Washington Students Make a Splash in State and National Competitions

Despite their protected status as an endangered species, the Southern Resident Orca Whale (SROW) population is in decline. The SROWs, distinct from other orca species in biology, behavior, and diet, spend much of their time in the Puget Sound, though conditions have continued to deteriorate and their survival is under threat.

Using data from NOAA, The Whale Trail, and other sources, Lake Washington School District students Siddhant Porwal and Druhin Bhowal brought awareness to this critical issue through state and national ArcGIS mapping competitions.

“Our submission to ArcGIS’s online competition was short and sweet — it was about the critical issue of Southern Resident Orca endangerment, something which is not only a potential ecological catastrophe but also a cultural one,” said Bhowal.

Endangerment: As a result of critical levels of noise and light pollution, food system collapse, and generally unfavorable conditions, nearly all of the Puget Sound and the surrounding regions has been declared “critical”, meaning that the current state-of-being is not conducive to the survival and prosperity of the Southern Residents.

ArcGIS is a mapping program that helps users better visualize data by associating it with a particular location. Through Esri’s annual ArcGIS Online Competition for U.S. High School and Middle School Students, students have an opportunity to use ArcGIS geospatial software to map important events in their communities.

“Analyzing factors ranging from dietary changes to seafaring vessel pollution, the project provides motivation for further conserving the orca, providing insight as to how Washington state helps in the orca’s recovery,” the students said. “The project also displays vivid maps that pinpoint the orca’s range, their prey’s range, and the extent to which humans have affected their seas.”

Want to learn more? Check out Giants of the Puget Sound: The Southern Resident Orca Whales. Congratulations to Siddhant and Druhin for their work on this project!

Are you interested in entering or putting a team together for 2023? Learn more about the ArcGIS Online Competition for US High School and Middle School Students on the Esri website. Questions can also be sent to the state leadership team.

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The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

Led by Supt. Chris Reykdal, OSPI is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state.