Kelly Dobbins - Ecological Modeling Lab

University of Miami, FL

My internship with the Ecosystem Modeling and Spatial Analysis lab (or, simply put, the GIS lab) has truly been a rewarding experience.  I worked for Dr. Don Weller, who is deeply involved in the newly formed discipline of landscape ecology and studies nutrient loading in watersheds.  My lab has recently focused on ground truthing (or recording first-hand, in the field) land use for large swaths of watersheds, such as the Patuxent River and Mattawoman Creek, both of which feed into the ecologically plagued Chesapeake Bay.  And for all of September and part of October, the technician Nancy Lee and I ground truthed areas of rural Maryland, which, we learned, is littered with new housing developments and farms.

The mapping of land use is particularly important in watersheds because of the substantial nutrient discharges that certain land uses, primarily cropland, can pollute into aquatic ecosystems due to runoff.  Broad scale land use maps, such as those generated by the EPA’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Earth Science Applications Center (RESAC), are produced by automated classifications systems that use satellite based images to determine land use/land cover.  The ground truthed data that my lab gathered this fall will aid in assessing the accuracy of such classifications as well as aid in future mapping efforts.

During my internship, I was able to learn a considerable amount about GIS and remote sensing.  It was fascinating.  I was deeply involved in all aspects of my project, while supported all the while by the knowledgeable staff I worked with.

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