to reconnect the Colorado River to its Delta in Mexico.
Raise the River is a collaborative effort among nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and community groups to raise $10 million by 2017 to restore the Delta. In less than a year, they have raised more than a $1 million, and now have a matching grant of $1 million from the Terra Foundation.
CAVU aims to assist in the efforts through scientific overflights to collect important habitat data and to raise awareness through media flights.
To learn more about the campaign and how you can make a real difference, please contact us for more information and visit the links below.
Photos by Dora Gro/Diana Reed & Daniel Swadener
June 05, 2013CAVU is deeply saddened by the death of dedicated biologist and sea turtle advocate, Jairo Mora Sandoval.Jairo was truly an inspiration, fighting valiantly for the protection of sea turtles. CAVU extends our deepest condolences to Jairo’s family, friends and colleagues.
May 28, 2013
CAVU and Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC, Formerly Caribbean Conservation Corporation) have renewed efforts to carry out annual nesting surveys along the Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica and Panama. Beginning at the border with Nicaragua this multi-day survey covered the entire coastline ending at the Comarca Ngöbe-Buglé, Panama. Data from this survey will help to assess population and nesting beach preference. Preliminary review of the data from April 2013 suggests that approximately 200 leatherback nests were recorded by the two observers (Dr. Emma Harrison – STC and Luis Fonseca – WIDECAST). After the flights Dr. Harrison noted- “It is really important for sea turtle biologists to view things on a regional scale, not focus solely on trends at individual beaches. The aerial surveys are one way of adopting this more regional perspective; which can be hard at times when working at one specific location within the leatherback nesting range. However, only by regarding this entire coastline, from Nicaragua down into Panama, as a whole can we start to make more informed conservation and resource management decisions, which will ultimately ensure the future survival of this critically endangered species.”
May 24, 2013
In Panama, CAVU is currently working on a bi-national mapping project, in partnership with the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment (MINAE), to survey mangrove and reef habitats at the San San Pond Sak and Gandoca –Manzanillo areas on the Caribbean coast. The imagery will be delivered to the Smithsonian for data interpretation and the creation of land classification maps.
May 22, 2013
CAVU has recently completed the first phase of a five-year project to collect aerial imagery of Palo Verde National Park in Costa Rica’s northern Guanacaste province. The wetlands of Palo Verde are recognized under the RAMSAR convention as a wetland of international significance. Working in partnership with SINAC (The System of Protected Areas) and Forever Costa Rica, a non-profit conservation organization, aerial data was collected to identify and assess the extent of an invasive plant species Typha (cattail) that is choking out native vegetation and impacting water bird species in the park. Data collected on the flights will help SINAC form a comprehensive management plan to eradicate this threat.
May 21, 2013
CAVU has a longstanding alliance with Conservation International working to establish and monitor Responsible Fishing Areas in Costa Rica. Ongoing assessments of the country’s marine resources are an integral component to insure national fisheries remain productive and healthy. Flights carried out earlier this season provided a platform for representatives of several international NGO’s to document and view the areas currently under management as RFA’s. Additional flights will be conducted throughout the year.
CAVU Acquires Cessna Turbo 206 Aircraft Equipped with Custom Technology from SkyIMD and Red Hen Systems
May 02, 2013
Using advanced geo-referenced vertical photography and high tech mapping, CAVU will document the health of critical ecosystems in North and Central America.
San Jose, Costa Rica – CAVU (Calm Air Visibility Unlimited), a US Public Charity dedicated to helping save critical ecosystems, has acquired a new aircraft, the latest model Cessna 206 (Turbo 206H) and has recently completed a number of special, mission-specific modifications, including a SkyIMD SkyDSLR camera mounting system and specialized geo-referencing equipment from Red Hen Systems Inc.
“Purchasing this aircraft is a huge step for CAVU. With the ability to measure high elevation glacial recession in the Andes, and also land on unimproved strips in the rainforest, this aircraft enables us to work anywhere, documenting many areas that are unreachable by land. We can provide aerial surveys of wildlife and waterbirds, data acquisition to survey land use, canopy and forest coverage assessment, and detection of runoff and effluent from aquaculture, as well as visualization flights to educate government officials, land managers and media about the issues at hand.” said CAVU President and Founder David Smith.
In the past, CAVU relied heavily on volunteer pilot aircraft for its missions across Central America. The newly acquired, six seat 206 provides a comfortable platform and opens the door for more people – conservation scientists, government officials and journalists – to experience CAVU’s work first hand from the air.
In addition to the 206’s flight capabilities is the aircraft’s custom designed camera pod. CAVU’s Executive Director Michele Gangaware explains, “The FAA approved SkyIMD camera housing, which mounts onto the wing strut of the plane, allows for geo-referenced vertical photography producing high-resolution images of fine details on the ground below. Complimented by equipment from Red Hen Systems, this aerial conservation photography technology will allow high tech mapping and documentation of the health of critical ecosystems.”
The new aircraft and state of the art technology was first used by SINAC (The System of Protected Areas), and Forever Costa Rica, a non-profit conservation organization, to identify and monitor an invasive species of cattail in Palo Verde National Park in the Guanacaste region. CAVU is also partnering with Conservation International on a sustainable fisheries health assessment in the Gulf of Nicoya. In Panama, CAVU will be working on a bi-national project, in partnership with the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment (MINAE), to survey mangrove and reef habitats along the Caribbean coast.
Founded in 2004, CAVU is a US public charity dedicated to helping solve complex problems related to the management and conservation of natural resources. Using advanced technology and an aerial platform, CAVU captures, analyzes, and shares data to inform better conservation management decisions. CAVU believes that when people are informed and engaged, healthy societies and renewable natural resources thrive. For more information, please visit www.cavusite.org.
April 23, 2013
Happy Earth Day from the CAVU Team.
December 21, 2012
As 2012 draws to a close, with CAVU’s homebase now firmly established back in the United States, with exciting challenges and new partners reaching out to us every day, it seems appropriate to take a moment and consider our impressive “flightpath”….
Over the last seven years, CAVU has worked in 9 countries from the United States to Panama. Using advanced technology and our aerial platform to capture, analyze and share data, our flights in these countries have benefited more than 150 partner organizations.
Our partners have come to rely on CAVU’s geospatial referenced mapping to support on-going conservation initiatives, while governmental and scientific institutions look to CAVU to provide critical data needed to form management plans, conduct scientific research and track land use change. A noteworthy example: Stanford University and the Natural Capital Project are utilizing CAVU’s aerial imagery to inform a database of coastal communities in Belize. The NatCap project is partnering with the Belizean government on the creation of a comprehensive coastal management plan.
CAVU has also created 14 films and educational outreach campaigns. In Belize and Costa Rica, four of CAVU’s films have been distributed to schools via the Ministry of Education. CAVU’s film “Higher Ground,” about the complex threats facing Florida’s coastline, continues to be used on a daily basis by our partner Sea Turtle Conservancy. We are actively pursuing new social media outlets.
Looking to the months ahead, we are continuing work with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) on assessing and documenting coral reef and mangrove habitat loss in Panama’s San San-Pond Sak Wetland Reserve and Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge; with the Costa Rica Forever Foundation mapping and monitoring wetlands in Palo Verde National Park; and in an exciting new opportunity, we have been asked to assist Wildlife Conservation Society scientists in monitoring climate change in the Northern Andes of Peru.
We are equally enthusiastic about reinvigorating our presence here at home. We were honored to be invited to Sundance last month to join a small group of conservation leaders working on the restoration of the Colorado River Delta. It was gratifying to hear a number of these influential leaders express the belief that CAVU’s unique skill-set could be a critically useful component in this campaign. Furthermore, it seems likely in the near future CAVU will have the opportunity to become involved in the Gulf Coast restoration efforts. To contribute even in a small way would be meaningful.
In closing, we are grateful to see CAVU’s services increasingly in demand. To meet the current challenges, it is critical that we invest in our organization’s infrastructure, and to do that we need your support. A donation to CAVU will help us invest in the necessary staff and technology to continue meeting conservation challenges at home and abroad. I would be happy to discuss the specific, measurable impact of your donation via e-mail or telephone. Please do not hesitate to contact me. And on behalf of our small staff and dedicated volunteers, may I extend our appreciation for your interest, and our best wishes to you all for joyous holidays and a safe and happy New Year.
With warm regards,
David S. Smith
December 10, 2012
Check out CAVU’s work in our new brochure. Lean about our capabilities and cutting edge technology for geospatial data collection and imagery!
December 10, 2012
History was made recently with the signing of a binational agreement. Read More
November 21, 2012
CAVU was honored to participate in a 2 day summit hosted by the Redford Center at Sundance Resort in Utah. The focus of the meeting was to bring together groups working on restoring the Delta and create a plan of action to save this resource. What an amazing group of people working on this exciting initiative!
Stay tuned for some really exciting news soon!
September 21, 2012
CAVU uses its sophisticated aerial platform to save critical ecosystems in the Americas.
CAVU is a specialist in the acquisition of aerial photography, the processing of geo-spatial imagery and the creation of high quality digital imagery products. By investing in the latest technology, CAVU ensures the quality, accuracy and consistency of its aerial photographs.
In addition to data acquisition, CAVU flights provide a platform from which to educate members of the media, governmental officials and land managers about the issues at hand. The aerial perspective provides an unparalleled view of our landscape and serves as a valuable tool in understanding long-term management needs.
Click the images below to learn more about our projects!
July 10, 2012
The Bay of Panama lies in the shadow of Panama City’s imposing skyline, but remains one of Central America’s little known treasures, providing habitat for nearly two million migratory shorebirds. Designated a Ramsar wetland in 2003, the area encompasses an enormous expanse of mangroves and mudflats that provide food and cover for a fantastic variety of shorebirds, many of which fly as many as 20,000 miles roundtrip from pole to pole during their migration. The significance of the Upper Bay’s habitat led the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Network (WHSRN) to declare the Bay Central America’s most important site due to the astounding number of migratory shorebirds that rely on its ecosystems.
Recently, the area has been left vulnerable by a supreme court ruling that lessened the wetland protective status of the Bay. CAVU’s partners, Panama Audubon and Fundación MarViva along with other NGO’s in Panama are working to challenge this directive and suspend the ruling.
CAVU remains committed to saving the Bay of Panama and continues to support the work of Panama Audubon in its efforts to protect this internationally important resource.
June 18, 2012
Since 2008, CAVU has been actively supporting the work of Costa Rica’s Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo (TAA) through regular overflights.The flights utilize GPS embedded aerial photography to positively identify projects of environmental concern such as illegal logging, land use change, mangrove forest destruction, dredging and waterway diversions for agriculture production.
This report highlights the most recent work undertaken by the TAA, focused on the Osa Peninsula, with particular attention paid to the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve, Drake Bay, Los Mogos and the Sierpe Térraba Wetlands, an important RAMSAR site. CAVU continues to play a pivotal role in ensuring the TAA has the needed resources to continue its important work protecting Costa Rica’s biodiversity.