Mapping to Aid Relief in Nepal

September 28, 2015

Kasey Cheydleur

Elizabeth Gilmour ’13 at Mt. Everest base camp
Elizabeth Gilmour ’13 poses while hiking Mt. Everest base camp.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Gilmour

Elizabeth Gilmour ’13 was visiting Nepal before beginning an intended graduate program in seismology and earthquake engineering when the devastating April 2015 earthquake struck. Instead of leaving, Gilmour changed her plans and decided to stay and help in any way she could.

“Most tourists were evacuating, but I couldn't imagine just leaving” says Gilmour, who majored in physics. “I had loved traveling there, and I wanted to find a way to help with the recovery efforts.”

When the earthquake struck, Gilmour was far from the destruction in Kathmandu, and she waited to return until the immediate rescue and recovery efforts were finished. She then searched for ways to get involved with the long-term recovery effort.

At first, she built bamboo houses with the Association for Youth Organizations in Nepal (AYON), and while she says the work was rewarding, she soon found a better avenue for her talents at Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL). KLL uses open-source, collaborative mapping to help earthquake relief efforts by providing organizations like the Red Cross up-to-date maps of roadblocks, health centers, and displaced people. Using geographic information system (GIS) skills she learned while at Oberlin, Gilmour’s project has focused on mapping landslide hazards in part of the Dhading district. She works with a geologist from Tribhuvan University to make maps comparing slope steepness, ground cover, locations of existing ground rupture and landslides, and the locations of settlements. The geologist then uses those maps to make suggestions for evacuation, resettlement, or skipping rice planting during the rainy season when the risk of landslides is highest.

A native of Williamsburg, Virginia, Gilmour says her time at Oberlin has helped her be more conscientious in her work. “Being at Oberlin taught me about the importance of not only trying to help others, but also the importance of doing so thoughtfully, respecting cultures and differences. I try to find ways in which I can use my skills to complement and assist Nepalese organizations.”

Gilmour says her time in Nepal has changed her future plans. Instead of studying earthquake engineering, she is interested in pursuing a career using GIS for natural disaster preparedness and discovery.

You may also like…

Jane Sedlak ’19 Studies the Chemistry of Wildfire Smoke

April 20, 2022

Jane Sedlak graduated from Oberlin College in 2019 with a degree in chemistry and was named the winner of Oberlin’s Nexial Prize. Given to a student who demonstrates academic excellence and an interest in cultural study, the Nexial Prize comes with a $50,000 award, which afforded Sedlak the opportunity following graduation to study art conservation at the Louvre in Paris. She is currently a graduate student at University of California San Diego.
Head shot of Jane Sedlak

The Pursuit of Research and Understanding How the Brain Works

March 15, 2022

David Shostak’20, a native of San Francisco, played four years on the varsity soccer team and graduated with a major in biology, a concentration in cognitive science, and a minor in environmental science. For the past two years, he has worked at a neurobiology lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In fall 2022, Shostak will begin working toward a PhD in neuroscience at the University of California San Francisco. Read more about Shostak in this After Oberlin Q&A.
Head shot of David Shostak

Director Ry Russo-Young ’03 on Filmmaking, Storytelling, and Nuclear Family

January 6, 2022

On September 26, director Ry Russo-Young ’03 released her three-part documentary film Nuclear Family on HBO Max, which follows her landmark custody case that unfolded in the late 1980s. The film is an intimate look into Russo-Young’s childhood growing up as the younger daughter of two lesbian mothers and a paternity suit that threatened to upend their "nuclear family."
Ry Russo-Young takes a self-portrait in the a mirror