GIS at Dickinson College

GIS News, Events and Student Work blog

Category: Student Work (Page 1 of 5)

BairdFellows   cropped

Congratulations to GIS students, Chloe and Tabea


Advancing Sustainability

the 2014-15 baird fellows

2014-2015 Baird Fellows


Photo by Carl Socolow ’77.

2014-15 Baird Sustainability Fellows announced

Now in its third year, the Baird Sustainability Fellows program recognizes Dickinson seniors who have advanced sustainability goals through their scholarship, leadership and service efforts. Named for Spencer Fullerton Baird, a prominent 19th-century naturalist and Dickinson alumnus, the program this year brings together 12 students for collaborative projects and research to help create a sustainable world. Read about Chloe and Tabea’s missions below.

Chloe Miller, Archeology and Anthropology Major

Chloe Miller, 2015 Baird Sustainability FellowChloe Miller ’15


Chloé Miller is double majoring in archaeology and anthropology. Sustainability not only plays an important role in her academic fields, but also in her personal life. Raised in a Catholic and Native American household, she believes it is her responsibility to help return balance to the Earth for the sake of future generations. Chloé’s unique upbringing has guided her academic pursuits to understanding the dynamic, synergetic relationship between anthropogenic forces, human biology, and the natural landscape.

Her interests have taken her all over the world, from the Altiplano of Bolivia to Transylvania, Romania. While in Bolivia with Dr. Maria Bruno and Dr. Christine Hastorf, Chloé saw how past human interactions with the environment have evolved into the agricultural practices of contemporary highland farmers. She also observed how Bolivian politics, social inequalities, and the high global demand for quinoa is negatively impacting these farming groups. In Transylvania, Romania, she participated in a communal archaeology project that involved collecting information about medieval churches once forgotten by the Székely people, a long-existing Hungarian ethnic minority. Seeing this loss, which was the product of socioeconomic and political forces, first hand has inspired her to apply for a Fulbright Research Grant. She plans to return and provide support through complementary research about the historical relationship between pre- and post- Christian traditions among the Székely by using bioarchaeology and mortuary analysis.

On campus, Chloé works as a GIS intern where she helps Facilities map and analyze different aspects of the Dickinson campus and sustainability projects. She also helps the Classics Department cultivate a sense of cultural sustainability by spreading awareness of classical Greco-Roman culture as the Classics House Manager and as a Latin Club Teacher.

Chloé believes that a biocultural approach to understanding the human condition is a unique and understated aspect of sustainability, so she is excited to bring this to the colloquium. She hopes to represent a different perspective of sustainability that recognizes the need to not only understand how humans are affecting the environment but also how we our affecting ourselves.

Tabea Zimmermann, Environmental Science Major & French Minor

Tabea Zimmerman, 2015 Baird Sustainability FellowTabea Zimmerman ’15


Tabea Zimmermann is an Environmental Science major with a minor in French. In her time at Dickinson, Tabea has participated in many opportunities that have shaped her view of the natural environment and how humans use and value it. Her work at the college farm and with the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) served as foundations for two different study abroad experiences. Last year, Tabea spent a science-intensive semester in Cape Cod, MA studying the biogeochemistry of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems with the Marine Biological Laboratory. In the spring, she replaced her lab coat and safety glasses with sandals and a camera as she explored the culture and society of Cameroon. Here it became apparent that sustainability is just as much a factor of a people’s history, economy, and culture and it is about the natural environment surrounding it.

At Dickinson, Tabea is studying how different lakes have responded to environmental stresses such as climate change and atmospheric deposition and which lakes will be most sensitive to future disturbances. When she’s not happily buried in science, Tabea enjoys running with the cross country team, tooting her oboe, and reconnecting with friends. She’s looking forward to collaborating with a diverse group of students and having time to reflect on her recent experiences while continuing to evolve her understanding of sustainability and what it means to be an engaged member of her local and world-wide communities.

To read more:


Temperature- Dependent Sex Determination (TSD) of Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta

The project that I have been undertaking during the spring 2014 semester is based on Professor Scott Boback’s research on Painted turtle nesting at a man-made pond located in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The specific study site is located at the Hunstsdale Fish Hatchery in Huntsdale, Pennsylvania. The sex of an embryo is temperature-dependent and has a spatially relevant factor as to where nests are located. Nest sites and attempted sites are constrained between a railroad and pond, creating a highly spatially restricted data sample. The data will be geographically and temporally organized and then displayed in relation to temperature readings from a recording device (ibuttons, Embedded Data Systems). There was a set of sixteen active nest sites, which could be correlated to ibutton data based on date and time. Furthermore, an Inverse Weighting Distribution was used within a minimum-bounding rectangle to better interpret the variation in temperature spatially and temporally.

Within my poster, I have displayed the use of Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW) for individual dates to model temperature fluctuations, spatially, within the study site. The July dates were chosen based on any extreme temperature fluctuations during the month of July 2011 that corresponded with extreme displays of temperature depicted by the model among the study site nests. This research is important at a greater scale as this species, along with other temperature-dependent sex determinate species, are very sensitive to overall global temperature changes. If temperature were to rise even by a few degrees, that shift in climate could produce all female offspring clutches and the eventual extinction of the species.

Dickinson Running Routes with Difficulty – Anne Dyroff

The Dickinson College cross-country team has created a large number of running routes in the Carlisle area. Each running route is communicated to new members of the team via word-of-mouth. The problems addressed with this project are the difficulty in learning all of the available running routes through Carlisle, and the lack of knowledge about each route. In order to make the created running routes more accessible, a detailed map of each route has been created. Each map has been rendered to display the difficulty of each section of the route. The difficulty rating is based upon slope gradient and hill length. A hard copy of each map is available in addition to the online accessibility of each map.POSTER2


3-D Map of Vatnsskarð Pillow Ridge Quarry, Iceland

A quarry at Vatnsskarð, which is part of the Krisuvik fissure system in southwestern Iceland, provides exceptional exposures of the stratigraphy and insights into the formation processes of a glaciovolcanic, pillow-dominated tindar. The active part of the quarry is ~0.5 km wide and 0.7 km long, while the overall width of the ridge at this location is ~1.2 km. This project aimed to examine the stratigraphic relationships at the quarry by creating a 3-D map of the quarry using GPS data points and high-resolution photographs collected in the field. Mapping these types of quarry features is useful in that we can learn something about sub-glacial pillow ridge formations. Having a greater knowledge of how these volcanic features are formed can be beneficial to communities that live around areas where there is volcanic activity under glaciers. The creation of an entire ridge from one single event would create significant ice melting and consequently extensive flooding; however, if these ridges are formed from a series of events, then there would likely be less danger to the surrounding communities.

The original objective of the project was drape a GigaPan image of the quarry over the bare map to render a realistic image of the site, thereby facilitating a more detailed and accurate interpretation of the site. Using the GPS point cloud data, a 3-D map of the quarry was created. The GigaPan image; however, was not draped over the 3-D because of difficulties in accomplishing this task in ArcScene program. We also attempted to geo-rectify the GigaPan image, but this also was not successful due to an inability to identify accurate control points in both the image and map. The results of this project would suggest more detailed field mapping must be accomplished in order to super-impose high-resolution imagery over a 3-D map using the ArcGIS toolsets.3-D Map of Vatnsskarð Pillow Ridge Quarry, Iceland

How Diverse are our Trees? An Analysis of the Trees on Dickinson College’s Campus

Urban forests, much like those of college campuses can be unbalanced in species diversity, and richness, which can lead to devastation. By determining these factors and applying a standard guide, the health of the forest is able to be established, and in doing so creating a better way to manage the trees. The standard guide used is the 10-20-30 rule, which says that no more than 10% of the trees should be of the same species, no more than 20% of the trees should be from the same genus, and no more than 30% should be from the same family. The 10-20-30 rule is often used as a standard to determine if the species diversity is acceptable, inadequate, or a possible cause for concern in the urban forest. Dickinson College currently has no reference to the standard of its urban forest. There is also concern of using non-native trees in the urban forest, and if that has a negative impact on the overall forest. The project was started in the spring of 2010 by Mark Scott and Jim Ciarrocca to document all of the trees on campus, so that Dickinson could become an arboretum. This project explores species diversity in eight different sections of campus, the overall richness of the campus trees, the location of the non-native trees, as well as designating location of water accumulation on the campus. Since the start of this project 814 trees have been tagged, and there are 132 unique tree species. Overall the species diversity of the campus is acceptable. There are no trees with greater than 6% of the same species, three are no trees with greater than 18% of the same genus, and there are no trees with greater than 18% of the same family, thus Dickinson’s campus is all within the 10-20-30 rule, and has acceptable species diversity.

This project specifically looked at ways to assist Mr. Scott in managing Dickinson College’s trees. The richness and species diversity were determined using the Marine Geospatial Ecology Toolset, created at Duke University.  Using 3-meter elevation data from USGS, areas of depression were identified, where water would collect on Dickinson’s campus. This was done by filling in the depression using the fill tool, using the raster calculator the original elevation data was subtracted from the filled elevation data, this then gave the depression areas. This information will be used to assist Mr. Scott in making management decisions.


An Analysis of the Trees on Dickinson College's Campus

An Analysis of the Trees on Dickinson College’s Campus


The spatial distribution of weathering on Basse-Terre Island, Guadeloupe


The aim of this study is to investigate the spatial relationship between chemical weathering on Basse-Terre and two spatially varying factors; precipitation and bedrock age. Basse-Terre, the large western island of Guadeloupe archipelago, and is part of the Lesser Antilles volcanic arc in the eastern Caribbean. The island is comprised entirely of andesite bedrock that decreases in age to the south. Six swath topographic profiles were computed using the Matlab script DEM2swath (Gallen, 2013). One swath is oriented North-South, along the drainage divide of the island, and displays an increase in elevation along the crest of the volcanic massif toward more recent volcanic centers in the south. Five West-East oriented topographic profiles highlight the asymmetry of Basse-Terre. Plotting the distribution of K/Ar-dated lava flows as a function of distance along the North-South topographic swath profile reveals that bedrock age decreases at a rate of 0.07 ka/km to the south with an R2  value of 0.89.

Upstream basin area was computed for the 27 sample sites investigated in Gaillardet et al. (2011). Precipitation for the island was interpolated from two sources: six weather stations on the island (Metro France), and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite data. Mean basin-wide precipitation was calculated using both measures. Analysis indicates that the precipitation regime and runoff are asymmetrical. The western side of the island receives less precipitation on average than the east. The cross-island asymmetry observed in the five cross-island swath profiles is attributed to spatial variability in precipitation.

Mean precipitation, chemical weathering and mean stream steepness of each of the basins studied here and by Gaillardet et al (2011) were mapped. These variables were also plotted relative to distance along the North-South swath profile. Mean basin-wide annual precipitation for each of the basins increases to the south and at a given latitude is greater in basins draining the eastern side of the island. Mean chemical weathering rate (Gallardet et al., 2011) is higher in the eastern basins, suggesting a positive correlation between chemical weathering rate and precipitation. Mean chemical weathering and stream steepness both increase southward.  The asymmetric precipitation patterns result in increases in both runoff and chemical weathering in the east. These results indicate that the relief of Basse-Terre is exerting a first order control on precipitation and runoff, and thus the amount of chemical and physical weathering.


References Cited:

GIS_Map_48_36Jerome Gaillardet et al. 2011. Orography-driven chemical denudation in the Lesser Antilles; evidence for a new feed-back mechanism stabilizing atmospheric CO2. American Journal of Science 311(10):851-89r.

Gallen, Sean, 2014. DEM2Swath script. Matlab Tools and Scripts.

Deady Poster

Unmapped Trails in Michaux State Forest

Michaux State Forest provides countless trails for a wide range of outdoor activities. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has worked hard to maintain these trails and provide sufficient information about them so that they are easily accessible and remain safe for public use. Although there are already extensive trails for use, many adventure-seekers have taken it upon themselves to create new trails, causing problems not only for the DCNR, but also for the surrounding environment. With the help of the DCNR, I determined a study area of 2,292 acres within the forest and went into the field to do data collection and find the extent of trails within the given area. While carrying both a recreational and mapping grade GPS, I followed first the known trails within the sector and then cut off and continued down any unmapped trails that I encountered. With the application of an “Analysis Area” of 1,090.45 acres around the 5.33 miles of unmapped trails that I mapped within my study area, I used a predictive model and determined that one could expect to find approximately 417.91 miles of unmapped, and potentially unauthorized trails in this forest of 85,500 acres. The impact of these trails on the landscape could be seen in just the small area that I covered. From here, the DCNR can use the data gathered to make steps towards determining what is unauthorized and how to prevent the further mismanagement of the land by the public. Deady_Poster

Prioritizing Stream Remediation Efforts in Pennsylvania’s Michaux State Forest

Bryan (Poster Final Draft): This project addresses the question of how to most effectively allocate stream remediation measures within the Michaux State Forest. The Michaux State Forest has a wide variety of streams and water trails within its boundaries. The park service realizes that a number of these streams are in need of varying degrees of remediation; however, the park service doesn’t have the resources to address each individual stream in need. As a result, it becomes necessary to prioritize these streams in such a way that the park service may remediate them in the most effective way possible, considering the resources they have at their disposal.
In order to do accomplish this objective, eight testing sites and their respective tributaries were examined. This project was conducted in conjunction with the research of three other students from Professor Kristen Strock’s conservation seminar, Billy Beckley, Matthew Giel, and Arden Baker, who aided in the collection of raw data and the recommendation process.
This project began with the compilation of existing water chemistry and macroinvertebrate data from the park service and Environmental Studies Department at Dickinson College, which came primarily in the form of tables. The aforementioned students addressed any gaps in this data. Existing water trail, elevation, vegetation, and land use data from online sources were then acquired, as well as any other relevant maps or data layers. Once all of this data was compiled, watersheds and watershed components were delineated. After watersheds were established, additional characteristics of the watersheds, such as drainage divides, flow direction, flow accumulation, stream order, etc, were rendered using terrain analysis techniques. In doing so, drainage sub-basins within the headwaters of the Yellow Breeches Creek and Mountain Creek could be modeled.
As a result, this research yielded elevation and relief profiles for the stream origins of highest elevation within the sub-basins of each testing site respectively. The watersheds characterized by the most significant relief were sites one and two within the Yellow Breeches watershed, as well as and sites one and five within the Mountain Creek watershed. Due to the number of similarities between the eight testing sites, macroinvertebrate, diatom, and water chemistry data will be cross-referenced with health standards according to the Robin L. Vannote’s River Continuum Concept, in order to provide further insight into the areas in most need of remediation.

Minichiello Poster

Effective Site Management Using GIS: Using Sophisticated GPS Equipment to Map ALLARMs Riparian Buffer

Minichiello PosterStarting in 2012, the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM), with help from a grant from the Dickinson College Farm, began working to vegetate and manage its own riparian buffer. A riparian buffer is a vegetated area next to a stream or body of water. Usually comprised of native species, riparian buffers promote good overall stream health by stabilizing stream banks, mitigating the negative effects of stormwater runoff, and providing a habitat for stream species. Through extensive research, ALLARMs Riparian Buffer Manuel was compiled to act as a guide for the implementation of a three phase system at the site. As a relatively new resource, accurate maps included in the Manuel are essential to ensure efficiency and ease of off-site use so that ALLARM Stream Restoration Coordinators can effectively plan Phase 2 and Phase 3 while continuing to monitor the overall success of the area.

Through this project, I used survey grade GPS equipment to create sophisticated and updated maps for ALLARMs Riparian Buffer Manuel. Now, each phase is accurately depicted with dimensions in the Manuel. Further, Phase 1 has been updated since the addition of 125 trees to it, thus beginning the historical documentation of the sites progress, and a “Points of Interest” map has been created so that future planners can more effectively design Phase 2 and Phase 3 based keeping site access points and point dischargers in mind.

By: Elise Minichiello ’14


Catchment Basin Areas in Baxter State Park

Understanding upstream catchment basin areas of culverts add to the analysis of both the quality of infrastructure as well as the stream habitat. Mr. Richard Morrill is the Resource Manager of Baxter State Park in Maine and is interested in understanding how the area of the upstream catchment basin of culverts may impact fish habitat. The culverts that were given to me for analysis were ones that the Fish and Wildlife Service determined to be potential fish barriers. In order to calculate the upstream catchment basins, I used the USGS National Elevation Dataset to create stream networks within the park. These stream networks allowed to me utilize ArcGIS 10.1 watershed tools to ultimately calculate the watersheds. Using models have innate inaccuracies because they’re a set of rules and procedures for predicting an outcome. I spent time analyzing and evaluating the tools and data available to determine what would provide me and Mr. Morrill with the most accurate results.

After running the watershed analysis on the culverts, I was able to calculate the area of each watershed and determine what impacts it has on the culverts. Smaller watersheds don’t provide spacious habitat for fish and may not impede on the quality of habitat, but smaller watersheds can have greater impact from the surrounding landscape which could alter the habitat. The next step is to look at more culverts in Baxter State Park and use Amanda Vandenburg’s geoprocessing model that will automatically create watersheds for each culvert. This will help the park staff in spatially being aware of what impacts surrounding landscapes will have on a watershed and what impact the watershed will have on the fish habitat and infrastructure of the culverts.


Historical Barns

Historical Barns: A Study on the Importance of Spatially Analyzing History

Historical Barns

Abstract: I chose to collect location data as part of a case study to show why it is important to analyze history through space as an asset to what is primarily studied in literature, documents, and artifacts. By utilizing place-based learning in history, a whole new dimension to history can be explored, and it is equally important to capture this data before developmental projects take over historical areas. I focused my attention on early American historical barns within Cumberland County, PA, collecting their location data on GPS units as well as attribute data on their foundation material. In this project, GIS is the tool from which spatial data was analyzed, and in ArcGIS I was able to explore one of the many interesting aspects which can be examined through the study of history in a spatial context – barn foundation material in relation to the area’s underlying geology. To conclude, I suggest other areas which can be used in conjunction with spatial data for further research and discuss why studying history in a spatial context is important.




Kochtitzky Bolivia Poster

A Modern Analog to Map the Past: Lake Vegetation of the Bolivian Altiplano

Kochtitzky_Bolivia Poster

Modern Lakes Poopó and Titicaca offer differing shore habitats; however, we can use these different modern environments to help understand ancient vegetative environments of the Bolivian Altiplano. During the summer of 2013, a team of American and Bolivian researchers from the Taraco Archaeological Project collected plant samples and GIS data to gain a better understanding of these lake basins in hopes of furthering the knowledge around past environments surrounding these lakes and how humans previously interacted with the landscape. This project uses collected GIS data to understand vegetation cover, kauchi, Poaceae, and Pennisetum clandestinum densities on the lakeshores near the towns of Rosapata, Toledo, Chiripa and San Jose. This study found that vegetation coverage, Pennisetum, and Poaceae densities are directly correlated with distance from lakeshore, while kauchi displays an inverse relationship with lakeshore distance.


An Evaluation of Harrisburg Street Trees

BurnsHarrisburgThis project aims to provide useful tools in the form of maps to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) tree planting project. The CBF tree planting initiative aims to plant trees throughout Harrisburg to improve stormwater management practices. The Chesapeake Bay has been put on the impaired list and given a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The TMDL limits the amount of nutrients like nitrate and phosphate that enter the Bay ecosystem as too much of these nutrients impact the Bay’s functioning. Since Harrisburg is on a major tributary of the Bay, this TMDL will require Harrisburg to start addressing its stormwater management practices. Since trees provide ecosystem services like water retention they can be a crucial part of reducing the nutrients and pollutants running off the streets of Harrisburg into the Susquehanna River, and then into the Bay. Every street tree in Harrisburg was inventoried. As part of the inventory data was collected on the location of the tree, dbh, age, species, condition, and maintenance required. The maps produced for this project used that data to identify priority areas for street tree services. The service areas include dead tree removal, tree planting, crown cleaning, and priority re-inspection. These maps show hotspots in need of these services. The importance of these hotspot maps is that they can be used to organize maintenance crews internally and volunteers coming to the CBF looking for work.

By: Christine Burns

Vandenburg Poster

Crime Rate Analysis at Hunting Park in Philadelphia, PA

Hunting Park is a community park in North Philadelphia, PA that has a history of crime in and around the park.  In an attempt to mitigate crimes and bring more community members into the park, The Food Trust and The Fairmount Park Conservancy have partnered with the community to undertake a park revitalization.  The master plan was presented in October 2009, and phase 1 began in 2010 and went until 2013.  The Food Trust and The Fairmount Park Conservancy have requested crime analysis to further determine the impacts of the revitalization on the crime rates in the park and surrounding area.

Three types of crime displacement were examined to determine the effectiveness of the Hunting Park Revitalization Project to minimize crime rates in and around the park.  These included geographical and temporal displacement, as well as changes in crime type.  A half mile buffer was established around the park to encompass the park and surrounding community.  Only crimes that occurred within this buffer were accounted for in analysis.  The total number of crimes was graphed from 2006 to 2013, showing a decline overall and an 89% decrease from 2009 to 2013.  Changes in types of crimes were graphed from 2009 to 2013, showing a decrease in prostitution and drug violations, which were prevalent in the park before the revitalization.  A predictive model was created, and a hot spot analysis was completed to show where most of the crimes were occurring and to see if this was statistically significant.  The crime dispersal from the park as well as the eastern and northern neighborhoods is apparent, while there continues to be a crime hot spot to the west of the park.

From analysis of the crime data between 2006 and 2013, it appears that the park revitalization has led to a decrease of crime in the park itself as well as the surrounding community.  The revitalization is still in progress, and further studies are needed to determine how the crimes in the community will change in the subsequent years.  However, this analysis supports the community’s theory that crime has gone down in the park, particularly visible crimes of concern.


McGinn poster

Mapping Access to Fresh Produce, Borough of Carlisle and North Middleton Township



In 2013, a group of community members established The Greater Carlisle Project (GCP) in an effort to increase the sustainability and livability of the greater Carlisle area. The greater Carlisle community has identified eight priority areas where they feel they can better livelihoods including community building, economic development and jobs, food and farms, and housing, health, and human services. One issue that has been brought before the GCP Steering Committee is access to healthy food. While some areas of Carlisle have access to healthy foods, others do not, or at least they perceive that they do not. An area where residents cannot easily access fresh produce, an indicator of healthy food availability, is identified as a food desert.

This study looks at the urban areas of the Borough of Carlisle and North Middleton Township, PA, areas with more than 2,500 people/census tract, to identify if people are living in food deserts, any location that does not have a store that sells healthy food within 1 mile of it. The study finds that less than 0.5 mi2 of area in the study area can be defined as a food desert. Given this information, other factors should be investigated in future studies to understand why people feel that they cannot access healthy food.

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