School of Forestry awarded grant

February 21, 2008

by Richard Wolfe

Coastline hurricane recovery and security is now part of the curriculum for senior geographic information systems students.

Bogdan Strimbu, an assistant professor of forestry, secured $50,000 in grant money for a South Louisiana hurricane recovery project titled “Mapping the Future Landscape for Two Parishes.” The grant will fund a student-service learning project in South Louisiana.

“It takes place in the most affected places by [Hurricane] Rita, which are Cameron and Calcasieu parishes,” Strimbu said.

He also said students will use before and after satellite images of the parishes, analyze them and propose structured landscapes that are better prepared to recover from a hurricane disaster.

“At the end of the day it is a risk assessment project at the landscape scale,” Strimbu said.

He said there are a lot of ways to protect the landscape and that this project will not focus on civil engineering solutions.

He said the key of this project, in terms of hurricane recovery, is looking to the structure of the landscapes and what species are found there.

“We are hoping that the recovery will be faster and the damages will be less,” Strimbu said. “This is done by arranging the landscape in the parish.”

He also said students will be heavily involved in two phases of the project, the first of which will be landscape analysis.

The students will then verify their findings during the second phase by going into the field.

David Long, a co-principal investigator of the grant and an assistant professor of geographic information systems, said the students will have a chance to develop something useful for people who need it.

“The professors are going to be leading it, but the students will be doing all the work,” Long said. “It’s not that we’re telling the students they have to be a volunteer; we’re allowing them to participate in projects that are of benefit to the community as opposed to canned exercises.”

Long said this project will allow students to use the concepts they have learned to develop a product local communities can use.

“We’re going to the parishes to ask them what their ideas and needs are,” Long said. “When we finish, we will supply all the information to the parishes and they will use [it] in their planning.”

Leatha Silmon, a senior geography information science major, said she plans to participate in the project.

“It will encompass everything we’ve learned in GIS,” Silmon said. “It’s a good way to show you’ve learned everything you were supposed to.”

Silmon said Louisiana is in a vulnerable area and that a large hurricane will probably land again.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Silmon said. “The only thing we don’t know is the intensity of the storm that will come through next time.”