Students from Long Beach State and California State University, Fullerton submitted original maps and photos to CSULB’s Geography Student Association for their second annual map competition.
According to Nick Reynoso, president and a fourth-year environmental science and policy major, the map and photo competition began last year by former club president Valeria De La Mora, and submissions were printed and displayed in the hallway of Peterson Hall.
The department and GSA members wanted to continue with the competition this year, and included a photo competition under the theme “Wildlife.”
Keara Schneider is a third-year sociology major who intends to minor in environmental science and policy. Schneider, who transferred to CSULB this semester, wanted to get involved with this competition because she said she felt disconnected from the university.
“I was thinking about it and honestly with everything going on with COVID and the lack of connection and interaction and opportunities for that, I was like, ‘Well, why not participate?’” Schneider said.
The photo Schneider submitted was an image of a duck in El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach that she spotted while on a walk with her husband. Living in urban areas like Long Beach or Los Angeles county, Schneider said, make it difficult to have interactions with wildlife, making her experience all the more special.
“Animals are almost people too,” Schneider said. “They have feelings, they have preferences. I always feel very honored when I am allowed to get close to a wild animal with its permission, because that’s a trust thing.”
Although Schneider considers photography more of a hobby for her, she said that she uses it as a way to be mindful of her surroundings, preferring taking photographs of wildlife and nature.
“I think that preference just comes from trying to slow down and find gratitude for the natural world when we live so compounded by streets and noise and cars,” Schneider said.
This year, the competition was intended to celebrate Geographic Information Systems Day on Nov. 18, an international day to recognize the value of the technology and demonstrate how it is used in life.
“I feel that people often forget how often we do look at maps in our daily lives,” Reynoso said in an email. “We use maps in presenting the outcome of the election, COVID-19 and wildfires.”
But, Reynoso realized that due to the few submissions the club received, they needed to extend the deadline and reached out to the CSUF Geography Club and Rio Hondo GIS Club to participate.
That is how they found this year’s winner for the map competition.
Kaitlyn Matyuch, a fifth-year geography major with an emphasis in environmental analysis at CSUF, is the president of CSUF’s Geography Club, and was vice president last year.
Her map, which shows the deforestation of Rondônia, Brazil, was created for her GIS class last semester and was a nod to her cancelled study abroad trip in Brazil, which was set for this past summer.
While Matyuch said that she has always been interested in environmental conservation and anything related to tropics, her interest in rainforests was furthered when she took a geography class on tropical rainforests.
Geography, for Matyuch, was a “meshing pot” of majors, from geology to anthropology, and that reason made her pursue it.
“I liked the fact that it was diverse…and in a way it didn’t seem like I was picking just one major, I got to play around with other stuff too,” Matyuch said.
This isn’t Matyuch’s first introduction to CSULB’s GSA.
Matyuch explained that Reynoso had reached out to her earlier in the semester because the club was experiencing low turnouts due to the transition to virtual instruction. She had noticed the same, and the two geography clubs have since been holding combined virtual events for people to attend.
It has worked for the clubs, and their collaboration only aided Reynoso’s goal for the competition and GSA as a whole.
“Putting a map together isn’t easy, and [I] was wanting to give those the opportunity to showcase their work,” Reynoso said. “Like any club, I’m wanting to create a fun environment for like-minded people to engage in, that’s why we also had the photo competition to attract further interest, because one does not have to be a geography major in order to appreciate the subject.”