Who says that Washington College GIS Lab doesn’t like a challenge? Led by Research Consultant Thomas Pierson and Journeymen Leader Erin Bloodgood, the Program has employed over thirty students working hard on the monumental task of mapping every structure in the New York and West Virginia counties that drain into the Chesapeake Bay. The team, including Quality Control Leads Leon Newkirk and Taylor Blades, is reviewing three hundred ArcGIS maps across twenty-one counties in New York State and eleven counties in West Virginia. Pierson said, “I’ve been sailing the Chesapeake for over thirty years, and I thought I knew her but I never realized the watershed went into so many counties of NY and WV.”
In New York alone, this adds up to more than 2 million buildings. By undertaking such a project, they are providing assistance to the Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit organization in Annapolis, MD, in a groundbreaking effort to create high resolution land cover for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Land cover is spatial information about a landscape often generated by categorizing features that are visible in aerial images. Example land cover classes include “Water,” “Tree Canopy,” “Roads,” and as Washington College’s GIS team knows all too well, “Structures.” Motivation for this project comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This year, the EPA is responsible for updating their pollution contribution and reduction models as part of the Chesapeake Bay’s Total Maximum Daily Load legislation requirements.
To that end, government regulators are cooperating with the Conservancy and other subcontractors to push for new, more accurate information about the landscape to enter into the models. The resulting data will be a vast improvement over the current Bay-wide data; with 1-meter resolution, the new land cover product has 900 times the resolution of the alternative. Upon completion in the fall of 2016, this revolutionary dataset will be available, free of cost, to county governments, state agencies, nonprofits, universities, and the public.
In partnership with the Upper Shore Regional Council, interns help maintain the Eastern Shore Harvest Directory to connect consumers with local farms and agribusinesses. The Harvest Directory includes farmer’s markets, bakeries, stables, charter services and more. The Harvest Directory’s aim is to showcase some of the hidden gems that Maryland’s Kent, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties have to offer.
Funded by a grant from the Verizon Foundation and partnered with the Upper Shore Regional Council, the GIS Program has launched a new learning project for area students in grades 7, 8, and 9. The program is called the METS Guild of Chestertown, with METS representing Mathematics, Engineering, Technology, and Science.The aim, says the College’s GIS Program Coordinator Stewart Bruce, is to give young people the opportunity to work with and learn about GIS and other digital technology. “Our goal is to turn STEM education around by providing an innovative, out-of-class environment where students learn by working on real-world projects,” he adds.