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SHIPPENSBURG – 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.

Claire Jantz and 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, 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. Dryzga said existing land use plans, and “all the assumptions and principles that underlie them” will be used as land cover modeling tools.

Equally important is tracking changes over the long term, and the results of the 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.

For more information about the project, visit www.ship.edu/Geo-ESS/DRB/Introduction/.

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Email Debbie Chestnut at dchestnut@cumberlink.com

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