Ben Cunningham ’16 is using his UMW geography major and GIS certificate to help protect land in Nelson County, Virginia, and beyond. The GIS analyst and community organizer uses drones, photos, videos, and maps to track the progress of the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline to uphold and enforce environmental regulations. The underground natural gas pipeline would go from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. The project is under indefinite suspension due to a federal appeals court’s rescinding of key environmental permits.
As Virginia field coordinator for the pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) program, Cunningham takes footage and plots it in an online mapping system, or GIS. He’s also training resident volunteers to use the tools to monitor and report pipeline progress and compliance. Cunningham began the work while at UMW as an intern with the environmental group Alleghany- Blue Ridge Alliance, which sponsors the CSI.