Shippensburg University receives $1 million grant for
Delaware River Basin project
Two Shippensburg University professors recently
received a $1 million grant to create a system for mapping and tracking land
use in the Delaware River Basin, the source of drinking water for more than 15
million people in four states.
Dr. Claire Jantz and Dr. Scott Drzyzga,
associate professors in the Department of Geography-Earth Science, obtained the
grant from the William Penn Foundation to develop a land use mapping, modeling
and monitoring system for the basin. The watershed stretches more than 300
miles from the Catskill Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, encompassing parts of
Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. It provides water resources
for about 5 percent of the U.S. population.
Jantz and Drzyzga and their students are
partners with the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab and the U.S.
Geological Survey on the two-year project. Together they will develop
high-resolution land cover maps, land cover modeling tools and a feasibility
study for long-term monitoring of land cover changes.
“All land is covered by something, be
it a forest, a body of open water, an agricultural field, a 1930s grid-type
subdivision, a 1990s cul-de-sac-type subdivision, an office park or a fleet of
mega-warehouses,” Drzyzga said. “Land covers change over time. By examining
large areas and the patterns created by many small changes, we can see and
describe the processes driving landscape change.”
Current high-quality land cover maps
for the basin do not exist. “A bird’s-eye view of a landscape can tell us much
more than the first impressions we get from drive-by views,” Drzyzga noted.
“The ‘modeling tools’ will be a mix of
existing land use plans, such as zoning and flood plain maps and ordinances;
demographic and economic trends; land cover data; and computer simulation
programs, as well as all the assumptions and principles that underlie them,”
Drzyzga said. “Our experience and tools will help us to provide Delaware River
Basin stakeholders with high-quality information about how basin resources are
being used and how they will likely be used in the future.”
“Despite recent successes with
preservation and restoration, there are still significant challenges facing the
Delaware River Basin,” Jantz said. “Many waterways still do not meet the stated
goals of the Clean Water Act to be fishable and swimmable. Population growth
and associated land cover changes, including an increase in gas drilling, are a
concern for water supply and water quality. Climate change brings the potential
of sea level rise and more extreme droughts and flooding.”
Equally important as mapping existing
land cover and developing tools for projecting future land use is tracking
changes over the long term. The results of the SU project will be shared with a
number of groups whose work impacts the basin.
“The data ultimately will be
disseminated to scientists who are working to understand the hydrologic cycle
in the basin, conservationists who are looking to preserve natural lands in the
basin, and decision makers who need to evaluate the long-term impacts of
different policy options,” Jantz said.
The William Penn Foundation was aware
of past work by Jantz, USGS, and Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab in land use mapping
and modeling in both the Delaware River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
One of the foundation’s three funding priorities is preservation of the
Delaware watershed, and Jantz said there was clear benefit to applying these
approaches across the Delaware drainage.
“We are excited to partner with the
William Penn Foundation in support of a sustainable future in the Delaware
River Basin,” Jantz said.
William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated
to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through
efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income
families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances
civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership
with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure
sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation
has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion. The Foundation’s
assets exceed $2.3 billion as of Nov. 30, 2014.
More information about the Foundation is available on its website at www.williampennfoundation.org.
For more about the SU research project,
go to www.ship.edu/Geo-ESS/DRB/Introduction/.