Geographic Information Systems

Kevin Stanfield – The new age of environmental research and drones

Posted by | Computer Science, Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Graduate School Highlights, Information Technology | No Comments

IMG_5053Kevin Stanfield just graduated from Hood, with a Master of Science in Environmental Biology, and a certificate in Global Information Systems, and his thesis related to environmental science and the use of drones and computational/remote sensing techniques​.

The thesis, “Developing Methods to Differentiate Species and Estimate Coverage of Benthic Autotrophs in the Potomac Using Digital Imaging,” involved finding a way to use drone imagery to quantify coverage of benthic vegetation in the Potomac River. “When I started my thesis track, I went to each of the professors in the Environmental Biology Department and explained my interest in GIS and riparian ecosystems before asking whether they had any ongoing research in this area.” Dr. Drew Ferrier, Kevin’s advisor, had been looking into quantifying benthic cyanobacteria coverage in the Potomac with digital photography. Dr. George Dimitoglou, Associate Professor in Hood’s Computer Science Department, had been working with Dr. Ferrier on this and other projects and had used drones to look at benthic features in the Potomac the year before. Dr. Dimitoglou was willing to join Kevin’s committee and provide his drones for the project. The committee was rounded out by Dr. Kevin Sellner, a senior scholar at Hood, and a cyanobacteria expert. All three provided an immense amount of feedback and advice for the project. They also brought in many of their friends and professional contacts who provided data, equipment, and input on the research design.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all lent aid in the form of equipment or data. Kevin presented his research at the Western Maryland GIS Users Conference, hosted by Hood on May 18th, 2018. He presented to the National Park Service in late June. “My thesis took almost two years to complete, from my first meeting to my final revisions. It was a difficult process, but I am very happy to have gone through it,” concludes Kevin.

Before starting his Hood journey, Kevin could not decide between Environmental Biology and Geographic Information Systems. Hood College happened to have a program that combined the two, and was also local and competitively priced. “In the end, the decision was easy”, says Kevin. He believes the Environmental Biology program has prepared him well for this field. The incorporation of GIS into ENV shows that the department has current knowledge of what employers and researchers are looking for in program graduates. Kevin will soon be starting a GIS internship with the National Park Service through the American Conservation Experience. During this 34-week internship, he will be mapping the easements and rights of way which cross the C&O Canal National Park and attaching any legal documentation or relevant information to the spatial data.

What advice does Kevin have for both incoming and current students in the Environmental Biology Program? “I would encourage incoming graduate students to make friends with everyone in their program, both students and professors. Not only do you have similar interests, but these people will soon be your professional peers. This will give you a pool of professionals to reach out to if you are in need of work or workers. I would also encourage students who are pursuing the thesis track to choose research that they will enjoy doing, because it will consume your life for a year or two, and it is a lot easier to make yourself work if you are also having fun.”

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Student earns scholarship award for summer internship project

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Jared Tomlin, C’16, a Master of Science candidate in environmental biology, was presented with a scholarship award from Science Systems and Applications, Inc. at a recent event held at the NASA headquarters.  He worked with NASA this summer on a project focused on ecological forecasting. This video gives an overview of the project.

Jared is back at Hood to start work on his thesis, which will examine the effect of riparian zones on flooding in the Shenandoah Watershed.

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Student Works with NASA this Summer

Posted by | Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Graduate School Highlights | No Comments

IMG_90722Jared Tomlin, C’16, a Masters of Science in environmental biology candidate, is working with NASA this summer on a project focused on ecological forecasting.

Tomlin is conducting work as a participant in the NASA DEVELOP Program, which is a part of NASA’s Applied Sciences Program and operates at 13 locations throughout the nation. Tomlin’s project team is working at NASA Goddard Space and Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and partnering with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor and forecast the abundance and distribution of invasive brome grasses in the Northern Plateau.

The brome grasses impair the area’s native grasslands and contribute to a decrease in native species diversity. Understanding the behavior of the invasive species through space and time is key in developing successful management efforts.

“The program functions to give partner organizations, such as the National Park Service, the ability to better understand complex, landscape level environmental questions for decision making by utilizing the constellation of Earth observing NASA satellites, tools and operational support,” he said.

In addition to the years of field data collected by scientists in the area, the job requires the use of Landsat and Terra satellites, both part of NASA’s Earth observations fleet.

Tomlin earned a certificate in geographic information systems from Hood College in May, making him well equipped for the position. The selection process for participants in the DEVELOP program is considered highly competitive.

“Attending the Hood job fair with a résumé in hand to talk to the DEVELOP representative gave me a start, and my adviser was key in helping navigate the process,” he said. “A strong GPA with a background in GIS and Earth sciences, as well as technical ability in programming and design, were key in my acceptance.”

Tomlin learned about many different GIS and remote sensing solutions throughout his GIS course work, and he maintained a focus on environmental biology and climate change.

“The education I received at Hood College was paramount,” he said.

Before pursuing graduate studies at Hood, Tomlin attended Shepherdstown University in West Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and sustainability. He plans to continue his education to earn a doctorate and go on to work at NASA or a similar organization.

Meet Program Directors at Virtual Open Houses

Posted by | Bioinformatics, Biomedical Science, Business Administration, Cybersecurity, Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Graduate School Highlights, Information Technology, International Students, Management of Information Technology | No Comments

Can’t make it to campus but want to talk with top faculty about Graduate School programs?  Six virtual open houses in November 2015 provide online opportunities to do just that.

Meet directors of the Biomedical Science, Environmental Biology, MBA, Management of Information Technology and Information Technology masters programs and the GIS and Cybersecurity certificate programs. Ask questions and get answers straight from the source. Go to the Visit Us page to register for your choice of sessions.

Grad Spreads the Word About Watershed Issues

Posted by | Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Graduate School Highlights | No Comments

ENV Renee BourassaIn 2009, when she started her graduate work at Hood, Renee Bourassa was working as a loan processor for a small mortgage company. The job allowed her the flexibility to take classes at night in order to work towards a new career in environmental science. Later she chose the internship option to complete the program, leaving her day job to pursue an internship at a local organic farm called Fox Haven Farm.

That summer, Renee says, “I worked through the practical applications of the environmental principles I had learned in class, including the importance of riparian buffers, soil conservation and other foundations of organic farming. My master’s project involved testing nutrient management practices to see how they changed nutrient levels in the soil.” As the internship came to a close, Renee took a position at the farm’s education center where she “did a little bit of everything” –  including designing and implementing educational programs for all ages geared towards living a healthier, environmentally-focused life.

These days Renee can be found at the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin where her job is to inform the public of issues concerning the Potomac watershed. “My education at Hood College gave me the background in science and the understanding of ecological systems to translate our work at ICPRB into terms the general public can understand and relate to,” Renee says.

In addition to a master’s in Environmental Biology (2014), Renee earned a GIS Certificate (2013) and a B.A. in Law and Society (2007) from Hood . She and her husband now make their home in Boyds, Maryland.  They expect their first child in January 2016.

Boulton Testifies Before House of Delegates

Posted by | Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Graduate School Highlights | No Comments
April Boulton, Ph.D.

April Boulton, Ph.D.

April Boulton, director of the Hood Graduate School Environmental Biology program, recently testified before the Maryland House of Delegates regarding the issues of science surrounding neonicotinoids and pollinators. Her remarks related to a bill before the House concerning the negative impact of a newer pesticide class (neonicotinoids) on insect pollinators. Dr. Boulton’s extensive background with both native and commercial bee fauna in Maryland led to the invitation to testify.

Michael Takes Soil Conservation Post

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Evelyn MichaelRecent ENV/GIS graduate Evelyn Michael recently accepted a position with the Frederick Soil Conservation District as a soil conservation planner II. Evelyn will be applying many of her ENV/GIS skills from Hood in efforts to encourage landowners to participate in plans to improve water quality and reduce soil erosion.

Her work involves taking inventory and evaluating Best Management Practices (BMPs) through on-site assessment, constructing plans to achieve each landowner’s goals, and promoting practices consistent with District and Maryland Department of Agriculture priorities. She will also determine BMPs eligible for Maryland Agricultural Cost Share funding. Finally, Evelyn’s responsibilities will involve cost share flat rates, certifications, inspections, and periodic monitoring–all in an endeavor to conserve Maryland’s natural resources for future generations.

 

Reception for All New Students: August 20

Posted by | Biomedical Science, Business Administration, Ceramics, Computer Science, Curriculum and Instruction, Cybersecurity, Educational Leadership, Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Gerontology, Graduate School Highlights, Humanities, Information Technology, Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Behavior (Previously Human Sciences), International Students, Management of Information Technology, Mathematics Education and Leadership, Reading Specialization, Regulatory Compliance, STEM Education, Thanatology | No Comments

All students who are new to the Hood Graduate School for the Fall 2014 semester are invited to an orientation on Wednesday, August 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The informal welcome reception, to be held at Whitaker Campus Center, will provide an opportunity to meet faculty, staff and fellow students.

The agenda includes a campus tour, introduction to the bookstore and Apple computer lab, a welcome from Graduate School Dean Dr. Maria Green Cowles, and dinner with the program directors. Get the complete agenda and then RSVP here 

Masters Student Collaborates on Amphibian Study

Posted by | Environmental Biology, Geographic Information Systems, Graduate School Highlights | No Comments

SalamanderA recent collaboration between Hood College and the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources (OSER) examined how different land uses next to county wetlands can have a big impact on amphibian species. OSER collected the amphibian data and Environmental Biology Masters student Evelyn Michael analyzed the data. The research underscored that amphibian diversity is highest in wetlands surrounded by forest buffer.

Amphibians, which help control populations of pestiferous insects, utilize wetlands for breeding during spring and summer. The more amphibian species inhabiting a wetland infers that the ecosystem is healthy and stable.  Amphibians inhabit forests during the non-breeding season and utilize forests as migration corridors to travel to breeding wetland sites. A higher number of amphibian species found at wetlands adjacent to increased forest shows that these ecosystems are providing adequate habitat and migration routes for various amphibian species.