Shippensburg University will share in a three-year $750,000 NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) grant.
Shippensburg will receive $60,000 of the total amount and will partner with the University of Maryland and the USDA Forest Service to conduct research to help protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Dr. Claire Jantz, associate professor in the geography and earth science department and a co-investigator on the project, said the research involves mapping and monitoring of wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and then interpreting the results.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and the federal Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as an impaired waterway so there is an urgent need and federal mandate to improve the water quality, she said. In addition, the Chesapeake also has the world’s largest land to water ratio (14:1) “which means that what happens on the land greatly impacts the bay.”
“One of the biggest objectives of this research is to try to improve wetland maps for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, then look at what parts of the watershed may be vulnerable to development, farming and sea level rise.”
The wetlands maps will be of particular value to local officials as “there are not a lot of good maps of where they (wetlands) are located.”
According to Jantz, “sea level rise is a tougher issue to deal with, but development pressure and pollution from farming, these are things that decision-makers can address through better planning.”
The research will use optical imagery and radar imagery from NASA satellites. Radar imagery is very important to the process because it can detect moisture in the soil, she said. NASA continually collects a tremendous amount of data and the researchers will access and process the data to complete their task.
Jantz will take the completed maps, assess them and interpret the information. “We will be providing data products and interpretations that should help with management decisions,” said Jantz, adding that the information they collect will be presented at conferences and meetings at which decision and policy makers attend so the information will reach those who make decisions that can have a positive impact on the Chesapeake Bay.